"Good God.", muttered the Rogue. He thought about how the Master Assassin spoke of combat as an art form, where a skilled opponent of any size could defeat a man twice his size with fast precise attacks and skillful evasion etc.
It al seemed rather meaningless watching two blood frenzied monsters pounding the life out of each other.
Sharn seemed to suddenly get the upper hand with Kahn in a headlock and he was straining to break the tree-trunk neck of his opponent.
"DIE! DAMN YOU! DIE!", he roared.
Kahn's face was going purple with the exertion and he strained out a word, "..uuurrkkk!"
Sharn's face lit up with muderous glee. If he couldn't rip his opponents head off, then choking him would suffice.
"Urk?", Juzz looked around for the goblin and caught sight of him draw a dagger from a pocket and throw it at Sharn. The dagger didn't even pierce the taut skin and muscle , instead dropping to the floor at the feet of the combatants.
"That's no damned good!", Juzz spurred into action. He had to do something to sway the fight or....
In a swift motion Kahn swept up the dagger from the floor, and grabbed at Sharn's face with his other hand. Fingers sunk into the softer cheek flesh and one found purchase in an eye socket.
Sharn roared again, but for the first time, in pain. Kahn bent forward pulling his opponent over onto his back and plunged the dagger into his nemesis' chest and held it there with both hands, enduring a barrage of scratches and blows.
The dagger began glowing brightly. Kahn squinted and held it fast as Sharn fought desperately to pull it out, having given up on attacking his foe.
"NO! You can't take it!", shouted Sharn curiously.
"It was never your's to possess!", Kahn roared in response.
Sharn's struggles diminished at the light from the dagger grew stronger, and his beserker form shrivelled away leaving a plain human lying naked and dying on the field.
April 20th, 2004, 12:09 PM
Mystiqe slipped into the shadows and ran towards the open gate. She darted inside just as a cry went up by the ditch. Four men charged out of the camp, drawing their swords. The dark elf pressed back against the wooden fence, watching them pass. When their footsteps faded, she crept onwards, sliding behind a stack of ale casks.
The camp was filled with noise and filth. Drums beat out a frenetic rhythm. The ground shook, vibrating with sound. Delirious and intoxicated, Ulfhednar whirled around a roaring fire, shouting and chanting, stamping their feet in a frenzied dance. Draped in wolf pelts, smeared with blood and grease, they crouched and leapt, twisted and turned, arms flailing wildly. Their eyes gleamed, yellowed and glazed, oblivious to their surroundings.
A spit turned slowly over the fire, a large corpse skewered upon it. One of the ulfheddin reached into the flames, slashing loose a charred chunk of meat. The beast devoured it, claws and teeth ripping through the flesh. Mystiqe turned aside, stomach lurching.
A rough looking man stumbled away from the dance and towards the casks of ale. Dishevelled, his black mane bore streaks of green paint. His skin was pallid, covered with a layer of sweat. He tripped, falling against the kegs, gasping for breath. Mystiqe shot forward, leaning over the barrels to grab the back of the man's neck. She pulled him towards her until their heads nearly met. The point of her dagger nestled against his throat.
"Don't make a sound", she whispered in his ear.
The man grunted, eyes rolling in their sockets. He stank of ale, grease and dried blood. Mingled amongst them was something else, an unmistakeable acrid odour. Veins showed through the skin of his neck, bluish red, raised and throbbing.
"I'm looking for an old friend", she murmurred. "I want to... surprise him."
The man glared at her, eyes losing their lucidity. "Who?", he choked.
"The advisor", she replied.
Fear swept across the pallid face. "He ain't 'ere".
"Not good enough", Mystiqe whispered, pushing the dagger ever so slightly into his skin. A faint point of red appeared beneath its tip. "Perhaps you'd like to reconsider?".
