Washed Up

    • Culann took a swig of ale from the tankard and paused, looking the young man in the eye quizzically, searching for any sign that they understood each other; the young man looked slightly uncomfortable. He had no idea why this drunkard had sat next to him and even less so how such a man could smell of unfettered urine so strongly.

      Culann broke his uncomfortable gaze, gesturing his tankard at the young man and said;
      "Y'know, when I was your age lad, I had a woman on each arm and an ale in each of theirs. I was a paid a pretty penny and had all the luxuries a man could ever want."

      The young man was about to plea for mercy, sanity, or at least to be allowed to escape, but Culann continued;
      "An' now, 'ere I am, washed up, in this shi'ole of an excuse for a tavern, waitin' for some bloody nancy who promised me wages weeks ago."

      A small glimpse of understanding came upon the young man's face. Times were not as easy as they once were, and with many people leaving for the new world, some were skipping shore before paying their dues. In this at least, he understood the piss stained old man.

      They continued to talk in to the night, two voices from two different generations sailing amidst a sea of drunken conversations. For most of the time the young man forgot that he had originally gone there to find a nice young lady to bed, and for most of the time Culann didn't feel so alone.

      As the ale flowed, so did the hours and so did the patrons. Eventually it was time to depart and leave the tavern keep to have his peace. Outside the tavern Culann and the young man shook hands, surely never to meet again, but at least for that one evening they had been kin.

      Culann, drunken and intoxicated to the finest degree, staggered off westward. As he felt his way along walls and alleyways he failed to notice that a small group of shady looking men were following him. His journey continued deeper into the heart of the city, less and less people abound, eventually finding himself all alone.

      Then they struck. First from behind, hitting his back with something hard, forcing him to the ground. Then placing a bag over his head. As he fell into unconsciousness they bound his arms behind his back and tied his ankles together. Two of the men picked him up and he was carried off into the darkness.
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    • Time passed, the scene changed, but Culann remained unconcious; half-intoxicated and half-knocked out. The men had grown in numbers and the scene was now aboard a ship. A large wooden vessel that creaked and groaned as it meandered across the sea.

      As Culann began to awaken, feeling his pain internally but realising that he was unable to move his hands to identify the cause; Culann let out a short groan.

      "Yer awake then!" said a voice from somewhere in the corner behind Culann's field of vision; "I thought yer weren't gonna make it. Two 'av already been cast o'er board." the voice continued.

      "What in the King's name is going on!?" exclaimed Culann in a frustrated manner.

      "Ah, well y'see, it turns out that all is not rosy in the King's New World," the voice continued. "A group of rebellious scabs 'av started to kidnap drunkards an' other forgotten souls; t'make use as slaves in their heretical camps. You, are one of their many prizes."

      Culann was angered, but remembering his current position knew that anger would not serve him well.

      "But don't worry worm! I'm jus' the same as you. I can see the back 'ov yer 'ead, but I too am tied up here." the voice continued.

      "Great, so I have to listen to ye all the way to the mouth of hell eh?" Culann responded with a quip.

      Time passed, they moved in and out of conciousness, unaware of whether it was day or night. The creaks and groans of the ship became almost soothing, helping to sober Culann. He began to notice an awful smell, as though someone had urinated upon him, but he wasn't sure who or why.

      Then, almost alarmingly, his vision was blinded with a different colour. Before it was darkness, now immense light, his eyes starved of light for such a time that the mere opening of the cabin door had rendered him temporarily blind.

      A man shuffled in to the room, poked each bound person with a stick and then proceeded to render them unconscious with a sharp knock to the shoulders if they grunted or moved. Culann did his best to not react, but it was useless, he was knocked out regardless and without warning.

      The darkness returned, and the dream world beckoned.
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    • Several weeks had passed since the voyage across the ocean. Culann could not remember all of the journey, save for a few flashing memories of shadowy figures and a stranger's voice behind him.

      Time was beginning to become a faded memory itself, as the hours that became days began to become weeks without daylight. A fettered cavern system all around, with no sense of north or south, or which tunnel may lead to the surface, save for a small breeze.

      Culann began to learn that his captors were known as heretics; not for religious crimes but for treason against the King. He had little feeling other than contempt for these people, as they threw scraps of goat and chicken at his feet.

