CoS: Chapter 4

Chronicles of a Soulborn: Chapter 4

in which our protagonist and friends start helping others and a new idea is born

Not much happened in the following years. Abae, Varhukan and I finished our studies at the Delnoch School of Cartography and all remained in the area helping mentor new students and creating new maps when the need arose. The most common requests were for specialized maps that focused on trade routes for merchants or good mining locations for miners. Occasionally someone would have us create new local maps to give to their children as they came of age. Unfortunately, cartography alone wasn’t enough to make a living, so I was still helping out on the farm and Abae and Varhukan took other odd jobs around the city.

Varhukan would sometimes offer his services as an armed guard for caravans that would travel between cities. Abae stuck to less physical work, often finding small jobs mending and repairing things for people; he was quite the tinkerer and enjoyed spending hours alone at his workbench fiddling with things that needed repairing.

A new semester at the school had just started, and the new students were busy learning the ins and outs of map making, so Varhukan and I were both at the school helping out when a tall Brudvir woman walked in and looked around for assistance. Varhukan straightened up with a strange grin on his face and for a moment I could have sworn I heard him growl.

“Can I help you, Miss?” he asked.

“My name is Asta Lund. I am looking for an experienced navigator and I was told to check here at the school.”

“Well, Ms. Lund, I’d be more than happy to offer my personal services…” with this he stepped in closer before I quickly shoved him aside - not an easy feat considering his superior size and girth. There was nothing subtle about the action.

“What my friend meant to say was that we would be more than happy to offer our professional services. Our school produces some of the finest cartographers and navigators in Delgora county. Do you need assistance reaching a nearby settlement?”

Asta rolled her eyes before addressing me. “In a manner of speaking, yes. I represent a small group that is looking to establish a new settlement on the outskirts of Athair county. We have already received approval from the count to pick out the land we desire. We would like to hire you to help us scout the area to find a suitable location upon which to settle.“

“Of course, and we’d be happy to help, but why come to Delnoch rather than one of the cities in Athair?”

“We all currently reside in this area. The land we want happens to be in Athair, but none of us have ever actually been there before. I can, however, show you where we are interested in acquiring our new land.”

Asta produced a sheet of paper and handed it to me. It was a very crude drawing of the southern border between Athair and Delgora counties.

“That’s not a lot to go by,” I said while studying the drawing (I wasn’t prepared to call it a map).

Varhukan tried to work his way back into the conversation. “Don’t worry ma’am, we’ll get you where you need to go,” he said with a wink. Asta pretended he wasn’t there and continued to address me.

“As you can see,” she said as she pointed at the sketch, “there is a river that runs through the area. We were hoping to find a suitable location near that. All of the nearest settlements are several kilometers away and the terrain looks a bit rough, hence our need for a navigator.”

“Well, my friends and I would be more than happy to help. And I assure you,” I turned to look at Varhukan who was now leaning against the table with his arm flexed more than was required to hold up his weight, “we’ll get you there without any trouble.”

The door opened and a tall mann wearing a heavy cloak ducked to enter. When he closed the door behind him and stood fully erect, he removed his hood to reveal his pallid skin and violet eyes. I was slightly terrified by his appearance and tried to remain calm and professional, but I couldn’t help staring uncomfortably at the mann as he approached.

“The others should be here by tomorrow, Asta. Were you able to find someone to help us scout the area?”

Asta smiled and put her arm around the mann. “Yes, dear. These men have agreed to help us and we were just about to draw up the contract. Gentlemenn,” and she turned to look at Varhukan with a smile. “This is my husband, Arren.”

Varhukan stepped in towards the mann, holding himself up as tall as he could while maintaining eye contact. I worried that he was about to challenge him when he said “You have our word that you and your party will reach your destination safely and without incident. As your lovely wife said, we were just about to negotiate the contract. Shall we begin?” His sudden professionalism caught me off guard, but I followed his lead and the four of us sat at a nearby table to begin discussing the terms of our contract and payment.

We had served as navigators and escorts in the past, but this was by far our largest contract to date. Not only were Asta and Arren going to pay us handsomely to help them locate their new land, they were going to allow us exclusive mapping rights of their settlement and the surrounding area for one year if we agreed to stick around and help them settle. Each party signed the contract and Asta and Arren got up to leave.

