Gray. All of it. As far as the eye could

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Gray. All of it. As far as the eye could see. Gray. Cold. And gray. All of it. Foreboding. Silent. Barren. And yet...home. The borderlands. The Blight. Home.

Garath often wondered if everyone had such a choice. To decide the place they called home. He guessed not. And who would choose to call such a place home? Such endless nothing. Such wasteland. Such...beauty. To live in a place where nature had lost the battle to survive. A place that reeked of a darker odor. A place...where rebirth would begin.

"A war is still to be fought here", he though silently to himself. Nature will once again come to flourish. And I will be here. Ever nature's protector. Ever DeMia's servant.

***** "North. Three of them..." he quietly said aloud. A smile crept across the weathered face of the Borderman, "...and still fresh." On the rocky hillside, he could see that the group had not even attempted to cover its tracks.

Telltale signs of movement were everywhere. He slowly shook his head. "If only...", the thought began, but ended just as quickly. The smile remained on his face. Still crouched before the boot print, the borderman slowly lifted his head to the setting sun of Charon. Soon it would be nightfall. He would have to hurry. With measured grace he stood, and turned to face the great orb of Zioth. The heat permeated every inch of his body, the light glaring brightly, even through his clenched eye lids. The smile remained on his face. He took in the warmth and light of it all. He let it embrace him. For it was truly a magnificent day to be alive. To be in nature. To be hunting. The smile remained on his face as he turned and began he measured pace towards north. Towards his quarry.

It took almost an hour before he caught sight of one of them. He paused and slowly crouched close to earth, so to not silhouette himself on the skyline for the Trolloc's to see. The creature in view was not moving. He stayed motionless for several minutes, watching the creature, for signs of life. From this distance, he could not tell if the humanoid shape was still breathing, but he thought he could make out a pool of blood surrounding it. "Left for dead." he thought to himself. Again he shook his head, as the hate filled him. "Monsters." Slowly, as to create as little noise as possible, the borderman began his descent down the slope towards the fallen creature. It laid about 100 feet down the trail which lead through the rocky terrain below. Something seemed odd about the situation, but he ignored his nagging subconscious, letting the anger fill his head. When he finally had made it down the slope to the trail, he paused to reassess the situation. Just 50 feet away lay the body. He studied the body more carefully from this vantage, but it was covered in a cloak and he could not make out its nature. The cloak, if it could be considered that as it was hardly more than rags, was tattered and blood-stained. He adjusted the bow that rested on his shoulder, and drew one of his many daggers. If the creature was still alive, he'd be sure to remedy the problem. He began a slow walk towards the body. With fluid grace, he avoided stepping on the loose debris that would announce his passage. Great boulders rested to either side of the trail, and rocky outcroppings began to cast great shadows across the lands.

As he reached the covered body, he slowly reached down with the dagger. The tip of the blade pierced the rough material of the cloak and he causally flicked the bloody cloak away to reveal the broken body of a human, female child. Rage began pouring through his veins. The nagging in his subconscious suddenly exploded into reality as his sharp elven ears picked up the sound of a small rock slide from behind him. With the release of the tension in his legs, he launched into a dive over the small child's body, tucking his body into a ball and rolling with his momentum; somersaulting into a crouch, just as the spear slammed into the already dead body.

"Idiot!" he silently cursed himself, as he dropped the dagger to the dirt, he agile hands already moving towards the handles of his belted sabers. Before his twin blades even cleared their dark, leather scabbards, he could see his prey. The Trolloc that had thrown the spear stood upon one of the great boulders flanking the trail, his distended jaw open, as he howled in anger at the failure of the well placed ambush. From around the great boulders, stepped the other two Trollocs, clad in un-cured animal hides; one clutching a broad spear, the other, a rusty sword & stained, wooden shield. The spear bearing Trolloc let out a gruesome yell, and began his charge. Garath crouched in a low stance with his sabers extended, awaiting the charge. As the Trolloc leapt the child's form, it lunged forward with all it's strength in the initial thrust, aimed squarely at Garath's chest.

