Rebeldes was in anarchy. Everywhere I looked, people were running, screaming, breaking down doors and windows of houses. We could hardly get across the street without being hit by some shouting civilian. Just within my scope of vision, I could see three brawls going on simultaneously. Parents were running around, herding their children away from the worst of the chaos. People were evacuating their houses, some taking with them everything they could, others carrying only what would fit on their back. Neighbor turned on neighbor. Arguments, weapons being brandished. In a corner, I could see the body of a man, bloody and barely breathing. Down the street, I could see flames licking out of the windows of several houses. It was terrifying.
And then there were the soldiers. Everywhere, there were soldiers of the golden army, trying to break up fights and restore order, but it seemed as if they were only making things worse.
“Qinon, why did we come here?” I did little to hide my fear in my voice.
“I brought you here for a test.”
“Another one?” I complained. Qinon had made me do tests before. They were always exhausting and tested me to the limits of my capabilities. Qinon ignored my comment.
We reached a small square that seemed to be home to the remnants of a market. A large pile of wood had been stacked in the middle of the square and lit on fire. An empty wooden stall of some sort stood to one side, and we quickly took cover. People were running around all over the place, many of them carrying weapons.
“What happened here?” I asked.
“I can’t quite tell,” Qinon replied, “but my guess is that this was the location of an Anarchist rally, and that when the golden army came in and tried to break up the mob, they fled in all directions and spread out across the city, with the soldiers in pursuit. And what ensued, is this glorious chaos.”
“Glorious? This is terrible!”
Qinon turned to me. “No. This is wonderful. Survival of the fittest, Elias. Only the best may live, and chaos like this is one of the best ways to destroy the weak.”
I had seen Qinon do many horrible things. Killing animals to hurt their owners, threatening people’s lives to get what he wanted, and senselessly killing in battle. I had been so shocked by his murder of Alice that I had refused to come with him on another trip for two months. But even so, I was still surprised at the ruthlessness of what Qinon had just said.
“This is madness!” I protested. “What does anybody have to gain from this kind of anarchy!”
Qinon didn’t address my response. “As I was saying, I have brought you here for a test. I will leave you here and make my way through the city. After one minute, you will start tracking me. If you find me before midnight, you pass. If you don’t find me before midnight, you fail. This is a test of your survival skills and your tracking skills. Do not fail the test.”
I stared at him. Rebeldes was huge. It was one of the largest cities I had ever seen, second only to Bodus Minor. How was I supposed to find Qinon? It would have been nearly impossible to track an average person, but Qinon was a master of disguise, and hardly left any tracks to find. It would take me days to find him if he stayed in location, longer if he kept moving. The test was impossible.
I opened my mouth to protest, but Qinon had already set off. I watched him walk away. As he turned around the corner, he seemed to meld into the shadows. Quietly, I started counting the seconds. One minute and I would set out after him.
As I counted, I watched the chaos. I spotted a grer dueling an officer of the golden army. The officer seemed well trained, but the grer was stronger and faster. The man was hopelessly out of his depth.
“30, 31, 32, 33,” I counted in my head. The grer swung his katana, the officer raised his sword to block the strike and stumbled backwards under the imact. 39, 40, 41, 42, ...
Suddenly, I felt something tugging on my bow. I turned to see an orc not two feet away from me. He was muscular, wore no shirt and held my bow with a grip strong as iron.
“Hey, let go!” I shouted, but to no avail. The orc tugged, but I had learned long ago to never let go of my bow. The tug pulled me forward.
The orc took a step towards me, trying to get a better grip. I reacted fast, just like I had learned, yanking on the bow while his foot was in the air and simultaneously shaking my knife out of my sleeve, where I usually kept it hidden. With only one foot on the ground, the orc was much easier to unbalance, and though he was heavy, I managed to pull him close. In a second, my knife was at his neck.
“Let go of my bow,” I growled.
The orc laughed. He let go of my bow, grabbing my hand instead and bending it backwards, so the knife almost cut into my own arm. I yelled out in pain. His other hand shot up and closed around my throat, lifting me up and pinning me to the side of the wooden stand. I struggled, trying to get an angle on his arm with the knife. The orc bent my hand farther back.
I yelled out again. The pain was too much. My bow fell from my other hand. I gasped for air. I could feel sweat running down my forehead. My hand was tingling, bent so far that the blood couldn’t reach it.
And then I remembered my hand-to-hand combat training with Qinon. Due to my size, we had often trained for situations in which I would be lifted into the air.
I used my shoulder blades to push off from the wooden wall and swung my feet forward, landing my left one between the orc’s legs. As he doubled over in pain, my right foot caught him in the chest, ...
