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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Ariana Page 29 Book 3

Mavigan was more than a little surprised at the utter joy with which Sabbatine latched onto her soiled and bloodied rag. The creature seemed to be actually gleeful, and seemed to attach more significance to the “present” than had been intended. Mavigan had no intention of disabusing her of that misunderstanding however, and simply put the clean rag Sabbatine had thrust into her hands into a pocket for later use.

Thankfully, Teran had arrived to shorten the awkward and uncomfortable situation. He made an attempt at an inspirational speech, but Mavigan only listened with half an ear. There was something tingling at the very edge of her senses, something hanging just out of sight, and it was driving her to distraction. Even with her attention diverted, however, she managed to get the gist of his message – shove Sabbatine out front. It was a strategy that made sense to her, so when the group began moving again, Mavigan trailed behind. She often looked over her shoulder as if she expected something to be there – yet the space behind her remained empty.

As they trudged ahead, there were even more things to distract Mavigan from the task at hand. People, hundreds of them, of all different races in large cages. Dirty, malnourished, and emaciated, Mavigan could feel their eyes burning into her as they moved past. Teran moved past without so much as a glance in their direction; Mavigan could not do the same. “The man is heartless!” she thought to herself as she gave up trying to ignore the pleading stares and made her way to a cage full of humans. She reached a hand into her pouch feeling for her lockpicks as she looked for the door to the cage.

There wasn’t one.

Mavigan’s brow scrunched up with confusion and she searched the cage again, lockpicks held tightly in one hand. No, she had not made a mistake. There was no door, no lock to pick. Uttering a curse, she replaced the picks and stared at the floor. She was too cowardly to look these hopeless people in the eye and tell them she could not help them. Instead, she kept her head bowed, muttered a quick apology and hurried to catch the rest of the group, a deep seated anger slowly starting to burn in her belly.

She stopped herself at the door, nearly choking on the smells coming from the next chamber. Seeing the floor was nothing more than a pool of blood, Mavigan stayed near the door with Keeryn, who seemed to be having difficulties. “No way am I stepping that that!” she thought to herself.

Once the large abomination dropped to the floor, Mavigan was doubly glad she hadn’t stepped forward into the gunk. When Teran indicated retreat, Mavigan was more than ready. She stepped back from the door to allow room for the others, and took a minute to study the beast. To her eyes, it appeared to be covered in a bright sheen – but the sheen appeared to have myriad cracks. These cracks seemed to follow the seams from which the monster was put together.

“Interesting,” she thought, taking another couple steps backwards. She wasn’t sure what she was seeing, but she had a distinct feeling it was important. Taking note, and waiting a time to test her brewing theory, she concealed herself in the nearest pile of deep shadow.

Written by - Archeantus

"Aye, master Archeantus, let us leave. We seem to have worn our welcome thin here. I will follow, the rest of you leave first."

Thankfully resting on Vylia’s steady arm, he nodded to Turin’s comment and allowed himself to be helped out the back door.

Feeling the afternoon’s sun beat on his face, he took in the smells and sounds around him. The pulse of the city came in waves. Rumors and laughter, whisperings, hopelessness, darkness all came to his mind. There was little honor left in Ancora, only a few who believed, but they were there, most living pretended lives, a façade of cynicism and feigned laughter.

Archeantus then hear Turin’s voice again, clear and firm. "We need shelter to hide from these people and the guards until we are ready. Something near the town square is preferable. Anyone know of such a place?"

He then heard Ardwen, for the first time in ages. He held reservations, and far more. Archeantus then focused on the elven warrior. An eyebrow rose slightly upon the realization that much had changed within him. Even on the surface of Ardwen’s mind, the old warlock could sense great doubt, and yet at the same time, a budding hope, an exceeding dim hope that even the warlock could not pin down as to what it was in.

“So much confidence he’s gained, on so little faith.” Archeantus whispered inwardly, marveling at how far his old friend had come on his own merits.

He listened as Turin spoke to him. He could sense the kinship buried there between the two. Much would happen that would kindle the spark of trust and friendship in the coming days between them, great difficulties.

Turin’s voice pierced his thoughts again, now directing it toward him. “If Archeantus has the strength for one more of those spells that affects the minds of the mob, then we may have a chance to get Ariana clear, once we free her."

He followed Turin’s line of thought and directed his wizened head toward the barracks.

“When the moment arrives, you can trust I’ll rise to it.” Archeantus said, eager to see a plan emerging, and eager to follow Turin into battle once more.

Some began to move toward the barracks quickly following Turin’s directive. But Archeantus stayed a moment longer to overhear the last few words between Ardwen and The Priest of Battle.

