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 Heavy Rain 
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Stablehand
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Post Heavy Rain
The first rain drop landed on his neck - a small annoyance. The second, on his arm. After that, Syle lost count as the heavens dropped impossible amounts of wind and rain on him at the same moment.

He laughed at the strangeness of it, and squinted up the road ahead trying to see anything more than three yards in front of him. Just seconds agao it had been breezy and mild and now, before he had even the chance to wrap his cloak around him, he was soaked to the core.

Out of habit, he wrapped the cloak around himself anyway and stumbled on. Once or twice he slipped, dropping a knee and a hand to the mud to stop himself from falling completely. After a few minutes of this, he started to look around him for anything that could offer shelter.

The storm was definitely getting worse, and he was in no hurry. Not today, at least.


Sat Dec 14, 2002 8:15 am
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Through the rain, Syle could barely see that the right side of the road sloped sharply downward into a valley. Thinking that he might find shelter there, he carefully stepped in that direction and stopped, shielding his eys from the rain with his hand.

The mud on the side of the road was less stable than the rest, and he picked his way carefully to the edge. A dark shape looming below him must be a tree, but he could really see nothing. He took one step closer, and lost his footing completely.

His right foot slipped out from underneath him, sliding down the slope and threatening to pull the rest of his body with it. Syle tried to straigten himself, but fell in the mud, sliding feet first down the muddy hill toward the dark shape.

It was indeed a tree and he crashed against it with more force than he thought possible from a quick ten yard slide. Unable to change his position during the slide, his boots took the brunt of the impact, sending shockwaves through his entire body.

He groaned in disgust and wiped mud from his hands and face, trying to look around. The tree was immense and stopped much of the rain so he could see a little better, but the wind was searing even down below the road and it was hard to keep his eyes open.

A sound to his left caught his attention and he twisted rapidly around. The quick movement starting him sliding again, but the tree was there to stop him, and he sat with his back to the strong bark looking in the direction of the sound. It came again, closer, and he realized he was not alone here.


Mon Dec 16, 2002 9:07 am
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He was afraid, but had nothing really to be afraid of. A sound and nothing more. Still, he fumbled inside his loose fitting shirt for the knife that was slung tightly against his stomach. Before he could reach it, the sound came again, right on top of him.

He squinted madly into the rain, finally pulling his knife free. Feeling a little more secure, he reached out with his right hand, swinging it in front of him, trying to feel anything. There was nothing there, of course. His mind was playing tricks on him, and he knew it.

To reassure himself, he leaned and started to crawl slowly forward, using his knees and one arm for support while he still held the knife. After a few feet, he heard the sound again and then a snarl – a dog. He yelled to scare it, and punched blindly with his one free hand.

There was nothing but air to punch, but he could see a shape now – off to his right, on the other side of the tree from where he had originally stopped. Inching closer, Syle readied his knife. Dogs in this part of the forest were always wild, and always difficult to deal with.

But now that he was close enough to see it through the downpour, he changed his mind. This miserable heap was no danger. It lay against the tree, more mud than dog. He moved even closer until he could rest a hand on its back. It snarled again, but with less feeling.

It was impossible to tell what color the dog was underneath the mud, or even what breed it was. It didn’t look like one of the wild pack-dogs, but then nothing looked like anything in this rain.


Mon Dec 16, 2002 3:09 pm
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They sat together under the tree, him fiddling nervously, the dog lying on the other side of the tree, not moving. At first, Syle had tried to talk to the dog and to pet it, if only to pass the time while they both waited out the rain. But it hadn’t been interested, so now they both waited in silence.

The torrent had been going on for about an hour now, but showed some signs of letting up. When it did, Syle could finally continue his journey. He hoped that by the time he arrived in Jenqa the common room of The Smoking Barrel would still be lively. That’s what he really made this trip for once a month.

Ostensibley, he made the trip to discuss business with Bern, the Innkeeper, but they had been doing business for so many years that the trips were really unneeded. But Syle still enjoyed the trips because of the news and song that always filled the warm common room of the inn.

He stood and walked a few paces, looking up to the sky past the great tree's branches, impatient that he had to wait for so long under this tree, with nothing but a skulking dog for company. Out of boredom, he walked back to his spot and stretched around the tree to see if he dog remained. It did, and looked up with him casually before dismissing him entirely and lowering its head to the mud again.

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Tue Dec 17, 2002 3:10 pm
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With a startled jolt, Syle was awake. He first noticed that the rain had stopped, and then that he was being licked. He pushed the dog off him and yelled at it, wiping saliva from his forehead and wondering why he hadn’t noticed the licking before the weather.

He stood and looked around. The sun was trying its best to penetrate the tree’s twisted branches, leaving deceptive patches of light and shadow all around him. On the road above, the sun was back in charge, going about its business of drying the rain that just fell. The cloads looming in the West seemed to imply that the rain would soon be back in command of things. But for now, it was pleasant.

The dog looked terrible, caked in mud and Syle suspected that he himself looked about the same. Not that he cared – no one was around. He climbed back up the steep muddly slope the road, using his hands as much as his feet. The dog followed him, acting as natural as if it had been following Syle all day.

On the road, he wasted no time in continuing his eastward journey. He had lost quite a bit of time and now everything he had on his back was soaked. The dog continued to follow. Syle looked over his shoulder without stopping his walk.

“Well, if you’re going to follow me, you’ll have to have a name . . . Mud”

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Wed Dec 18, 2002 2:37 pm
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With Mud tramping along behind, the rest of the journey to Jenqa was uneventful. The road into town from the west curved around the last hill and wound its way through the middle of the crowded village.

