Sunday, July 18, 2010

Where One Road Ends

This post was written by Gurok the Paladin. He told me that these characters are not ready for a retirement killing flies, so he has written this chapter to inspire more. Thank you Guork for writing some more fun for them and for being patient through my editing process of mailing this back and forth for tweaks for over a week. I hope you enjoy it.

Alison meant the world to me and to be honest, I was never completely sure why. Her thieving nature constantly put us in danger, she tested my patience on a daily basis and she was dodgier in her relationships then her career. Yet when this… thing betrayed her and her unborn child it made me realize how much I cared for her, how much excitement she brought to my life and how much I appreciated it.

I swore that I would make sure both she and Hope were safe first, which I did. Then I started going about finding the miserable wretch. To his credit, he is a damn good thief and can stay invisible with the best of them. Unfortunately for him, to MY credit I have built a network of incredibly loyal and interesting friends with plenty of shadowy qualities of their own.

Konamy, a Mithra thief, was the one who gave me the idea one day while discussing my dilemma. “Gurok you made Alison a promise you wouldn’t go looking for him and you always keep your word!” she said to me with a sly look on her feline face I didn’t notice at first.

“I know Konamy, but the fact remains I gave my word to myself that I would go find him and make him pay for what he did.” I looked up at her to see a huge grin and almost lost my temper, but she cut me off.
“I never gave my word… Dkrchris said nothing of the sort. Matter of fact none of our Linkshell did, as I am sure most of your other friends didn’t. So, it seems to me that if we were to… stumble… across him and tell you then you could keep both your promises.”

I jumped up quickly, fast enough to make her flinch reflexively, and I gave her a big Galkan hug. “You are the best, get the ball of yarn rolling and keep me informed.”

It took all my will not to seem too hopeful around Alison and give it all away. I worried that the few times I did actually smile, she would see right through it and know I was up to something. The mental weight of her problems kept the chances down to a minimum. Even though she seemed very comfortable around me of late, there were times she drifted off into her own private hell.

It was Zerokb that caught wind of him first. “Hey G, Kallo just walked into San D’ Oria’s auction house, then he got on the airship headed for Jeuno. By the way, you know Ali will kill you and anyone that helped you if she finds out about this, right?”

“Then keep quiet.” I grumbled. Great guy, but he worried too much about upsetting women. Then again, they had peculiar habits of hurting him because of it. I chuckled to myself as I pondered blaming all this on him if we got caught, just to watch the fireworks.

Konamy and Dkrchris were already fishing at the docks when the thief arrived. She was complaining to Dkr that his Dark Knight armor was scaring all the fish away. Kallo glanced at them for a second and quickly made his way into Port Jeuno. Konamy kissed Dkr and followed Kallo stealthily as she could.

Alison and I were riding across Konschtat Highlands heading to my home in Bastok when I got the call from Konamy. “Hey Gurok, I have some good news. This guy is in Upper Jueno is doing business with an Elvaan that works at the bar. He is going to be here until tomorrow then their deal is complete and he is leaving to, I don’t know where. They are meeting at 3pm.”

“Keep an eye on him. Tell me if anything changes. I will be there tomorrow. I need a sometime to pick up a few things and arrange a good excuse for me to leave Alison for a few hours.”

I immediately got off with her and connected with Bob, another Galka Paladin. “Hey Bob are you still interested in that beautiful set of dark blue armor I have?”
“Why yes I am sir. Perfect timing, now I can actually use it.” “Good. Meet me in Lower Jeuno by the auction house tomorrow at noon. How much do you want for the full set?”

“It’s free, I just need a favor, tell you more tomorrow.”

Alison was watching me carefully when I disconnected. “Who was that?” she said with a suspicious smile.

“Well, if you must know, it was another woman. She is a sexy remarkable thief and she wants to have a clandestine meeting with me as soon as I can lose you.”
Alison gave a small chuckle “Ok, tell Kona I said hello when you see her next.”
I sighed and pretended to sulk a bit. “Is it so hard to believe someone else would want to spend time with me?”

This seemed to make her smile more. “No, silly, it’s hard to believe you’d want to spend time with anyone else besides me.”

That made me laugh and I let it go at that. In my moghouse we had a nice dinner and sat down by the fire listening to music and watching my fish swim around in their new tank for a bit before she spoke.

“You have something on your mind Sweetie. Feel free to tell me anytime.”

I grinned. “It was the call I got before. Dkr and Kona want me to come tank a behemoth tomorrow out in Quifim Island. Apparently their Ninja friend suddenly feels… ill. They know I need an item from its corpse to complete my Black Belt training as a Monk.”

I had been training as a Monk on the side for quite some time now. I liked the freedom of movement and focus it gave me when I wasn’t tanking. “Bob also called me and offered to buy my old set of tanking gear in Jeuno tomorrow, so maybe this was meant to be.” I frowned.

