Choosing Reward

It’s funny how life is sometimes, how life can come up and bite you in the ass when you don’t expect it to. Sometimes it seams we all live our lives in total blindness to one another an have no idea what the other person has gone through. Karlithen thinks to herself of just those facts as she hears the words spoken by the cleric “You may now choose your reward?”

That was the statement that was ringing in Karlithen’s ears and those were the words that put her in a daze. Karlithen could see her allies jumping up-and-down and patting one another on the back but it was all just a dream to her. She stood there motionless as these words brought back so many memories, so many images were flowing through her head she just didn’t know how to react. She could occasionally see one of her fellow party members looking over at her and so she smiled and pretended to be happy but in her eyes everything was moving in slow motion as she tried to unraveled her memories from the present.

“You may now choose your reward?”, those words would have great meaning in her life and those were the memories that were flowing throughout her head. The first time was about four long years ago, during her years of service with the army when she was tracking down a fella by the name of Terel Smithnaught. She was just outside the town of Highcastle in Cutler’s gap following a caravan that Terel was supposedly hiding out in. She was going to do the usual and wait until nighttime and sneak into the camp to make the execution but a driving rainstorm hit during the day and the caravan was trapped in a gully. As she rounded the bend on her horse it was clear the caravan was going nowhere fast as the horse struggled to move the heavy carts through the ever thickening mud. She approached the caravan slowly and cautiously but then suddenly a landslide hit, the great mass of dirt came flying off the mountain and struck the caravan squarely. Almost all of the carts were half buried instantly, the other half were overturned an getting swept away.

Karlithen realized the time to act was now and she rode her horse quickly to the aid of the people. Upon reaching the second or third half buried cart she came upon the caravan leader who is frantically digging through the mud in search of something. She asked if she could be of assistance and the man begged her to start looking for his family. He told Karlithen that they were swept away when the mudslide hit and anything she could do to help would be greatly appreciated. For the next 30 or 40 minutes they searched, they rescued, they help those in need and through it all Karlithen found seven or eight people including the leaders wife and small child. After the dramatic experience was over she was invited to stay for a feast in her honor which would take place that evening. There was going to be a great celebration to thank the gods that not a single person was lost during this time of despair.

During the afternoon hours the rain suddenly stopped and the clouds parted to let the sunshine fall upon the lands, it was if the gods themselves wanted to watch this festival. That evening around the campfire there was a great celebration, people were singing and a great feast was enjoyed by all. Towards the climax of the festival the leader climbed atop one of wooden carts, one that was undamaged during the days events, and began a long story about Karlithen’s deeds that day. He called her up to stand beside him as he finished his story as the gathering crowd cheered her arrival atop the platform.

“And this humble servant of the army risked life and limb for total strangers, she put her life before yours!”, the leader says to the applause of the crowd. “We all owe her a debt of extreme gratitude for the deeds, for her service to humanity, and to the God for placing her here to rescue all of us.” The leader story was building like the great wave in an ocean until it crashes upon the shore. “And for your great sacrifice and courage we have decided to give you something in return, please tell us what you would like and it is yours.”

Karlithen’s face was a ghost, of everything the speaker could have said why did he have to say that. She stood there silent, arms draped at her side, and a tear running down her cheek. She waited, hoping that this would just go away.

“Please, soldier of the army, and one we now know as Karlithen, please choose your reward.”

Bowing her head Karlithen quietly says, “I choose Terel Smithnaught as my reward.”.....

Karlithen can still remember that moment like it happened yesterday, every time she smells the burning leaves of an ash tree it takes her back to that moment. The burning campfire and the smoke from those leaves lingered with her for more than a few days afterwards. She was still remembering that smell as one of her comrades strikes her on the back.

“We did it, I can’t believe it we really did it,” says the dwarven barbarian as he gives her a crushing hug. “I knew that smarty-pants know it all mage was worth keeping around.”

Karlithen smiles at him, “sure, he’s a pretty smart guy, between him and that shady assassin fella I figured that one of them might know the answer. Well at least we didn’t lose too much gold trying to figure this out.”

“Something wrong with you?” the dwarf asks noticing the tears in her eyes, but before Karlithen can even give her reply he’s off discussing with some of the others about what the reward should be. The reward, just the thought of it put her back into her dreary dream as she reminisced about the last time she heard to his words.

