Shortly after leaving the clan, he came across a trade caravan camped for the night on the banks of a river. At first, he’d thought to raid them for weapons and food. Reason asserted itself quickly though. Caravans traveled through dangerous territory all the time, prepared for trouble at a moment's notice. If he was discovered, armed guards and trained dogs would be set upon him. He was powerful but only one man.
He decided to try joining them instead.
The next morning a startled caravan leader found a half-naked barbarian crouched beside the fire warming his hands, weapons laid carefully out of reach in an obvious attempt at peace. The grizzled old man was impressed at the stealth that got him into camp undetected and the bravery leading him to stay to face the consequences of his actions. He crouched beside the barbarian youth to speak to him at length.
When the caravan left that morning, Storm went with it.
He worked first as a general hand, chopping wood, hunting food, caring for the horses, loading and unloading wagons. Soon he became a night guard. Building on what Vamer had taught him, he learned to wield a sword in a school where failure meant instant death. He picked up some scars but they were few and far between. His intelligence, unusual in a barbarian, made him a quick study. He learned everything they shoved at him. His savage upbringing and natural prowess lent him a speed and stamina that became the envy of everyone, and the bane of his enemies. In battle, he easily wielded in one hand, weapons lesser men had to wield with two. He trained himself to use a dagger or short sword in his left hand while swinging his regular sword in his right, a style of fighting which baffled his many opponents.
His fighting skill soon earned him great renown among the caravan leaders who traveled the trade routes throughout the north and the east. They began struggling to outbid each other for his services for no caravan had ever fallen while he rode with it. He was given command of great numbers of soldiers. With authority came responsibility and the need to read and write. He learned quickly and was given still greater responsibility.
He rode in caravans that visited all the great cities up and down the shores of the Overdark Ocean. He rode through the streets of inland cities as well, reaching as far west across the River Lands as Sairaw, known as the City of the Winds, on the southern tip of the Sorgo Mountains which came down from the mighty Ramparts and south to Nahor, on the shores of Namak Lake and across the great plains of the Biqah, which the tribes there pronounced bĕ-kä'. He'd even become blood brothers with Crowsotarri, the chieftain of one of the many Biqah tribes (the prairie folk took their name from the land, so Biqah meant both the prairie and the people). For ten years he traveled with first one caravan then another until his purse was heavy with coin.
Then, in the T’thalian Empire, he'd nearly joined their army when they went to war with their ancient enemy, Carrzulm. The island empire depended heavily on the annual whale harvest to support their teeming cities while the corrupt Carrzulmans killed them only for the perfumes they could make from the scent glands. It was a war which had been fought many times before, and as always, both sides paid handsomely for mercenaries who could turn the tide of battle. His purse was filled to overflowing after a mere handful of battles.
All in all, Storm reflected as he hung more meat over the fire, he’d seen more of Gaia than any ten men put together. His current mission, to lead a small caravan from Zered to Robling, the capital of Ingold, was a bit of a milk run for him. The mountain kingdom was heavily traveled by most caravans and well known to him; he’d been through it many times. What was intriguing was the princely sum he’d been offered; one hundred gold coins, usually known as crowns. At the standard exchange rates, it worked out to 5000 copper pieces. Since most inns charged 5 coppers for dinner and a night’s lodging, it meant he could afford to live high on the hog for over two-and-a-half years without lifting so much as a finger! It made him wonder what was so important – or dangerous. Not that he really cared; he’d lived with danger his whole life. He could handle it, assuming he didn’t get killed by the first rabbit he encountered along the way, he chuckled ruefully to himself.
Over the next several days he sought out wild boars, even a bear, polishing up long unused woodland skills. He ran through the mountains with Specter at his heels, pushing himself to the limit. By the time he rode down out of the Coast Mountains he once more felt confident of his ability to handle himself and his surroundings. In high spirits he approached Zered for his next assignment, steadfastly ignoring the still small voice that argued he was wasting his life doing the same thing over and over again – just like before.