He was now the nameless noble. He didn’t sign the letter he’d written to his family, but used his own signet ring to seal the letter – the last thing he would ever do with it. His family would come to one of two possible conclusions: these really were his wishes and he was, for all intents and purposes, dead, or he was taken after being forced to write the letter and seal it. He hoped that it would, in fact, be the former that his family decided on.
He snuck away from the castle he’d lived in his whole life that night. It wasn’t necessarily a challenge, avoiding the guards – he’d spent much of the last few weeks studying their movements and rotations, and it was even easier given that they were carrying torches to light their way.
He made his way to the southwest tower that overlooked the bay. As he stared at the water below, he hesitated. Then, he shook his head. What’s done is done.
He leapt from the window and into the waters below, clutching the pouch of gold that hung from his belt. He swam to shore and made his way into the nearby mercantile district. He needed to find an inn to stay in, and quickly. Even if they didn’t assume he was taken, someone sneaking around the city after midnight would look awfully suspicious – and to do so without a torch was illegal.
He wandered through the streets, ducking out of sight whenever he heard voices, and eventually made his way to the Green Serpent, which displayed a green, hooded rattlesnake on the sign outside. When he walked through the door, he never expected that it would take him on a path that would end in that same tavern five years later.
He sulked into the tavern and made his way along the wall, watching to make sure no one saw him – or, at the very least, recognized him. Only one man appeared to be staring at the noble out of the corner of his eye, though the man looked away when his eyes met with the nameless noble’s.
Once he was seated, he waved down a barwench. As she came over, so did the man who’d eyed him coming in.
The barwench raised her eyebrows as she placed her hands on her hips. “What can I get you?”
“An ale and a room please,” the noble replied, studying the man walking over to him.
As the barwench walked away, the man sat down.
He was a mutt of a man, with blue eyes that betrayed northern heritage, and a wavy, brown hair indicative of Shelezar. His light skin led the noble to believe the man was likely Baril, rather than Kapfian. Not quite as bad as a Kap, but still not to be trusted.
“Lose your boat?” the Baril asked.
The noble raised a brow in confusion.
The Baril laughed as he nodded at the noble’s clothes. “Well, you’re dressed awful nice, so I’ve gotta believe you’re some sort of wealthy man, which means you probably own a boat if you’re here in Ingaard. But you’re drenched in water – which seems to indicate that you do not, in fact, have a boat. Thus, you must’ve lost it.”
From the way he spoke, the noble began to wonder if perhaps the man was, in fact, Gelthan. Or raised as one.
“Or maybe,” the Baril said, lowering his voice as he drew his face closer to the nameless noble’s, “you’re a new believer in the Unnamed God, and you’ve washed away your old life?”
The nameless noble raised a brow at this. He’d never heard of any ‘Unnamed God’.
“Sure,” he replied, forcing a bit of a smile as he gave the Baril a sidelong glance. He did just throw his old life away. Perhaps this was the start of a new one.
“Well, maybe you’d like to join our crew,” the Baril said, gesturing to the group he’d been sitting with. “We’re all believers, too.”
They numbered ten back then. By the time the nameless noble’s journey with them was over, they were five times that – and they were all dead.
“Sure,” the nameless noble repeated, once again forcing a smile, but this time giving the Baril a straight look. He knew he needed to come up with a new name: after all, he’d shed his old one. It seemed to him that suffering was what made a person good-natured. Those around him never suffered, and they were all terrible. Perhaps he should name himself after that. “My name is Soren, by the way.”
The Baril looked back to the noble and nodded, holding out his right hand. “Name’s Tyrell.”
Soren stared at his hand in confusion.
“No too much experience with the Mikri, I see,” Tyrell laughed. “Put your palm on mine, you’re pinky between mine and my ring, and grab.”
Soren awkwardly complied.
“Good enough,” Tyrell chuckled. “Let’s go introduce you to the rest of the crew. This’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made or ever will make. I swear my life on it.”
Those last words stood out to Soren, so he went with Tyrell, who quickly introduced him to the crew.
“… then, we have First Mate Delmore, and – last, but certainly most – we have Captain Ishmere.”
The old captain nodded. A thin scar stretched from the corner of his brow down to his chin, and the eye on the opposite side was completely white. “Welcome to the crew, Soren.”
The crew ate and drank a good couple hours before heading back to the boat, taking Soren with them. Before climbing onto the boat, Captain Ishmere stopped him, waving for the others to go ahead.
“Tell me, ‘Soren,’ what business does a noble like you have, prancing around in the economic district, lying about his name at this time of night?”
Soren gave Ishmere a sidelong glance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ishmere gave an odd smirk that almost looked more like a snarl, revealing a golden tooth. “For one, you forgot to take off your signet ring – two, I’ve had dealings with your father – three, there’s a reason I’m captain of this ship. I told the universe it could shove fate where the sun don’t shine and took my life into my own hands. I set out to find my own way, and it won the gods – er, the God’s – favor.
“You’re in important man now, Soren. You’ve done the same as I did, and that puts a target on your back – for better or worse.”
The captain gave Soren a full smile this time as he patted him on the shoulder. “But, I’m sure you already take the gods into account, given that you’re a right proper Shelezar – keep that up and you’ll go far.”
The captain gave Soren’s shoulder a squeeze before climbing up onto the ship.
Soren stood for a moment, taking in what the captain said before climbing onto the ship himself.
“Absolutely not!” Rolph roared at Soren.
Soren recoiled as his face twisted. It wasn’t like he was trying to get Aryia to go with him, or even suggested the prospect. She did, all on her own. Personally, Soren would have advocated for her going if she really wanted to, on account of she was an adult and could make her own decisions. But he also didn’t want Rolph to be angry at him.
“Why do you not want her to come along? I’m sure the combination of myself and the madam are more than enough to keep her safe.”
Rolph’s anger seemed to only get worse as his eyes focused in on Soren. “The orks have been more violent, more daring, lately. Sure, you killed the ogre who was commanding them; but who was commanding him?”
“There was never anything in the legends about the ogres-“
“Ogres following any chain of command, I know,” Rolph finished, “But someone, or something, had to have been.”
“During my time in the forest, I overheard a lot of orks talking. Eventually, I caught onto their language well enough I could get a gist of what was going on. I would occasionally overhear some things about waking someone who was dreaming. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – and it’s not like I could have done anything about it if I did – but it’s become clear to me that what they were talking about is who you’re looking for. The Dreamer.”
“You think the Dreamer is commanding the orks?”
“Or whoever is commanding the orks wants to wake the Dreamer. And, if they do, it spells destruction for the rest of us.”
“Well,” Aryia interjected, “regardless of what the ork’s intentions are, or who’s commanding them, I still think I’m safest with Soren and Leondrea. They were the ones able to take down an ogre.”
Soren’s eyes darted away from Rolph’s for a moment. He neglected to mention it was the Naga who took down the ogre. But he wasn’t about to correct her now.
“Precisely. If she wants to come with us, I say you should let her. Besides, she’s an adult, she can make her own decisions.” Soren nodded to Aryia before looking back to Rolph.
Rolph took in a deep breath before letting out a very long sigh. “Fine. But if anything happens to her-“
“If anything happens to her, the rest of us will already be dead,” Soren interrupted. “I swear my life on it,” he echoed from the mouth of Tyrell so many years before.
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