Werenthria: The Adventures of Ren and Kaineth

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Chapter 4. The Truth

Ren had taken over her watch without complaint. It was by far one of the hardest places to sleep and the rest had been patchy at best. She took a deep breath and let it out as a rush of steam from her lips. The air was always frigid but no breeze ever touched this place. No animals came close and nothing grew here. The only thing that did move here was the sky above them.

She gazed up at the stars filling the black sky, sometimes so thick there was no space between them at all. An old wives tale said that there were as many stars as there were people in the world. She’d always wondered as a child how every person in the world be deserving of a light like that? Her eyes scanned over the stars until she noticed cloud cover began creeping over them slowly dousing their glow. So much for the weather staying good for travel.

When the first pink blush of daylight began, Ren rose and stretched out the stiffness that had settled into her muscles from the hard ground. She slipped her dagger into its sheath at her waist and then looked to Kaineth who was snoring lightly, having finally given over to exhaustion.
“Boss,” she whispered, “It’s time to wake up.”

He didn’t stir at all and Ren sighed. “Boss, it’s time to get up,” she repeated a little louder.
Still nothing. She tossed a flat pebble at him which rolled off his cloak and did nothing. Exactly how far had he been traveling? Or did he always sleep like this?

She frowned and walked over to him, kneeling by his side. “Kaineth, it’s time to go,” she said as she put a hand on his shoulder lightly.

At her touch, he launched up bewildered, and snatched up her wrist. “Keep back, Aryia!”
Ren yelped as a sharp point dug into her belly. “Kaineth! Stop!”

The tall elf’s blue eye flickered and then widened in surprise as he was met with panicked golden eyes. “Ren?”

“Yes!” she panted as she was held up by the wrist, “Let me go!”

Kaineth looked down and saw the dagger he had pointed into the wood-elf’s stomach and immediately flicked away the point before letting her go. Ren dropped back to the ground and scampered away from him with wary, if not angry eyes.

He ran a shaking hand through his dark hair and closed his eye. His heart pounded loudly in his ears as he breathed through the adrenaline, bringing his mind back to the present. He’d only been dreaming.

When he opened his eye, Ren was standing a few paces away looking annoyed and rubbing her wrist.

“Apologies,” he said quietly to her, “You’re not injured are you?”

She gave him a glare and then picked up her bow and quiver. He’d not even realized what he had done, but the attack caught her off guard and that fact annoyed her nonetheless. “No. I’m fine. But I’d prefer that you not try to kill me next time I try to wake you up.”

He nodded to her as his cool demeanor recovered and he put his armor on in silence.

Soon they were walking away from their strange camp and back to the main road. Kaineth was relieved to be leaving the strange spot as the sounds of the forest returned along with cold wind rustling through the thick trees. He flipped his hood over his ears as they walked. He could tell Ren was keeping her distance from him, purposely walking a few steps to the side, but she no longer seemed angry.

They walked for most of the morning in silence, each keeping to their thoughts until there was a rustling from the bushes. Ren knew by the sound it was not an animal. Their stalker had finally caught up with them again. When would Rafe give it up?

She shot Kaineth an exasperated look and then slipped into the tree line.  He waited in the trail, his hand on his sword pommel, ready to face their pursuer. The delay in travel was an annoyance and he would rather have let the stalker make the first move, but apparently the wood-elf had reached her limit. His regret over events of the morning kept him from being outwardly irritated at Ren’s side trek.

A dark-elf in shabby, black clothes came barreling out of the brush with Ren in pursuit. The elf was tall and was fast, but Ren was lithe, drawing an arrow and firing as she ran down the road. The arrow slipped through the air and hit the fleeing elf with a meaty thunk. He squealed, clutching at the arrow as he collapsed on to the road.

“Ya’ sho me’ intha ass!” he screeched, “Wood-rat bitch!”

Ren huffed at the insult and walked over to him as she put away her bow and drew her dagger. He groaned as she planted her foot squarely in his back then leaned over him with her blade at his throat.

“Goin’ ta kill meh?” he gasped as he turned his head to look back at her from the ground.
Ren gave him a twisted smile. “Not as long as you are nice, and you deliver a message to Rafe for me.”

“Go ta hell,” he spat.

She tapped his neck with the tip of her dagger. “I said be nice! Now, when I let you go with your life, you’re going to scurry your greasy head back to Rafe and remind him that I no longer work for him or his men.”

The dark elf squirmed under her foot. “He’ll kill meh too!”

“Not my problem,” she replied as she dug in the tip of her blade making just a little blood well up, “Deliver the message or I’ll add another arrow and next time I’ll be aiming for something more important than your ass.”

“Fine…fine! I’ll deliver the message!”

Ren removed the knife form his neck and stood back up with her boot still on his back. “Oh and I’ll be needing this back.”

She snatched the arrow out of the dark elf’s buttocks with a violent jerk and he howled in pain. Scrambling in the cold mud to escape, the elf clambered to his feet as Ren lifted her foot and gave him a swift kick in the other haunch to get him started. "Go on, now."