      Wherever they were keeping him, Culann summised, it had to be off the beaten track so as to not be found by the King's armed forces.

      The heretics had captured many civilians from the Old World, all with similar downtrodden tales. It was not clear if all heretics worked together, or if there were any other internment camps, but this one at least was particularly harsh.

      All captives here were chained by the ankles and given nothing more than a candle and pickaxe. They were being forced to dig for ores, with some captives pushing the full and heavy ore carts.

      As time past, Culann's memory of his old life began to fade, save for a few fragments. He remembered that he was once married, but to who or where he did not know. Culann could also remember the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, but not the smell of the air or the sight. The shadowy world that Culann now lived in created new imagery, and the blood, sweat, and sulphur tainted any concept of scent beyond.

      The one thing that Culann did not lose sight of however was that of escape. He longed for it, yearned to feel the embrace of another, to have just one day where he could lay on a soft surface; but he knew that it was an impossible task to achieve alone, and the heretics would not permit enough time to collude with another captive.

      After more than three months, a time that seemed like eternity to Culann, the King's Royal Forces stormed the caverns.

      There was much bloodshed; the captives were being used as human shields by the heretics. Strange incantations and witchcraft filled the air. In the raging battle, Culann found himself at an opportunity. He swiftly seized the opportunity and stole a master key from one of the heretic corpses. Unlocking his shackles and tending to others nearby; Culann conspired to help the civilians escape.

      The civilians had no sure direction of travel, but they did know it was wise to stay out of he heat of battle. As they followed winding caverns and confusing convolutions, Culann and the civilians found themselves intercepted by the King's troops.

      There was no time for splendour, greetings, or grand symphony; the King's Royal Forces led the civilians out of the caverns and into the cold lands of Cairn Camain.

      The temperature difference between the caverns and the outside world was shocking enough to cause one civilian to die. The others, including Culann, huddled together to preserve warmth. The dusklight of the overworld was brighter than the caverns, but not so much as to dazzle or harm their eyes. They could see rocky outcrops, a few trees, but mostly soft blankets of snow.

      As the battle inside the caverns subdued, a trade caravan arrived and clothed each of the civilians with light cloth and fur. Everyone began to feel a little more human, some talking to each other, as the first rays of dawn began to flicker over the horizon. The first sign of warmth, of hope, and of freedom, in a very long time.
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    • A year had passed since the events in Ore Adit and Cairn Camain. The busy streets of Fort Sterling had become home to Culann. His former life in the Old World mostly forgotten or relegated to distant memory; now he found himself earning silver by transporting low value goods between Fort Sterling and Lymhurst.

      News reached Fort Sterling that Ore Adit had been reopened as a pathway to Caerleon, but that the King's forces could not guarantee the safety of citizens who made use of the passage.

      One fateful day, Culann was travelling with other traders to Lymhurst, through Highbole Glen, when they were stopped by cut-throats.

      "'ey you! Stop those ox now!" shouted the leader of the thieves;

      "On whose authority?" Culann sternly responded.

      The leader laughed, "Ha ha, on the authority invested in me by my band of men 'ere."

      The situation infuriated Culann for days afterwards. All of the traders had lost seventy percent of their goods that day. For some traders this literally meant they could not feed their children. Something had to change.

      As Culann walked the streets of Fort Sterling, he noticed a large poster pinned to one of the pillars that encircle the stairs to the bank.

      The poster read..

      The lands of Albion are filled with murderers, villains, cut-throats and heretics. They lay siege to fair peoples' farmlands, they stalk caverns and mountain passages, they attack innocent trade caravans!

      What can a vagabond such as you do about this? I tell ye this, there is strength in the Ironguard!

      After several hours of enquiry, Culann found a recruiting agent and discussed in detail what the militia's aims were. He found a kindred hope; to protect the King's roads and traders between Fort Sterling and surrounding lands.

      In particular, this militia appeared to seek to act as a defense along the caverns of Ore Adit. This appealed to Culann greatly; he put the quill to the paper and signed his name.

      Culann was now a wet-behind the ears recruit in the Ironguard, wondering what adventures and training awaited him.
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