A primarily Svennia-centric chapter? Who’da thunk it?
Quest 07 – Out of Astoria
Previously, Brier and Arco made their escape from Kruseid’s army through the Rhean wilderness. Kruseid sent a company after them. Meanwhile, Svennia and Kent escaped into the Astorian forest, closely pursued by Captain Dalton of the Astorian army.
Dalton: Kent, this isn’t like you! Halt your retreat now while you still have some dignity left!
Kent: Svennia, if you’ve got any aces left, I’d appreciate it.
Svennia: I have no aces. I always leave my cards on the table. Hyah!
Svennia paused momentarily to kick a tree down, lift it overhead, and throw it into the pursuant squad. The front line was utterly crushed by the sudden and unexpected assault, slowing the advance of their backup as well.
Svennia: That won’t hold them for long. Run!
Kent: Jeez! How are you so… Never mind. Later!
Svennia [Brute] lv. 34
Kent [Rogue Knight] lv. 40
Title: Virgin Squire
Quest: Escape Astoria!
Svennia: If you are intent on surviving, I yield to you. I assume you are more familiar with the Astorian area.
Kent: Yeah, but I usually had plenty of backup to protect me. I’m counting on you.
Svennia: I’ll protect you for as long as necessary. Just guide me out of here!
Kent: Okay, we have to make our way south. There’s an independent outpost called Etrium down there. Intelligence reports suspected there may be a base of rebels down there, but they could never find any proof. I hate to say it, but joining up with whatever group we find there is our best chance right now.
Svennia: There’s a lot of ground to cover between the edge of the forest and Etrium, and we won’t have any hiding places. We’ll have to hope there’s a merchant caravan we can slip into.
Kent: Nah, that won’t work. Merchants would sooner turn us over if the price is right, and I’ve only got 400 gold on me.
Svennia: I never said we should seek asylum with them. I said we should slip into the group.
Kent: Well, the first problem is that we need to actually FIND a caravan. What are the odds of that happening?
Svennia: Do you really not know anything about the goings on in your own kingdom? The borders have been closed for weeks, and they’re opening today. There should be plenty of merchants jumping at the chance to leave.
Kent: …You do have a point. But if we’re going to catch up to one, we need to hurry.
Svennia: Yes. But we also need to add more distance between us and our pursuers.
Kent: You can’t just keep chucking trees at them?
Svennia: . . .
Kent: Okay, okay… Let’s see… I’m sure we can slow them down some more if we go across a path that horses can’t follow.
Svennia: Very well. I’ll create such a blockade behind us.
Kent: Don’t be too obvious about it, or they’ll realize which way we’re going.
Svennia: Hmm… If it’s subtlety you want… Ha!
Svennia swiftly punched several trees in the area, then ran towards Kent. Unlike before, the trees did not bend, but the sudden, violent shudder of the leaves made a distinct sound that the soldiers surely detected.
Svennia: Lead the way, quickly!
Kent: Okay… But what did you…
Kent and Svennia ran from the scene. Just as they started to once more hear the footsteps of soldiers and horses, another more noticeable sound echoed throughout the forest. It was like a single terrifying crackle, much like the sound of thunder. But it was in fact five towering trees suddenly splitting open at once, falling over in then separate directions. Once more, the army suffered losses and was thrown into chaos.
Kent: Whew… Okay, we’ve got some good distance now. We’re not far now from the forest’s southern edge. We need to find a caravan as soon as possible now, otherwise we’re sure as hell not making it past the watchtowers and the Third Border.
The two stayed hidden in some bushes near the forest edge and waited for merchants to come within sight. It didn’t take long before a train of wagons were seen traveling from the northwest.
Kent: We’re in luck. So, what’s your plan? How do we “slip in?”
* * *
The two approached the caravan and walked alongside them. Svennia followed closely behind Kent while holding his arm, giving others the impression that she was his servant. Kent was surprised that she was capable of acting this way, but no matter how she appeared, the image of her feats of strength never strayed far from his mind.
Kent: These look good.
Svennia: No, not these ones.
Kent: Why not? It’s a covered wagon.
Svennia: It’s a no go. Ah, here we go…
They walked towards the rear of a covered wagon and looked inside, finding a single merchant riding in the back.
Kent: Excuse me!
Svennia: M-master Kent… What are you…
Kent: Hush, Svennia. I was wondering if you’d allow us to ride with you to Etrium!
Merchant: Throw your sword aside and then we might work out a deal!
Kent: What, this? No, this is just something I use to protect my wares!
Merchant: What wares? I don’t see you carrying much.
Kent: Look, we really need to get there in a hurry, and we don’t have much. If you like, Svennia here can provide services as a barter for the ride. She’s very experienced.
Svennia: People have told me I am a skilled milkmaid.
Merchant: I’m sure you are, but as you can see, we only deal in trade. No cows here!
Svennia: What a coincidence! None of my previous customers owned a cow either!
Merchant: What? W-wait, you mean you’re… and you’re her…
Kent: That’s right.
Merchant: H… Hey, Ian, were you listening in on this?
The merchant called out to his partner driving the horses.