“Ya’re a crazeh, Rennec! Crazeh!” he bellowed as he limped away into the forest as fast as he could, “Rafe’s gonna kille ye!”

Ren wiped off the arrow and slipped it back into her quiver before walking back over to Kaineth who had let go of his sword and now stood with his arms crossed.

“Let’s keep moving shall, we?” she said lightly as she passed by him, “I have a feeling the weather is going to turn.”

Kaineth looked at her and followed. How she handled herself wasn’t his business, but he had to admit, she did so with surprising confidence. She had considerable skill.

“So, where did you learn to use your bow like that?” he asked as they walked.

“Necessity,” replied evenly. “It’s nothing compared to a formally trained archer, I’m sure.”

“You have more skill than many I have seen with formal training,” he admitted.

“I’m glad you find my skills to be up to par,” she quipped back playfully, “What of your skills? How did you learn swordsmanship so well?”

Ren could see him tense at her question as he went silent again. Birds fluttered through the trees, shaking snow from the branches and the cold wind blustered through, filling the void between their boot falls.

“I was a commoner boy and eventually began training to be on the guard of my Lord’s household. Training was as unforgiving as was my captain’s and Lord’s standards,” he said with a sigh, “But eventually I worked my way through the ranks. I became one of the best.”

Ren blinked in surprise as she stole a glance up at his sudden explanation. A guard to a Lord. That explained his armor, his coins, and his skill. However, his answer did not explain why he was not with is Lord now.  His voice was calm and cool but carried an edge of bitterness. Perhaps he was an outcast after all.  A thought struck her about his eagerness to get into the pass and the events that were already occurring there.

“So, why are you here now?” she dared to ask, “Why are you not with your Lord? Unless you are on your way to his side now. Is the man leading the high-elves army in the mountains your Lord?”

Kaineth stopped mid step and looked at her with a cold glare. “The man leading the high elves is not my Lord.”

Ren’s shoulder’s fell a little. Not only was she wrong, but she knew she had struck upon a nerve.  “Kaineth, I-“

She paused as Kaineth looked at her with a hard blue eye, but not actually seeing her. He had drifted off to somewhere else. She wanted to press the question but she let him go into his thoughts instead. Turning on her heels she led them onward in tense silence.

The trees grew thinner as the ground under their feet turned rockier. As the sun began to set the frost began to settle in behind it. Kaineth was beginning to see why they called it the Frost Wood. In the shadow of the mountains, the temperature was achingly cold and sparkling white frost dusted the trees, clumping in the needles and crept along the ground, making it crunch under his boots. There was no moonlight tonight as thick, grey clouds blanketed the sky in every direction.

Ren, who had gone ahead to scout a camp area, finally leapt down from a scrubby tree and dusted off her hands.

“There’s a Thrax scout roaming around, but it looked as though he was heading back to the mountains. Which means we should be safe to build a fire.”

Kaineth nodded. He was surprised that in this bitter cold, building a fire had not been a surety.
They slipped away from the road and into the trees where they found a large boulder dusted in frosted snow and surrounded by a circle of trees.

Within a few minutes they had found enough dry firewood and used a flint to create a small, but cold-chasing fire. Kaineth removed some of his armor but kept his sword close by as he leaned against the massive, craggy face of the boulder.

Ren slipped her bow from her back and looked to the high-elf whose face was half hidden by his hood. He had been completely silent since her question and it irked her.
“I’ll see if our luck continues,” she said quietly before slipping away from the firelight and into the shadows.

Kaineth remained quiet, listening to the sounds of tree limbs creaking and the fire crackling. An hour passed and Ren’s figure slipped from the trees and into the light. She was empty handed and wore a wary look.

“All the game in the area is gone,” she said, “A high-elf hunting team is roaming east of here scaring everything off.”

The news caught Kaineth’s attention and he sat up. “They aren’t close enough to see the campfire smoke are they?”

Ren shook her head. “No, so long as they stay to the east. The cloud cover helps.”

He nodded and leaned his head back against the boulder as Ren sat crossed legged opposite of him. She lifted her equipment from her shoulders and pulled a smooth milky colored stone from her pocket, flicking it between her fingers with a practiced hand. Kaineth’s eye followed the stone, but he was lost to his thoughts again. She wondered where his mind kept going and why the high-elves’ presence had caught his attention so quickly.

His eye continued to follow her fingers instinctively until she stopped, holding the stone between two fingers. “A wytlight stone. My mother gave it to me.”

Kaineth nodded, seeing the rune carved in the stone and shadowed by the fire light. “I’ve seen them before in markets. But not like that one.”

The wood elf held the stone to her lips and whispered the one word spell. The stone began to glow brightly, but not in the traditional white light. It slowly lit to a brilliant blue and grew warm in her hands.

“I’ve never seen a color like that,” Kaineth said as he stared at the stone, “Quite impressive.”

“Mum always had a talent for-“

A hard snap in the trees cut off her words. Immediately, she doused the light of the stone as Kaineth stood and drew his sword. Ren rose to a crouch, picking up her bow as she did. There was a rustle to the left and Ren knocked an arrow before half-drawing the string.