A shiver convulsed through the man's body. "I dunno nothing...", he spluttered, words falling away as the blade pressed deeper. Mystiqe twisted the hilt a fraction. He gasped, eyes forced wide, lips moving without sound. She twisted the hilt again. "Black... tent.. at... the... back", he muttered, wracked with pain.
Mystiqe smiled, releasing the pressure on his neck. "Thankyou, you've been most helpful".
Glazed eyes stared back at her, seeing and not seeing. The dark elf looked into them, caught in the past. Moving swiftly, she wrapped her arms around the fur clad body, and led him over to the fence, propping him against it. His skin was suffused with heat, damp and shivering. She picked up a bear pelt from the floor and placed it gently across his torso and legs. Holding his clawed hand, she whispered softly, reciting lines from an old poem about a starry night. The man's head lolled slightly to the side, drifting into sleep.
The dark elf slipped away, blending once more into the shadows.
April 20th, 2004, 02:14 PM
Mystiqe stole into the black tent. A dark figure stood on the opposite side, his back turned towards her. Smoke drifted in the air around his cowled head.
"To what do i owe this pleasure?", a smooth male voice enquired.
"Pleasure?", Mystiqe replied. "You wouldn't know the meaning of the word".
"I enjoy killing", he said wryly. "There's nothing quite like the sensation of sliding one's blade into soft, tender flesh. Watching a life ebb away, drip by drip, until there's nothing left."
"You b*****d", she snapped. "Do you know how many people have died out there?".
The figure laughed, an icy sound. "What can i say? Some people deserve to die. Or should i say, some brothers deserve to die".
"Leave Dargeth out of it", she said heatedly, hand drifting down to her dagger.
"You do realise that you're responsible for all of this...", he waved a gloved hand in the air, "carnage? How does it feel knowing your lover may die because of your... trading?". The figure laughed, shoulders shaking. "He could be dead already".
Mystiqe threw herself across the room at his impassive back. The figure span around, slapping her hard across the face.
"You always were far too passionate", he said, smirking.
She drew in a deep breath, clenching her fists. Red pupils glinted through narrow slits in a black mask. "They were only to be used in Cybarak", she said, voice shaking. "Not for this...".
"A minor point." He shrugged. "We couldn't have done this without you, my dear. You should be congratulated".
The dark elf swore and thrust her dagger towards his ribs. It rebounded off hard armour.
The figure laughed. "Temper, temper".
"Don't patronise me", Mystiqe said, eyes blazing.
"Sharn's out there now, butchering your man", he taunted. "Maybe he'll save one or two parts for you as momentos. Any preferences?".
"Juz will kill Sharn", she retorted, glaring at him. "The beserker won't stand a chance."
The red pupils glimmered with amusement. "Sharn's just a puppet, we both know that. I pull all the strings in Cybarak. Would you care to become my advisor when the berserker falls? You've been inside our territory almost as often as that human's been inside you."
Mystiqe leapt for his throat, wrapping both hands around it. The force knocked him to the floor. She fell on top of him, sitting astride his stomach, pinning him down. Gloved fingers snaked around her neck, gripping tightly.
"By the way", the figure drawled, fingers pressing into her throat. "I didn't kill Dargeth, your lover did".
"You're lying", she gasped, shaking him hard by the throat.
The figure sneered. "You only see what you want to see. Look at it objectively for once".
"I don't need you to tell me what to think", she replied, tightening her grip.
"Wake up, dear. Blind devotion doesn't suit you. All those years ago, he just used you to get his hands on the Kul'Tar and you were too stupid to realise it. He killed your father, murdered your brother, left you to die and gave the Kul'tar to his lover. After all that, you still let him use you like a cheap whore. No wonder i never stood a chance with you. You like being treated like...".
Mystiqe dug her nails into his neck, banging his head against the floor.
"You did know that Danika is his lover? Or did he conveniently forget to tell you that?".
"You're a lying b*****d", she spluttered, ripping his hands from her throat. Hot tears threatened to spill down her cheeks, she blinked hard, forcing them away.