It was a little over two years ago as she returned to the armies encampment at the Hawks Hollow. She’s been gone about three months on a very difficult mission, one she’s sure was assigned to her to get her out of the way. The “boys club” as she likes to call it didn’t like having her around. They made it very clear to her that women are only good for three things and none of them are being a warrior. She had to put up with this crap for the last five years of service and only now is she starting to get somewhere, slowly a few of the boys can tolerate her. Then she was assigned this mission, a one-way ticket to nowhere. A dead end that even if she completes no one will believe her anyways. But dammit she was going to prove them wrong—even if she died trying.

A band of thugs in the Edder Forrest was causing quite a problem for the army, this band wasn’t very happy with the kingdom and decided it was about time to start a new realm. Well the army wasn’t very happy about this and decided to stop it one way or the other. They really didn’t want to risk open war as that will have cost many men and lots of equipment that can be used elsewhere. So the decision way made to have Karlithen do what the army couldn’t or wouldn’t do. And of course she had no backup, no support, nor any means even to get back out alive.

The leader of these thugs was named Jorard The Stalker and he had to complete devotion of his followers who were willing to go to war for their cause. The army knew who he was but they were not willing to do anything about it other than send Karlithen to her certain death “for the cause”. Jorard’s influence was spreading but not so much as to concern the army with how to deal with it. The army hoped it would be like the changing of the seasons, one season comes in and the other fades away and in the meantime Karlithen can deal with the problem.

Only two days in the Edder Forrest and she was already captured, a stupid foot snare hidden among the leaves had her hanging from a tree when the thugs arrived. At first it looked like they were just going to shoot a crossbow bolt into her and let her bleed to death but the ruffian leader decided he would rather have some more fun with her. They cut her down and for the rest of the day the four of them had their way with her. Karlithen remembers the feeling, a helplessness.

It’s amazing what you can do when your life depends on it. After the ruffians were finished and it looked like that crossbow bolt was getting ready to happen Karlithen did something she’d never thought she would. She flaunted with them about how wonderful it was, about how she would love to pleasure them every day. She told them what real men they were and how she’s been waiting for someone like them to come into her life. The ruse worked and instead of killing her on the spot they took her back to the camp to be their sex slave. The very camp that Jorard was leader of and after being there for a week she caught Jorard’s eye as well. It wasn’t long before she was Jorard’s partner as well and soon through her devilish ways Karlithen practically had full run of the camp. At least now that she was Jorard’s woman the others kept their hands away, one is much better then many.

“It’s been three months, only three months and you expect us to believe you completed this task?” the army lieutenant asks her. “How do we know you haven’t been wandering around for three months and now you want payment?”

Karlithen just stood there staring at them, she would’ve liked to stab each of them in the heart but that would have given her a death sentence and she didn’t go through all of this to have it end that way.

“Well?”, the captain asks. “What you have to say for yourself?”

“The mission is complete, you will no longer have any problem with Jorard. His unruly bunch will certainly disperse now that their leader is dead.”, Karlithen answers.

The captain looks at the lieutenant and rolls his eyes, “well, give her the payment anyways, it’s the least we can do for her”. The lieutenant opens his mouth to say something and sees that his words will probably fall on deaf ears.

“Fine. I’m not sure how I’m going to explain this but hopefully it’ll get passed through with all the other paperwork.”

The lieutenant walks over and swings in behind his desk plopping down in his chair, he slides open a drawer and removes some paper and a quill. “I’m going to write you a note here, you take it down to the treasurer to get your coins. If you lose the note you’re out of luck because I’m not writing another one. I’m only doing this because Captain Brandt looks like he’ll argue with me all day about this and personally it’s not worth my time for the few coins you earned in this mission.”

The lieutenant dips his quill into the ink container and starts to scratch on the paper, “and another thing before you get to…..”, his words are broken in midsentence as the bloody head lands with a thump on his wooden desk. Shocked and dismayed the lieutenant jumps back as the head rolls across the desk leaving a blood trail behind. Finally catching his wits about him the lieutenant looks at the greyed skinned face of the detached head sitting on his desk.

“Consider this your reward”, Karlithen says as she turns her back and walks out.

Choosing Reward

Midkemia idjester