Small Packages: Marius
Marius didn’t like the idea of stopping over to trade at Fort Furthest. Most orcs found the sight of Luca bonded to Iz unsettling and while both brothers had a charming manner, a nervous orcs on the edge of a warzone could mean trouble. A low whine from Kane his riding wolf echoed the sentiment.
“They don’t like short folk in that Fort Luca,” Marius argued again.
“We don’t look like Halflings, Marius and I want to know what they know of the road ahead,” Luca replied again.
Marius thought about it again. Luca was wearing Iz at the moment and Iz made him about the size of a muscular human, excepting for the fact that Iz also had razor sharp claws, gills, and a crocodilian head. Iz was also translucent so Luca wore his large winter wolf pelt covering most of his body despite the heat. Luca chose Winter so he radiated a low degree of cold and his hair was a shocking mix of snow white, ice blue and hints of a deep purple. The clothing he wore under Iz was all about hiding the shape of his thin sickly body under folds of fabric.
Marius in contrast to his brother had orange hair as wild and bright as a fire. He was short but clearly muscular with wide shoulders and a nice tan. He wore heavy mail and an array of weapon handles jutted from various angles from his back and his belt.
One had to look carefully at the gnome brothers’ faces to see the resemblance. While Luca rarely smiled, when he did those who knew Marius would recognize it. Marius was always smiling. They both had dominant noses that anchored the face and ensured their potency to gnomish women. They shared sharp cheekbones and solidly proportioned chins. Marius chose to allow mutton chops while Luca remained more conservative and cleaned shaven.
On his chest, Marius wore a tabard with the canine face that was the symbol of loyalty, clasped hands echoed that sentiment as a symbol around his neck, and his sword arm had an armband with a rose symbol for beauty. Like all paladins he was open about his convictions and shared them publically, being an example.
Luca took care of Marius growing up when they were orphaned by a fire. Later Marius had to take Luca to different healers when the wasting sickness started robbing his brother of vitality. Luca was fierce and enriched his mind, with Marius’ aid he searched library after library seeking answers on his disease, and the type of magics that could cure it.
There was nothing Marius would not do for Luca. No challenge he would not overcome, short of betraying the Summer court. Keeping loyal to both was not easy, but convictions weren’t meant to be. Being a Paladin wasn’t meant to be easy either. Luca was frequently bitter and difficult, he resented needing Marius, and at times the feeling was mutual. Marius believed that the core of love was loyalty, of staying with someone through the hard times and being there even when they push you away. That within everyone there was beauty.
To Marius, his brother Luca had a beautiful mind. His brother had such a will that he made a better body for himself on sheer will and an innate talent for magic. He read dozens of languages and absorbed facts like a thirsty man drinks.
It was hard for others to understand why a paladin consorted with someone who used warlock magic and who called on an otherworldly Eidolon. Or why a summer gnome served and protected a winter gnome. Marius usually answered such inquiries with a smile and said: “when I was a child and I cried for my dead mother, Luca always read me my favorite story no matter how sick of it he got.”
In his reverie, Marius almost bumped into Luca who had stopped. His hand had reflexively landed on the handle of his re-hilted legion blade, as Marius looked for the threat. There was an acrid burnt smell that hung in the air.
“What, brother?” Marius inquired.
Luca pointed ahead, the orcs had burned a swath around their fort a half mile wide. The tall grasses that had straddled either side of the road abruptly ended and the earth was blackened with ash. The smell was that of a drowned fire, it was purposeful.
A hot fire of anger burned inside of Marius at the thought. The fort was a menacing mound of stone surrounded by a scar burned into the grassland. It spoke of something ugly about those that resided within those walls and offended the appreciation of beauty that ran deep to Marius’ core.
Marius was running with his weapon drawn before he realized he had spotted an orc with a torch.
With an act of will his own fire sprouted from the blade.