... and he let go of my arm and my throat, falling backwards and onto the body of the Enalican officer. Qinon had often noted how strong I was for my age, and now I was glad to be so.
“Hey, that bow is mine!” I heard someone shout. I looked around and saw a man in farmer’s garb, running away with my bow in his hand.
“Let go of my bow!” I yelled.
“That bow is mine!” the orc shouted. I growled. As the orc tried to get up, I hit him hard on the head with the hilt of my knife, and he collapsed back onto the body of the officer.
Then I ran after the man who had stolen my bow. Luckily, he didn’t get very far. At the corner of the wooden stall, he got pushed back by a woman in green who came running out of the alley carrying a saber.
“Watch where you’re going!” she called as she dashed past him.
I caught up to the man as he was starting down the alley. “Give me back my bow, you thief!” I cried. I raised my knife as I did so. I wasn’t inclined to violence. I hated any type of violence, really. But that bow was my property, my only property. I had made it when I ran away from home, and it was the only thing that still reminded me of my home village, and I was prepared to get it back at all costs.
The man turned. He seemed to register the knife out of the corner of his eye, because he raised up his hand for protection. The knife cut through his fingers, leaving gashes on each of them. I staggered back as I saw the blood.
The man bellowed and swung the bow at me. I ducked instinctively…
… And as the momentum of his swing turned him around, I swung out my foot and caught him on his heel, brushing his legs out from under him. His feet barely missed the fire.
The man fell backwards. His head hit the corner of the wooden stall hard, and then he slid off the corner and fell to the floor. I could see more blood coming through his hair. The sight made me nauseous. But the man’s grip on my bow remained tight, and I forced myself to forget my doubts and put my knife to his chest. I needed my bow back.#
“Give it to me,” I growled.
The man sneered. “Go and get it.”
And with that, he hurled the bow into the fire.
I shouted. “My bow!” Horrified, I watched as the string snapped and the frame was consumed by flames. That man had thrown my bow into the fire. For a second, I thought of beating him, hitting him on the head with the hilt of my knife, making him pay. But I cast the thought away. Revenge was pointless. I had already hurt the man as it was.
And then something else occurred to me. Qinon would kill me when he learned that I had lost my bow. But I had to find him. I had no way to get back home if he left without me, and I didn’t put it past him to leave Rebeldes alone.
How would I find Qinon? He left no traces. But I could not fail the test. If only to prove that I could live up to his expectations. I would have to search for him in the places where he was most likely to be. He would not be in any taverns or bars before nine a’clock. I looked up at the sky. Judging by the sun, it was about four. Perhaps he would be speaking with some anarchists or meeting some other contacts? That would make it difficult to find him, as he usually met his contacts in nondescript places.
I finally decided to start searching at the town hall of Rebeldes and started down the path that Qinon had used when we left. I had no time to waste.
At the town hall, I asked around for a man in a green cloak, carrying a bow and knife. After half an hour, I found a woman wearing a turban and long robes, who said she had seen a man with a green cloak and a large bow heading east, towards the slums. I groaned. That would make the search even more difficult. In the slums it was almost impossible to come by information without a good amount of money.
Luckily, I didn’t get that far. A few blocks farther, I found a man with a wound in his arm and several arrows stuck in the wall beside him. He had wrapped a strip of his shirt around the cut. I did not have any medical supplies with me, but I told him to wash the wound and tie it off with a clean piece of cloth. In exchange, he told me how he had bumped into a man in a green cloak by accident, and how the man had pushed him into the wall, cut his arm when he tried to fight back and warned him not to mess with a ranger again before shooting several arrows past his head for intimidation and heading south, towards the rich district. I thanked the man and followed his directions.
I reached the rich district and walked around for several hours trying to find a trace of Qinon. The sun set, dusk set in. In the twilight, I spotted footsteps in the mud that looked like Qinon’s. Upon closer inspection, I managed to confirm that they were his. I recognized the pattern of the sole, and the shallow depth of the tracks that made Qinon seem as if he was almost weightless. I followed the tracks and found myself in a dead end. The tracks ended in the middle of the street, and the street itself ended a few houses farther back. The houses seemed to lean in on me, their shadows constricting the light of the few torches mounted at some of the doors.
And that was when I sensed it.
I could sense Qinon’s presence. It was dark now, but it was as if I could smell his signature, and where it led. I followed it back out of the dead end and across the street into another alleyway. It may have been that it was getting dark, but this alley seemed even darker than the last one. I followed the mysterious scent down the alley and found myself standing in front of a doorway. It was the only doorway with a torch above it, and next to the torch there was a sign. In the dim light of the flame, I could read the faded letters of the sign: The blue boar inn. Cautiously, I opened the door.
