Lantern in the Snow

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Entry 1721 19/10/07 00:00
A figure trudged through the empty street, his back to the blizzard gales and his bags gripped tightly in his cold and old fingers. With a grumble he peered left and right, giving each of the swinging wooden signs a moment's observance before moving on. Though the road beneath him was cobblestone, his feet were embedded in the snow with every push of his boots. A gust of wind caught his fur coat as he turned a corner but he took a deep breath in relief because the building there gave him slight shelter from the wind. 

He moved to a crystallised window and tried to peer inside, but saw nothing. Following the smell of ale, he grabbed the doorhandle and pushed into the door with his shoulder. Snow blew in to the tavern and some of the people yelled at him, but he mostly ignored them and closed the door in his own time. 

Grumbling again, he let himself collapse in a chair by the fire and dropped his gear beside him on the floor. His small amount of hair was glistening with snowflakes and his beard had even more snow in it, but he seemed oblivious. After a moment's rest in this comfortable chair, he turned to face the bar and motioned for one of the bartenders to come over. 

[1]
 
Entry 1722 21/10/07 00:00
Colin pulled his cloak tighter about him, the fabric balled up in fists under his nose. The hood was pulled down just above his eyes. He was sitting on a horse. Colin's father had to go up to Ellecil, and he had begged to go. It wasn't often he got to leave Alacas, and he loved riding horses, but he wasn't expecting to ride into a blizzard. He definitely wasn't expecting to get lost, either. He was hoping that the path he was following would lead him to warmth and help. His hands were frozen, his feet were frozen, his bum was sore, and he just wanted to stop.

The horse's pace seemed to quicken slightly, and he looked up. Snow fell into his eyes and made him blink quickly, but he thought he saw lights. He nudged the horse's side with his numbing foot. He haunched his shoulders and looked ahead. Dark shapes started to loom through the heavily falling snow. Colin spurred the horse on more, and relief started to flood through him.

The horse seemed to move painfully slow, but when he started to hear voices he slipped off and tied the horse to the railings outside. He ran to the door and tried to yank it open, but the wind was blowing hard and his fingers were numb. He tried to grab at it again when it suddenly banged open. He squinted in the sudden light, and then was trampled by a group of men. After they passed, he got dazedly up and slipped through the slowly-closing door.

There he stood, looking disgruntled and cold. He looked around quickly, and saw a man sitting next to the fire alone. He walked up to him, took the seat opposite, and stuck his feet out near the fire. He looked back up at the man to see if he'd speak, or ask any questions, but he seemed to ignore him. "Sir?" He asked quietly, trying to catch eye contact, "Me and my father got lost in the blizzard, and I can't find him. Have you seen him around? He looks like me but taller and he has a beard." He was really worried about his dad, but the heat was so nice he had trouble looking sad.
 
Entry 1723 21/10/07 00:00
Aidan had been sitting alone at one of the smaller tables for a few hours now. He hadn't moved since he received payment for the last delivery job, and although not quite ready to venture out into the cold, he was beginning to grow uncomfortably bored. Shifting his weight, he hunched over a bit, and looked down into his glass. He knew the courier jobs never paid as well as his mercenary endeavors, but he couldn't complain. It was at least easy work, and the boy's mother had been more frequent in voicing her concerns of the danger of his profession. With a sigh, he leaned back in the chair and took another sip of his drink.

He was brought out of his thoughts when a quick gust of cold air broke through the gap in his coat. He directed his gaze toward the door, and for a brief moment before pulling his hair aside, he mistook the boy entering the tavern for his younger brother. He shook off the thought as he watched the boy find a place by the fire. Although he was only a short distance away, when the boy began to speak he couldn't quite hear everything he had to say to the older gentleman, but he was able to pick out enough to get the picture.

Until now, he had been so deep in thought that even if the boy's father had sat beside him earlier, it was not likely he would have noticed. Though, if the man was lost out in this blizzard, that could present an opportunity for some sort of reward, should someone rescue him. He stopped himself before thinking any further along those lines. He didn't want to be the type of person that would look for gain in other's misfortune. He decided to simply wait to see what the old man's reply would be.
 
Entry 1724 21/10/07 00:00
Darinian stared into the fire for a good thirty seconds after the boy had spoken to him, and surely, to that boy, it must have seemed like an hour of peculiar nonexistence. Darinian moved only his eyes, and his gaze slowly drifted towards Colin's pale face. For a few more moments he observed solemnly from beneath his thick eyebrows, and then he grunted and shifted in his seat, scratching his beard in the process. 

