Juzzza staggered to his feet and stumbled across to the group. His shirt and leggings were drenched with blood, and his eyes were still dazed.
The rogue looked around the assembled faces, scarcely taking in their shocked expressions. His eyes searched for Mystiqe, and found her lying limp on the ground. He started to move towards her, then stopped, suddenly uncertain. The dark elf's head was resting in Red's lap. The warrior was brushing his fingers through her long hair and looking up at...
Juzzza followed Red's gaze and found himself staring at Tularis Yassassin.
April 22nd, 2004, 12:02 PM
In the early pre-dawn gloom of the third day since reaching the high valley, the first attack came.
The sound of a war horn brought the members of LRI from their bedrolls.
Boldar, Mik, Gina, and Mya came awake almost instantly, each seeming to flow from sleep to readiness. Reed, Arleena, and Bass were a bit slower in coming awake.
"Damned fine time for a fight..." Grumbled Boldar as he began to move for the door.
In the courtyard, they found ogres crashing around everywhere readying weapons.
Mik saw Crom standing next to Gravin near the castle gate. "What's happening?" He yelled.
Gravin turned. "Drow are hitting us hard at the entrance to the underdark, we have them bottled for now, but there are hundreds of them."
Boldar looked at Mik. "I am going to check something out, but I'll meet you at the entrance in a bit."
Mik nodded and motioned for the others to follow him.
Mya looked at Mik and shook her head. "I'm going with Boldar. Idiot needs someone to look after him..."
Boldar let Mya away from the action, back in the direction of Nedrak's house.
"Where are we going?" Mya inquired pleasantly.
"To check out something."
"Come on Boldar, don't be clever. What are we checking out?"
Boldar smiled in the pre-dawn gloom and smiled. "I want to check on the sentries near the river outlet... it worries me."
Mya shrugged and followed.
About a minute later, they heard the first signs of struggle.
"Shite," cursed Boldar, and he lumbered into a run, Mya close behind.
A few seconds later, they rounded a small outcropping of stone and saw the source of the noise. One ogre was down, and the other was swinging his great sword in massive sweeps. There were several cloaked shaped on the ground near him, but a half dozen others were firing small handbows, and a dozen or so more were floating down from above.
"Damned drow and their bloody magic..." Boldar grunted, unsheathing his greatsword and beginning to move in slowly, hoping to escape notice.
Mya pulled two daggers and stood still for a moment, waiting for Boldar to charge.
"Die, vermin!" He called at the top of his lungs, leaping in with a great swing of his sword. The first sweep cut a drow in half at the waist, and his reverse opened the throat of a second. Two other bodies fell out of the air, hitting the ground with a thud, a dagger burried in the throat of each.
Mya then pulled her blade and joined Boldar. "Back to back, big man, we're about to be surrounded!"
That was the first that Boldar noted that the Ogre was down, though not before taking a half handful of bowmen down with him. "Shite. Keep moving, engage quick and don't let them use those damned bows!"
The two began a dance through the group of drow, about a dozen strong, always moving and forcing the drow to defend themselves with swords.
Mya made a low thrust and scored deep in a drows femoral artery, but took a long cut down the cheek for her efforts. Boldar reversed his blade and made a thrust under his arm, spearing deeply into the chest of the drow that had scored Mya. Two drow took advantage of the opening and opened two flesh wounds, one on his arm and another on his chest.
Boldar sceamed defiance and swept his blade around low, taking a leg off of one and forcing the other back. A third moved in close, getting inside of his reach, a dagger extended towards his chest. "Stupid!" He grunted, and clubbed downwards with this sword pommel. Brains spattered as the drows head burst like a melon.
In the distance, another horn could be heard, blowing twice loudly.
"Boldar," Mya gasped, "that is the retreat!"
Boldar made a strong downward cut, cutting the arm off another drow. "Crap on a stick... bad timing!"
"Move, big man! We have to get back to the castle."
"I'll hold these for a minute, you break away and cover me!" Boldar grunted.
"Damnit women, I need the cover of those damned knives of yours..."
Mya nodded, understanding. She leapt away after cutting down the last drow facing her, sheathed her blade and pulled her last two throwing knives.