The light inside was dim, but my eyes were used to the dark from the alleyway. I took the room in. There was a bar in the back. Aside from the barkeeper, only four other people were in the room. I examined them all in quick succession, and felt my heart sink: Qinon was not one of them.
But I could still feel his signature. I could tell Qinon had been here. The trail led to a table in the back end of the room, a table half in shadow. As I approached the table, I could sense Qinon’s signature more clearly. No, not just his signature. His presence. I sat down at the table with my back facing the room and my face towards the corner.
“Did I pass?” I asked.
There was a movement in the half-dark. Then, something seemed to peel out of the shadows, becoming more and more clear, until Qinon was sitting across from me, idly twirling his knife between his fingers.
“Yes, I do believe you’ve passed.” Qinon’s face showed satisfaction, but no pride. As if he was only proud of himself for training me well, but not of me for passing his test.
“What did you do this afternoon?” I asked him.
“I talked to several influential anarchists and offered them the support of the Confederacy. They accepted.” Qinon’s satisfaction turned into scorn as he noticed that I was missing something. “Where is your bow?”
“I lost it. It was stolen by a man in farmer’s clothes, and when I had him pinned down, he threw it into the fire.”
Qinon nodded. “I see. I would be mad, but I have a more important thing to talk to you about. Did you sense it?”
Slowly, I nodded.
Qinon smiled. It was not a happy smile, but a satisfied one. “That was a magical signature. Only someone with an aptitude for magic can sense it.”
I looked at Qinon. “So you mean to say that I can learn magic?”
He nodded. I supposed that I should feel happy or proud, but after my two fights, losing my bow and the long search, all I felt was tired. The fact that I could perform magic would only mean more training, and more of these terrible excursions to various cities for various tests. Today had been the worst and hardest test yet, but I was certain it wouldn’t stay that way for long. I felt tired, so, so tired. What had Qinon been thinking, making me search the entire city for him and fight through angry thieves on the way? I was twelve years old! I suddenly wanted to shout at him, to curse at him for making me do this, but I was too tired for that, too. I groaned and laid my head on the table. In only a few seconds, I was asleep.
Bonus pictures! I’ll let the pictures do the talking, since I’m pretty tired.
This was one of my most technically difficult mocs yet, rivaled only by Gawain and the Green Knight in the medieval spectrum. The whitewash was the most difficult part, and I now have a deep respect for people who build complicated whitewash like this on a regular basis. Notice how all the wooden beams are only half a plate out from the whitewash, which made the structure very complicated. The crossbeams in the bottom sections were extremely complicated, and also notice the inclusion of bracket pieces for the top sections for filling in gaps.
This is my personal roof technique. I like it a lot. I came up with it a while ago, but never used it up until now. It creates a great texture and is supposed to look like a straw roof. The beams are not connected, only held in place. If you've seen this technique somewhere else before, please tell me, because I don't want to take credit for any technique that isn't mine.
This is my first time building this type of base, which btw is inspired by some of Joseph Olson’s work.
And the back. I also had some more WIP pictures that really showed just how complicated the whitewash section was, those somehow got deleted from my camera.
Alternate "non-movement" picture for the story. The movement picture was actually an accident, but it worked out well.
As I mentioned already, this build was extremely difficult. I think that it is one of my best medieval builds yet, but it does lack color when you take out the fire. For the story, I wrote it late at night, so I didn't proofread. Please excuse any strange phrasing or misspellings. Also, if I calculate correctly, this will bring me up to 200 LOM points!
Brilliant! Very nicely detailed scene, interesting and original techniques on the roofs and the woodframed walls. I think all it needs to add the color you think is missing is a little greenery here and there - a lone strand of grass in front of the house and perhaps a small shrubbery or a few ferns in the background :-)
What Joseph said. :P Epic build here, Cab! Love the stonework, whitewash, path, everything. But no colored beams?!?! D: You're fired! Dx Well, I like that roof technique, so that sort of makes up for it. Well, not really. :P Great story, too. Can't wait to see where it goes from here!
Nicely done. I'm not convinced that the whitewash's complexity is necessary (I think the half-plate offset doesn't really look better than a full-plate offset) but I guess it adds a nice technical challenge. And yeah, the other roof looks great. Landscaping is a bit bare, but looks nice overall. Good job!
This is definitely going to be a candidate for both build and stroy winner for the UC. Great work overall! And while the build gives an impression of simplicity, it is actually extremely detailed on many levels! Great work!
Oh, and thanks for the shout out. :P