The Long Road

This is a story I did for Ishiro for a guild I was in in EverQuest. It never got finished because I left the guild.

Slowly Ishiro enters the guild house of the Ashen Order. Many times he has come to call on his brethren, and indeed this house has become a second home to the wandering monk of the Silent Fist. The bustle of the city streets of Freeport grow softer as he enters.

The floor of the guild house is swept clean, as it always is. Ishiro removes his crescent slippers and places them in his sack. He isn’t greeted at the door, as he so often is. And only now he notices the absence of light within as the day without grows short.

The patting of his feet against the stone floor echo through the empty guild house. Ishiro crosses the distance to the stair and heads upward to speak with Master Puab.

Upstairs, Master Puab’s chamber is dark and silent. Carefully listening Ishiro waits for any sound indicating he is not alone, but hears none. Quietly he moves to the end of the hall and into an empty room. He drops his pack to the floor and takes a mat from the shelf. Ishiro unrolls the mat against the wall under the window, slides his pack to one end, and lays down upon it, his head resting on his pack.

Ishiro pulls a half eaten muffin from his bag and a small flask of water. A small bite to eat, and water to wash it down, he then for a moment just stares at the ceiling. Closing his eyes, the road catches up to him, and he drifts into a deep dream filled sleep.

The morning sun rises slowly over the horizon, it’s like streaming through the window, the shape of it creeping across the floor. The streets of Freeport begin to fill with merchants as they set out their wares for the day. The shape of light moves steadily toward the motionless body lying beneath the window sill. The night watchmen of the Freeport Militia are sent to their beds as others of their ranks take their positions on the wall. The light touches the motionless body’s face, and Ishiro’s eyes open.

Like the sun, he rises slowly, careful to stretch each muscle to begin the day. Just inside the door to his room in the house of the Ashen Order, a bowl of water, a cup, and a plate of food has been placed.

Ishiro fills the cup from the bowl and then sets it aside. He then washes his face and hands in the water left in the bowl. After eating the meal left for him, he packs his things, rolls up his bed mat and places it back on the shelf.

Downstairs, the house is quiet as everyone is outside doing the morning garden tending. Just across from the guild house the Antonican Bards were setting up the stage for today’s concerts and plays. Ishiro wanders out into the street to get his fill of the town.

Down the center of the commons, both sides of the street are lined with tents and table. Jewelry, pottery, hides, armor, weapons, food, livestock. It’s all for sale somewhere in Freeport. Ishiro stops to look at the hides: wolf, tiger and bear; and considers buying some to practice his fledgling tailoring skills on.

Ishiro’s shopping is interrupted by a messenger from Qeynos. He smiles as he is greeted by brother Tomer from the Silent Fist.

“Brother Tomer, what brings you to..”

“Brother Ishiro, I beg forgiveness, but I bring you this message from Master Lu’Sun. You must travel to the Southern plains of Karana and find Brother Drask, he’ll have more information for you. It seems the gnolls of Splitpaw are causing trouble. Now, I must go, there are many more to whom I must take this message.”

And with that, Tomer takes off into the gathering morning crowds and dissappears.

Ishiro cinches up his pack, and tightens his crescent slippers, and begins the long road to the Karana Plains.

Night has fallen, and the air is stale at the edge of Kithicor Woods. The daytime sounds of joyful birds sings are gone, and a stillness like the dead eminates from the trees.

A halfling in tattered armor sits on a tree stump tending to wounds. Ishiro pulls some bandages out of his pack and quickly begins to help.

“Don’t move little brother, I’ll stop the bleeding.”

“Thank you sir, I wasn’t expecting what I found tonight.”

Ishiro looks off into the woods, the same direction the halfling stares.

“I hear nothing and see nothing. These don’t look like animal claw marks, and Kithicor isn’t known for having bands of brigands. What did this to you?”

The halfling winces as Ishiro tightens the last bandage, “Something has possessed these woods. The dead have risen and their restless evil souls are striking out at the living.”

“You seemed to have survived.”