“Everything looks good,” Asta said. “We look forward to working with you. As Arren said, the rest of our party will arrive in Delnoch tomorrow morning and we plan to set out by midday. Meet us by the northern road before then.”

“We will see you then,” I replied with a smile of genuine excitement.

Abae hadn’t been at the school when we forged the contract with Asta and her company, but soon after I went to meet him to explain our new job and to invite him to come along. He was immediately excited about the engagement and said that it was the perfect opportunity to try his new device, though he wouldn’t elaborate any more on what it was.

The next day, just before midday, Varhukan and I met up with a few other members of the travel party at the north entrance to Delnoch. We were still waiting on the others, including Asta and Arren, when Abae came around the corner pulling a small, two wheeled cart behind him. The cart had a series of exposed gears and a small figure sitting on top with its arm outstretched as if pointing at something off in the distance. Altogether it stood slightly taller than Abae.

“What in Angelica’s name is that monstrosity, Pip?” Varhukan barked as Abae joined the party.

Abae beamed as he turned to face the cart. “It’s a south-pointing chariot! I’ve spent the past couple of weeks working on it. It uses differential gears to keep the figure on top pointing south no matter which direct the cart turns. Observe!” He slowly turned the chariot in a full circle and all the while the figure did in fact maintain the direction in which it pointed. “This way we can keep track of which direction we are heading without having to constantly check our compasses!”

“That’s actually pretty amazing,” I admitted.

“Yeah,” Varhukan shrugged. “Except that it’s pointing south east.”

Abae looked at his cart and then at the surrounding landscape as he dropped his shoulders slightly. “Well you do have to manually align it to begin with. I haven’t calibrated it for the journey yet, but you get the idea.”

“ that supposed to be you?” I asked, looking more closely at the figure on top of the cart. It appeared to be a wood carving of a Kypiq looking wistfully in the direction in which he was pointing.

Abae smiled. “I had it commissioned especially for this. I figured why not make this device beautiful as well as functional?”

Varhukan said flatly, “I don’t see the resemblance.”

Just then Asta and Arren arrived with the remainder of their party.

“It looks like everyone is here,” Asta said. She looked at the three of us and added “You lot have the map and know where we’re going?”

“Yes ma’am,” Varhukan replied, producing the sketch which Asta had given us the day before. “I expect it will take us about 3 days to get there. I’ve identified good locations for us to make camp each night along the way.”

“Good,” she replied. “Then if everyone is ready, I say we get moving.”

Everyone made last minute checks to ensure that everything was properly tied down and secured. A few were riding mounts; the rest climbed into one of the wagons that included the tools and personal belongings that they were taking with them. There weren’t many supplies, as those would come from the land itself once we arrived. Varhukan, Abae, and I each had our own mounts so that we could ride ahead and scout the area along the way. Once all preparations were finalized, we began our journey north.

The first day of our journey was expectedly uneventful. Our departure time of midday meant we would reach Aggramar near the northern border of Delgoa county by evening where we spent the night. This means that we traveled entirely along well established roads and passed through the safety of other towns and villages. Much of the rest of the journey from there would be across wilderness and would be much slower and more dangerous.

There wasn’t much for us to do this first day, which gave us the opportunity to get to know the group a little better. Asta and Arren were both healers; Asta was an herbalist and Arren specialized in bone injuries. The rest of the party was not, in fact, the friends that Asta had talked about the day before, but were other hired hands like ourselves to help them start construction once we arrived. Apparently once the land was picked out and a few buildings started they would send word for the others to come.

We arose early on the second day and set off to the north once again. After a few short hours we reached the border of Aggramar, and while the road turned slightly to the west we decided that this was the point at which we would leave the safety and familiarity of the roads and head out into the wilderness.

With the wagons, carts, and supplies that we were hauling, travel over the rocky hill country was slow going. A number of times we had to chose a slower, longer route around a hill that would have been easy enough to go over on foot or horseback. By mid-afternoon we had only traveled a few kilometers, but the terrain was starting to become easier.

Now that we were off the road, Varhukan, Abae, and I took turns scouting ahead for possible danger and to ensure that we were headed in the correct direction. When Abae wasn’t on patrol he hung back to navigate and fiddle with his contraption that he had brought. In order for it to function properly, both wheels needed to remain on the ground, but because of the rocky terrain it was bouncing around and he kept having to make adjustments to it. At one point he stopped the entire caravan so that he could inspect the gears.

