Chapter 15

It was the end of the week and they were down in the temple with Rowenn. Oren spoke, “Rowenn, we are going to leave this week and head to Abbysta first and then Erridda. Your training has been highly appreciated. Thank the goddess for me.”
“I wish you best of luck. However, if you want to truly thank the goddess you will do the following task.” She went over to a pedestal and grabbed a bowl. “There is a shrine near Abbysta; it will look similar to what you see above ground here in Avo. You will need to place this on the altar and fill it with this water.” She handed Oren a canteen full of water. “Martell knows the prayer to chant once you do this. You should leave the temple once this is done as the water will turn to a fog and purify her temple. I would go do it myself, but upon your departure I will need to be here to protect this temple. Someone is not pleased that Varelle’s name was spoken in their house.” Rowenn glared over at Martell.
Oren and Martell left with their full belongings in Avo the following morning. Oren told Eston that they were going, but would not mention where or when they would return. Eston expressed his concern, but seemed at ease that Martell was going along. In his parting words, he warned the first snow was about a week away. They should try to be back before that happened.
Martell had done a great job restoring the armor to its former glory. She wore the breastplate and parts covering her upper arms and legs. The rest was with the pack horse they were bringing with them. She was again wearing the Velgrey tabard over the armor. At the departure from the Velgrey trade house, she gave Oren a gift of a heavy cloak. It was a deep forest green color, with a wyvern stitched in gold on the back was. The edges were lined in brown fur. It only took a day on the road before Oren was thankful for Martell’s gift. The cloak did wonders for reducing the bite of the cold gusts that crept up.
It was on the second day they left the protection of the wards. It was here that Oren noted his cloak was changing color to match the surrounding forest. He also noted that wearing it became more comfortable the longer they were out of the wards.
It was also on this day they left the southern road to head in a southeastern direction. If the records were correct, they should find signs indicating the directions to Abbysta the following day. There was what seemed like a natural pathway through the trees in the direction they were headed, despite the undergrowth indicating otherwise. Both of them fluctuated between being intrigued and scared of what may lay ahead at the stronghold.
They spent much of the time trading storied from their own pasts. With all of Martell’s accomplishments, Oren started to feel he had squandered much of his time among books. Martell would later remind him that he had actually had a good life. There were many things which he had taken for granted, like his close family ties, that she would never experience herself.
It was four days till they could see what they presumed was Abbysta peeking out of the woods. They were on top of a ridge looking down to what had probably been a clearing in the past. Now it was as overgrown as the rest of the woods. From what they could see there were no signs of life at the hold. It was Oren that finally saw they would not have a clear run to Abbysta. The movement of ogres had caught his eye. The ogres were a ways off, but in the direction they were headed to reach the stronghold. There were at least two from what he could see; based on his last encounter with them, he was certain it meant more in the area.
He motioned to Martell, pointing out the two shapes he had seen moving back into the cover of the woods. “Yeah I see them, she whispered. This is going to be tricky. I can handle them with the swords. My problem is the ones we don’t see.” They watched for a while before seeing a different two in the woods below, a little closer to the ridge. “That is four problems to work out plus what others may still be unseen.”
Martell handed Oren her knife. “Your staff may parry their blows, but in general you aren’t going to stop one of them till you break their skin. My apologies, but you just don’t have the strength to do it. If you get this knife into one of them, concentrate on the blade and imagine it burning. It probably will give you a sensation like you experience with your ring when you control the spirits. Just remember, you won’t be able to channel spirits and use the knife at the same time.”
They proceeded slowly down from their vantage point, trying to make as little disturbance in the forest as possible. They left the horse and the supplies hidden up there to ease their movement. It was a slow and quiet process. They reached the first two ogres unseen. They were talking about something in their own language. Neither Oren nor Martell had an idea as to what. One of the ogres had what looked like the trunk of an old tree with a few thick branches protruding from it. The other had a crude spear, though it would take at least two men to lift and would probably be used more as a battering ram by them.
The plan of attack was for Oren to distract the ogres and Martell would surprise them from behind. Oren was not keen on being bait, but for lack of a better idea he was willing to do it. He started by making some small noises as Martell separated from him. The noises grew louder until he had the attention of both the ogres. Once he had their attention, he moved away from them making sure they were still interested and following after him. Oren remained out of sight, using ropes to shake branches and misdirect the ogres. His presence was further obscured by the effects of his cloak and its camouflage.