Boldar went into a flurry of motion and whipped his sword in two mighty full arcs, moving forward aggessively. One drow went down before it could react, and several others skittered backwards, out of reach of the deadly blade. After his second full rotation, he screamed again as if he was going to attack, and he turned and ran.
Two throwing knives blurred by him as he ran towards Mya. "Run lass!"
They both ran, and made good their retreat. As they rounded the outcrop of rock that hid the castle, they emerged into panemonium.
Ogres were everywhere, and all were falling back steadily. The valley to the east was filled with drow, and to the north, hordes of the tiny kobold, and hundreds of larger orcs were pushing in. Boldar and Mya were in one of the few open areas.
A voice boomed above the sounds of battle. "Fall back to castle! Fall back!" It was Clash, standing on the nearest tower of Castle Cleft.
"Go girl, no time to waste!"
The two made it back to the castle ahead of the last line of ogres, and were climbing a ladder to get a better look from the wall by the time the massive door boomed shut below. Outside they could see bodies everywhere. There were dozens of ogres dead, and hundreds of drow, kobold, and orcs.
Gravin stood nearby. Strangely, a small boy stood clinging to his hand, on the opposite side of Boldar.
Boldar pushed his way to the man, glanced at the boy again and shrugged. "Where is everyone?"
Gravin shrugged. "Bass is over there," he pointed to the opposite tower, "throwing some damn effective firebolts. Would not have made it in without him! I saw Mik and Crom too a minute ago, coming in from the fight."
"What about Gina?" Mya asked.
Gravin shrugged, never taking his eyes from the scene in front of him. "She, Reed, and Arleena are still out there, somewhere."
Mya began to turn. "I'm going..."
Boldar grabbed her arm, holding her steady. "Nowhere. You are going nowhere. Look out there lass... you can't help them. Perhaps they are holed up somewhere, perhaps they escaped the valley..."
Mya's shoulders drooped, but she said nothing.
"What now," Boldar asked Gravin.
"Well, we still hold them."
"Ummm.... perhaps you have not noticed that they just routed us and chased us into this pile of rocks?"
Gravin smiled a feral smile. "This pile of rocks, as you call it, happens to commant this valley. No army will march past a manned castle, leaving their flanks and rear exposed. No, they must deal with us."
Boldar nodded. "Like a gopher in a hole, if you ask me."
"No," Gravin corrected, "like a badger." He paused for a minute. "Go get stitched up, the two of you are bleeding all over the place. There will be fighting once they build some ladders. And Boldar... could you take Quinot here with you to somewhere safer?"
Boldar glanced at the boy and shrugged. Quinot squeezed in closer to Gravin. "Come on boy," Boldar urged, motioning with his hand for the boy to come. Quinot did not move.
Gravin tussled the boy's hair. "Ah, yes... never mind... he can stay for now I suppose."
Boldar led Mya off to seek their friends and get their wounds taken care of. On the way off the wall, he glanced at Bass. The little man was casting another spell. A ball of flame rolled out from the tower, incinerating about a hundred kobold. Bass looked... bigger, or perhaps more menacing than Boldar had ever noticed. He blinked and looked again before climbing down the ladder.
"Who's the boy?" He asked Mya as they walked across the courtyard through the throng of ogres, both of the regiment, and Nedrak's horde.
Mya frowned. "Don't know. Odd for him to be here though. Oh, and Boldar," she giggled, "About your warcry..."
"Die vermin! Hardly herioc or memorable."
Boldar shrugged and blushed. "Best I could do lass, best I could do."
April 22nd, 2004, 01:23 PM
[This one goes before the last scene.]
Reed's ankle was burning like hell, now. He limped forward, his eyes not veering from little Quinot, who, on his part, did not veer far from Reed. "Does it hurt a lot?"
"Yes," said Reed. "But that's okay, it can't be long, now."
"When I have a pain, Gravin plays a game with me," said Quinot.
Reed smiled. "And would you play a game with me? To help with the pain?"
Quinot nodded eagerly. "I'll think of an animal, and you tell me which one it is." Quinot wrinkled his brow, then said, "I've got one. It's got fur."
"A sheep?" Reed guessed.
Quinot shook it's head. "It's got a tail," he added.
Reed paused. "A cat?"
"Spider," Quinot said.
"Come now, Quinot. Surely a spider..." But Quinot wasn't paying attention. Reed's eyes fanned outwards towards the path they were walking along. His heart stopped.
