This is the third and probably final part in the backstory for the character Ati who is going to be in another larger-scale story when I get the motivation to write it. Please read the other two parts first for context.
The bandit spun, eyes searching wildly for the source of the clattering noises. So this was a paranoid one. That could complicate things, but Ati thought he could deal with it. He walked up behind the bandit slowly, forming a rock not in his hand but around it using magic, and then broke into a run. The unfortunate criminal turned at the sound of footsteps just as Ati’s stone fist slammed into his face, instantly knocking him unconscious. Ati smiled, then stole the bandit’s outfit.
Ati tromped right up the center of the Gauntlet, his face red with utter exasperation. He stomped over the improvised wooden bridge and looked up to glare at the skirmishers.
“WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING?” The skirmishers jumped to attention at the voice of an assumed superior. “THERE IS A PARTY OF HUNTERS NOT TWENTY MINUTES BEHIND ME! ON YOUR FEET. DID I TELL YOU TO TAKE OFF YOUR QUIVERS?” Ati, in his stolen uniform, received a chorus of hasty excuses and apologies as the skirmishers equipped themselves. The response was perfect; there was no way the other bandits would question him now. They’d assume him to be some sort of sergeant. There wasn’t really any number of hunters due to attack, but Ati would be gone in twenty minutes anyways if all went according to plan. Amazingly, he made it all the way to the top of the battlements before something went wrong. Equally amazingly, the one thing that went wrong was also the only thing that Ati hadn’t planned for. As Ati walked across the top of the large gate, shouts began to echo from the other side of the bridge. The huge alarm bell began to swing as a group of hunters, mages, and warriors came into sight, clearing a path through the unprepared bandits. The top of the gate suddenly became a stampede of frantic skirmishers, and it was all Ati could do to stay in one place. Well, he thought, he couldn’t leave now or they’d label him a deserter and give chase. That left only one option: help clear out the bandits. With a sigh, he grabbed the arm of the nearest skirmisher and resumed his angry sergeant persona. “You there!” The archer stared at him, terrified. “Get me the explosives, and make it quick!” The witless skirmisher nodded, and then disappeared into the crowd as Ati let go of her arm. In a few moments, the crowd began to slow down as the bandits finally got into fighting positions. Below, metal clattering about and magical explosions could be heard constantly. As one of the still moving skirmishers slipped past, Ati found dynamite shoved into his arms to his surprise. That had been a backup plan; he hadn’t entirely expected that same skirmisher to come back. Ati noted the crowd parting in front of him as he considered a new plan. Looking up, the source of the disturbance turned out to be a man who, unfortunately, seemed to be an actual sergeant, and was coming straight towards Ati. The man began to yell. “WHAT IN TERUL’S TARNATION DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, ORDERING ABOUT MY MEN LIKE THIS? WHICH STATION ARE YOU FROM? I’LL HAVE WORDS FOR-” At that moment Ati’s fake mustache fell off. The sergeant scrunched his eyebrows and gaped. “What-” Ati shoved the dynamite into the man’s arms and pushed him off the wall. Shockingly, nobody seemed to notice even as the man’s screams echoed below. As discreetly as possible Ati pulled his matchbook from his bag and flicked a match off the top of the gate towards the pavement below. As he walked away, trying to act casual, the gate shuddered with an explosion. The bandits never did figure out where it came from before the heroes overwhelmed them.
Minutes later, Ati stood in a corner surrounded by various factions vying for his attention. He had told them what he had done earlier as a means to convince them he wasn’t another bandit, but he hadn’t wanted this. Hunters, Mages, and Warriors bragged from all directions.
“We have lots of-”
“I DON’T CARE!” They fell silent as Ati interjected. “Look,” He said, “I know what you have and can do, and how great you all are. I just don’t agree with the things you all do, all right?” The heroes stood in silence. Finally, one of them started up again.
“But we-” The overzealous mage cut off as Ati disappeared in a cloud of smoke, then started to cough along with the rest of the recruiters and walked away
Ati raised the sketch an archaeologist had given to him, then lowered it to stare at the entrance of the ruined structure. Based on the similarities, this was the temple where the party of archaeologists said to have kidnapped baby mushrooms had suddenly disappeared. Ati took a deep breath, clutching the cold blue amulet he had found in the sand, then stepped inside the crumbling temple. Inside, there was surprisingly little of note for an ancient monument. Ati walked through several hallways before even finding a room with anything in it. Apparently whoever built the place had been lacking in furniture. Eventually, Ati came to a dead-end room containing a pile of vases. Tentatively, he began to pick up one of the larger vases to test the weight, but dropped it when a glowing golden figure wearing a silly-looking bird mask suddenly appeared in front of him. “Fool!” Its strange voice boomed. Ati just stood in place, staring. “You have picked the wrong vase. Now you must die!” The figure pointed towards Ati, then stood silently. “I said… now you must die!” It seemed to be concentrating this time. It suddenly stopped and began to talk again. “Bah! I don’t get it, you’re supposed to be vaporized! Why won’t you just… oh.” Ati looked down at his chest, following the figure’s gaze. It appeared to be staring at his amulet he had found. “Of course, I should have known. You of all people would have one of his.” Ati didn’t understand what this being meant, and he had a feeling he never would. He decided his best bet was probably just to wait silently. “Oh, Asatru…” Ati’s eyes narrowed. He had to restrain himself from demanding the figure not call him that. “You know, I really do think you would make a great warrior or even a mage, had you chose to become one. Problem is, you don’t fit in with them. You never will, you know. You’ll always be…” Ati tried to imagine what this thing wanted as it droned on. He had a lot of practice in thinking over insults. He looked over the figure, trying to find a motive. There! The eyes behind the mask were following his amulet, even as the figure turned. It was going to try one of the classic maneuvers: catch your opponent off-guard by interrupting yourself. Well, Ati wasn’t going to let the figure have the amulet, whatever the reason. Sure enough, after another few seconds the being suddenly lunged with its arms extended, reaching for the amulet. Ati was ready, and swung his fist around surrounded in a casing of stone. Unsure what effect hitting a glowing mass would have, he went for the only substantial part of the being: the bird mask. As his fist collided, there was a much louder cracking sound than there ought to have been and the mask shattered to pieces. The figure fell to the floor, then pushed himself onto one knee. It was clearly a he, for he had stopped glowing now. The man had brown skin and fair hair, but as Ati watched both immediately dulled to a faded gray. Then, the man’s feet began to crumble away to dust, and slowly the rest of his body. With his last breath, the man gave a warning: “You fool.” He said in a raspy voice, “In destroying the mask, you’ve doomed yourself. Maybe there is hope, still. Maybe… look to the tales…” The man stopped talking, and in moments he was nothing but a pile of grey ash. Ati tried his best to commit the words to memory. “You’ve doomed yourself”? That was rather ominous. Shaken, Ati left the temple clutching his amulet unconsciously. Well, he thought, laughing nervously, off to “look to the tales.”
Is this too cliché? Yes. Do I care? Not one bit.