"Your what what?" he said, quite likely louder than he intended because he seemed to startle himself. "Taller... with a beard," he repeated, his face twisting into one of utmost concentration. "There were some lumps of snow out on the street. Might want to go check them once the blizzard clears, hmm?" 

He stood from his seat with an energy most in the tavern assumed he did not have. "But they don't pay you to ask questions, do they? No, boy, not at all. Grab my bags and take them to my room like a good servant, won't you? I'll give you a coin if you carry them all at once." Which was, as a matter of fact, a ridiculous challenge. The bags were too many and too cumbersome to be carried by one child. "I've already arranged my room," he added. "2F 05. Got it? Good."

And he left the startled child and headed for the staircase that stretched up the tavern's wall and led to the indoor balcony. As he did, his foot met that of a youth at one of the smaller tables, and he almost fell but hopped himself back into balance. 

"Don't put your feet into the walkway like that!" he roared at the bored-looking boy. "Have some manners, hmm?" And he stormed up the stairs and disappeared out of sight. 

[1]
 
Entry 1725 22/10/07 00:00
He looked from the boy sitting ahead of him to the man heading up the stairs. He blinked a few times and looked around him. Lumps in the snow? Was his father alright? Colin felt even worse than before. He looked at the bags with confusion, and then back up at the stairs.

"Why couldn't the grump take a few of them by himself." He muttered to himself, still pondering what to do. There were more men standing around in the tavern to ask, and he really didn't need a coin, but it seemed better to do as the man had said. His father was well prepared for the storm. Colin stood, tugged off his cloak, and laid it in his seat. He then took the bags, one under each arm and one in each hand, and struggled toward the staircase. He was almost there when he tripped over the same foot the angry man had tripped on. He fell, hard, on his face, and the bags flew from his grip. It sounded like something might have broke in one of them.

He pushed himself up from the floor and turned to look at the boy in the chair. He seemed uninterested in what had just occurred. "Are you deaf?" Colin asked, getting frustrated.
 
Entry 1726 22/10/07 00:00
Although Aidan knew he was clearly in the wrong, when Darinian scolded him for his carelessness he still had to restrain himself from making any sort of brash reply. Instead, he gritted his teeth and tightened the grip around his glass, making his knuckles turn white. Refusing to acknowledge the man, he turned his head away to avoid eye contact and made no effort to move the offending limb.

After the man had ventured upstairs, he returned his attention to Colin. He hid a smirk when the boy actually began gathering the man's bags, and as he approached, Aidan quickly turned his gaze back to the glass so as not to be seen watching. When he felt something contact his foot, he already knew what had happened before he heard the boy crash to the floor. It took all of his restraint to stop from bursting into a fit of laughter. "This kid isn't having a good day," he thought to himself. He focused on maintaining a appearance of disinterest while attempting regaining his mental composure.

Not wanting to admit his mistake, he leaned down to the boy and said with a smirk, "I thought that man made a big enough fuss that I wouldn't need to move." Beginning to feel a bit guilty, he rose to his feet and padded the wrinkles out of his coat. Before Colin could reply, he picked up two of the heavier looking bags. He stepped over the boy heading for the stairs. Before he disappearing up the stairwell he called back, "I wouldn't mention dropping these if I were you. He might cheat you out of that coin," he said with a soft chuckle.
 
Entry 1727 26/10/07 00:00
Room 2F 05 seemed a little classier than the others, meaning it had an extra blanket -- a rare luxury in such a place, considering the cold. The main room had a small round table at which one could eat, a chest of drawers containing cheap and common clothing, and a painting that a child could have done with their hands. A doorway led into a darker room with the large bed and aforementioned extra blanket, and this room led to a smaller private bathroom of some sorts with its own working door! Darinian erupted into the room like a blizzard, inspecting it all to ensure it was in order. On his way out, he spotted a boy carrying his things. He didn't seem to notice it wasn't the boy he had initially met, but the corridor was dark and Darinian appeared to have weakened eyesight. 

"Put the big one beside the bed, and put the others in the bathroom," he called out. "You'll get a coin when I come back. Oh, and the bed is a little untidy. Could you do something about that?" And with that he turned and headed down the corridor the other way, possibly looking for someone else who was staying there.
 