Like living extensions of his arms, the saber's began their dance of death, moving individually of the other, yet belying the unity they possessed in the borderman's capable hands. With a flick of his left wrist, he deflected the shaft of the spear with blade, causing it to go wide of its intended mark. Using the creatures momentum against itself, the blade in his right hand jumped forward, sliding easily between the Trolloc's lower ribs and into the tender flesh of its gut. In a howl of pain, the spear was dropped, as it's hands made it's way to the blade that was now deeply imbedded in it's belly. With a blur of movement, he reverse the momentum of his left blade, and brought it back in a slash, cutting a ribbon of gore from the beast's upper neck. It's windpipe being severed, the creature's howl of pain suddenly turned into a gurgling of blood.

Seeing their companion being slain; the Trolloc on the boulder jumped for the trail, while the other charged with sword raised. With a swift kick of one of his powerful legs, Garath sent the dying beast falling back towards the child's body, freeing his bloodied saber. He began a measured pace towards the oncoming assailant, his twin swords once again held before his body. As the Trolloc's blade began its descent, Garath launched his offensive. The blade in his left hand quickly slashed at the exposed sword arm of the Trolloc, cleaving it's forearm to the bone, while the second blade came in low, slashed a wound across its thigh. The Trolloc however, was fully committed in it's strike, wounds or not. The rusty blade continued it's arced descent and managed to score a glancing blow on Garath's right shoulder.

The sting of the wound came immediately to the borderman, and adrenaline alone kept him for crying out. Again, he launched a double slash at the Trolloc, scoring another deep hit to the beast's chest this time, the other deflecting of the makeshift shield. Looking behind his immediate foe Garath spies the Trolloc that had jumped off the boulder, running down the trail, away from the battle. Knowing that his odds have just improved, he decides against the all-out offense, and he settles back on his feet into a more relaxed fighting posture. The Trolloc again raises it's blade and hacks down at the borderman. With cat-like speed, Garath's rolled to the beasts side, away from the descending blade. Coming to a stance next to the surprised creature, he whips his arms out at the beast; the first of his sabers slicing evenly through the protective hide, and deep into it's shield arm. The second, not so cleanly, disembowels the stunned creature. Dropping it's weapons, the creature's arms move as quickly as possible to it's now exposed intestines, in an attempt to stem the sudden flow of it's lifeblood to the ground.

Without pause, Garath takes flight down the path, in pursuit of the last. In mid run, he sheaths his sabers, silently promising to clean them off after this is over, and begins pulling his study ash bow off his shoulder with one hand, instinctively pulling an arrow with the other. Settling into a kneeling position, he nocks the arrow, and stares down the length of the shaft. A twinge of pain erupts in his arm, as the movement of pulling the arrow back, set's fire to the thin wound on his shoulder. Hate keeps the arrow steady. Rage fuels his aim to be true. There, clawing it's way on all fours up the ridge face, not more than fifty feet away, is the last Trolloc. His breathing begins to slow, and steadiness becomes his purpose. His eyes, begin to squint against the sun's lingering rays. Just as the creature makes the top of the ridge, clearly defining its shape as a silhouette against a rust colored sky, it stops and chances a quick look back. Garath holds his breath, and begins a slow exhale. His fingers loosen. The twang echoes as the arrow takes flight, closing the distance fast and true. With a sickening thud, the arrow buries itself in the now dead Trolloc's chest. It's body rolls back down the ridge it had so feverishly clawed its way up, and comes to rest solidly on the trail.

***** Burying the dead child took some time, considering the rocky terrain. But a burial was in order. There were many unanswered questions running through the borderman's head, as to the child's fate. Perhaps he would check with some of the border outposts to see if a child had gone missing. Perhaps she had strayed from a caravan? But who would bring a child into the Blight? Questions tore at him, as he silently bandaged his shoulder, but a slice on the shoulder was nothing compared to what the Trollocs had done to the young girl. His was the sort of wound that would heal in time. He was lucky this day. His rage against the Trolloc's had foolishly gotten him ambushed. He silently cursed his brash behavior and made a point to remember such lessons. He stood silently over the carefully constructed cairn, and prayed to DeMia to take the child into her loving arms, interring one too young to never grow old.

Having said his prayer, he pulled the hood of his cloak up, and began a steady pace north up the trail. Where he was heading, he hadn't decided. A smile returned to his face. Yes, this truly was home