The spider wasn't facing them. It just sat there. Reed stopped and put a hand on Quinot's shoulder, but he needn't have. The boy stood like a statue, staring. What to do?
Suddenly the spider moved. It's speed was incredible, and Reed was glad it wasn't moving in their direction. Soon it was out of sight. Reed gulped, looking all around, while moving as little as possible. There was something about giant spiders that made them more scary when you didn't see them.
Gilli scanned the area, then let out a scream. An utterly alien mind. Hunger. No sign of interest, no point of affinity. Their connection a one way road and she wasn't sending. "Looking at us," she managed.
Then the spider bounced. Gilli attempted to blast her of course, but the mind had left her unsettled. Reed had no time to react. The shadows would protect him, but Quinot... Reed grabbed him, hunched over him, hoping for the best. Hoping nothing would happen.
Nothing did. There was a thump. A hiss of frustration, some more thumps. Reed opened his eyes. Ogres were approaching him. He turned and saw a spider lying squashed amidst three bolders. He faced the Ogres, and gave a weak smile. His hurt ankle buckled, and he feinted on his way to the ground.
Reed opened an eye. The light wasn't too bright, so he risked opening another. Arleena sat on the side of his bed, smiling at him. "Going alone, that's just like you."
"Not alone. Gilli was with me."
Arleena smiled. "So who did that to you. You've sprained your ankle."
Reed looked away. "I need to train jumping off wyverns..."
Arleena chuckled. "You're a menace mostly to yourself, aren't you?"
"Where are we, here?" Reed asked.
"Castle Cleft," a voice said. Reed turned his head into the general direction and found Gravin standing at the footend of his bed. "I wanted to thank you. You saved my brother."
"Quinot... is he well?"
Gravin nodded. "He calls you Uncle Reed. I owe you a favour."
Reed shrugged. "Fine. I'll remind you when the time comes. You do know that I did it for your sister."
Gravin bowed his head. He had been looking kind of downcast. "She's dead. I'm almost certain."
Reed took the words in, one after the other. They didn't make sense. At least, they shouldn't. "Can you trust your sources? I mean she's... she can't just..."
Gravin stared blankly. "We are... we were twins. She was a powerful telepath. I'd just stood there with your... letter in my hands when a terrible pain tore through my body and..." Gravin gulped. "...I knew she died, then."
Despite himself, Reed felt tears welling up in his eyes. There was a taste in his mouth. "Is it impolite, if I cry now?" he asked, having trouble keeping his voice stable.
And Gravin made a funny noise, which could have been a burst of laughter or a single sob.
April 22nd, 2004, 02:18 PM
The rocks were casting protective shadows at Gina and Arleena while Reed sat in the light. The immediate area around Reed was curiously free of tumult. The elves knew him, and the kobolds... either the elves told them, or they had an instinct for magical mayhem lurking in the shadows.
"You shouldn't have followed us," Reed said to Gina. "Actually, she shouldn't have followed me," he added and pointed at Arleena.
"I'm not going to leave you. You're going to do something stupid, and we all will have to deal with the consequences."
"What are you up to, I wonder?" asked Gina.
Reed grinned. "Protecting the lot of you from me."
"The Shadow Legion?"
"I wonder, if that's all you're up to, though," Gina said. "You've been moving easily through the enemies, haven't you."
"Somebody has to keep an eye on me, huh?" Reed shrugged. "You're welcome to stay."
Arleena looked across the battle field. "Do you think the walls create enough shadows to shield the castle? If the Legion were triggered out here?"
Gina looked at Arleena, thinking. "We've got the most powerful army around here, haven't we?"
"An entire battlefield?" Reed sounded perplexed. "Are you out of your mind? I've triggered them twice, which is bad enough. I'm not going to let them gain on me. I'm not sure if they control me as it is, but after something as big as that..." His arms fanned out, indicating the army before them.
"Relax," said Gina. "It was just an idea."
Suddenly, a Kobold rushed towards Reed. Others bellowed towards him, but he didn't listen. His head was a bloody mess, his eyes half swollen. The Kobolds around him bellowed to each other and then dashed away with high velocity. The Kobold must have lost it... Damaged senses, damaged brains. Lots of pain and easy human target...
