The man with 3 scars
by jack bauer
Western Kzavect front, where modern Borizlan would come to reside.
“IVAN! IVAN!” Janek shouted as his sprinting figure burst into view over the hill. It had been a mellow early winter’s day for the most part, cold with salty gusts of wind blowing in from the east. The sky was pale blue and cloudy, the ocean a sickly shade of grey with accents of whitish bubbles.
“Janek? What is it?” Ivan shouted in response as he ran towards the man. Ivan had heard his colleague’s shouts for a good minute now, but they had never been audible enough to understand until now.
“Something…someone…washed up on shore,” Janek said frantically between pants for air. The two men reached each other on a small grassy hill, Janek’s legs trembling and a light sweat dampened his forehead.
“Someone? Where?” Ivan questioned, holding on to Janek’s shoulders as he hunched over gripping his knees, his heavy breaths getting lighter.
“About a 15 minute run up the shore. He’s unconscious. If we run we can make it to him before he wakes. Where are the others?” Janek asked impatiently.
“Off duty. I think Stanislav may be somewhere around here though,” Ivan said.
“Good. Let’s move. Get the spears and bring a sword and torch too,” Janek responded frantically as he already started moving to head back.
“Wait! Do you even know what we are dealing with?” Ivan asked, grabbing his friend’s arm to hold him back.
“To be honest, no. But we still need to investigate,” Janek replied rather flatly as he tugged his arm from Ivan’s grip and began running back.
Fifteen minutes passed of sprinting across rocky shores and grassy foothills adjacent to the thrashing ocean until they reached a small sandy cove, wedged between two bluffs. Sitting in the middle of the cove, floating in the shallow ebb swaying back and forth as the tide moved was a dark, unidentifiable lump only slightly resembling a human silhouette from a distance. The two slowed their pace and began to make their way down the rocky coast, approaching the body with caution.
Once they made it down to the beach level, they noticed another, larger figure flanked on the far side of the bluff, jammed within the rocky cracks. Janek tracked down to investigate it while Ivan crept towards the body. When he got a closer look, he saw that it was the body of a rather muscular man with dead pale skin and reddish-brown hair. Ivan knelt in the cold water and gripped the body's head, turning it sideways to reveal the face. He was a decently handsome man, grizzled and middle-aged albeit, but that was not what shocked him. The real absurdity of the man was three grayish scars that ran diagonally across his face from his temple across the bridge of his nose onto his cheek.
“What in god’s name….” Ivan muttered. “Ivan! There’s another! Two more actually!” Janek called over from across the beach. He took one last look at the scarred man’s face before getting up and trekking in Janek’s direction. As he got a better view, he realized the other larger figure crammed between the rocks was actually an old wooden rowboat. It was split in bits, pieces of it floating around in the water around it and some of it completely missing. Several arrows pierced its sides jammed in the crevices between the wooden boards, remnants of a recent battle marking the small vessel. Slumped over the front of the ship was a corpse dressed in dark metal armors with golden accents. The body was extremely gnarled and bloody, but the exact cause of the injuries was rather indiscernible. Another body similarly dressed laid in the back of the boat. His injuries were more identifiable, with a visible stab wound in his side and an arrow sticking from his shoulder.
“They wear blacks and browns and golds with red symbols. They look runic. Are they from one of those pathetic, remote norg kingdoms up in the north?” Janek asked.
“I don’t know. We’ve barely heard a peep out of those kingdoms since five years ago. I didn’t even know a war or something was going on judging by the condition of these men. Norg’s are a very isolated and barbaric people, seldom associated with the outside world. Last time I ever heard news from them was a couple of months ago when I heard some rumors that some sort of plague struck ‘em and a lot have died. Good thing too, those norg’s were getting out of hand. A plague oughta’ keep them in check,” Ivan muttered as he began wading into the water to see the other side of the boat.
“Hey, I know you hate norgs, but let’s have some respect for the dead alright?” Janek remarked. “What happened here, a skirmish? If this was a full-out battle I feel like there would be more bodies drifting down here. How long ago was this?” Janek continued asking mostly to himself.
“I don’t know. All I know is this armor with some minor repairs would go for a pretty penny in the marketplace,” Ivan snarked, grabbing the hand of the corpse in the back of the boat in order to remove his wrist armor piece.
“Uh, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe we should just tell the mistress Svetlana and be on our way,” Janek said nervously.
“Or, we could just keep this our little secret and make a bit of extra money off of this armor,” Ivan suggested with a devious grin.
“What? Are you mad! This is her property and we are her employees! We’re security guards, this is literally our job. To secure and protect her land!” Janek responded in aggravation.
