Aurenn confides his story to Ruby.
The sun rising over the mountains saw the Userpedian group already on their way east, already desperate to get out of the biting cold of the snow. Their group now contained one more member, who was under close guard by the Defenders as they kept their eyes on the creature carrying most of their gear like a packmule.
Aurenn had lost most of his fighting spirit - he just carried the gear quietly, blindly, without a sound. He and the Defenders keeping watch over him were situated behind the group. The Userpedians were nervous about having the creature around them, but nonetheless they travelled, the quiet, tense atmosphere eventually dispersing into chatter, as they kept their new fur coats wrapped tightly around them.
The mountains around them grew warmer as they travelled further east over the next few hours, and the terrain became less desolate and snowy. The sight of patches of dirt among the snow in the afternoon was cause for celebration and cheer, but the Defenders still kept their eyes trained on Aurenn, their weapons never lowered, never giving Aurenn a single chance to strike.
They had reached upon the borders of the grasslands when night had well and truly fell, and everybody was exhausted, so Ruby called the order stop for the night and set up camp. As the users laughed and chatted amongst themselves, he oversaw the unloading of equipment from Aurenn’s body a ways away from camp. Once the last bag was unloaded from his back, without a word he collapsed onto the damp grass, having carried the large weight all day, and fell into a dreamless sleep as the Defenders tied him down.
Ruby walked over to Valentin, who had finished tying the last rope around the creature’s wrist. “How’d it go?”
Valentin frowned. “Went perfect, actually... he didn’t make a single noise, or try to escape. Kind of strange, actually. That... thing looks to be quite aggressive.”
Ruby nodded. “I don’t think it knows what it wants. There’s something odd about the way we found him on the first night.”
“Well...” Valentin thought for a moment. “I think we did hear two voices, or he might have been talking to himself. Heh, yeah,” he said with a smirk. “He’s probably nuts.”
Ruby shook his head. “I doubt it. If you heard two voices, or at least heard a conversation there was probably two of them out there. One is this guy,” he jerked his head at the sleeping figure, “We know that for sure. If there was another one out there, where are they?”
“What do you reckon then? He probably won’t bother to talk to us.”
“I don’t know about that. Something tells me he’s not used to being reduced to just a pack animal like this, and imprisoned. Let’s just see what he does.”
The world around them became greener and greener as they travelled, the weather warmer as they progressed. Today, as they travelled, the group surrounding Aurenn was at the fore, the creature with less fight in him than ever. He simply carried without a noise, though to himself he wished that he had a drink.
His extrasensory vision detected a figure above them; a robed figure, sitting, watching them from up in a tree, behind the cover of foliage. He spoke aloud, in English, “There is somebody watching us.”
The Defenders, weapons trained on him, glanced backward through the group, then back at the creature. One of them smirked. “D’you think we don’t know you can’t see a thing, you stupid creature?”
Ruby, who was nearby, said to them, “Actually, he’s right. I don’t know where this intruder is, but...”
And he relayed the story of the robed figure’s meeting with him to the group. When he was finished, the group looked around them again.
Valentin poked Aurenn in the back with the elemental staff he carried. “Oy. Where did you ‘see’ this guy?”
The thing scowled. “I would think you humans would have more of an attachment with using names rather than noises. Regardless...” He glanced up toward the trees, the sunlight glinting on the creature’s ornate headwrap. He wondered if his vision was deceiving him; there was nobody there anymore. The scowl on Aurenn’s mouth twitched. “He seems to have moved on, if the human’s story is true.”
Ruby frowned. “You’re not one to talk about names. Come to think about it...” He thought, trying to remember. “We’ve never actually learned each other’s names.”
Aurenn glanced at the human. “I suppose not. My- …” He paused, forcing himself to say the word. “My tribe used to call me by the name of Aurenn.”
Ruby raised an eyebrow, undetected by the blind creature. “Used to? How about now?”
The large creature allowed a grim smile. “Now, human? Now, they call me... scum. A waste of resources. For all they know and care... I am no longer alive.”
Ruby hadn’t quite expected this, and he faltered. The guard continued in silence.
The sight of a small, yet wide wooden building was a change in the thickening forest they were entering. The travelling group stopped, and waited as Ruby and Valentin, bringing the creature of second sight with them, looked inside.
The inside of the building was dark, even with windows cut in the sides. Ruby and Valentin both unhooked their staves from their belts as Aurenn padded around the inside of the building quietly. Valentin whispered something, unintelligible to the furry creature, and from Valentin’s staff erupted a ball of light, like a torch, that lit up the room.
This seemed to be the docking station for the cargo transport line from the stone dwellers’ city, judging by the equipment laying around. Their suspicions were confirmed when, at the far end of the building, a minecart track rose up from a tunnel into the building, and a few carts had halted at the end of the line, carrying their tents, their fiction chest, and other things that belonged to the Userpedians.
Ruby grinned. “It worked! This is everything we loaded back in the stone city!”
Valentin smiled. “Excellent. Well, let’s go unload, shall we?”
With the help of Aurenn, the carts were forced off of their track and brought outside, where everyone took something to help out. It was only afternoon, but Ruby decided that the return of their things was cause enough to let everyone relax.
The equipment off his back, the creature sat in the trees, away from the group. He was deep in thought as Ruby spotted him and came over. As he sat down nearby, Aurenn spoke. “You have quite a following.”
“It’s not quite that, but... we have a common purpose. And somebody with the ability to guide them, especially in a situation like this...”
“And they trust you?”
“Sure. I’ve been around for years, not just leading, but helping people with their troubles, entering things into the chest. That sort of thing. They know I am loyal to them, and so they are loyal to me, and my Defenders.”
“I... do not understand... Ruby.” He said the name as if in a strange language.
“Does your species not believe in loyalty?”
“No. Only trust.” He was silent for a moment, then looked in Ruby’s direction, almost seeming to look inside of him. “You are a person that would seem to understand. You have earned your people’s trust. But you fail to do something that your people would hope so much for, and they lose your trust. But you are always given a chance to redeem yourself.”
Ruby stayed quiet. It seemed best to him not to interrupt.
Indeed, Aurenn continued. “The tribe I used to be affiliated with... you only had one chance. Or... maybe it was that only I had one chance to them.
“When I failed to capture the massive building your kind called home, even as it was burning and in ruin, that was my first and only chance to prove myself. But they lied to me, pretended that it it was not over for me, and sent me after you as you headed for the snow. I didn’t like it. But I followed you, alone, or as alone as I thought I was, I was further and further away from them, which I suppose they wanted.
“Then the night of my capture. They had told me you were holding important weapons or documents about untold treasures, the secrets of your kind.”
Aurenn stopped, incensed with himself. He was reliving these events inside of his head, putting the pieces together in his head.
“The scout of my tribe... he had followed me since I left, making sure I was led into your hands, without a chance. And that was exactly what happened, wasn’t it?”
Ruby nodded quietly. “You yelled at somebody... we woke up, our air elementalist caught you, and you were put under arrest. And yet, you were okay confiding this info to us. I’d wondered why.”
The orange creature grunted. “I thought I would be dead by now.”
“So what do you feel now?”
“This seems to be the best time to strike out on my own, after I have fulfilled my duty here. I don’t think there is anything else for me to do.”
Ruby nodded. “Whatever you decide... don’t let yourself be used like you were by your tribe. I’m sorry to hear about what lengths they took to get rid of you.” He stood up, making to rejoin the group. “Take care. Be ready for tomorrow morning.”
Aurenn nodded quietly, and closed his second sight to the world, meditating.