Gina was reaching for a throwing dagger, when a well placed arrow pinned the crazed Kobold to the ground. A split second's gurgle, and then nothing.
"They must be afraid of you," mumbled Gina in awe.
"Can you blame them?" Arleena asked. "There's something that puzzles me, though." She was scanning the shadows for movement.
An elf approached, ignoring both Gina and Arleena. "You would be the gambler?"
"Greetings from an old acquaintance. You've got yourself some bodyguards."
"Acquaintance?" asked Gina.
Reed shrugged. "Woman. Looks about my age. Small but lithe and agile?"
"Ah, you know who I am talking about." The elf smiled and then was gone.
Gina stared at Reed and Arleena. "What acquaintance?" she asked.
"We knew her as Suzé," said Arleena. "In this world, she's played an important roll in creating the Kult'ar. Where we come from... Well, let me tell you that this one isn't the first Kult'ar we're involved with... And we think, she may have triggered the last one."
[Edited out reference to Advisor. Seemed too silly, and not really needed.]
April 22nd, 2004, 02:52 PM
"This ends now..." said Albert, "this world is about to implode and I have made up my mind how to stop it."
Tha Hat Man paced towards Tularis and Juzzza, standing in-between the warriors.
"Our top priority is still to retrieve the Kult'ar, I will take Juzzza with me to the Underdark... I suggest you send Xhao with Myst, Kahn and Red to the Ice Kingdoms for this Amulet... Will you stand against this Adviser's men Master Assassin?"
Tularis faced Albert and nodded, "I will," he said. "But how do you intend to get to the High Valley so quickly, only a mage has the capability to withstand the pressure of such high speed travel?"
"A half mage will survive old boy, a little rough around the edges, but he will survive... He comes from strong stock does the Rogue."
Juzzza looked over to his mother.
"You are a high mage?" he asked. Alice smiled apologetically and shook her head.
"No, but your father was... Is," she said.
Everyone turned to face Albert, who smiled, swept off his hat and took a bow.
"Time for explanations later, come Juzzza we have work to do and Tularis... Forgive your daughter, she was only trying to be there for her brother, she had no idea his narcotics would be used for such a purpose and the Crystal City as well as Derudin are just as guilty for trading with this, soon-to-be dead Advisor."
Juzzza allowed himself to be lead towards the trees, his mother wiped some blood from his face and kissed his cheek. The Rogue smiled and kissed her back. As he walked away, he took a last look at Mystiqe, who had awoken in Red's lap and had rolled away from the man. Her eyes locked onto his own but she could not speak.
The mounted Elves began to bang weapons and shields, psyching themselves up for the impending battle.
Howls came from the Barbarian Horde and from behind the cavalry, Elvish archers ran forward to take position, their poison-tipped arrows strung.
Albert placed a hand around Juzzza's shoulders.
"Quite a day hey my lad," it was more of a statement than a question.
"We can't destroy the Kult'ar," said Juzzza.
"We can lad, it's whether we choose to or not."
Juzzza slipped the Hat Man's arm from his shoulder, "you know where it is don't you?"
Albert nodded, his smile gone.
"I helped Danika... Place it there," he said.
"What are your intentions then?"
Albert sighed as he walked, "I had hoped we could readdress the balance, but magic has gone haywire in this world. I thought if I could remove the threat of the Kult'ar, help Tularis become emperor, man and Elf could live together in peace and the magic would find its equilibrium... I was wrong."
"So what now?" the Rogue asked impatiently.
"Well lad, the Elves made the bloody thing and they are going to have to pay the price I am afraid... It is the only way to rid this world of the Advisor, prevent the war and restore the balance... Well, actually it will tip the balance completely the other way but with your help I think some mage magic could help this world back on its feet."
Juzzza stopped walking.
"You mean you are going to unleash the Kult'ar to wipe out magic? But that would mean killing... And Myst... No, we can't do it, what the hell gives you the right?" Juzzza had drawn his sword.
"Don't be foolish boy," warned Albert.
April 22nd, 2004, 07:46 PM
"Well, we can't sit around here all day, can we?" said Arleena.
Reed shrugged. "I can. What else remains to be done?"
Gina looked at him curiously. "I don't know, saving the world maybe?"
Reed turned to her. "Yeah, the world. I almost forgot. Silly me."