“Do you want me to come cheer you on?”

She is a sly one, I thought to myself “Well I would normally insist on not having you out of my sight, you know that, but unless you are in the group right behind me I won’t be able to focus on that behemoth. With everything that has happened I cannot help but worry and I’d like to be at my best.”

She gave me one of her beautiful smiles that made her seem like she never knew what it was like to even be upset and replied “Well then if I MUST stay here and relax all day then I insist I get a gift. Something shiny would be great!”

I leaned in close as I could and whispered “You are being too nice. I would never make you choose between shinnies and food. I will bring you some wonderful fresh baked cookies from the specialty shop in Jeuno as well as a surprise.”

She squealed and popped into my arms to hug me around my neck. “You spoil me as much as I deserve.” I gave her one of my annoyed that doesn’t make sense looks then busted out laughing.

The next morning I made her muffins with chocolate chips for Moogle to give her when she awoke. I grabbed all my gear and triple checked the rope, chains and bags of gil I was going to need. I was on the airship, eyes closed and concentrating on the wind blowing through my fur when I got the call from Konamy.

“Gurok I am sooo sorry! I don’t know how he knew! I tried my best really I swear!”
I tensed “Calm down! Speak plainly please… what happened?”

I heard her take a deep breath. “I was following him this morning to make sure he didn’t go anywhere else. He went to the tenshodo and I stayed outside to wait for him. I got distracted by… by… this beautiful silver music globe. It was gorgeous with gold accents and stained glass and…"

“Kona focus please, on KALLO.”

“He is gone Gurok. I lost him. I went back to where he was staying and it’s all cleaned out. He must have realized I was following him. Oh wait, the bartender at the bar is coming towards me. I paid him to keep me informed. Hold on.”

I gritted my teeth together and reminded myself that these people were my friends and they were offering their help to me unconditionally. This was all wrong. It was going to be perfect and now it was turning into a mess.

Konamy popped back into my ear. “Gurok, he is headed out into Jugner Forest. I am going out after him. Maybe Dkr and I can pick him back up again. I am sorry.”

Her pain was clear, my silence was causing it, so I spoke. “Its fine Kona, we have all the time in the world to do this. I am sure you’ll find him and thank you for all of this.”

Her voice perked up, “You got it Gurok!”

When I walked into Lower jeuno I caught Bob traveling through on his way to the auction house. “Hello sir. Good afternoon to you.”

“Pffff. Not entirely Bob, not entirely.”

“What’s up?”

We sat down on the steps and I explained almost everything to him while I gave him the armor set. We sat in silence for awhile before he spoke. “If anyone is going to get this guy it’ll be you. For as long as I’ve known you, you never let anything escape you. From mobs, to goals, to Alison herself, mind you she is the most complicated problem of all.”

Bob and Ali didn’t get along very well. They had a hate/hate relationship. His loyalty to me though was the only reason he was bothering to involve himself at all. “Come with me” I said. “I have to get a few things for Alison so she doesn’t suspect anything.”

We had gotten the gourmet cookies, an aquamarine and some gold ore I was fashioning into a pendant while I waited for her bouquet to be arranged. I was sitting outside the florist when I looked up and froze. Across from me was the bar Konamy had spoken of. There was Kallo and he was shaking hands with the bartender who let him in and put out his closed sign. Suddenly it all made sense. My day was looking up, it was time…

I grabbed Bob from buying some new fishing rig. The guy was always fishing. “Put my armor on now! Not the purple set, MY set. You are about to do that favor.”

He eyed me suspiciously. “How?” he said with more than the usual amount of caution in his voice.

“Kallo is here, now, at the bar. The bartender is working with him and misled Kona. I am going to need your help to pull this off.”

We went around back and dragged several heavy barrels against the back door. I took a good look at him in my armor. With my helmet on, he easily passed for me as long as he didn’t speak. As I put on the blue set I spoke quickly. “Don’t say anything to him. He’ll expect me to be enraged. Break anything you want in there, including anyone that helps him, but don’t you DARE kill him or underestimate him… Watch your back, he IS a thief.”

Bob just grinned. He kicked the door so hard the framework shattered and the door took out the first table and chairs.

I quickly darted around back and got into position by the back shuttered window. When I heard the thump of the door against the barrels, I knew it was working. In a graceful arc, Kallo tumbled through the shutters onto the ground like a cat coming to his feet… when my shield caught this particular “cat” in the face.

The force combined with his momentum threw him off his feet and into the wall. The back of his head hit the wall and I hit his face again with my shield twice. As soon as I was sure he was out cold, I searched him to remove his lock picks and his blades. I bound him in rope threw him over my shoulder.

As more crashes came from inside the bar, I tried to get to Bob on my linkpearl. “Got him. Meet me at North Qufim cliffs as soon as you can.”