I approached Abae to offer some advice. “Abae, it’s a neat device, but perhaps we should just stick to our compasses? I feel like we’re slowing everyone else down.”

“The whole point of this thing is to not have to stop as often to check our compasses - if it would only work properly. This terrain is wreaking havoc on the gears! One of them has started coming loose and I just need to tighten it.”

As he was messing with the gears, a member of the party walked by and slipped on a mossy rock, grabbing Abae’s pony to catch himself from falling. The action caused the pony to rear up in surprise. Unfortunately Abae had not detached his south-pointing chariot from his pony before inspecting it, so as the pony reared up it pushed the cart backwards, catching Abae’s right hand in the gears he had been inspecting.

The small Kypiq let out a scream of pain; his hand was stuck and he couldn’t get it free. Worried that any more movement from his pony would cause more damage, I quickly detached the cart and began to set it on the ground, but Abae stopped me.”

“No!” he winced. “We need to reverse the gears. Very slowly pull it forward a little.”

I obeyed, pulling the cart forward until the gears created enough space for him to get his hand free. By then Arren had come over to inspect the damage to Abae’s hand. Two of his fingers were red from being badly pinched, but a third was bent at an unnatural angle. The sight of it made me a little woozy.

Arren calmly spoke to Asta, saying, “Bring me my kit, please.” I was surprised by his demeanor, but I suppose he was used to this sort of thing. It probably didn’t do too well for a healer to freak out while trying to help a patient.

Holding Abae’s injured hand in his own, Arren said, “Well the good news is it’s not broken, just dislocated. The bad news is...” Arren gave Abae’s finger a quick tug and with a loud pop, the finger was set back into place. “...this is going to hurt.” We later promised Abae that we would never again bring up the sounds that he made.

Asta brought Arren a small pouch that appeared to be made of some sort of animal hide. He reached in and pulled out a long strip of bandage from which which he cut a much smaller piece. Using the bandage he wrapped Abae’s injured fingers together so that he couldn’t move them. All in all I was surprised by how quickly the whole ordeal was over.

“You’ll need to keep that finger wrapped for several days and avoid using that hand as much as possible,” Arren advised.

“Several days?” Abae asked.

Just then Varhukan came riding up fast. “What happened? I heard screaming.”

“Abae injured his hand,” I replied, “but Arren took care of it. He should be fine now.”

Varhukan looked at Abae who was being helped up by Arren. “Really?” He rode over to the south-pointing chariot and with one of his axes deftly sliced the finger off the statue’s pointing hand. “Now I see the resemblance.”

Abae stared in horror, but I couldn’t help letting out a hearty laugh as Varhukan rode off again.

By evening we had come to the end of the rocky hills and entered the lower montane forest we had been looking for. We decided to make camp just inside the forest where we would be less exposed. In the morning Arren checked Abae’s fingers and assured him that everything looked fine. “The swelling should go down in a few days,” he said.

It was a relief to be traveling over smoother ground now, but it was by no means faster. The forest was heavily wooded making it impossible to travel in a straight line for long. As it turned out, Abae’s contraption did come in handy as it allowed us to easily maintain our bearing despite the constant changes in direction.

This lower montane forest was very different from the deciduous forests I had grown up in. The trees were much taller and wider and there was very little ground cover. The temperature was a bit more brisk too on account of us being at a slightly higher elevation. I felt a little uneasy being dwarfed by such magnificent trees, but Abae looked right at home. Despite his injury he appeared very much at ease.

Abae was at the front of the convoy when he stopped and raised a hand, signaling for the rest of us to do the same. “Do you hear that?” he asked. There was a hushed silence, but nobody else seemed to know what he was talking about. He cocked his head a little to the side and then shouted, “This way!” and took off at a trot (about as fast a pace as one could sustain in these woods) to the west.

After a few minutes the rest of us started to hear what Abae had already picked up on: running water. Moments later we came out of the trees, squinting into the bright midday sun, to find a slow moving river cutting through the forest.

“This is the river from the map,” Asta announced. “We must be getting close.”

“We’ll follow this the rest of the way,” I declared.

Though we were still deep in the forest, the river had cut a path through the trees that made for slightly easier travel. We followed the stream for several more kilometers while Asta and Arren examined the surrounding terrain, trying to find the best plot of land to claim. We eventually reached a small bend in the river where the trees opened slightly, and in the clearing we could see a small mountain. A waterfall was crashing down the mountain and appeared to be the source of the water we now follow.