Ian: Sure did, Oz. Sounds like a good deal, but you make sure to take a shift once we’re halfway there.
Oswald: You’re gonna have to make me!
Ian: Oh, I will.
Oswald: You… Kent, was it? You can do your guarding from the front with Ian. Leave us be in the back and we won’t have any problems.
Kent climbed up to the driver’s seat to help drive the horses.
Ian: That’s a lovely gal you’ve got. I can’t wait to have a go at ‘er.
Ian: Well, that was fast.
Kent: Heh heh… Eyes front. Keep driving and don’t utter a word.
Ian: What? Erk…
Kent poked a small dagger at Ian’s side.
Kent: What did I say?
Ian: . . .
Kent: Good. All finished, are we?
Svennia: Oh, yes.
Kent: You didn’t kill him, did you?
Svennia: Did you want me to?
Kent: You disturb me sometimes. Now, as you can see, your lives are nothing to us, and if need be, Svennia can crush your head with her thighs. And not in the good way.
Svennia: Well, I could use my hands, but I like to mix things up.
Kent: So here’s the deal. We’re all partners in your store. We’ve been here ever since you left Astoria. You don’t even mention us unless prompted to, and you utter a word else and you die. Nod your head if you understand.
The merchant nodded his head.
Kent: Good! I’ll guard us in the back. Svennia, how about keeping Ian here company?
Svennia: It would be my pleasure!
Ian: . . .
Svennia: Don’t be like that.
Kent: Oh, you can talk now.
Kent and Svennia traded places.
Kent: Wow, he’s out bad.
Svennia: Fu fu. Wow, he sure frightened you. I have to say, Kent shows some promise. That’s why the Astorian army sickens me. They’re made out to be these paragons of virtue, but give them a little nudge like the fear of death and they’re quick to embrace some villainy. At least Balken’s army was candid about what they were.
Kent: Big words considering it was your plan to begin with.
Ian: He’s a Knight? What does that make you?
Svennia: Just a simple maid.
The caravan passed by the watchtowers without difficulty. Kent’s pursuers were still roaming the forests, but word had already been sent to the Third Border to be on the lookout for him. Luckily for them, the border guards knew nothing of Svennia and weren’t familiar enough with Kent nor thorough enough to see past his meager disguise. Thus, Kent and Svennia arrived in Etrium without incident.
Kent: Hey, fellas, thanks for playing along!
Svennia: As promised, your lives have been spared.
Ian: Uh, yeah… thanks… I never want to see you two anywhere near us again.
Oswald: I didn’t even get to touch ’em…
The two parties went their own ways, hopefully never to see each other again.
Kent: You’re something else, you know. Didn’t expect we would make it so easily.
Svennia: Yes, but we have no place to stay and no idea how long we’re going to be here.
Kent: That is a problem… And I’m a Knight… I’ve got no Adventurer registration work done. This is gonna be a pain… But it’s better than the dungeon.
Svennia: I must say, it’s a bit of a relief traveling with you. If it were my Master, he would have sold me off long ago.
Kent: Oh, come now. He can’t be that bad.
Svennia: He’s done it three times now.
Kent: . . . Just why do you take orders from that scrawny Bard anyway?
Svennia: You really wish to know?
Kent: . . . Yes. Yes, I do. I might regret it, but I can’t help it. You really do intrigue me, Svennia. Let me know a bit more about your situation.
Svennia: . . .
Svennia: I wasn’t expecting that answer. I suppose I can share my story… for a price.
Kent: I get the hint. Alright, I’ll see what I can do about signing up as an Adventurer.
Svennia: I think you should trade that broken sword in first.
Kent: Ha! Not likely. This sword has been my partner for years. I’m not about to let it go for some cheap mercenary’s weapon.
Svennia: Fine. I guess we can have it reforged, but trust me when I say it’s not a suitable weapon.
It was a choice he would regret shortly. During his assessment exam, his ownership of an Asotorian Knight’s sword was reason enough to register him not as a “Warrior,” as he expected, but as a “Thief.”
Kent: A THIEF?!
Svennia: Ha ha, I told you!
Kent: This isn’t funny… I’m not my own class, I had to use a fake name… Who am I now?
Svennia: What name did you use?
Svennia: Oh, how stiff. I think I’ll keep calling you Kent.
Kent: Hmph. You know, you’ve been acting more and more different from when I first met you. Is this the real you?
Svennia: Who can say?
Kent: Is that Brier lad really your master?
Svennia: He is indeed.
Kent: I think you’re too good for him.
Svennia: Oh, no doubt and he knows it, too.
Kent: So why do you keep going back to him?
Svennia: Didn’t I tell you? That’s a story I’ll only share for the right price. And you don’t quite have what it takes yet.
Kent: What does it take, then?
Kent: Strength? You saying I’m weak?
Svennia: Maybe. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.
Kent: What is?
Svennia: Oh, by the way… have you thought about changing your title?
Kent: My title?
Svennia: You’ve changed everything else, so why not? Besides, I hardly think “Virgin Squire” is befitting your new identity.
Kent: But… I earned that title…
Svennia: There’s still your pride, is it? But I’d think you would have done away with that once you had your Knighthood stripped. We all have to part with the things we’ve earned. Even things we deserve.