My heart was pounding, my mind racing. Was I really going to do this? It was working smoother then I had possibly hoped for now that it was all in motion. I expected to feel… haunted, but I did not. Instead, I felt a hunger, a primal drive to see this through.

Bob must have taken some time to relish in his fight because by the time he found me in Qufim, I had already gagged Kallo and bound him in chains. I was staring out at the cold raging water slamming into the jagged cliffs several hundred feet below when Bob spoke. “It sucks to be him.”

“You did great today. Thank you for your help. Give me back my armor and this set is now yours. Say nothing to anyone about this… ever.”

After we were both back in our gear he turned to me with his fist on his chest. “From our heart to our shield, it’s what makes us good at what we do.” He turned and left.

I don’t know how long I stood there waiting for him to wake up, but my thoughts were on Alison. I felt bad hiding anything from her. All I had ever wanted to do since I met her was be there for her and that meant honesty, but I wondered what she would think of me for how I went about this. I didn’t give this garbage a fighting chance. I set him up and took advantage of his nature… which was exactly what he had done to her. I only hoped she would see that and know I was still trustworthy.

I saw his eyes open and with admirable reflexes he instinctively went to reach for his blades and spring up but they weren’t there. When it soaked in he was bound and bound tightly his eyes filled with rage and locked onto mine. I stared back calmly and knelt down next to him. “I could have killed you at any point, but death wasn’t my true desire here. I want you to know a few things before you go away on your next journey. First, although I may be a Paladin, I warned you never to hurt Alison and that nothing would stop me from killing you if you ever really did. So, I needed you to know it was me that tracked you, tricked you and caught you.”

He subtly tried to find his picks. I stared plainly and held them up for him to see, his eyes showed a flicker of panic. “Second, your own arrogant loner nature is what makes this so simple. No one will be looking for you, they will think you slipped out the back and disappeared like the rat you are.”

Now he started to openly struggle against the rope and chains so I put my hand on his chest to hold him still. “Last thing and we are done. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. It’s a few hundred feet to the water and rocks below, so you’ll have time to think about this. It was gil that you turned her and her unborn child in for, so if you want it that badly, I will send you off with all I have. There is over 5,000 gil in those bags chained to your feet and it’s all yours.”

I stood up and kicked one of the three bags of gil over the edge. The shift of weight brought on fresh screaming through his gag. I was about to kick the second bag over when I heard her voice.

“Gurok!” She was standing about 15 feet away looking confused and uncertain at what she was seeing.

“Alison, why couldn’t you stay back at my home?” I closed my eyes as I spoke; I couldn’t bear to look at her.

“I think I can ask you the same question. Is that Kallo?”

“Yes, I can explain things a bit if you are willing to listen, but I have to do this first.” I kicked the second bag, but he must have gotten his hand loose while I had my eyes closed because it had enough slack to grab my ankle as the bag went over.
He slid, I slid… the third bag went over and I grabbed a large rock, but with hardly any grip.

Alison crossed the distance in a blink. She spoke with anger, but to Kallo not me. “You have taken enough from me!“ She slammed her dagger into his wrist causing him to let go and slip over. A scream quickly lost over the roar of the crashing water so far below.

She hugged me and I put my arm around her. “I am sorry I lied to you but I didn’t intend for you to be part of this Ali. You have seen enough death and loss, but even as I did this to protect you I come out owing you my life.”

She buried her face against my chest, shaking it back and forth. “Shush.” She begged. “I understand… just... shush.”

I waited in silence for her reaction, afraid of what my broken promise would mean to her.

When she finally looked up at my face, it was full of an emotion I couldn’t quite decipher. “Never do that again.” Now here she looked angry and stepped back shoving against my chest and then pounding me with her fists when I didn’t move. She gasped to hold back tears and threw her arms around me. “You know I hate cold water. I would have frizzed my hair jumping in to save your furry hide.”

“The rocks would have done more damage to your hair than the cold water.” A glance into her eyes let me know that humor wasn’t my best route here. “Cookies?” I asked as I held her tightly, hoping to distract her by holding up the bag I had gotten her from the specialty shop. Usually an easy thing to do, but anger could improve her determination.

She nodded without looking up. “Yes, cookies.” Taking the bag she paused and glared up at me. “I will NOT lose you to the sea. Never scare me like that again!”
“Promise.” I said, ignoring the dark thought that flickered in my mind, wondering if I would be able to keep that promise.

I held up the aquamarine necklace I had made her. “Something shiny.” She said as she looked away from the edge of the cliff. “I’m not sure how I feel about that yet…” nodding back towards the drag marks in the dirt and stone “,but this is nice. Thank you Sweetie.” She smiled warmly at me as I put the necklace on her.

I nodded and moved her away from the cliffs. I would have to remember not to underestimate her curiosity again. I was confident I had done enough good things for her to outweigh any negativity she felt about this, especially after what he had done to her, but Alison was slow to change her feelings about things. As always I would wait patiently.