[USS Vanguard] Distant Journey

  • From: "Andy W. Ho" <andywoho@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: USS Vanguard <ncv80221@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 10:41:13 -0700 (PDT)

Sir Dominick de Santos
Longlands Village Tavern
Following "The Tree"

De Santos waited until the others had bedded down for the night. He
lost sight of the two thieves and considered pursuing them, but he
decided against it. It had been a long ride into Longlands, and to be
honest, he didn't want to know WHAT the pair were doing.

He approached the girl managing the inn, the one called Zena. Cynan and
she were sitting by the fire, drinking something from two large
flagons. She laughed at something he said and he smiled. He gestured
around the room then outside, toward the stables. De Santos produced
his pouch of gold and allowed Zena to take a fair price for the rooms
they had all requested. She smiled and slipped the money into her own

De Santos left the two to their chat and walked toward the front door.
He surreptitiously opened it and stepped outside, into the cool Autumn
night. Looking around, he produced a pipe and tobacco. He shoved a twig
into the fire lamp outside the door and, satisfied, inserted it into
the large pipe bowl.

"If you insist on doing that, have the sense to stand downwind."

De Santos turned, his sword already in his hand, his speed the benefit
of years of campaigning.

Soman looked at de Santos from under his cowl. "If you stand upwind,
you'll give advance warning to an ambush party. Think about that next

"I could have taken your head off," de Santos growled.

"You could always try," Soman said. "You were never quite that
successful before."

De Santos grunted.

"You know," Soman started, tentatively. "If we're to succeed on this
quest before us, we have to learn to work together. I'm not looking to
be your brother, just your brother-in-arms."

De Santos mulled that.

"Agreed. We'll set aside our differences. For now."

The two men shook hands.

"It's late. We have a long ride tomorrow." Soman turned toward the

"Oy," de Santos said, "your room is paid for."

Soman grinned. De Santos realized it was the first time he had ever
seen the man grin in all the years they had crossed swords.

"I know," Soman replied. "I do not feel safe in a town inn. I do not
know why. I never have." With that, he disappeared into the woods.

De Santos chuckled and walked back into the inn. The fire was burning
low. Cynan and Zena were nowhere in sight.

He mounted the stairs and entered his room, which could have been
described as a monk's cell if the description weren't too generous.

De Santos scattered a handful of dried leaves across the door, an
early-warning system should anyone, thief or otherwise, decide to sneak
in and do mischief while he slept.

But de Santos never slept easily and his dreams were, as ever, uneasy.

He walked with an old woman in the woods, and he was astonished to see
she had a third "eye" in her forehead.

They walked toward an impossibly tall hill at the base of which sat a
cave. At the pinnacle of the hill sat a golden chalice in a bejeweled
carved box. The chalice seemed to glow with its own radiance, and de
Santos caught his breath in his throat. He gave a great cry and ran
twoard the pinnacle.

And from the cave emerged a horde of warriors, clad in black armor, of
a material de Santos had never seen

(and yet he DID know, didn't he? That armor...he had been taught to
fear and hate it)

And his first reaction was to run. To run as fast and as far as his
legs would carry him. But he overcame that fear, like so many fears he
had overcome in his short, brutal life, and he drew his sword, yelled a
battle-cry until his voice thundered into distant valleys, and waded
into the dark warriors.

But for every warrior he slew, two more rose to take his place. And for
every move he made, the next warrior seemed to know its counter. He
grew weary, but they were tireless, and most horrifying of all, they
did not weep, or cry, or beg, or laugh, or taunt, or hate, or
love--they merely advanced on him until he was overwhelmed. And though
he fought with his entire might, they held him down until one of their
own approached him with a small, extremely sharp dagger. And with the
dagger, he...

Santos woke with a start. Outside the window, dawn had broken. Santos
wouldn't have been surprised to learn his band were either all
downstairs sharing breakfast or still slumbering, especially the
thieves who had returned in the night.

He dressed quickly. Dominick de Santos knew where they had to go and
what they must do. The only question that remained was how many of his
band would return.

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