The mist swirled around Kritchels feet, as the soft crunch of the marshland under foot, echoed through the valley. The air was still, the wildlife muted as he made his way down the squelching path that revealed itself through years of footprints from weary travellers on their way between the village of Kraven, and the distant shores of the Sea of the Dead. Kritchels footprints were deep, his burden heavy, and with every step he took, his muscles ached that little bit more. His baggage groaned as his legs gave way slightly, the passenger across his shoulders becoming heavier.
"Hold on, not long now" Kritchel reassured the body he was carrying. "Stay with me, keep awake, keep awake". In the distance, he could see the smoke coming from the the few huts that made up the port, where he hoped his ship was still waiting, still anchored a few hundred yards from the waters edge. If they had left without them, he was going to be in some serious trouble, not least his comrade, who would not survive much longer with out the medical attention of his ships physician. His pace quickened as he approached, his eyes strained to see across the water, searching for the ship that would save them both. What would they do if they were too late, if their transport was gone. Kritchel's comrade would not make another journey, his life was slowly fading away, Kritchel's muscles were aching also, so he would not be able to carry him much further. Their only hope was to be rescued, and that was looking less likely as they got further to the sea. The ship was nowhere in sight, it was not in view, it was not waiting for them, it was not ready to save them. Kritchel paused as despair seemed to overcome him. The slight pause in his pace made his legs falter under the weight of his friend. His knees buckled as he fell to the ground. He looked up and down the waters edge, looking for his ship, but alas, it was gone. He lowered his wounded warrior to the ground, and raised his head. Blood red eyes looked up at him, blinking into focus.
"Its going to be okay, I will think of something" Kritchel said with a forced emotion of hope. His comrade could not speak, pain obviously surging through his body, all he could muster was a grimace, and a frown. Kritchel's eyes flitted around the port, absorbing as much detail of the wooden shacks, each one looking like it was built in a hurry, without much thought. No body was around, it was still early, the sun had not fully risen, and the inhabitants of the shacks must have still been asleep. Kritchel stood, and dragged the body at his feet across the sand, to a large aged piece of driftwood near the waters edge. He positioned the now lifeless body between the water and the driftwood so no one would notice it once they awoke. He sat for a moment, trying to formulate a plan, his muscles finally getting a chance to relax. The sound of the waves lapping the sand was soothing, his eyes closed for a moment, a vision appeared before him, of the previous days dawn, as he was standing on the bow of his ship coming in to port.
The sun was rising as the ship named the Shee'naka approached the deserted port of Mercant. It was early, the inhabitants still in slumber, the ship glided across the calm waters of the Sea of the Dead, one set of eyes gleamed at the bow of the ship in the amber light of dawn. Kritchel observed the port for a moment, before raising his hand to signal that they had approached far enough. and they were to set anchor here. There was hectic movement behind him as the ships crew readied for shore.
"We are awaiting orders lord?" asked a slender bronzed ship hand. Kritchel turned to face him, gracefully, and spoke, "Thank you Rechek, have my boat ready, and send for Borak, I will be needing his services". Rechek bowed, turned and ran towards the centre of the ship, where various activities were being carried out. Kritchel turned back to view the shore line, and sighed, for he knew that the task he was about to embark on may well be his last. None of his crew knew why they were there, miles from home, in a place where they would have never have thought a lord such as him would have any business. Kritchel rubbed his greying, unshaved jawline, pausing at the thick raised scar running from just below his left ear, to the cleft of his chin. A prominent reminder of battles gone by, of a time that only he could recount, not that he would want to. In fact, the scar was a momento obtained during his last visit to Kraven, his destination that day.
"Sir, I hear you are in need of my services" Borak was stood behind him. Kritchel, without turning, said "Thank you Borak. You have been a good warrior, a valiant bodyguard, and a loyal friend. I have need of your services one last time, and it will be a dangerous task beset upon us. Can I rely on your sword?" Borak paused, a realisation crossing his face, this was a grave undertaking, a test of his loyalty. "Of course sir, we have been through a great deal and I have always been there to protect you. I will once again serve you as best I can."
"We now go ashore, and if we are not back in two days the ship will sail without us to relay a message to the king that we have failed in our mission."
"Very good sir, I shall make preparation, and will await you in the boat." Borak turned, and headed for the small boat that was being readied for shore. Kritchel could sense the aprehension in Boraks voice, but was not worried, he knew Borak would always come through for him, no matter what the cost.
He stood taking in the golden view of the port as the sun was rising in the sky. His king had commanded him to make this journey a whole two weeks previously, without explanation, but Kritchel knew the deep reasoning that had caused the king to request such a visit to Kaven. The kings son had went missing nearly two months ago, and his last know location was the small village of Kraven. Kritchel had not been asked to look for the kings son, but only to make the Kings presence known. He knew that not all was what it seemed.