Gaz, part one

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They jumped. The strange sensation of nothingness followed by the shock of suddenly being elsewhere and Gring was certain they had arrived wherever their captors intended them to. A jump tower this time, but as they all looked the same it didn't reveal their destination. Then the smell, the all too well known smell. She was home again, home in Gaz. The thought carried little comfort, but also very little fear. She had done nothing to sully her honor. Someone had though, and she wanted to know who. She would know who.

Something new. Khraga plotting like oath breakers. Disturbing, but maybe not the machinations of a Khraga after all. There were others in power here in Gaz. Mages, some of them terrible, but not all, far from all. Most were true to their word, and someone would listen to her.

The treatment of the taleweaver embarrassed her. Such lack of honor displayed by one of her own. Things changing in ways she didn't approve of. Changes were inevitable of course, but they could at least be honorable.

Gring growled. Kharg behaved like an oath breaker. He was like an honor less man driven by something, or someone, no human should pay any heed. Gring couldn't understand how one of her own had sunk so low. It shouldn't happen.

What is it to be human if we start to behave like halfmen?

The question disturbed her even more, and she decided not to pursue it any further.

She sniffed. Scents were different here. The presence of golden halfmen strong. The short lived ones smelled different. That meant they had arrived at a palace rather than close to one of the large cities infested with dirt and disease.

Sweet whiffs of winter roses coated the air, and she knew they must have jumped far away from the outlying territories where humans ruled themselves almost independently and lived according to tradition. Here, in Gaz, they preferred some of the ways of the halfmen, at least those visible to prodding eyes. Mostly clothes and how to keep a house. Indeed the lure of a strange culture was what had once made her leave the village where she was born and move to Gaz. Now she wasn't so certain of the wisdom of her choice any longer, but she was since long oath-sworn to the empire.

During the time it took her to wander through her memories they were transported down from the jump tower they had arrived on. Gring threw a glance backwards at the slender construction rising into the air. Golden mage halfmen had made them a long time ago, and she knew of no more being constructed since. Maybe the knowledge was lost, or maybe they simply decided there was no need of any more. She didn't know.

They were led along a narrow road descending through a valley between low hills. Kharg and two of his warriors escorted them and one of the human jump mages, the latter being the one who had jumped them here.

Gring frowned at failing to recall his name. She ought to know the identity of a fellow mage, especially a human one.

The wind was funneled by the hillsides, and Gring briefly wondered if Arthur and Chaijrild were cold. Even though the thought of freezing in the mild climate appalled her, the two halfmen were still her responsibility, and so she had to be aware of their weaknesses. Now she had to protect them from the possibility of human weakness as well.

She glared at Kharg and made yet another attempt at feeling his reasons, but as earlier his mind was covered by a flexible yet strong blanket of power. She could read nothing more than his overt want for food and something to drink.

She had started to try reading his thoughts after he proved his own dishonor. Anything else would have cast a shadow on the honor of her own. She had failed thus far. The strands of power surrounding him were unfamiliar to her, inhuman and strange. It probably meant they were golden in origin. Normal halfmen magic she recognized by now. She'd encountered it often enough during raids into Braka and even during her training here in Gaz. Training years so far removed now she accepted she couldn't rely on her experience from them. She'd been far too unskilled at the time, and what she remembered might very well be mixed up with what her mind wanted her to remember from her youth. Only an idiot trusted childhood memories to be true representations of the time when they were formed. An idiot, or someone blinded by a fanatic belief in any ideal acquired to replace experience and decent traditions.

Gring willed herself to look away from Kharg. The thoughts coming to her mind were so strong he didn't have to be a Mindwalker to feel what she was thinking.

They struggled on in silence broken by winds and the chirping of small birds only heard near farmlands, or at least a mansion where the birds were fed.

Gring gazed ahead of them trying to see the first signs of fences, planted trees or any other visible sign of what kind of community they were finally going to arrive at, but the hillsides still obscured her sight, and she had to satisfy herself with a silent growl at one of their guards to vent her frustration. She received a disapproving stare in return from the warrior, but she didn't care and glared back.

All warriors were taught what Mind walkers could do to their minds if they scorned the weaker bodily strength of a mage. In war all weapons had to be respected, and more than one warrior had spent long nights plagued by constant nightmares to teach them proper manners. Shooting Kharg an angry glance she decided not all warriors learned enough.

The valley widened and she could see they were indeed heading for a country estate. The property of a wealthy golden halfman by the look of it. None of the sturdiness coming from the wish to make an impregnable fortress such as those the oath breakers preferred to live in. The golden were almost as trustworthy as humans, and maybe they didn't need to protect their lies as readily as other halfmen.

A garden hid beneath a thin layer of snow with bare splotches where winter roses grew. Gring guessed it continued behind the mansion as well. Long rows of fruit trees grew as protection against the wind as much as for their more obvious use.

This was part of what she called home, yet it still was more strange to her than the plains and mountains where her brethren lived by their own laws. A discomforting thought. Disturbing in a way she hadn't expected. She growled in resignation. The visit to the human village had brought too many memories from childhood to her, and those memories made her homesick, longing for a way of living she'd chosen to discard. She was still growling when they were led inside and locked in.

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