"Okay, okay. No need to..." Gina started but she got cut short by a familiar voice.
"One of his moods coming up. Don't worry, they always go." Gilli drifted into the scene from above, the Chrysalis glowing in her chest like a luminous heart.
"It's a mess," Reed mumbled. "I've come along to help Dani, and what good did it do her?"
"Gravin didn't tell you then?" Reed smiled. "Perhaps he's got issues with the rogue, then. I wouldn't be surprised."
Arleena gave Reed a sardonic grin. "You know what. You're right. It's a mess. And you know what else? You're part of it. I say, there's only one thing we can do between the lot of them. And that's talk to Suzé."
"Don't know where she is," said Reed.
"Well, ask, then," said Arleena.
Reed stared at her for a while. "Very well, then." He turned to Gina, "That may be a bit unsettling, if you haven't seen them before."
The shadows started pulsing and, finally, spit out a vaguely humanoid form.
"I thought of your new bodyguards," Arleena muttered under her breath.
"There are other things I would know," said Reed flatly.
"Ah, yes, the Channel. You are silent. Don't speak to us. We miss you."
Arleena turned to the shadows with a sneer. "Well, I did not miss you."
"You can call these... things? They... talk to you?"
The shadow turned and got closer to Gina. She didn't flinch, but her heart beat quite a bit. "Who is this? Who calls us a thing?" the figure rasped.
Reed shrugged. "A friend. And I found her discription of you highly accurate, thing."
The shadow drifted to Reed, "So what is it this time? What information does the vortex need?"
"The shield. The stasis. The prison." Reed looked at them.
"The shield, yes. Gone at last. No more guardian. The prison for the taking, and yet. We cannot feel it. It does not pull us, like it used to. It tears us apart. Comes from everywhere. We don't understand."
Arleena mumbled, "A different power may be hiding the Kult'ar from the shadows. Or history re-arranges once again."
"The Paradox. She told us, " Gina said, pointing at Gilli, "and I still don't understand."
Gilli beamed. "You remember? How nice of you!"
Reed asked with a frightening calmness, "And the Stasis?"
"You seek her? Yes, you must. You must destroy her. Go find her where the dark ones live. Get close enough and she will find you."
"I must destroy her?" asked Reed.
"Yes. Or she will destroy us." The shadow saw Reed waving it away, and blended once again with the surroundings.
Reed bit his lip. "Arleena, Gina, Gilli. Magic will hibernate again, everything points to that."
"And all magical creatures will die," Gina added.
Arleena shook her head. "Magic goes, life stays. They will not die, but they will transform."
Reed just stood there, "You know, I'm scared."
Arleena scoffed, "Well, tell me news."
Reed smiled bitterly. "Up to now, the worst has been mortal fear. Now I fear immortality. There isn't a worse fate. Not if you're me."
Arleena frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Gilli slipped into his mind, and gasped.
"I can understand her, now," Reed muttered.
"Who? Suzé?" Arleena looked confused.
Reed nodded. "It's a suicide plan. The mortal part of immortality wants to die."
And then it dawned on Arleena: "And once Suzé is dead..."
"What's going on? This is unfair. Tell me, what's going on!" Gina looked from Arleena to Reed, from Reed to Arleena.
Gilli spoke, instead. "Let's assume someone uses the Kult'ar, and deletes most magic from this world. Most, not all, because there are autonomous pockets of magic. Suzé, but also Reed, Arleena and Aynsley. You don't know him, but that doesn't matter. Now, Arleena will die one day, releasing what little magic she had inside into the world. No harm, here. But Reed... he's called to the shadows, you know. If he dies, he won't simply free the shadows. He'll merge with them. And walk a magically barren world, the only child of magic left..."
"Suzé's successor... I wonder what she was like, all those cycles ago?" Reed stared into space.
"It's just a theory..." Arleena said. "We need to find Suzé."
Reed turned to Gina. "We can drop you off at the castle, if you like."
This was to be placed in before the battles with the drow really started. I wrote it last night and tried to post it, but for some reason it didn't take.
Twelve drow crossbowmen moved quickly through the forest. They stepped quietly over the soft ground leaving no trace that they had been past.
Yestle, the leader, commanded his men in silence. They moved sporatically, stopping when necessary... listening to the sounds of the night forest, and them moving on.