Jenqa had less than 1,000 permanent residents, but it was the only place within miles that had anything resembling civilization, so the average population was usually around 2,500 including visitors.

The streets were mostly dirt, but a few of the main roads though town were cobble. The East-West road that he had taken intersected the North-South road in the middle of town, and this is where he found what he was looking for – The Smoking Barrel.

It was an old building, the oldest in town, and one of dozens of inns scattered around the main intersection. The inn had seen better days - the whitewash was peeling but the stones underneath were strong. It stood five stories tall, with most of the first story split between a large kitchen and an even larger common room.

The front door was massive, made of maple and hung on tarnished brass hinges that were oiled just enough to keep the creaks down to a tolerable level. On the porch sat Gallo, Bern’s stable boy.

When Bern spotted Syle he rose to greet him. Then he saw Mud and stopped, a look of terror in his eyes.

“The dog!” he cried and ran back into the inn, leaving Syle on the street. He turned curiously to look back over his shoulder at the mud-caked dog who was lying in the middle of the street, oblivious to his surroundings.

The rain started again.

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Thu Dec 19, 2002 9:47 am
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Not wanting to get soaked again, Syle quickly jumped on the porch of the inn and onto the steps where Gallohad been sitting just a few minutes ago. Mud followed right behind him, apparently just as unwilling to get wet again.

From the relative safety of the porch, Syle looked up at the sky. It was almost supernatural how fast the rain had come, and how much water was being dropped from the sky. But he thought no more of it, thinking instead of how strange Gallo had reacted to the dog.

The stable boy was generally pretty level-headed, and among the villagers, was not known for strange behavior. Syle looked at the dog again – it looked harmless enough. A mud-caked dog seeking shelter from the rain. Syle knelt and patted the dog on the top of the head, looking into its eyes. The brown eyes looked deeper than most dogs, and for just a second he though he could see something in there – something more than belonged in a dog’s eyes. But he shook his head to clear his thoughts and Mud’s eyes were normal again.

Syle dismissed it as just fatigue from traveling and battling the rain all day, and flung open the door of the inn, determined to find out what was wrong with Gallo. Mud stayed on the porch, lying on the mat and not moving except for the occasional twitch of the tail.

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Fri Dec 20, 2002 12:22 pm
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The first thing that Syle noticed as he went through the massive doors was the common room. Off to his right, it usually bustled with activity at any time of day, and today was no exception. But instead of the usual swapping of tales and drinking, the occupants were all looking at him. Gallo was nowhere to be seen, but Syle recognized one of the blacksmith’s apprentice first, heading towards the hallway that split the common room and the kitchen.

“What’s going on here,” Syle demanded of him, but the boy brushed past him and headed for the back door of the inn. Syle turned to follow him, but saw the innkeeper coming down the stairs.

“Bern, what’s going on here, and where is Gallo. He saw . . . “

“Upstairs,” Bern quickly interrupted him and turned back the way he came. Syle glanced around and followed him. Everyone in the common room was starting to sit back down, but they all looked considerably nervous.

At the top of the stairs, Bern picked out an empty room and let Syle follow him in before closing the door behind them. He sat on the bed and looked up Syle with eyes that suddenly seemed very tired.

“So you brought the dog back?”

“I brought a dog to town, yes, but what of it? Dogs wander these areas all the time. You know this one?”

“I know ‘em, aye. Trouble, that one is. Came to the village a fortnight ago, and brought curses with him. Three dead, and two dy’in. Council can’t do nuthin, sent up to Calla for a healer. May be here tomorrow, maybe a week, been while since we sent to Calla for anything.”

Syle tried to digest that, but couldn’t. Any death in Jenqa was big news, but three? That was almost unhread of. He was sure Mud wasn’t related in the slightest, but village folk tended to be superstitious.

“What of Torena?” he asked, speaking of the old woman who had served as the Jenqa healer for the last three decades.

“Dead. Her apprentice, too. Pretty lass. Was going to wed Gallo in the fall”

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Wed Feb 12, 2003 11:38 am
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The two men were silent for a while, until finally Syle spoke. “How do you know it’s the dog? This is terrible news, yes, but a dog? Surely there is another reason.”



The innkeeper rocked back on the bed he was sitting on, obviously uneasy. Syle noticed for the first time that there was fear in his eyes; even the scent of fear hung in the air. He could also tell his old friend was holding something back.



“What is it Bern? Tell me.”



“Syle, I no want to mix you up in this. But that dog you brought with you sat in front of each house that had dead the night they died. The last was Torena. The dog sat on her porch four nights ago, and stayed there for two days until she was dead. We finally worked up the courage to drive the beast out of town, after that. It was either that or watch our entire village die. And now the dog is back, and it be sitting outside my inn!”



Syle didn’t want to believe it, couldn’t hardly bring himself to believe it, but Bern was an old friend and he had to trust him. He stood quickly, patted Bern on the shoulder, and left the room.

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Tue Jul 01, 2003 2:55 pm
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Syle made his way down the stairs, noting that Bern had left the room and stopped at the end of the hallway, watching Syle leave but not attempting to stop him. He made his way past the frightened look of the folk in the common room and towards the front door. Gern was there, looking ill.

Mud was still waiting on the front porch for him, and Syle caught his scent immediately. Caught his scent? Why could he smell a dog, particularly in this rain. Then he remembered that he could smell fear on the innkeeper up in the room. Probably just tired. Tired and scared, he told himself.

Mud rose from the ground and licked Syle’s outstretched hand. Outside the inn, in the rain, with Mud right in front of him, his belief of the whole story started to fade. It was ridiculous, he told himself.

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[center]Syle
The True Hearted
[/center]


Fri Jul 04, 2003 2:26 pm
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