“She pays us near nothing and treats us like servants. You have a family Janek! Provide for them!” Ivan exclaimed. “Listen to yourself! We’ve-” suddenly, an icy grip tightened around Ivan’s hand.
“AMIS! AMIS!” The horrific, raspy voice of the formerly thought to be deceased man in Norg armor cried. “WHAT IN THE BLOODY HELL!” Ivan shouted as he tried to jerked himself away from the boat, only to be caught in the ghastly man's grip. “Amis…is that you…?….we’re done for…..too many…too many,” the man muttered almost inaudibly between loads of blood, water and vomit spewing disgustingly from his mouth. His eyes were a piercing bloodshot red, and his body violently sprawled across the boat floor. But suddenly, as abruptly as he had awoken, his body went dead still. Both men stood paralyzed in complete fear, barely able to comprehend what just happened.
SHINK! The dead man sprung up, grabbed the arrow sticking from his shoulder, yanked it out with less than and flitch and in one fluid motion, stabbed it into Ivan’s side, causing him to tumble back from the side of the boat and collapse in the shallow water with a thud. Janek turned backwards and immediately began to flee when a sharp, sudden pain violently erupted in his foot. He had rammed the top of his foot into an arrowhead that had fallen from the debris of the boat and found itself sticking up out of the rocky ocean floor. He crashed to the ground, his face colliding with the wet sand, a cry of anguish escaping his mouth as he fell.
His hands immediately reached out and wrapped themselves around his bloody, injured foot as the formerly dead man in the boat stumbled up to his feet. Janek then saw a full view of the appalling man.
The stab wound in his side punctured straight through his left lung all the way the way through to the other side. Judging by how old the wound looked, it most certainly had to be a lethal injury that would have killed him. The man’s skin had gone from a lifeless pale to an almost supernatural greenish-yellowish-grey. He let out a raspy, animalistic groan as he scrambled around clumsily like a blind man. He began stumbling towards the vulnerable, fear-stricken Janek as he lay on the ground, but just before his arms could reach him, a swift sweeping blur flashed before his eyes and the undead man fell back into the boat with a bloody slash across his chest.
A watery eyed Janek looked up to see the scar-faced red-haired man who had washed up on shore standing over him with a sword in hand. He looked down with an almost pitiful look at Janek before reaching his hand out and pulling him up while Janek painfully groaned.
“Who…what…” Janek muttered as the scar-faced man carried him off quickly away from the boat and sat him down back up against the rocky cliff-side a dozen yards away near the area where the two men had originally come from.
“Stay here,” the scar-faced man ordered with a stern voice. He turned around to face the sea again just as the second thought-to-be-dead man in the front of the boat rose to his lifeless feet. The man charged at him, blade raised, only for the ghoul to leap out of the boat with great force and tackle him to the sand before he could swipe his sword. As the two fought, knocking each other to the side with their fists and taking turns pinning each other down, Janek saw the first undead who had been slashed earlier by the Scarface man rise back up and regain his balance.
Seeing that the man was occupied struggling with the other undead, he was vulnerable and unaware of the other ghoul’s presence. So, summoning up the last bit of courage he had and taking a one last frightful look at his bloody foot, Janek brushed his fear aside and pushed himself to his feet and began shakily hobbling towards the fight as fast as he could, near intolerable pain scourging his foot like he just stuck it in a blazing fire. But he thrust himself forward and, in the only move he could think of, flung himself forward towards the undead right before it reached the man, knocking him into the water with the force of his body.
After a moment of dazed repercussion, the undead quickly recovered and began viciously convulsing and digging it’s fingers into Janek’s back while letting out horrific shrieks, but he remained pinning the undead down with all his force. He could only keep struggling for a second more though when the undead slipped out of his grasp, lashed its head out and bit down vigorously at the base of Janek’s neck. After that, the zombie wrapped his arms around his body and dragged him underwater, his blood and muffled screams rising to the surface.
While this happened, the scarred man finally, after an intense fight that almost left him bitten, managed to slay the undead with a sweep of his sword that left the ghoul headless and his blade and clothes splattered with blood. After a second of heavy breathing and wiping the blood and sweat off his forehead, he turned his attention back to the waves. Janek was nowhere to be seen or heard. After little more than a quick skim of the eyes across the rolling waves, he turned around and stumbled to his knees. Panting for air and wiping more blood from his face, the man closed his eyes for a moment while lying on the cold, uncomfortable beach, hands buried in the gravelly sand and a sliver of sunlight between the clouds warming his back. For a second, there was peace.