"Did you really believe a human could love you?", he mocked, breaking into laughter.
April 20th, 2004, 05:08 PM
Urging the guard's horse into a gallop, Mystiqe hurtled across the hills, racing towards the plains. Lightning tore through the dark sky, illuminating the distant struggle.
Mystiqe cantered to a halt beside Red, tugging on the reins. He clutched at the wound in his left side, kneeling on the ground. She jumped down beside him.
"What happened?", she asked, touching his forehead. It burnt with fever.
"There were too many", he muttered. "Three hundred against half a dozen... Juz said we'd win."
She knelt in front of him, seeing the pain etched across his face. "Here, let me take a look".
Red moved his hands away from the wound. Mystiqe inspected it carefully. He winced, biting hard on his lower lip. The cut ran deep, exposing raw flesh. She squeezed his hand gently.
"We need to get you to a herbalist, fast. It will fester."
Red nodded. "I've taken wounds before, but not one as bad as this."
The dark elf rose and walked over to the body of one of Juzzza's men. She grimaced, then slid his shirt free, tearing it up to wrap around Red's side. A temporary measure.
"What happened to you?", Red asked quietly, looking at the red marks clawed down her neck.
"It doesn't matter", she said, helping the fighter onto the horse. "It's more important that we look after your wounds."
Mystiqe took the reins and walked alongside the horse, gently leading Red. Both were silent for a few minutes, surveying the devastation.
Inside, the rogue fumbled for words, almost unable to ask the question that mattered most of all. "Did... did Juz... is he ok?".
"Dunno", Red replied. "Last i saw, he was heading to confront Sharn".
For a moment, Mystiqe's heart stopped beating.
April 20th, 2004, 08:31 PM
The volunteers stood in a row. Suzé walked along the line of elves, then walked back, picking four. The others bowed and left.
"You are aware that working for me is dangerous?" A pointless question, but one she always asked. Their reactions were different every time. This time, one showed no visible reaction. One nodded, seriously. One bowed, slowly. And one stared her right into the eye, with a grin.
This last one spoke: "The last four didn't return, did they?"
Suzé shrugged. "They never had a chance. I sent them against a high mage, after all. They knew what they were up against."
"And why would their sacrifice have been necessary, may I ask?"
"A gambit. He's meddling again, and I can't have that. You all know what the secret little extra design in the Kult'ar is supposed to do. But that won't work if it is activated, destroyed or taken away. Nothing. That's what must happen with it. Absolutely nothing. It ought to be hidden, lost, then forgotten."
"And are we a gambit, as well? Not that I mind. I'd like to know."
Suzé smiled at him. "May I assign the responsibility of this task to you? As for your question, no, you're not a gambit. You're in a difficult situation, nonetheless. Just about every faction in this mess will want your life."
"Nothing changed, then." The elf shrugged. "What is it you want from us?"
"There is an unknown party after the Kult'ar. An old acquaintance of mine has recently died in an asylum. It was an elven assassin, but I doubt he worked for Belaris. According to rumours, there's a list, containing four people and, well, the Kult'ar. One is my unfortunate acquaintance. Two and three are a certain gambler and a mage. Now, the gambler must, under no circumstances, die. He has envoked the shadows and with his death, they would be set free. Oh, and with every kill they make they get more powerful. And they get to kill if sombody attacks the gambler." Suzé gave the elf a wry smile.
"You want us to play bodyguard for a human," the elf said flatly.
"You can call yourselves prison warden for the shadows, if you feel better about it. Oh, and if you've got attention to spare, you can protect that fat mage as well. I'm quite fond of her. She's not a priority, though."
"And number four?" the elf asked.
"You didn't forget, now, did you?" Suzé smiled. "Number four on that list would be me. I'm currently represented by questionmarks, but that can change."
"And yet you do not employ bodyguards for yourself? With a high mage and an unkown power on your tracks?"