Entry 1728 26/10/07 00:00
Colin was a bit thankful for the older boy's help, but still had not fully forgiven him for causing the fall. He picked up the other two bags and headed slowly up the stairs. It was a little warmer in the second floor, but still quite cold. He reached the top stair and looked down the hall to see the boy turning into a room. Colin walked after the shadow cast by the departing boy. The room was large and empty, but he could hear the footsteps from another room.

"Where do I put these?" Colin asked, shrugging a little as he saw the boy appear. He noticed he looked a little different up here than he did downstairs. There was something different about him that made him seem older than he looked.
 
Entry 1729 27/10/07 00:00
With a bit of a perplexed expression, Aidan walked into the bedroom and put Darinian's bags in their proper place. "Had this man already forgot who he asked to carry his belongings? Maybe he was just senile," Aidan thought with a smirk.

Returning to the main room, he spotted Colin in the doorway. In response to his question, Aidan simply returned the shrug. Rather than continue standing without purpose, he made his way over to the table and sat down in one of the chairs. Before Colin could pose another question, Aidan leaned back and asked, "So kid, what's your name?"
 
Entry 1730 28/10/07 00:00
The door must have been on a funny angle, because it swung shut while the boys were putting the bags away. 

"Who?" came a voice from outside -- a harsh whisper, in fact. "I don't know. He saw what we were doing but a couple arrows fixed him right up. He was just outside of town. Said he was lost. He can't get anymore lost...ed!" The strange man cackled at his own joke. 

Darinian's voice interupted. "You shouldn't have killed him!" Again, a whisper, yet angered. 

"Eh he's not dead," replied the other man, now apparently standing just around the corner of the doorway to the room. "At least, he wasn't when we left 'im there."

"That's hardly the point," Darinian replied. "I told you to remain hidden and run if seen. You're going to get The Guards onto us, you fool!"

"I get it!" said the other man. "But nobody else saw us, believe me. Should I send the boys to take care of this guy if he's still alive? He was basically through the town gates, but still relatively out of sight where we left him. Probably can't walk far with an arrow in his leg, either."

"Perhaps," Darinian said. "Or I could take care of him myself. Yes, that would be better. I can silence him painlessly. You've caused enough trouble through your stupidity." 

After exchanging some similarly-mannered conversation, the other man walked away and Darinian opened the door to see Aidan and Colin there. He didn't seem bothered by the fact that they may have heard his conversation. Perhaps he thought he was speaking quietly enough that no one else would hear. 

"Eh? Oh..." he muttered. "You can go now. I trust the bed is made." He went into the chest of drawers and started pulling out the thickest and warmest cloaks, as though he was going to go back out into the snowstorm.
 
Entry 1731 28/10/07 00:00
A sick and worried feeling settled into his stomach as he passed the strange older man and into the room adjacent to the bedroom. The room felt incredibly cold. He looked at the older boy with wide eyes, but no words would come. He turned and looked at his shoes, which were still slightly wet from melted snow. He would go out now and find his father, but he was smart enough to know that doing something as foolish as that would end horribly. He needed someone to help him, no matter what it might cost.

He looked back up at the other and said in a small yet determined voice. "My name is Colin Renaiah, and I think those two men were talking about my dad. I--we got lost in the blizzard, and then separated. I bet he's really worried about me, more than I'm worried about him, 'cause that's how my dad is and all, really great, you know. I need to go find him, but I don't want to go alone, I--" He stopped suddenly, realizing he was speaking out loud. 

He shifted his feet uncomfortably and looked away.  Still looking away, he spoke again, "Well, you're the only person who noticed me. Could you help me look for him? Please? I can pay you, I have money..." He dug his hands into his pockets and pulled out a wet, tinkling sack out of his pocket. He held it out for the boy to take, looking at him questioningly with his eyes.
 
Entry 1732 28/10/07 00:00
Aidan sat for what felt like an eternity staring at Colin. He couldn't believe what he just heard. There was now an unnerving feeling spreading throughout his body. No longer thinking about the money, he began to concern himself over what dangers may be involved. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he realized he had no clue of what to make of Darinian. But one thing felt absolutely certain to him, it was time for him and Colin to leave.

