Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Antaria: Rewards

The young peasant boy struggled over the rise, gasping for breath with each step. Behind him, the air and dust coalesced into the form of a massive whirlwind.

"That's the last time you insult me," Valen said, molding the whirlwind's form with his arcane gestures.

Davin watched disinterestedly from a nearby seat. "I don't waste power on peasants, Valen," he said. "They're hardly worth it."

"Peasants are all alike. You let them get away with something, and you pay for the rest of their servitude."

Davin yawned. "So your solution is to summon an elemental and flay them alive."

"Yes," Valen said, giving Davin an angry look. "What of it, great leader? Has your heart somehow grown as soft as a child's?"

A large shadow loomed over the two Tempestites. Valen looked up into a pair of red glowing eyes, encased within a haphazard construct of earth, rocks and stone.

Davin waved a hand. "At ease, Uthanak. Lord Valen means no harm... don't you, Valen?"

Valen gave Davin a look that said precisely otherwise. Davin laughed.

The earth elemental gave Valen a suspicious look, then moved slightly to shield its master from the midday sun.

In the distance, Valen's air elemental had moved into an area closer to the riverbank, which meant that it had started to pick up mud and reeds within its spinning patterns. The boy continued to run from its wrath, although it was clear that he would be tiring soon.

"An interesting idea comes to mind," Davin said.

"Say it, then."

"What if your servant defeats your elemental, Valen?" Davin smiled.

Valen gave him a long stare. "That was an uncharacteristically humorous statement, Lord Davin," he said, "and it almost made me laugh."

"Well, what if your servant defeats the elemental?"

"He can't possibly defeat my manifestations. He can barely even saddle a horse properly."

"Yes," Davin said, watching as the peasant continued to run from its pursuer, "but what if your servant defeats the elemental?"

"He's not my servant anymore," Valen retorted, "and if he survives even this, then I would simply kill him myself."

"We would have to teach him, Valen," Davin said, his voice becoming more serious. "He would become one of us."

Valen glanced at the boy, now running at a frenzied pace towards rockier ground. The elemental followed at his heels, lashing at him with tendrils of wind, water and debris.

"You can't be serious," Valen said.

"We have rules, Valen."

"Aran curse the rules," Valen muttered.

The boy reached down and scooped up a small jumble of stones. He threw one at his elemental pursuer, watching as it simply passed through the swirling patterns and continued its path out the other side.

"Well, Valen?"

"Rules are rules, Lord Davin. I don't change the rules."

The boy staggered back, throwing stone after stone in a futile effort to hold back the elemental.

"He still has to defeat the elemental, of course," Davin noted.

The vortex was suddenly upon the peasant boy, pelting him with mud, rocks and whatever it could muster. His cries of pain were muffled by the ever-swirling currents.

"Not much chance of that," Valen said.

A stone, thrown of desperation, passed through the elemental's intangible body and shattered on the ground. A second one passed over Davin's head and harmlessly bounced off Uthanak's massive chest.

"Never underestimate a man who has been backed into a corner," Davin mused.

"It shall..." Valen began, and stopped abruptly when the third stone hit him right between the eyes. He collapsed, landing roughly on the ground.

In seconds, the air elemental dissipated, leaving a dirty, weary servant behind. The boy still clutched at an unthrown stone.

Davin stared at Valen's prone form for a few minutes, checking to see if he was still alive. Then, satisfied, he straightened and gave the boy a careful look. Uthanak moved slightly, causing the boy to drop the stone he was holding and stare up at the earth elemental with a mixture of curiosity and fear.

"Pick him up," Davin told Uthanak, and he watched as the elemental clutched at Valen's prone form.

"What's your name?" Davin asked.

The boy struggled. "O-Oris," he said.

"Oris," Davin repeated. "You don't look like much, Oris."

Oris bowed, as though only remembering to do so just now.

"Get your things together, Oris," Davin said. "There are people who I wish you to meet."

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