They crested a hill on the northeast side of Nedrak's village, and stopped. Down. Yestle slunk into a small patch of grass and observed.
There were humans among them. Wild ogres slept around large, smouldering fire pits, drooling on themselves. The humans slept in blankets and ground sheets, necessary to keep them dry. The intelligence was correct. Nedrak had gone back on his word.
The purpose of the attack was to hit, then run. It would put the enemy on edge - keep them from resting - cause confusion.
The drow leader waved his men into position. One hundred yards out, nestled in the trees, they wouldn't be seen. Yestle climbed at tree, pulling his lean body out onto a low branch where he had a perfect line of sight into the village. By the time the ogres figured out what had happened the drow would all be safely back at camp.
Yestle pulled a long crossbow quarrel from his quiver and loaded it into his weapon. Then he broke a small glass vile over top of the metal tip - concentrated neuberry extract. It wasn't a typical poison. It killed slowly - making the victim delerious and crazy - sometimes even suicidal.
His men all knew to wait for his signal. Carefully he selected a target - one of the humans. A female, sleeping alone. One likely to scream when the poison entered her mind.
Yestle took aim.
The chain wrapped around his neck - tight. A yank puled him off balance, and he fell out ofthe tree.
He tried to scream, but he couldn't breathe. The chain was too tight. He scrambled for his crossbow, but the caped man holding the chain drew him forward.
Yestle looked him in the eyes for just a moment. One eye. The other was covered with a black patch, with a silver emblem eteched into it. No strap held it secure. Little screws bolted it straight to his skull.
Suddenly the chain drew him up and over his assailant's shoulder, and dropped him on the ground, breaking his neck.
The ogres weren't so elegant. On signal, the pounced.
Heavy battle axes came down hard on the prone, drow, crushing them all with single, powerful, precise blows.
Then like clockwork, the ogres slipped back into the night.
White moonlight broke sporatically through the clouds as they shifted in the sky above. It made the forest shadows dance - and seem to move. The gentle gurgles of the brooke muffled the forest sounds. It was a bad place for a meeting. Lieutenant Clinton Ash hoped that the captain wouldn't say anything.
He appeared just on time, leading twelve ogres in single file along a small path the Ash hadn't even noticed existed. He didn't know what it was about the number twelve that Captain Arkell liked so much. But it was no surpirse that he had exactly twelve ogres behind him. All of them slung bloody axes over their shoulders. All of them stopped behind their leader.
"Sir," Ash saluted.
Arkell returned the gesture, snapping into a rigid stance himself. "Stand easy, lieutenant" he said. Then he quickly turned to the ogres. "That goes for you as well. Stand easy. You all performed excellent tonight. You bring honour to your houses and your colleagues will all be proud. Now go to ground - and get some rest."
As the rest of the ogres made their way into the forest, away from the clearing, one remained with his fist in the air.
"Yes, Trooper Crushsnort. What is it?"
"Um, me have to pee, sir."
The ogre wanderd off into the forest - away from the others.
Then Arkell finally returned to his junior officer. "How are you holding up?" he asked.
"I can't believe that fool, Gravin. Yesterday he led his party right into Nedrak. It was only by blind luck that he managed to survive."
"He has some good company with him."
"Tonight, he just went to sleep in Nedrak's village. No patrols. No guards. Maybe he thinks those wild ogres will protect him. I don't think he understands how fragile his alliance with Nedrak really is.
"And get this... he calls me Corporal Clash. I can understand the ogres running my names together, but a lord? And a corporal of all things? Believe me, I wanted to take my imperial commission and shove it up his..."
"Easy lieutenant. Gravin holds an imperial title and we owe him all the rights he is due. Despite his... idiosyncracies."
"I don't know why you have such a strong allegiance to him, sir." Clash had to pull his cape tight around his body. The night air was getting cold and making him shiver. Arkell seemed unaffected.
"How is Sergeant Hornsmash doing?"
"I think the LRI have come to accept him."
"Good. I was worried about him." The captain walked over to the brook and began to clean off his boots. "It is quite the task we have before us. Do you think you're ready for it, lieutenant?"
"My cohort is always ready, sir."
"I asked if you were ready. I know the ogres are."
"I am ready, sir." Clash paused. "Yes. Absolutely."
"I want you to do what you can to look out for Lord Gravin."