* * *
11 years ago, in the snowfields outside Harl…
Cyrus: Svennia, what are you doing?
Balken: Huh? Who’s that?
Cyrus: Svennia. She’s actually one of my nieces. If I’m right, she’ll be, oh… 12 years old this year. She’s small now, but if she’s anything like her mother, she’ll be a real hellcat when she grows up! Aren’t you?
Svennia: I’m a hellcat now!
Balken: Uh huh.
Cyrus: Kitten, you’re too young to be this far out.
Svennia: Mama told me you lost to this guy. He doesn’t look so tough.
Cyrus: I wouldn’t say I lost, but I didn’t exactly win, either. Looks can be deceiving, child.
Svennia: Oh yeah? Let’s fight! Right now!
Cyrus: BWA HA HA HA! Well, it couldn’t hurt!
Balken: She’s just a kid!
Svennia: I’ll show you!
The young Svennia leapt at the Dark Lord and threw her fist at him, but Balken reacted swiftly, catching her fist with his palm and with one arm drove her into the snow at his feet.
Svennia: *cough* Ugh…
Without giving her a moment to recover, Balken kicked her ribs, flinging her ten meters away.
Balken: Know your place!
Cyrus: Alright, that’s enough. You’re much too young to take on Balken.
Balken: Don’t give her the idea that she’ll ever be at an age to take me on.
Svennia: Okay… he’s stronger than I thought…
Cyrus: Does your mother know you’re out here?
Svennia: Of course! I told her I was going to drag you or your carcass back to Harl to answer for yourself!
Cyrus: I have nothing to say to them. Harl has lost its spirit. It’s lost its strength!
Svennia: And this is how you plan to bring it back? By leaving? And running off with… him?
Cyrus knelt to one knee and whispered in Svennia’s ear.
Cyrus: Svennia, this man will one day rule not just a kingdom, but the entire world! Have you ever heard of such a thing?
Svennia: No, because it’s ridiculous!
Cyrus: Ridiculous? Bah! You just proved my point! Harl used to be a single village of men strong enough to challenge the entire world! But despite their strength, they chose to remain here, in the mountain. Do you know why?
Cyrus: Because ordinary men were no challenge for them. Their only adversary was nature itself! Now the men of Harl are spoiled. They like to boast of their own strength, but inside they are cowards without ambition! They have pride but no strength!
Svennia: . . .
Cyrus: You look like you have the potential to understand. I’m sorry, but your mother won’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Cyrus stood once more. He towered over Balken, who never once flinched at this living monument.
Cyrus: Svennia will come with us. Though she is weak, I’m sure she will be of good use to you. Let’s say… as a chambermaid?
Balken: What? NO!
Cyrus: Oh, come on! What harm would it do? Besides, she’s not that bad-looking.
Balken: That’s not the point! My scouts are already reporting to me that there are Bards out there singing songs about me. Horrible songs about things I allegedly do to young children. The Dark Lord Balken is many things, but he is NOT a pedophile!
Cyrus: How did those songs start about in the first place?
Balken: I honestly have no idea… Probably because of Lodi.
Lodi: HEY! It was ONE time, and she looked mature for her age!
Cyrus: Look, no one has to know. Just give her the position and you never have to so much as look at her most of the day.
Balken: Hmm… Fine, fine! But if I’m not pleased with her work, she’ll be out of my service and into the service of my men, if you catch my drift.
Cyrus: Now why would you do such a cruel thing to your men? Oh, well. Do you hear that, Svennia? You’re going to be chambermaid of the one-day ruler of the world! (whispers) And if you play your cards right, maybe you’ll even get to be Queen. How about that? Queen of the world!
Svennia: You’re an awful person, Uncle.
Cyrus: You’re just a servant girl, now, kitten. I can’t be caught associating with you. Favoritism and all that. I’m “Lord Cyrus” from now on!
Balken: Lord Balken. Or, Master. Yes, I might prefer Master.
Lodi: So that makes me “Lord Lodi?” A guy could get used to that.
Cyrus: You go near her and I will crush your arms like trees.
Lodi: Y-you mean “twigs,” right? The expression is twigs…
Cyrus: Not up here, mate.
Svennia: What am I supposed to learn from this?
Cyrus: The other path. Once you’ve walked down both paths, you’ll never be lost again.
* * *
Svennia: Shall we go on, then? I have a number of potential quests lined up. Some of them won’t let me accept without a high-level thief, so this is perfect.
Kent: You counted on me not selling that sword, didn’t you?
Svennia: Of course. Pride is one of the hardest things to let go, after all.
Kent changed classes!
Kent is now a [Thief]!
Kent gained the title [Knightfallen]!
Kent gained the title [Celibate Good Times]!
Svennia gained the title [Wood Chucker]!
Svennia gained the title [Pathmaker]!
In the next episode of Bardass! Still stuck in the Rhean forests, Brier makes his way towards the Sakarlands. But all out of edible inventory and with no merchants around, he’s reduced to hunting and foraging. It’s not as boring as it sounds in Quest 08 – Forager’s Banquet.