“By the luck of the Underfoot only. A couple of those things had set upon me and I was taking quite the beating as you can see, when a knight in holy garb lept in to save me. One of the monsters took off into the trees immediately, but the other took some convincing. He finally ran off too, and the knight gave chase. I heard some clashing for a while, swords and shields and the like, but then it went silent.” The halfling pauses, then looking down continues, “I fear the worst.”

“Well, your wounds are clean and bandaged. Here is some food and water to hold you until daybreak, I think it best you wait to head back to Rivervale if that’s where you want to go.”

“You aren’t going in there, are you?” The halfling looks at Ishiro with concern.

“I must. I can’t delay here for long.” Ishiro smiles at the halfling, “Good luck, and stay out of sight.”

“Take my luck, you’ll need all you can get.”

Ishiro thought it best to spend as little time as possible in the seemingly haunted woods, so setting of at a near sprinting pace, he takes a path through the trees about forty feet off yet parallel to the road. Every snapping twig, every creaking branch presses him faster.

Ahead, a dim light flickers. Slowing, and approaching causiously, the flickering becomes human forms dancing on the trunks of the trees. Closer, the dancers attach at the ground to the feet of skeletons, circling a glowing form. A skeleton reaches to touch the holy knight standing among them, and it reals back with an inhuman scream.

Ishiro beholds a sight not often seen. A cleric of a holy order imbued by his god with a divine aura. Untouchable by things of this world, but surrounded, unable to move.

The cleric’s eyes dart back and forth looking for an opening, but without fear as his god watches over him. His eyes land on Ishiro’s form coming out of the underbrush. Their eyes meet and in a single gaze they each know what to do. Ishiro charges out at full sprint, leaps to the air and lands a foot on the side of a skeleton skull. As he comes to the ground the skull crushes beneath him but the body grasps wildly at the air. All the empty sockets of the undead turn to hollowly consider the new arrival. Ishiro has time for one word to the cleric, “Run.”

The skeletons turn and give chase to their new foe, cackling with glee as they hound an unprotected foe. Ishiro disappears off into the underbrush again, and the cleric, now free begins to run the other direction.

With unholy beasts close behind, Ishiro slowly begins to turn to his right, coming around in a wide circle. Thankfully, the revived bones of his pursuers seem less swift that his own, and he gains ground with each passing second.

Almost complete a half circle, Ishiro again sees a dim light ahead, and hopes it is what he expects it to be.

As he bursts through the trees into a small clearing, Ishiro sees the cleric already beginning the manual articulations of his craft. He comes to a halt beside the cleric and turns to face their foes.



“Here they come.”

As the first skeleton breaks the tree line, Castigule points a glowing finger and calls upon the power of his god. The bones splinter and burst as one foul ghoul is removed from this world.

Ishiro steps forward and lands a solid blow to the next bag of bones, and follows in quick succession with three more strikes. A third skeleton tries to run past Ishiro toward Castigule, but Ishiro pulls a fighting baton from his belt and lashes out to get its attention.

His crescent gi protects Ishiro from the first strike against him, but the second tears flesh from his leg. Castigule stands behind him calling upon his god once more for power. Pulling a second fighting baton from his belt, Ishiro lays his focus on one of the skeletons delivering a rain of blows. Bones crack, crush, and splinter beneath the batons as they lay in.

A second skeleton explodes as Castigule’s god grants him power again. The third, nearly immobile now, turns to run, but Ishiro ends its existance with a flying kick.

Ishiro begins to bandage his wounds, but Castigule reaches foward and takes them from him.

“Here, allow me.”

With a blue glow to his hands, the cleric passes them over the wounds while whispering a prayer under his breath. The gash in Ishiro’s leg fades and is gone, like it never existed.

“Some talent you’ve got there, Castigule,” Ishiro says with a smile.

“It’s only my faith in my god, and his faith in me.”