Suzé smiled. "Aww, you're sweet, worrying about me. But, if the high mage shows up, not even an army would be able to protect me. And as for the unknown party..." Suzé shrugged.
"So, where are we heading for?"
"The gambler is currently with half of Lovable Rogue Inc., the telepath's brother, a regiment of ogres and Nedrak's men. They are heading for Cleft Castle. Oh, and I don't hold secrecy a high priority. You can reveal yourself if you must. Hiding may proof sort of difficult, since I hear the gambler's with a telepathic spirit."
The elf laughed. "He seems well protected, your gambler. What does he need us for?"
"It shows that you don't know him. Any of the parties I just mentioned is a potential danger to him."
"But surely they know about the shadows?"
"Ah, but the shadows only protect him from attacks. What about slow poison? What about luring him into a tunnel and flooding it? What about suicide? You see, I can't take risks with the shadows. If they roam free, they'll flock straight to the Kult'ar. It's been built to attract them, after all."
April 20th, 2004, 11:03 PM
Note, edited prior sections to include the Castle cleft. Missed it, and did not want to create any issues. Details on several posts on prior page if anyone wants to keep consistent. Ogre regiment now arriving next morning, then moving into Castle as center of ops. Feel free to write it if anyone has time... I'm out for a day.
April 21st, 2004, 04:29 AM
Jared came to the edge of trees and crouched low.
He touched his temple and fingered the tender bruise caused by his fleeing horse's kick, waking up underneath that monster's corpse had been bad enough but realising he had been left behind was even worse.
He stood up then crouched back down again, cursing himself as a coward. But he knew deep down that this was not so.
As he surveyed the plains before him, bustling with action he almost wished he was back under that stinking fur.
Sharn's men and werebeasts had surrounded his colleagues, to step out now would be suicide. Part of him would prefer to die in battle, rather than sit there watching his comrades get slaughtered but he sat there nonetheless and watched the action.
Jared saw the Rogue and Kahn standing over a fallen figure, for some reason the men surrounding the scene were not attacking. He looked across and saw two riders circling and slicing, the man in the hat was being followed by what looked like a flying cat. The creature spat fire at the attackers and seemed to be picking out the werebeasts.
He saw a member of the LRI fall under the claws of a beast and another take a spear high in the chest, falling to his knees. The man sliced at his attacker as he fell face forward.
Jared closed his eyes, this was the end then for the LRI, or at least, the end of Juzzza's half.
A roar split the air, even above the noise of three hundred fighting men. Jared looked up, yelled out and fell backwards onto the floor as the enourmous shadow streaked above him.
He watched open-mouthed as a dragon, the size of which, he had only read about, slammed into the middle of Sharn's forces, crushing men and beast and skewering a number of them under each talon.
The dragon's scales were jet black, streaked with gold, giant ruby-red eyes stared out of its horned head.
The monster inhaled, puffing his chest like a bullfrog as it filled its lungs with oxygen. The creature's internal organs mixed the natural chemicals with the inhaled air and turning its tree-trunk neck, the dragon unleashed white fire in a wide and powerful jet, crisping man and beast to ashes.
Jared pulled himself forward to his knees and squinted his eyes. At the base of the dragon's neck, sat a dark-haired woman in a long white dress.
Danika Longress had joined the battle and Jared did not know if that was a good thing... Or his doom.
April 21st, 2004, 05:38 AM
"Show off," said Daniel as the dragon filled its lungs again, turned to face the other way and unleashed another devastating stream of white fire.
"Feel free to show Fluerre how it's done," said Albert to the drake sarcastically, slicing the scalp from a man on one side of his horse and then the nose and lower jaw of a werebeast on the other.
"What the f*** is that?" said Alice.
"Well," replied Albert, "at least we know where Juzzza gets his foul mouth from!"
"And his sarcasm is no secret either," retorted Alice, blocking a blade and kicking its wielder in the face.
