Spirits were high around camp. They had finally acquired the last token, getting ever so closer to retrieving the Stone of Serenity and escaping Sonorae's grotesque dream realm. The only thing standing before them was Zassrion, the dragon. The leader of the conspirator and usurper of Sonorae's former seat of power. While their greatest challenge had yet to be bested, for now the group was taking a well deserved rest, breaking bread and sharing a fire.
Orphée and Nasah were having a discussion on the philosophical implication of story-kin assassination, while nibbling on dried fruit. Mavrikos was polishing his new plate armor, attentive to the debate being conducted next to him and occasionally shimming in. For the first time in a long while, the paladin would not spend the night in doubt or in prayer. Samir was gesticulating widly while humoring Hasdrubal by meticulously running the details of the next prank he had in store for his archrival Theophyr. A little to their right, Rhea was brushing her long green air a subtle smile on her lips. While seemingly lost in thought, the elf was ever attentive to everything happening around her.
Yes, spirits were high… but for one.
Caught up in the telling of the «prank to end all pranks» Samir had just now realized Hasdrubal not cracked not so much of a smirk during the entirety to his exposé. His friend might have been reflectively nodding but he had not listened to a single word. «Hey ho, you're still with me?» A bit miffed, Samir clicked his fingers repeatingly in front of Hasdrubal, snapping him it out of his torpor. With a grunt, Hasdrubal batted Samir’s hand and stood up defiantly. The rest of the group, taken by surprise by Hasdrubal's outburst, suddenly stopped their conversation to watch the stand-off.
The rogue, uncowed by the warrior's annoyed scowl, stood up getting within an inch of his face. «You alright, buddy?» For only reply, Hasdrubal gave him a forceful shove, sending the rogue to his backside. Looking up at the warrior towering him, Samir did not skip a beat: «Well? Spill the beans, will ya?» Maybe his curiosity overrode his sense of self-preservation, but since the rogue had little consideration for social more he likely didn't care for the cue not to push the issue. In any case, Samir bluntness had its intended effect. Hasdrubal gritted his teeth, letting out a long sigh, recomposing himself. «Alright… Let's have a talk. Rhea… please come also.»
Samir gave a puzzled look to Rhea, who, unflustered by the altercation, kept her inscrutable mien. The rest of the companions exchanged confused and apprehensive looks while the three mages left for a private talk…
Not turning to face his companions, Hasdrubal begun: «You were right Samir, something does weight on my mind. I have been mulling things over… and I can to the realization that this is not a matter I can resolve on my own… nor a matter in which to involve our mentors. I'd rather not let them have more leverage on me than they already have. This is why I am turning to you. I am about to share an episode of my life I am not proud of, so I trust your discretion in handling this affair.»
Hasdrubal briefly collected himself before continuing his story. «Fate had it that I was to be three times a slave. I am slave to the Academy, like all of us are, and I made no secret that I was a gladiator before that. I have not resented these pacts of servitude for the benefits they provided me vastly outweighed the vexations… Unfortunately this was not the case the first time I lost my liberty…» A perceptive ear couldnt help to notice that a certain melancholy permeated Hasdrubal's voice.
«Little over ten years ago, my father owned an olive orchard, on the coast of Bithia, where I lived with my step-mother and my half-sister. We lived an honest and comfortable life. I was too young to know at the time but my father's gambling and my stepmother's expensive tastes had already pushed my father to take a number of loans to maintain our lifestyle. My father first used our livestock as collateral for his loans, then the orchard, and ultimately the family's very freedom.»
Hasdrubal voice would harden at each mention of his parents. «We were finally brought to ruin when our estate suffered two severe consecutive drought. Before long before Massylii Abilgan, a prominent Sekuntese senator, came to take his pound of flesh. My entire family became his property and we were forcefully relocated to his mansion. In Sekunta, slaves from debt bondage are usually spared corporal punishment, a privilege not afforded to other slaves… but we lived Bithia on the frontier-land, far away from the civility of the capital. The cruel yoke of the Abilgan proved rapidly unbearable. My parents had brought down this fate on themselves… but my sister and I, we lost our freedom through no fault of our own. I refused to resign myself that this would be our lot in life. We tried escaping together… but she got caught. As it is sekuntese custom for fugitive slave to be put to death… I had resigned myself to the fact that I had lost her.»
Hasdrubal turned to face his friends looking them square in the eyes, the warrior's expression a mixture of sadness and renewed hope. «But Baba Gava… the witch told me… she lives. Anya lives. I don't have much to go with. It's been so long, she could be anywhere. I need your help. I need to find her. Rhea, you are a gifted diviner. Your kind has ways to peer through the impenetrable and find answers. Samir, you once confessed to me of your ambition to become an information broker. I know you are a resourceful fellow, you could see this as an opportunity to see if this is a life for you.»