Spreading his coat a bit, he placed a hand on the dagger strapped to his left thigh. After standing and taking a few steps towards Colin, he peered into the other room cautiously and confirmed that Darinian was still preoccupied. Looking Colin in the eyes, Aidan placed the other hand on the boy's shoulder, and in a quite and serious tone said, "The name's Aidan," he paused for a moment before turning to the door, "Let's go find your father."
 
Entry 1733 28/10/07 00:00
Darinian stood by the door and waited for the boys to exit his room so he could lock it, and when they did, he pulled it shut behind him on his way out and locked it abruptly, giving the knob a good shake before pushing past them and back down into the tavern. He spoke to nobody on his way out, but instead, headed straight for the door, his long woolen robe dragging behind him. 

No longer so phased by the battering snow, he trudged through the street and headed back the way he came. He descended some stairs onto the main road and moved across to the shops verandas of the shops lining it, finding the slight shelter relieving. The main road turned right and then left again, and it was quite wide, so he pulled his hood up as he crossed the road and came to the shops on the other side so he could turn straight around the second corner. Noting the streets were empty, he proceeded to the iron gates, swung wide open. The guardhouse was situated to one side of the gate, and a warm glow emanated from the door. The tower above it was unmanned, so Darinian passed through the gates and went off the road, fumbling through the icy foliage for a body. 

"Curses," he muttered, coughing. "Was he inside the gates or outside the gates?" He stood and looked around cautiously, pulling his robe tighter around himself as the storm maintained a steady strength. Little did he know he was a stone's throw away from the man, curled up in a windless recession formed by the roots of a tree.
 
Entry 1734 29/10/07 00:00
After Darinian passed, pushing Colin to the side, Colin glared at the man's back and whispered, "Let's follow him," to Aidan. He straightened up to his full height, which was still rather short, and walked purposefully towards the staircase. He paused when he reached the top and waited for Aidan to go first.
 
Entry 1735 23/11/07 00:00
Aidan brushed by Colin attempting keep the man in is field of view. Motioning Colin to follow, he proceeded down the stairs. He watched Darinian out of the corner of his eye while walking as though to return to his previous seat. When the door had closed behind the Darinian, Aidan picked up his pace and continued past the table. He picked up Colin's cloak off of a chair and tossed it to the boy before heading to the door.

With Colin close behind, he followed Darinian's foot prints in the fresh snow. Staying out of sight close to building walls, he watched Darinian exit the town.  As they passed the gate, Aidan made note of the possible presence of guards in the tower. He contemplated getting the guards involved, but disregarded that option for the time being. Sensing Colin was thinking the same thing he whispered back, "He'd probably deny the whole thing. If we're to get the Guards involved, we'll need something solid."

Not really wanting to think about what proof would entail, he continued to the entrance of the town. He peered through a crack in the gate slightly making out a figure rummaging through the snow. He paused there for a moment contemplating the situation before turning to Colin.

"I want you to wait here. I'm going to go try to talk to him. He doesn't seem to want any unneeded trouble, so perhaps we can use that to our advantage." He looked off into the blizzard's darkness searching for words. "If things should go bad, go back to the tower we passed and bring the guards."

Against the force of the wind, he pushed the gate open. He called back to the boy, "Stay hidden and don't let anyone sneak up on you," before the gate slammed shut behind him. Slowly approaching Darinian, he casually made his way off the road. "You're kinder than I thought," he called out sounding a bit uneasy. He could feel himself losing his composure.

In and attempt to steady his voice, he looked off past the man avoiding eye contact. Trying to play naive to Darinian's intentions, he shouted through the roaring wind, "I wouldn't have took you as the type that would've gone out looking for the boy's father after treating him like servant," he paused for a moment trying to gauge the man's reaction, "Need a hand?" 

[1]
 
Entry 1736 23/11/07 00:00
Darinian turned around and sheltered his face from the snow, squinting in the darkness to see who it was. He didn't recognise the small figure, but he said something about a boy's father and a servant. A little baffled, he approached the youth to stop him from proceeding, lest he stumble upon the possibly injured man before Darinian did. He held up both his hands. 

"The boy's father?" he said loudly so he could hear himself above the snow. "What are you babbling about? I'm looking for something I dropped earlier, and no you cannot help. You would only get in my way." 

He went to push past Aidan but stopped as he caught sight of something under an old tree just past the youth. Assuming it was the injured witness he was looking for, he took a step towards the man but then stopped, realising Aidan was still there. He paused and quickly came up with something else. 

