Tales of Conan – Culling a Home from the Wilds

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July 23, 2008

Age of Conan – Fictional Story
Series – #8
by


Michael Lafferty

GameZone.com presents another in
a series of original fictional stories by Michael Lafferty stemming from the
massively multiplayer online world of Age of Conan – Hyborian Adventures. The
following story was written with the permission and cooperation of Funcom, the
developer of the game. This tale continues a series of stories that deal with the
world, the characters and the lore involved in Hyboria. Some of these stories
may contain spoilers for quests, so by Crom, be forewarned!

Culling a Home from the Wild

The Zingaran
sellsword thought the pay was easy for the job at hand. Intercept the lone rider
and steal some blueprints being transported to a developing city in the plains.
He thought wrong. The reaver saw the shadow move and was out of the saddle
before the Zingaran had departed the shade of the tall trees. The swords danced
in the morning sun, knocking aside the initial strike of the sellsword. One
blade penetrated the abdominal muscle wall, doubling over the sellsword. The
second blade bit deep into the shoulder. The sword fell from the grasp of the
Zingaran. He managed, somehow, to stand upright.

“You were
paid to ambush me?,” the short blond woman said to him, leaning in. Her voice
almost became a whisper, as though imparting a secret to the dying man. “You
took the wrong job.”

The swords
were unkindly yanked free, then darted back in, precisely severing arteries in
the neck, and allowing the life to spurt from the convulsing body. The woman
threw her head back and screamed in primordial triumph, letting any nearby know
that the ambush had failed. She then looked around impudently, scanning the
shade of the trees for any movement, daring any hidden there to try the same
thing the fallen sellsword had tried. Nothing moved, save the gentle breeze. It
was joined a moment later by the chirping of birds. The latter told the woman
that there were no other threats. She whistled and the mahogany bay trotted back
to her. She patted the neck of the horse, swung easily back up to the saddle and
continued her ride.

Dust from
the shaped sandstone coated his skin. Wolfgaard heard felt the beat of the
horse’s hooves before he heard them or saw the stallion climb up a rocky ridge
onto the plateau. The woman in the saddle scanned the encampment, then angled
her horse toward him. He watched her come, the back of one hand wiping dust from
his forehead.

The horse
stopped before him.

“Warrior,”
the woman said. “Do not work too hard. The sun is bright, the day’s heat is
rising and enemies are near. We want you strong, ready for battle should it
come, not fatigued from the chore of shaping those bricks.”

Wolfgaard
nodded his head, in both acquiescence and reverence. “Mi’lady,” he said softly,
“the work will not do itself, and if we are to rest peacefully within the walls,
then the walls must be built. If trouble comes looking … well,” his eyes darted
to the side where his shield and sword rested, “it will wish it had not.”

The woman
looked down on the smiling warrior, and returned his grin. He, like the others,
was a blessing. This band, united under one banner, in this place, would die to protect the ragged clan they had formed. Most were lost, separated from home
by more than time and distance. They were Cimmerians, Aquilonians, and even
Stygians, cut from their people, their clans and homelands by the threat of
Thoth-Amon, by the spectre of slavery and unholy possession. They had wandered,
feeling apart from all they had once known, and had somehow found one another,
and then somehow together, they had found this place.

A song
drifted through her mind, an old bit of verse. She knew that if she struggled to
remember its source she would likely lose the moment and the prose, so she
relaxed a moment, letting her eyes look over the work that was taking place, the
walls that were rising, mortar and brick securing a home for this clan.

Across
the plains, down through mountain snows
In desert bright, where shadow never grows
Both fair and dark, the children came
A wilderness calls for them to tame
What home is this? What promise to find?
The wild is calling  to leave homeland behind
So in this place, though our sorrows run deep,
We shall create our hope, and lay our keep

As Wolfgaard
returned his attention to the sandstone, another woman, a bow fixed to her back,
called the rider over. The two met on a hillock just below the keep, and went
through the blueprints the rider had returned with. Their hands darted through
the air, pointing out landscape features and discussing terrain and the way the
blueprints would fit into the natural contours of the plateau. A third joined
them, a priest. He was simply dressed, but carried an air about him. He was not
one to trifle with.

Wolfgaard
could hear the mumble of words, but only catch snippets of the conversation.
They were discussing the placement of buildings, and the strategy for possibly
defending this place, should it come to that. He had heard that this place was
selected by the three of them. If so, they had done well, in his estimation. The
plateaus gave natural high ground, with a river cutting through the valley to
the east. With the mountains and sharp rocky terrain to the west, should a party
come at them, it would have to do so from the valley below the plateau. Once the
walls were up, this would be a tough place for any enemy to attack.

He
considered, for the moment, the journey that had brought him to this place. His
past was littered with corpses, hacked or punctured, the pathway stained red.
But it was not the past that had him laboring over the shaping of bricks. He was
not running away from anything; rather, he was running to something. Each brick
he shaped, each stone he placed in the fortification of the wall, was another
motion toward the hope that one day – not this day, and perhaps not the next –
his past would no longer haunt him and his soul would rest easy. This would be
‘home,’ and there was some comfort in that word. But until that day came, and he
finally had a place to forget the worries of the world and to call home, his
sword would not be far from his reach.

 

Other stories in the Age of Conan
fictional series can be found
here:

Tales of Conan – Fictional Stories index
.