April 23rd, 2004, 02:37 AM
Albert looked at Juzzza's sword tip, then at the man. Juzzza's left foot had slipped back, left arm out for balance. His body had bent and he balanced lightly on the balls of his feet. Not bad Albert thought, could do with relaxing a little; the muscles in his right shoulder are too tense
Juzzza lunged and spat "We are not going to do it..."
Albert back stepped drew his own sword and ran the silvered blade down Juzzza's, the steel rasping. He tried not to laugh "Temper, temper..."
"You have never seen me lose it, yet..." Juzzza, tapped Albert's blade, disengaged, lunged, Albert parried and they danced sideways deeper under the trees, last year's dry, brittle foliage cracking under their feet.
“Ditto, old fruit,” Albert laughed out loud now and took Juzzza’s strike on the flat of his blade. He blocked every move of the Rouge’s but did not attempt to strike back. This made Juzzza’s temper rise. It blazed and it showed in the manner of his fighting, he was angry and tired and began to make mistakes.
“Never got chance too,” Juzzza bellowed.
“Oh, bloody hell, we don’t need that.” Albert snorted. “I was about quite a lot, you just didn’t see me as me.. Your mother didn’t want me interfering, her right, thought I might drag you into the trouble that follows me about.”
“I resemble that remark” Daniel commented from the tree tops, adding “We are running out of time, if you two will stop playing?”
“ I am not playing,” Juzzza grunted and lunged. Albert parried, then swiftly stepped in, his sword going through Juzzza’s guard, striking the rouge’s blade away, as his left arm whipped out and snagged the rouge’s sword arm. Albert’s blade by this time was side on, hard against Juzzza’s windpipe.
“Neither am I,” Albert hissed. “Fact one, I have had 500 years practice at “playing” with swords.” The ground beneath their feet began to give way, not so much as falling away, but disappearing. “Fact two, I didn’t choose to come here, not completely. I am doing the powers that be's dirty work and like all such powers, they don’t give you enough time or the right equipment to do the job. They call it natural selection.” Juzzza snorted and his eyes widened. He and Albert were falling
“Here we gooooooooooooooooooo.” Daniel called as he dived past the two men into the spiralling whirlpool they were being sucked into.
“Fact three, the powers that be have others working on this, or interfering, call it interdepartmental rivalry. If I don’t get the job done, they will. Then there is the rouge element.” Albert grinned at his son and pushed the blade harder into Juzzza’s neck. “Fact four the Kult'ar is flawed. It will destroy magic, but and this is the but, those magical beings close to it when it goes boom will go boom right away of that I am sure. The rest, well with luck the Kult’ar will be the pin hole in the bath tub. The magic will leak away slowly, by the time all the magic is gone the magical races will have evolved. Fact five. That has started in some ways and if the Kult’ar punches a bloody great hole in the bath, I promise to get them out of here.” As he spoke Albert pushed himself back, removing the blade from Juzzza’s throat.
Juzzza fell backwards into nothingness between one place and the next, bellowing. “What do you mean, get them out of here, the elves? All the magical races or just Myst and a few others?”
“You must be bloody joking, he can’t do that, the high ups would fire him,” Daniel appeared and sat on Juzzza’s chest, breathing smoke into the Rouge’s face. “He means FAMILY this generation and the next.”
“Huh?” Juzzza grunted as he slammed hard onto the cold hard ground that appeared under him.
“Slow on the uptake isn’t he,” Daniel remarked caustically
April 23rd, 2004, 11:31 AM
Behind the massed ranks of dark elf troops, Mystiqe rose to her feet and headed over to the brown horse. Tularis broke away from shouting out commands and strode after her, black cane clicking against the ground. She ignored him and reached for the reins, preparing to mount. He stepped forward to block her and placed a gloved hand over her fingers. The leather was cold and hard against her skin.
"Myst, wait", Tularis said sharply.
She stiffened, and turned towards her father, eyes guarded.
The assassin hesitated, searching for words. "I had no choice. I couldn't let you know i was alive. You had to believe Juzzza killed me. It was the only way."
"The only way?", she snapped, tugging her hand free.
"It had to be convincing", he replied, silvery eyes cold and empty. "Only Xhao knew the truth."
Tularis fell silent, lips pressed into a tight line.