The dragon crashed forward through Sharn's forces, snapping with its sword-length fangs and crushing bones with its talons.
A man was lifted from the ground and swallowed whole.
Fear rippled through Sharn's ranks, their leader was down and the arrival of the fearsome dragon was all the men needed as proof that it was time to retreat. Only the werebeasts fought on.
Fluerre pounded towards Juzzza and Kahn, who still stood over the fallen Sharn who was whimpering and clutching at Kahn's fur-covered boots.
"Best you warp back to normal mate," said Juzzza as the dragon got closer.
One of Sharn's men threw a spear at the dragon's rider, a desperate... And foolish, last attack. The woman held up her hand and the spear halted in mid-flight, a foot away from her hand.
The weapon burst into a thousand splinters and the steel tip fell to the earth. The dragon whipped its neck down and snapped the man in half, swallowing the body waist up and flinging the legs into a group of men who screamed and ran.
"Good idea," said Kahn as his muscles started to bubble and fold.
Danika, slid a leg over the dragon's neck and leaped to the ground.
Kahn leaned over, grabbed Sharn by the hair and pulled the screaming man onto his shoulders. "I'll leave you to it," he said as the barbarian strode towards the Hat Man.
Fluerre's head dipped and her enourmous nostrils nudged into the Rogue. The dragon breathed in deeply, the suction pulling lightly at Juzzza's jerkin.
Laughing, the Rogue stroked the sensitive scales on the dragon's forehead.
"She is more forgiving than I," said Danika.
"Fluerre, follow them," she ordered and the dragon turned and spreading its huge wings, took flight to follow the fleeing survivors. The wind force from the dragon taking off, sent mud and muck up into the air.
Juzzza wiped his face and flicked the mud from his blade before sheathing it. He looked over to Danika, who's dress was still pristine. Looking down at her feet he noticed that she was not even standing in the mud, but hovering a few inches above it.
Dani was still beautiful but she had become powerful, and a dark menace flickered behind her chestnut eyes.
"So, you have come for the Kult'ar, Rogue?" she asked.
"Dani... I," Juzzza began but she held up her hand and her eyes sparkled.
"Don't bother, get it over with so I can tell you where to stick it and then I can carry on with taking care of these animals who would burn my forest and eat my people."
"This is only the beginning Dan... Lady Longress. Unless the Kult'ar is destroyed or taken away from this world, war will sweep across the lands and everything will burn," said Juzzza.
"There is no army that can stand against me," she spat, a menacing grin spread across her face.
"That may be true, but your people will suffer, all of the Northern Lands will suffer. The Dark Elves are preparing for war Dani, an unnecessary war. I have just come to claim back what is mine."
"It is not yours Rogue, you gave it to me before you... It is mine," said Danika.
"I asked you to hide it for me, you knew I would come back one day to claim it, it must be destroyed."
"No I did not know you would come back, I did not know you were going to leave..." The menace in her eyes vanished briefly, and tears welled.
Juzzza held out a hand but she slapped it away and sobbed.
"I had to leave Dani, if I had stayed you and your village would have been in danger," he paused. "And my feelings for you were unfair... Unfair on you and unfair on Myst,"
"Enough!" she shouted, the menace was back.
"If the Dark Elves want a war, I will give them one. What is to stop me from using the Kult'ar on the Elves? I could wipe them out like they planned to wipe us out."
"That is genocide Dani, war is one thing but to kill a whole race is murder. Besides, you can't wield it, you are human. The Kult'ar is booby-trapped. If a telepath uses it, all humans die, if a mage uses it, all magic will vanish, along with the Elves, Ogres, Dragons and everything else with magical origins."
"You lie!" she snapped, "you are only saying that because that bitch is a f****n Dark Elf, you would say anything to protect her."
"You know that is not true," said Juzzza. He looked down at her feet, which were now sinking into the mud of the battlefield.
"Where is it hidden Dani?" he asked.