He kept this up till he felt sure that they were far enough away from the second set of ogres. At this point he made his presence obvious to them by hurling a pebble at them. The pebble hit the one with the spear on the cheek, and the ogre spotted him immediately. Thoroughly enraged, he charged in Oren’s direction. The other one, slower to react, fell a few moments later. He was unaware the whole time he was drawing his last breath as Martell’s sword cut through its skin.
The ogre was still charging Oren when it heard the sound of its partner crying in pain. It paused and turned to look back at what had just occurred. It saw Martell finishing her kill. The ogre briefly glanced back in Oren’s direction, but could not locate him. Oren had not moved from where he stood. Rather, the cloak had worked in camouflaging his location. As long as he did not move, the ogre was not going to see him until he stepped on him.
The ogre now confused by what had just happened threw his spear and hit Martell in her off arm. Her armor prevented it from breaking her skin, but Oren had no way of knowing the extent of the pain caused by the hit from here. What he did know was the anger he felt erupting inside from seeing her hit. He broke from his cover and charged with the knife at the ogre. Oren focused all the anger and hurt he felt at the blade as he aimed to lodge it in the lower back of the ogre. The ogre howled in pain as the blade melted through the skin.
Oren would never forget the smell of charred ogre flesh. The smell initially made him want to vomit. He repressed the urge as he jumped back from the body, leaving the knife wedged in. He took a couple steps back as he watched the ogre lurch as he no longer could tell his legs what to do. The ogre made quite a ruckus in the forest as he fell forward.
Oren, still feeding off adrenaline, then ran forward. Mid run he raised his staff back and jumped preparing to bring it down on the ogre’s face. With all the force he could muster, he made contact, cracking the skull. It would not be till some time later that Oren would realize the staff showed no signs of wear from the fight.
The noise caused Oren to stop. Reality coming back as the adrenaline faded to where it had emerged. He breathed a heavy breath realizing he had just killed an ogre.
Martell came running over. When she got to Oren, she put her arms around him and gave him a hug. “You did well, but now we have to get out of here. The other ogres will be running here now.” She pulled her knife out from the ogre. They could hear the rustle of something large coming this way. Martell pulled Oren along as his mind was still grappling with everything that had transpired
The two retreated back from the fight toward the ridge trying not to leave a trace of where they had just moved through. They did not run across the other two ogres, but could hear them shouting in rage over finding the bodies.
“You two are making things a little easier for me.” The words came from a rather short man sitting up on a tree branch. “They are looking for me and my friend. He is around here somewhere; we had split up to make it harder to find us.”
“And why are they looking for you?” asked Oren. “And why not just run?”
“Well we want into the stronghold Abbysta, and I assume it is the same for you. They were camping outside it, and when we tried to sneak by they spotted us. We still want in, but no point in going in if we cannot then leave.” The man quipped back, as he made himself more visible. He stood at four feet tall, had black hair and a goatee. He looked strong enough to handle himself in a fight, but not like he had been in one. “The name is Teman, and my friend, if you see him, is Devlin.”
“My name is Oren. And my companion and I are headed to Abbysta as well. Though we are only using it as a navigational point to other places. You see, I deal in books and thought some of these older keeps may hold something that has yet been plundered. I decided to bring along protection,” he motioned to Martell.
“Indeed. I do see, though you do not look defenseless yourself.” Teman commented.
“Records indicate there are traps and wards on these places. Do you have a way around them?” inquired Martell. She picked up on Oren’s ploy and decided to keep up appearances for now.
“That is Devlin’s responsibility. I do hope he is ok. Not saying I will be of no help, but he is just…better. Would you be willing to team up and take out these last set of ogres?” spoke Teman. He thought for a moment and continued, “We could go a step further and work on getting into Abbysta as well. I would be willing to let you have any books we find at Abbysta and we get the rest.”
“Maps too, we would want maps as well.” Oren replied back, “But we can negotiate later. Let’s get rid of the ogres and find Devlin first.”
“I can agree with that. Young lady, you seem the tactician of the three of us. I have my sword and a bow to lend. How do you want to go about this?”

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