“Come out!” she called, “Face us!”

The bush shuddered and they both tensed as a deer leapt from its hiding place, its eye shining in the dark. It gave them a blank stare before bounding back into the night.

Ren lowered her bow and a relieved laugh escaped her. Kaineth slid his sword back into its sheath and sighed a little before returning to his spot against the boulder.

“I can take first watch,” Ren commented as she stretched a little and picked up her quiver, “I’m too restless to sleep now.”

Kaineth agreed and Ren slipped up into the nearest tree. Settling her back against the tree trunk, she let her legs dangle and watched over the high-elf’s form as he laid down and began to rest. Snow began drifting down, large fluffy flakes of white sifting through the trees and on to the ground. The fire would keep him warm, but her watch would be a cold one.

In the night when Kaineth had drifted to sleep, a sound caught her ears. A soft moan…Aryia…and the sound of shifting snow as he sat up and braced his forehead on his hand, rubbing it as if trying to get rid of more than a headache.

Ren slipped down from her tree with a sprinkling of snow and walked over to the bleary eyed high-elf as he stared into the burning embers of their campfire.
“Who is Aryia?”

His bright blue eye peered up at the wood-elf from across the campfire. He had not even heard her approach. The damned dreams dulled his senses. What had they made him say this time? She stood there with her arms crossed against the cold, gazing at him with a set jaw. Ren wasn’t going to let him go without an answer apparently.

“Aryia,” he croaked, “Was my wife.”


Kaineth swallowed hard and looked away. “She’s dead.”

“I’m…sorry,” she replied, biting her lip, “How?”

The high-elf clenched his teeth, his mouth set into a dark scowl. “Murdered by her own kin.”

Ren lowered herself to the ground and sat down quietly pondering for a moment. His wife had been murdered and he had urgent business in the mountains. His reaction to the news of the high- elf scouts in the had been tense as had his attitude at the suggestion of being associated with the army in the mountains.

“The man who murdered is in the pass isn’t he,” she replied and she gazed at him.

“Malyiketh,” he said with a growl.

“He killed your wife?”

Kaineth’s eyes turned from sad to a flash of anger in the shadows of the fire light. “That man took everything from me. I fell in love with the daughter of the Lord and she married me despite of my station, despite her family’s…disgust. When the Lord died, as the eldest child, she took her Ladyship..she was..." His voice broke for a moment.

"But her younger brother, Malyiketh. Her own brother. Sent an assassin to our room. The assailant broke into our room and… I fought him off, and he took my eye as I took his life…but I was too late.”

Kaineth’s hands turned to fists as he shook with rage, breathing hard as the story spilled out. “ He wanted her inheritance, her Lordship and lands, for himself as if it was his birthright. Now that murderous bastard, sits up on that mountain with the title of Lord that he stole at the cost of my wife’s life and mine. Malyiketh is NOT my liege Lord and I will make him pay for what he has done.”

Ren dug her nails into her crossed arms as she stared at Kaineth, taking in his words as the fire crackled between them. The ringed scars around her wrists twinged. She knew what it was to seek justice for. This man had been through the gates of hell and kept walking to seek his vengeance.  The journey into the heart of the high-elf camp would be dangerous enough, not only that but the target was a Lord, albeit a traitorous one.

“So, you hired me to take you to the pass so you can enter the high-elf camp and kill this Malyiketh, You knew this would be a dangerous journey from the start.”

He took a deep breath and closed his eye in an attempt to calm himself. “Aye.”

“You should have told me this,” she added grumpily.

“I know.”

Common sense told her one thing, but a flare of anger in her gut willed her to do another. Ren sighed and looked at the high-elf. “You should have told me, because there is a better way to the area where the high-elf camp sits in the pass.”

He opened his eye and blinked at her in surprise. “You’re still going to take me to the pass?”

“Aye, I am,” she replied evenly.

“This is not your fight. Why would you bother to put yourself at risk?”

“You’re right,” Ren shrugged “This isn’t my fight, but the truth is, you won’t get close to the camp without my help. Not with Thrax hordes and the high-elves scouts running about. Also, there’s a storm brewing. Anyone caught in a snow storm like that, without being familiar with the area, would die quickly.”

He met her with a stubborn glare. He could have easily taken down the Thrax and any hostile elves, but the terrain he wasn’t familiar with, and if the weather turned he could be in trouble.

“Kaineth, do you want your justice or not?” Ren added.

He didn’t want to take the wood-elf any further than he had to but, it appeared there was no other choice. His angry stare faded into one of grumpy resign. “Take me as far as you can,” he huffed, his breath coming out as steam.

Ren nodded in agreement, and began to move back to her watch perch. As she walked away from the high-elf she heard him sigh. “Thank you….Ren.”

She paused and looked back at him, her golden eyes dark in the shadow cast by the firelight. “Don’t thank me. You haven’t stuck your blade through Malyiketh’s heart, yet.”
Werenthria: The Adventures of Ren and Kaineth
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