"What's that?" he said to Aidan but also to himself. He turned Aidan around and pointed to the man, pretending to only just have seen him. "Is that a man? We should see if he is hurt!" And he trudged to the man's side, leaning in quite closely. Then, despite his old age, he lifted the man up in his arms and began to carry him towards the road, turning slightly to face the gate more. 

"What are you waiting for? Come and open the gate for me," he called back to Aidan. He gave no indication of the man's status.
 
Entry 1737 24/11/07 00:00
[1]

Colin followed Aidan willingly. He slipped on his nearly-dry cloak and proceeded outside. He nodded or said something small to the instructions or comments Aidan made, trying hard to hear him over the roar of wind in his ears. The cold was biting after the long stay in the heat of the inn. When Aidan left him to question Darinian, he pulled back out of sight between a couple buildings. Not only was he out of sight, but he was out of the wind and sting of snow.

Colin tried to watch the figures attentively, but his imagination was taking over. What if his father had been injured? Would he be able to take care of himself? What if he died? A chill went down his spine that had nothing to do with the chill air. His mind raced past empty fantasies of life without a dad. A tear slid down his pale cheek, but slowly hardened to ice. He rubbed at it with his bemittened hand, blinking out the rest of his tears.

He suddenly was aware of Darinian carrying a body, and Aidan still close by. He could have exploded with both fear and happiness. It hurt to stay there, but he was afraid going out to them would ruin Aidan's plan. He stomped his foot impatiently, making his cold toes sting. He hugged himself and bit his lower lip, anxiously watching Aidan's next moves.
 
Entry 1738 29/11/07 00:00
A bit confused at Darinian's behavior, Aidan ran ahead and against the force of the wind pulled the gate open. After Darinian had passed, he slipped in before the wind slammed it shut again. Catching Colin's eye's, he bit his lip and shrugged his shoulders. Before Colin could run to check on his father, he motioned with his hand for the boy to wait a bit longer. Although he knew the anticipation was tearing Colin up inside, he wanted to play it safe. 

"Is he alive?" Aidan took a few steps to face Darinian and continued, "There's a light coming from the guard tower. Maybe we should take him there since he seems to be wounded."

Aidan took a few sidesteps toward the tower. He started to relax a little, "He probably wouldn't try anything inside the city," he reassured himself under his breath.
 
Entry 1739 06/12/07 00:00
"I may be a highly respected and valuable member of the institute," Darinian began as he half-turned to face Aidan, "but with the likes of you around, they would assume it was you that brought this poor man his pain. No, we need to take him somewhere nobody will find us." He paused and glanced towards the glow of the guardhouse. "I know just the place. Do you have bandages?" 

Darinian didn't wait around to hear Aidan's response, he wasn't trying in the least to get the boy off his tracks. He turned sharply into a small alley and went down some steps where the snow and wind did not reach. He opened a door that led to a small yard with a sealed well and vanished into the warm glow of the building. He left the door open for Aidan but did not turn to see who had followed him. Though he spoke of being discovered, his actions suggested he couldn't care less who would stumble upon him and the injured man now. 

The room was, more or less, the inside of a small cabin. It had one unmade bed, a single lantern on a stack of books which was now dimming, and a fireplace that held humming embers. He flicked his hand at the fire and it sparked up a little. The old rug had books scattered over it and the desk had yet more books. Some of them were so old the titles could no longer be read. He turned to see if Aidan had entered with those bandages yet. Then he turned his attention to the man who seemed to be moving, but Darinian gave no indication of the man's condition.
 
Latest Post Entry 1740 06/12/07 00:00
"What are they doing?" He asked himself, still hugging himself tightly against the cold. He watched as both Darinian and Aidan disappeared into an alley. He screwed up his face in an attempt to resist the urge to follow, but was soon sprinting out of his hiding spot and after them. The streets were empty, most likely due to the frigid air, so no one saw him slip on the ice. He fell, again, and his face was planted deeply into a patch of loose snow. He pushed himself up with his arms and gasped for air. He was soon on his feet again and hurriedly walking after the two.

When he reached the alleyway, he could see no one. He moved quickly down the path. A small, square light, barely visible through the falling snow, appeared just ahead of him. Then, a door opening, and a man entering. Colin stopped and waited for Aidan's next move.
 
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