The scarface man went unconscious. Towering over him holding the blunt end of a spear to the back of the man’s head was Ivan, soaking wet with the arrow pulled out of his shoulder, a bloody injury remaining that he gripped tightly with his other hand.
“What the hell happened here!?!” A surprising voice shouted from over a distant bluff.
“Stanislav?” Ivan asked weakly, his voice raspy from saltwater.
“Ivan? What in God's name...” the man named Stanislav murmured. Ivan, in complete ecstatic shock, finally managed to spit out the words;
“Can…. C-can I get a little help down here?”
12 DAYS LATER
The Mistress Svetlana sat at a large, fancy armchair, fondling it’s delicate craftsmanship while gracefully watching over her court. Lounging and loitering around the decorative banquet table were an assortment of aristocrats and socialites making light talk and humor with each other while elegant violin music played softly from at the hands of a troubadour. All was fair and orderly as it should be, that was until the ornate double doors on the far side of the room pressed open.
Entering the room were five men all dressed in nearly identical suits of chivalric armor except for the one in the middle with a weasel face and mustache, whose armor was slightly more elaborate and included a navy blue cape.
“And who are you?” The Mistress inquired, the two guards besides her shuffling into a ready position with their spears. The man then began speaking in a language that was not understood by the mistress, so, interrupting him, Svetlana said “Speak Kzavecti please so I can understand whatever the hell you’re going on about.”
The men looked at each other. “My apologies madam,” the middle one said in a nasally voice that matched his weasel-like face.
“Mistress. Mistress Ester Jaromiz Svetlana,” she responded coldly.
“…Apologies again MISTRESS,” the knight said, a slight frustration arising in his tone. “What do you want from me, knight?” the Mistress asked with little interest.
“My name is Sir Isaac Quintin. I am an imperial knight captain from the kingdom of Galidon—”
“Never heard of it,” the mistress snarked while stirring her tea. “….me and my colleagues heard news that a foreign prisoner recently washed up on your property's shore. I’ve come to buy him off your hands,” Quintin continued, the bitterness apparent in his voice.
“How much do you offer?” She questioned, still showing very little interest and not even looking him in the eyes. Quintin stepped forward, pulled out a bag, and emptied its contents onto the table. “300 koven,” he stated.
“Hm. Sold. Ivan, Casimir, fetch the prisoner,” she said flatly as the two guards beside her exited the room.
“Oh…uh..that was quick,” Quintin said in slight surprise.
“I don’t like dilly-dallying on useless affairs. I’ve needed someone to take him off my hands. Tell me, who is this man?” The mistress queried.
“He is Sir Drake Slade, a high nobleman and master swordsman from Blocktir, a despised enemy of my kingdom Galidon,” Quintin replied.
“Ah. I have never even heard of either of your kingdoms. I’m sure there is some complicated explanation for why he and two “half-dead” soldiers washed up on my land, but I don’t care. Just take the prisoner and go,” she remarked.
“Thank you for your time mistress,” Quintin said with a bow while the two guards re entered the room dragging a half-conscious, chained-up Slade between them. “Ivan, Casimir, escort these….people to their vessel,” the mistress said with a dismissive wave. After a 40 minute trek to the nearby harbor, the troupe arrived at their boat. It was a medium sized, imperial ship with several crew members waiting on the deck for their return. Before Quintin and his men could usher Slade onto the boat, one of the mistresses' guards, Ivan, who had a bandaged shoulder, grabbed Quintin's arm and whispered in his ear with great hate in his voice, “I lost my friend recovering this man. It better have been worth it, knight.”
In response, the knight just scowled, turned around, and walked up the ramp to his ship. “Well, I would say I hope to see you gentlemen again, but I don’t. Farewell,” Quintin said. After that, he waved his hand through the air in a slight hand motion, and shortly after, the ship began to depart from the dock. Below deck, Slade was shoved into a dingy, squalid jail cell made of flimsy iron bars tucked in the back of a damp, dimly lit storage area that reeked of human waste, saltwater and rotten meat. Beside him in two other jail cells were two other men. One, a thin, dirty, dark-haired man, sat on the ground with his arms folded and eyes closed, either sleeping or just resting. The other one was a very young, scrawny, spiky-haired lad with an out of place smile on his face who leaned up against the bars.
“Hi friend! My names Barran, and I'm not really sure how I got here! The other guy is Dagfyn, he’s a good guy if you get to know him. What’s your name newcomer!” The young man said with an inappropriate level of enthusiasm and child-like chipper.
“Drake. Drake Slade. Do…do you know where we are going?” The man stammered.
“Drake, what a cool name, it’s like a name from a badass legend or something. And to answer your question;” “I have no clue!”