The morning wind was chilled as Caval covered the last mile toward his cabin, slowing to a jog just after the last rise. Stopping, he eased his way through a series of exercises to stretch and relax the muscles of his upper body. Taking a hand full of snow he dusted himself off before entering the cabin.
The cabin appeared, from the outside, to be a small structure no more then twenty feet in length and ten feet deep. The true secret of the cabin was that it was built into the base of the mountain, covering a cave. The cave system wound through the mountain like a labyrinth and exited at four different places. The eastern exit was just shy of the Narian forest and plentiful with game. The two north exits led north and north-west, exiting into the Keishan swamp. The last ended in an internal rock pool, water from the cliff above poured down into the infinitely deep pool. Caval once tried swimming to the bottom with a rope. By his measurements he had gone down almost 50 feet and had not seen the bottom.
Removing his shorts and tossing them aside Caval strode naked through the cabin, allowing the warm air from the fire to gently warm his body. Walking to the kitchen he sliced off a chunk of bread and smeared a fair amount of butter on it before making his way back to the main room. Looking to the far wall he saw the empty wooden pegs and felt a stab of pain again at the loss of his possession. Three weeks ago he had been in the rock pool swimming, as always he left the trap door shut, incase somebody dropped by while he was out. Always before, this had kept others from discovering his secret passages, but not this time. Much to his dismay as he surfaced from the pool he heard booted footsteps echoing through the caves. With no weapon, or clothes for that matter he sunk down into the water and waited for the intruder to come this way.
He had waited no more then a few heartbeats when he saw a large man, barrel chested with a bright red beard held in place with a blackened clasp of metal. The stranger was adorned with breastplate, grieves and mailed fist-guard all of which was dulled black. He wore the markings of the house of Abram, one of the local assassin houses of the guild. Ducking under completely he watched from under the water as the man circled the room, seeming to take no notice of the pool. After a moment's inspection the man walked off back toward the house.
Raising himself from the pool Caval moved silently around the corner heading west toward the forest exit. Just before the exit he stopped. Jumping high he grabbed hold of a small ledge some ten feet off the ground, pulling himself onto it. Here he found his spare clothes, weapons, money and maps of the surrounding areas. Donning the grey silk shirt, leather armguards, buck-skin leggings and moccasins he slipped his sword belt around his waist and slowly lowered himself down to the ground again.
Moving with care he made his way back toward the house, checking around every corner. He did not relish a close quarter encounter with an assassin with only his sword at his disposal. Checking the last corner, he saw the trap door was still shut; perhaps the man had not discovered his secret after all and had merely come in through one of the other openings. The door on this side had been plastered the same color as the wall and layered over with a thin mosaic of flat rocks from around the caves. This allowed it to blend in well but would not hold up under close inspection.
He slid the door to the side just a hair and peeked through. A sword slid through the crack with blistering speed almost taking his eye. Jumping back he drew his sword and stood waiting for the man on the other side. "Quite a nice place you have here. I must say the location was sheer genius!" came the muffled voice of the assassin. "Indeed it is, sadly there are few places near by to which I could bury your body, as it stands I would have to drag your filthy carcass through the caves and dump you in the swamp. Wouldn't you be so kind as to save me the stench and leave now?" said Caval, his voice almost bored. Laughter boomed from the other side of the door but faded away as Caval quickly flung open the door sending a thrust for the man's throat. The assassin parried expertly and sent a riposte which Caval blocked smoothly and the two men backed a pace and waited.
"What do you want here? You are no robber and most people would have to be insane to try to assassinate me head on. You are either skilled or stupid, which one I wonder." said Caval, the word stupid rolling off his tongue like acid. The assassin laughed, then sheathed his sword and walked away toward the door. "Nice try Caval, but it will take more then that to anger me. Anyway, I already got what I came for." With that the man stepped out the door closing it behind him. Glancing around Caval took note of the objects around him. It took a moment to register that his Father's sword was gone. Quickly he rushed to the door but the man was gone. A small pain began in his head, born of anger at his own self stupidity.
Closing the door he moved to the leather bound chair by the hearth. Sinking into it, he relaxed, replaying the events in his head. While the wall from the cave side could be noticed on close inspection, the wall cabin side was seamless. He had to have known it was there before traveling here. But nobody knew of his passages, that he knew of anyhow. This meant he was not the first invader into his home recently and this was an unpleasant thought. And what did he want with his father's sword? It was an old weapon and once said to have great powers, but upon his fathers death it has showed no abnormal attributes. As if the magic died with his father. His headache worsening, he pushed himself to his feet and moved into the bedroom. Removing a small box from under his bed he pulled out a large flask. "Well father, might as well carry on the family tradition." He said aloud before downing several mouthfuls of the contents. Lying down, he allowed himself to pass out, entering the Crystal realm.
His mind, back in the present now, retreated from the halls of memory bringing no new revelations and only melancholy. For the past two weeks he had sought news of the man, his appearance had made the task of finding his name easy; Valius. Aside from the name, nobody seemed to know anything about him. He showed up about a month ago at the guild, registered, and then spent the rest of his time in the town library in the antiquities section. "What are you looking for" he asked himself aloud, biting off another chunk of buttered bread.
A cold chill drifted across the room, seeming to move toward the fire. Instinctively he knew he was not alone. Sitting now in the chair across from him was a pale young woman in a shimmering gown of brilliant blue, her dark hair pulled back into a braid and the tip died blonde. "It appears that my home is quite the social center for unwelcome guests lately. To whom do I owe the pleasure of such an intrusion?" he said in the Crucin tongue. "I am Lady Xue of the house Liedra, but I guess you already knew that didn't you crystal man?" responding in the same tongue. "You say that as if it were a curse. We are not the enemy. Truth to tell we never were, but its small people, with small minds, like yourself that carry on such foolishness" the words dripping like acid as he spoke. Her face did not change but a notable tension filled the space between them. "Indeed, you should know much of foolishness; it was your wanton neglect which has ended the world." As she spoke her eyes gleamed with triumph. Before he could speak to question she shimmered and disappeared, leaving only a damp spot where she had sat.
He rolled the words in his mind, how could he have caused the end of the world? The world is still, arguably, as it always was; whole and intact. Feeling the weight of constant thinking, he stood, gathered his weapons and strode from the cabin heading for the city some 3 miles away.