Castigule helps Ishiro to his feet, “With all that running, I think I’m lost, you happen to know the way to Rivervale, Ishiro?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. But I think it might be too dangerous to finish crossing the woods tonight. If I’m right in thinking where we are, there is a group of rangers who live nearby. They should be able to put us up for the remainder.”

“Lead on, then. Never let it be said that I passed up a cooked meal and a warm bed.”

Cautiously the two men approach the campfire, unsure if the undead may have overrun the rangers of Kithicor. But Ishiro smiles as he sees Leaf seated at the fire, and stands.

“Ho there, ranger Falldim, what perils befall the woods of Kithicor?”

“Nothing I cannot handle, brother Ishiro. I was wondering how long the two of you were going to go clumping around the forest before you decided it was safe.”

Ishiro embraces Leaf Falldim, “It’s good to see you again.”

“Turn your back on the Silent Fist yet? Ready to train in the ways of a true warrior?”

“Let’s not forget who won our little duel, Leaf.”

The two men laugh and embrace again.

“Leaf, this is Castigule. Castigule, Leaf Falldim.”

“Pleasure is mine, Castigule”

Castigule bows, “More mine than yours.”

Leaf turns back to the fire, “Well enough of the pleasantries, food’s gonna get cold.”

Ishiro and Castigule settle down by the fire. And as the night grows long, so do the tales told until sleep overcomes them, and they turn in until daybreak.

In the morning, Castigule had gone, headed to High Keep. Ishiro gathers his things and says his farewells to the rangers of Kithicor. Then heads on his way to Rivervale.

The road through Kithicor is empty, with Ishiro its only traveller. The sounds of birds, the buzzing of bixies, and the occasional bark of a wolf fill the air. Uneventfully Ishiro comes to the mountain wall, and the cave leading into Rivervale.

As the cave opens upon the city, the familiar joyfull non-stop music of the halflings fills the air. The beat and soul of it lifting spirits higher with just its sound. A smile crawls across Ishiro’s face as he strides into the city. He stops at a shop and trades a few trinkets found off the skeletons for some food and water, and pays a few gold for some bandages to replenish his supply. And as he passes out the cave at the other end of town, his heart sinks a little as the music begins to fade.

Its a pleasant stroll from Rivervale across the misty thicket. But out beyond the halfling defense wall, the shapes of goblins move between the trees. As Ishiro approaches the wall, he addresses one of the deputies.

“Hello Deputy Budo, how are things around here these days?”

“Ishiro Takagi, as I live and breathe. Well, I wish I could say they were better. the Runny Eye goblins made a run at the wall last night, we pushed them back but had a few losses. And with all these kids running off to explore the world, our numbers are dwindling.”

“That’s not good. I fear it’ll take a major loss to snap some of them out of their wanderlust.”

Budo pauses, looks down, and then back at Ishiro, “It days like these that I miss Kreegur the most. That boy stood on the wall with us while the others ran off to see the world.”

Ishiro tries to smile, “I know, some days I blame my own wandering for his end.”

“Never do that. You might have saved him that day, but he was headstrong and determined to break the Runny Eye Clan. Much as I cared for the little guy, he’d’ve met his end sooner or later.”

Budo turns and looks out at the tree line. “I think they’re going to make another run tonight. They’re getting bolder.”

“Do you need me to stay? I could..”

“No, I suspect you’ve got business to attend to. We’ll be fine, the help I’ve asked for from Freeport and High Keep should come. Some fella name of Castigule is supposed to be bringing down a few dozen men from High Keep today.”

“Ahh, well, then I know you are in good hands, and I’ll be on my way.”

Ishiro heads through the gate and off toward the trees.

“Ishiro! You aren’t going THROUGH Runny Eye, are ya?”

Ishiro turns back and smiles, “It’s quicker than going around, don’t worry, I can run pretty fast.”

Budo lets out a loud burst of laughter and smiles back, “You be safe now, I expect to see you passin’ through here again ‘fore too long.”

With that Ishiro turns again toward the woods and starts toward them, and through them, to the cavern entrance to the home of Clan Runny Eye.

-2 Jun 2003

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