- May 16, 2016
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- Prestige Class - The Wild Guardian
- The Red Knight of Damara (Saga of the Vaasan Knight #1)
- Prologue: City that Never Sleeps
- The Road Home (Saga of the Vaasan Knight #2)
- Hunter in the Darkness
- A First Lesson (Preludes #1)
- The Mistress of the Cross-Trade
- Setting the [Game] Table: Riddleport at a Glance
- Interlude: Moon Rise
Kuraamo Dawnchaser had never been interested in the gladiatorial games. He had judged the skills displayed in the arena pits to be inferior to his tribe's battle dance, and he judged their practitioners even more so. No member of his tribe would ever have suffered the blight of slavery, and any who might would have been quietly dispatched in the darkness before they could bring shame down on their kin.
Nonetheless, his younger kinsmen had dragged him to the arena on his name day. It was not just any name day, but the day he became a full member of the tribe. At nightfall, and after a celebratory feast, their chief would announce Kuraamo's name as one of the tribe and would present him with a twin set of bone longblades as a gift. He could think of little else today.
"Cousin!" Duurasi Twilighcatcher had said to him. "Think of the opportunity. Tyr has not held games of this size in living memory-- the dedication of the Great Stadium is today! There will be so many distracted patrons..."
Her trailing thought left each of the three to their own avaricious imaginations. Perhaps she was right, and the games were not a waste of his time afterall.
Eevuu Dayjumper, easily the youngest cousin of the three, added in his own two bits. "And perhaps, if we are lucky, there might be some Clearwaters straggling about!"
The young elves shared a grim smile with each other. Duurasi fingered her bone-bladed dagger fondly in anticipation.
"Alright, alright," Kuraamo said to them, giving in. "Let's go see how these Jukkete fight each other."
* * * * *
The last thing he remembered hearing before his sight went red was "Otuuk fe!"
Haaku Sandrunner had just dared to call him a kank rider. Openly, and on his name day.
The young Sky Singer and Clearwater elves had immediately begun trading insults at the stalls of the refreshment vendors inside the Stadium as soon as they had seen each other. Duraasi had been particularly nasty with her taunts, having a great hatred for the tribe whose members had tried to steal her for a bride to one of their wretched kin.
Things had quickly escalated.
The elves drew their short blades in expectation of bloodshed, despite the risk of arrest by the ever-present templars. The first among the elves to draw red would count coup, and then they would scatter before the king's lickspittles could apprehend anyone.
As they engaged, a massive roar went up from the crowd. Voices were suddenly raised in alarm, and the few nearby templars hurriedly left the vicinity, making a straight line for the arena.
Momentarily distracted by the commotion, Kuraamo did not see Haaku slip by to attack Eevuu. The youngest Sky Singer was also looking in the direction of the arena, and did not see the deadly Clearwater warrior approaching him until it was too late. With a single stroke, Haaku buried the length of his bone knife in Eevuu's neck.
The young fire singer briefly glanced at Kuraamo with panic in his eyes. As Eevuu reached vainly for his neck, Haaku leered maliciously at Kuraamo, and roughly drew out the blade, leaving a gaping wound. Eevuu dropped to the ground with a heavy thud as blood pumped uncontrollably from his body.
Haaku stepped back with his blade held out before him, pointing it back and forth between Kuraamo and Duurasi.
"Which of you sand crawlers is next?" Kuraamo gripped his own knife til his knuckles were white. Haaku had killed they young one in cold blood inside the city walls, which amounted to a declaration of war between the tribes. Kuraamo intended to strike the first blow in revenge for his fallen cousin. He looked briefly at Duurasi, and she nodded back.
As they prepared to charge the murderer, the assembled patrons surged in their direction. Several templars and half-giants were bludgeoning their way through the throng, charging directly at them.
"Next time, little egotti, you will belong to the Clearwaters!" Haaku hissed at Duurasi before sneering at them as he and his mates melted into the increasingly panicked crowd of onlookers.
Kuraamo and Duurasi barely had time to drag Eevuu out of the way before the templars and their hulking soldier-slaves barreled past. Looking up from where they crouched over Eevuu, they saw an impossible sight-- the half-giants were carrying the blood-soaked and unmoving body of the king. A rough, wooden spear protruded obscenely from his chest. The young elves each wondered with dread what could have happened to lay low one of the mighty soreceror-kings who ruled mercilessly over the Tablelands.
Duurasi looked at him. "Kuraamo..."
"I know, we have to get out of here. Let's get Eevuu back on his feet first..." As he called to the earth spirits to summon his most powerful healing medicine, he realized the young elf was gone. The wound had been mortal. He briefly bowed his head, whispering a quiet farewell, then looked up at Duurasi. "We can't leave him here. If the king's been assassinated we can't have any more bodies lying around waiting for the templars to start asking questions."
Duurasi returned his gaze uncertainly.
"So, what's the plan?"
* * * * *
"I said, what is the plan?"
Kuraamo's reminiscence broke at the sound of Duurasi's voice. He wistfully looked out across the teeming elven bazaar of Nibenay and considered their options. The dune trader who had given them the news scurried off, hoping he had not been seen before passing along the rumor.
"Haaku and his raiders have returned to Tyr, Kuraamo," she said angrily, repeating the informat's news, then once again asked, "What is the plan?"
"Go and tell the chief," he said after a few more moments of consideration. "I am leaving for Tyr."
"What, right now? I--"
"GO, Duurasi!" he growled through clenched teeth. "The first blow is still mine by right. I am not waiting for the warriors to gather."
"As you say, cousin," she agreed. They each placed their right hand on the other's left shoulder and drew close. "May Coraanu guide your steps to Tyr."
She turned and sprinted toward the chief's quarters. Kuraamo gathered up his few possessions and soon made his way through the gates of Nibenay. He had not set foot in Tyr since his last name day, the day that both his cousin Eevuu and the thrice-cursed king of Tyr had been struck down.
As his strides lengthened into the rhythmic, distance spanning gait of the Elf Run, only one thought turned again and again through his mind.