The Diseased Imaginings of a Tainted Mind
Nostros took the first caravan going anywhere, plying his small trade as a bandager and maker of simple herbal potions. He also offered his small skill with the sword. The bigger caravans were well provisioned with clerics and warriors, better able to protect themselves. Nostros found himself with a place with a small poor caravan, where everyone would have to take their turn walking, and all would take their turn on watch.
The destination of the caravan didn’t bother Nostros. If it was going somewhere he had no wish to go he would leave it at a suitable village, and wait for the next passing travelers that needed his services, or start walking. Destination was not important, but rather the movement. It gave him time to think. On reflection, it was better that he was doing this alone. It wasn’t until the third day did his turn to ride in the caravan come. He took it gratefully, and joined the motley collection of merchants and travelers inside the passenger caravan. There were no seats, just straw covering the flaw. People used cloaks and each other to make the rough journey as comfortable as possible. There were few smiles, these were hard people. A smile was not easily earned. Nostros smiled softly at them anyway, and found himself a space.
“I am Nostros” he said by way of introduction. “I have some small skill with potions and bandages. If anyone has any ailments, they need only ask. All treatments are free of charge.”
He looked at the faces of those in the carriage. There was probably more than a few that had aching feet that could do with a soothing poultice, or something to aid sleeping. Suspicion kept them alive, and they were not used to people giving away medicine, especially outside their village where they knew what the cost really was. Medicine may be given for free, but it was expected that you would return when your harvest came, or your chickens grew fat, or laid eggs, or your wife baked a cake.
“Nothing comes for free, my lad. You’ll be wanting something. ” an old grizzled voice from the back of the caravan said. “No doubt your hoping that in return for your generosity we will show you generosity with our food, or clothing. No doubt you plan to tell us in about a weeks time that you are on a journey to visit your poor ailing mother, or wife who needs money to be rescued from imprisonment, and you have no idea how to raise it, hoping that we will be generous enough to give as our hearts see fit”.
Nostros raised an eyebrow. “An interesting ploy. That was not my intention, though, of course, even if that had been my intention, I would of course deny it now. I gained my place upon this caravan by offering my skills with potions and with bandages. It seems only fair that I do not charge twice.”
“Then you may end up on a journey that will have cost you more than if you had paid” said the grizzled voice. “It is not often that we get an honest healer.”
“When my bottles are empty, unless fortune enables me to find the herbs, time, and a fire to re-fill them, then I will be able to do no more. They only last a short time, so it will be best to use them while they are fresh. Those that are about to turn I will use to treat the simple ailments like aching feet, and other weariness of the road, the rest I will keep for true emergencies. Better than let it go to waste.”
There was the sound of creaking, and the owner of the grizzled voice stood up. His voice belay a tall man, who’s skin had become the colour of oak from many seasons on the road. His once-brown hair fading to the colour of straw on it’s way to white, a large axe being used as an aid to walking only served to show the powerful muscled that rippled beneath his tight leather jerkin. “Then I will take some of your remedy for my feet. I have been walking the forest these past four days, and have twisted my ankle. I would rather be fit and able.” Nostros smiled up at the man, and motioned for him to sit near him. The people obediently shuffled round to make space for him, as Nostros pulled his bag from his back, and opened it, rubbing his hands together to warm them, and in no-time at all the man, known only as Orelf, was back on his feet. The rest of the caravan watched him, waiting to see if he would keel over, of if Nostros would suddenly demand payment. With a simple nod from Orelf, all those who needed their feet, shoulders, or other parts of their body soothed from the tiredness of the road came to the ministrations of Nostros.
Two nights later, some of the distrust had begun to fade. Though no-one would give their true stories, some would give their names, and tell tales. As the evening wore on, and the fire grew low, the talk turned to the gods. Many of them had experiences with temples, and spoke of which temples in which cities would feed a person, or clothe a person if they professed the right thing. A few even held that they would only visit the temple of the religion they believed in, mostly nominally life, or death, occasionally Amroth. Most feeling that their lives did not require more Chaos, and that Law was too restrictive of a life where many of them had at one time or another needed to steal to live. Of course, Kesoth was right out. Only Murderers were Kesothians. No-one knew anything of the minor Gods, except the Sea God, whom they knew they should visit before crossing the sea. As the conversation wore on, Nostros remained silent, listening. It was refreshing to hear open opinions of Gods that were not tainted by memories of a God-war, or ancient rivalries. Perhaps that was something he would have to remember.
Orlaf looked at Nostros. “You have been particularly quiet, my friend. As one who has given an opinion on practically everything else, why not this?”
Nostros looked at Orlaf, and with a soft smile simply said “I was once a cleric.”
“Once a cleric? That sounds like a tale worth hearing” Orlaf joked, before he caught the warning eyes of those around the fire.
“My God is.. ” Nostros paused ” Let me put it this way. I am road in search of an unnamed Goddess. I have seen her once. She appeared to me, all aflame. I know that she wishes for me to look after the forgotten, to protect the people of the world, no matter who they are. To ask no questions, save that while they are under my care they do no wrong. To offer to everyone a second chance, and that redemption is possible for everyone. To be there with healing at the birth, to be there at the death. To be ready to aid the death if necessary, or to fight death tooth and nail should that be desired. She is the goddess of living, of this world and the next. She watches over the body and the soul, to usher the soul into rebirth in the next world.” Nostros spoke softly, and surprised himself at his own passion.
“Once a cleric eh?” said Orlaf. “Doesn’t sound to me as if you were once a cleric. It sounds to me as if you are still a cleric.”
Nostros shrugged. “It seems that to some, if you do not have the power of your god or goddess, and do not have healing magics, then you are not a cleric.”
Orlaf considered this, and poked the fire for a moment. “That does not make sense to me. Is a warrior still a warrior when you take his axe away?”
Nostros looked at Orlaf, and smiled.