“This is it,” Asta sighed. “This is our new home.”

I had to admit, I was a little envious. The spot was breathtaking. The clearing provided enough space to start construction right away, and the surrounding trees would provide all of the building material they needed. As part of our contract we had agreed to stick around for awhile and help them settle in, but I was tempted to try for a more permanent arrangement.

Asta turned to address the other workers. “Go ahead and start unloading the equipment. We’ll need to send someone to the count to purchase the land, but I see no reason not to begin construction immediately.”

“I’ll go,” Abae volunteered. “I won’t be much good here with my hand messed up. Besides, I realize that you don’t share my Faedin beliefs and I don’t really want to be here when the destruction of this forest begins.”

Varhukan and I agreed that we would stick around to help, but before Abae left I pulled the two of them aside. “Guys, what if we did this full time?”

“Did what?” Abae asked.

This! Help people explore, navigate the land, discover new places! We could start our own association where people hire us to do all of this full time. I could talk to Asta and Arren about setting up a branch here. We could also map places and provide the most detailed maps for people to buy!”

“We could work with the school in Delnoch to find new talent,” Abae chimed in, apparently getting excited about the idea. “But where would our headquarters be?”

“Well Delnoch would be a good choice as it gets a lot of traffic, but it would be expensive to buy real estate there to manage.”

Varhukan shrugged. “We can use my place.” Abae and I both looked at him in surprise. “I live there alone. It’d be easy to convert the first floor into an office area where we can meet with clients.”

“Guys!” I said in excitement. “We should do this! Varhukan and I need to stay here for awhile, but after you meet with the count, Abae, you can head back to Delnoch and start making arrangements.”

“What will we call this new association?” Varhukan asked.

“How about, The Fearless Explorers!” Abae offered.

Varhukan chuckled. “That’s funny coming from the guy who got injured by a wooden replica of himself. Just keep it simple. The Exploration Association?”

Abae scrunched up his face. “We want people to be excited about seeking us out, not struck bored by the name.”

“Guys,” I said. “How about The League of Explorers?”

Abae and Varhukan both seemed to mull it over for a bit before Abae said “It’s got a nice ring to it. And The League sounds dignified. I like it!”

“Yeah,” Varhukan agreed. “That will work.”

Abae unhitched his south-pointing chariot and mounted his pony. “Alright, I’ll head straight to the count and finish up our business with this lot, then I’ll head to Delnoch and begin making arrangements and looking for others to recruit. You two finish up here and we’ll meet at our new headquarters when you’re finished.”

“Sounds good,” I agreed. “Stay safe out there, friend.”

Abae rode off as Varhukan and I finished helping the others unload their tools. Varhukan and I would stick around for a few days to help get the first structure built at which point they should be able to finish on their own and we can head out. I couldn’t wait to get back to Delnoch and start The League of Explorers!


11/8/2017 3:49:54 AM #1

Sorry that this chapter took so long to release, but I had two very good reasons.

  1. Just after releasing chapter 3 my wife had her baby! As you can imagine I haven't had a lot of time to get things done lately, but I finally managed to finish my writing.
  2. I've also been working on the final details for my new organization, The League of Explorers! As I said in my prologue, I want to write this story as if I'm playing the game and this is something I've wanted to launch for several weeks now. If you're on the NA-E server, please stop by and check us out. =)
11/8/2017 5:24:02 PM #2

This is coming along great! Keep up the good work.

Friend Code: 488A61

11/8/2017 9:40:50 PM #3

Right where Abae dislocated his finger there is a typo. I think you meant, "Arren 'gave' Abae's finger a quick tug" instead of 'have'.

Otherwise I am enjoying the story, don't get me wrong. And I hope your family is doing well.

11/9/2017 12:04:04 AM #4

Thanks, DoctorFaust. You should see how bad each post is before my wife edits them! =P

11/11/2017 12:01:46 PM #5

Nice read again story coming along nicely.

Just a lonely peasant on the road looking towards a distance future with the sweat on my back and a tear of cloth in my hand a family crest it must be. A adventure will i have, I dream of dreams my destiny awakens me.

Friend Code: A48E0C

11/13/2017 6:26:58 PM #6

Good story. I like it :)

11/17/2017 5:23:43 AM #7

:3 Every chapter has been excellent so far, I continue to look forward to more!

Also known as AvA in Discord.

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