She hesitated, looked off into the distance and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Juzzza caught her as she fell. Kneeling, the Rogue wiped away the hair from her face.
"Dani?" he said.
"Fluerre has found an encampment, thousands of men and beasts preparing for war," she said deadpan. Then she screamed.
"No!" her eyes snapped open and she looked up into the ice-blue eyes she once loved... Still loved.
"My aids use crystals to communicate with me from each of the main cities," she started, Juzzza nodded.
"They have taken Qinot, the Dark Elves have taken my little brother. Where is Gravin, why wasn't he there to protect him?" Juzzza gulped.
April 21st, 2004, 09:04 AM
The horse swayed gently from side to side, bearing the wounded man's weight. Mystiqe carefully picked out a route across the battlefield, trying to get Red clear of the conflict. Suddenly, the sun was obliterated in the sky. Great black wings beat, glinting with gold. Screams echoed across the plains. All around, the ulfhednar were running, scrambling for cover. A plume of fire scorched the land, flowing out of the sky. The horse rose on its hind legs, mouth frothing, eyes rolling. Red crashed to the ground.
Mystiqe dove down beside the fighter, grabbing his hand. A look of agony surged through his eyes.
"I ain't gonna make it", he stuttered, coughing up blood. "You may as well leave me here."
"No", she said softly. "You can fight this and win. Never lose faith. I want to see you back in one piece again".
"Fighting's about the only thing i'm good at". Red tried to grin but ended up wincing sharply.
"That makes two of us". The dark elf smiled at him, ruffling his matted hair.
She steadied the horse, caressing its neck tenderly and calming it with quiet, soothing words. When at last the panic left its eyes, she helped Red back into the saddle. They resumed crossing the battlefield, Mystiqe defending the human against the retreating wolfmen.
"You know, you're not what i expected", Red said. "I mean... for a dark elf."
The rogue grinned. "Is that a compliment or an insult?", she teased.
"Compliment", he replied. "Aren't dark elves s'posed to be cold and heartless? Cruel and selfish? Full of spite, always seeking revenge?". His drained cheeks reddened a little.
Mystiqe was silent for a minute, then spoke quietly, "Do i seem that way?".
Red looked down at her and touched her shoulder lightly. "No. When i saw you ride up to me... i thought you were gonna ride straight past, leaving me to my fate. I thought you'd race off looking for Juzz... i was wrong. I'm sorry."
She smiled at him, then scanned the battlefield. The black winged beast had landed. A woman dressed in a flowing white dress descended from its back. The beast's wings flapped and it took off, chasing the scurrying ulfheddin.
Mystiqe trembled, heart beating rapidly. Standing before the woman, looking ruffled but unscathed, was the loveable rogue. The dark elf closed her eyes, leaning against the horse's flank, weak with relief. When she opened them again and looked across at him, heart still racing, Juzzza was kneeling on the ground with the woman in his arms.
April 21st, 2004, 10:06 AM
"It... It's not what it looks like", Red muttered unconvincingly.
Mystiqe remained frozen, watching the embrace.
The fighter looked down at her. The confident facade had evaporated, she was no longer teasing and mischievious, strong and intense. In its place was something infinitely more delicate and fragile, hopelessly vulnerable.
"Myst, are you alright?", he asked gently, touching her shoulder.
She flinched, but otherwise remained silent, eyes locked on Juzzza.
The rogue's arms remained wrapped around the woman. He turned his head slightly to the side, surveying the plains. His ice blue eyes met Mystiqe's with a sudden jolt. They searched and probed, communicating without words.
Mystiqe broke away from his gaze, stumbling back against the horse.
"Myst?", Red called, nudging her arm softly.
"I... umm... ", she mumbled, voice shaken.
"Speak to me, please", he urged, biting back pain.
"I... can't...", she whispered, ebony skin ashen.
It took three attempts for Mystiqe to reclaim the loose reins. She led the horse across the plains, heading towards Albert, silent and dazed.