Mystiqe glared at him, eyes flashing in the sunlight. "Either you set him up, knowing how much he means to me, or...".
The words evaporated. She backed away from the assassin, refusing to consider the alternative.
"Or what?", Tularis asked sardonically, ebony features impassive.
She ran her fingers through her hair, brushing it aside. "Or... you planned the whole thing together", she said quietly, lost in thought.
There was no time for Tularis to answer. Trumpets blared across the plains. Spinning around, he saw dark plumes of smoke rising above Catfish Walk. Burning arrows lit up the sky.
"The town, it's under attack", Jared shouted. "The b******s have come along the river".
"*****", Tularis swore in Elvish. "We'll turn back to defend Catfish."
"What?," Mystiqe yelled at her father, "We're just going to leave them?". She pointed to the dark shapes swarming across Yor Hills.
"Ignore them!," Tularis shouted back, running to vault onto his black steed. "It will take them a day or two to reach here. We can't risk getting trapped. If they come from Yor Hills, Tin Hills and Catfish, we'll be caught in a pincer movement."
Mystiqe leapt onto her brown horse, kicking it hard to follow the master assassin. He was frantically shouting out orders in the elvish tongue. The black armour of the dark elf troops moved in unison. Two units of swordsmen whirled and marched, longswords raised. The crest of Derudin glinting on their silver shields. Cavalry horses neighed and reared, turning tightly under the grip of their riders.
Hooves cut through mangled grass. Mystiqe forced her horse onwards, determined to catch Tularis at the head of the army. Red raced across the plain on foot, dodging through the pounding cavalry, chasing after her long white hair. A black steed rose above him, hooves thrashing the air. He ducked under the descending hooves, missing them by inches. Dark elf expletives rang out. With a desperate lunge, he grabbed the reins of Mystiqe's horse, clinging onto them, breathless.
"Myst, wait", he gasped, running alongside her. "I haven't got a horse. I'm gonna get left behind."
"Jump up", she called, reigning the horse in and offering her hand.
Red gripped it firmly and leapt up behind her, arms around her waist. "Thanks, angel".
"My pleasure". She grinned, driving the horse after Tularis once more.
A flurry of manes and stampeding hooves wheeled to a halt. They fell silent in the slashing rain, water rebounding off their riders. Tularis sat tall in the saddle, gloved hand held upright. He stared intently at the small harbour town.
Set upon a hill, the walls of Catfish Walk loomed, strong and forbidding. Throngs of berserkers charged up the slope, green banners jerking in the galeforce wind. A surging mass of grey and red, wolf hides drenched in paint and blood. Pushing, pressing, screaming, chanting. Pulsating to the rhythm of drums. Forwards, forwards, always forwards. Howling like beasts, moving as one.
Boulders crashed down on them, volleyed and thundered. Arrows flew from loopholes, leaving wolves sundered. Left and right, the fallen sank, trampled and forgotten. But still they pressed on, storming the verboten. Towards the walls, death plunged, against the gates, wolves lunged. Ladders crashed against the stone, repelled by courage alone. Fang and claw breached the town, flashing in the air. Boiling tar poured down, drowning the bugles blare. Wood and metal twisted, as the gates were torn apart. Now all that existed was a wall of flesh and heart.
April 25th, 2004, 08:50 PM
A thud, as the rogue hit the ground, a cling as his blade followed. A soft hissing sound as air escaped his lungs. A deliberate utterance?
A fire drake sat on his chest. "Slow on the uptake, isn't he?" he said.
And there was the highmage, blade drawn.
Suzé stepped forward, smiling. "Love makes you living things quite predictable, doesn't it?" The highmage turned to look at her, no surprise visible on his face. "You're here to retrieve the Kult'ar, I assume?"
"Maybe, maybe not," the highmage said.
"Well, it was here, so much is certain." Suzé said with a yawn. When nobody reacted, she went on speaking, anyway. "I intended to wait, pick up the vibrations, and join you once you've arrived."
"And yet you're here before us," the highmage replied. "Well done."
Suzé smiled. "You didn't think I wouldn't feel its activation, did you?"
The rogue gasped. "Magic or telepathy?"
And Suzé smiled at the rogue. "Neither. Somebody very naughty flipped the switch I included." She squinted at the highmage. "And there aren't many who could know about that."