“My lord Turin,” Ardwen began, “I’m sorry . . .” Ardwen paused, standing slight away from, “Your plan is fine. But know this: I won’t lose any of you again, and hell take the costs in life! I tried Turin . . . on Aerynth . . . I tried.”

Archeantus then understood without having to dive into Ardwen’s mind any longer.

Aerynth had taken its toll.

He heard him inhale sharply and sighing, then spoke a question, “We have some catching up to do I’m afraid. But first, the warlock you met . . . is it really Archeantus?”

Such a question caused the old warlock to smile. Without speaking aloud, allowing the moment to pass between the two, he said to himself, “Yes Ardwen, even I wonder sometimes.”

Stepping forward toward the barracks, with the help of his staff, he added, “We’ve both changed.”

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm waited until Teran had led his group away from the room. Then he quietly called his troop into the room to regroup and refresh themselves, although the mages maintained their concealment spell. He found the map that Teran had left behind on the table and studied it. The room he was standing in had several odd markings. He saw that Teran had marked three locations, two rooms and a passageway, as the marks were still fresh. Likely the last was their next route and the first two were to be investigated. He showed the map to Resini.

"It does look like Teran wanted us to investigate those two rooms," Resini replied, "and we had best do so together. Since we will be leaving this area unguarded and more dark cultists are likely to arrive, let us leave a distraction."

Resini explained and Wilhelm chuckled and nodded. They went back to the room full of dead cultists and drenched one of the bodies with blood from the blood-filled urn. They then dragged it back into the main room leaving a trail of smeared blood as if a dying man had dragged himself into that room before he died. They then scattered the other bodies and doused them with the rest of the blood, as if they had all died messily in that room. In the main room Resini took the dead mans blood smeared hand and with it wrote in blood on the floor the name BERIDANE.

After a final cleanup they then left and made their way to the first room. What must have been a concealed panel was standing open and the signs of a magical struggle were obvious from the scorches and melting ice chunks plus the three dead mages. While Wilhelm looked through the scorched documents scattered about, Resini led the other mages in a Divination and then reported that this appeared to be a magical watch station where those three mages had been scrying the intruders before they were slain, presumably by Teran.

Wilhelm realized that the odd markings on the map in the room they had left represented the members of Teran's party. The lack of such markings in the corridors outside that room showed that Resini's wards had held and Wilhelm's party had not been detected. Wilhelm extended his tracking sense towards the other marked room, while Resini cast his own shielded scrying spell, and they both noted the presence of three mages in that room, which was likely another such hidden watch station.

With the mages taking turns maintaining a sheild against magical detection, Wilhelm's troop made their way carefully towards the other watch station. Wilhelm's tracking sense allowed them to avoid several groups of cultists moving towards the main room behind them. He hoped the distraction there would sow confusion among them.

They crept up to the concealed panel entrance to the second watch station and Wilhelm placed his ear to the panel so he could better understand the muffled voices they heard from within. One voice inside then increased in excitement enough for Wilhelm to hear it clearly.

"Hah, we have them trapped. They have entered the lair of the Abomination. All we have to do is send our forces to bar their way back and the Abomination will take care of them for us. Jornan, run to the Watch and have them seal off the Abomination's larder."

Wilhelm quickly motioned the others to prepare, and he stepped to the side and readied his hammer. The panel opened and a roibed figure stepped out hurredly. Stepping in from behind Wilhelm felled him with a smahing blow to the head. Meanwhile the room practially exploded as the four mages paired up to take out the other two mages in a dazzling barrage of spells. While the mages then panted and rested, Wilhelm led the others in a quick search of the room and found another marked map, which he added to the first. It appeared that there had only been two such hidden watch stations in this quadrant. They then sealed away the three dead mages in the room by closing the concealed panel and magically locking it in place.

"We must hurry," said Wilhelm, "as it appears that Mavigan may be in true danger from whatever this Abomination is." With the mages again taking turns maintaining the scry shield, Wilhelm then led his troop quickly but quietly towards the third place Teran had marked on the map.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen almost flinched from Turin's arm. It was an odd sensation; he had placed Turin and the rest of the Hands on a pedestal far above the trite morality and concern of other mortals. They were demigods, paragons of virtue and righteousness, and he had been completely sure that he would face a fierce rebuke for his actions. “I suppose,” thought Ardwen, “that I had forgotten they were also human, subject to the same vices and virtues, weaknesses and strengths, as other men.”

Ardwen turned to watch Kaya subdue two guards, one who looked like he was past his prime, and the other who looked too young to be soldiering at all. Ardwen shook his head slightly and leaned against the wall of a building adjacent to the guardhouse. The Elven warrior turned his gaze to Archeantus who was walking toward the guardhouse. Ardwen called out to him suddenly, “I think Kaya has this one. So long as she doesn’t attract an army of old men, children, and beggars I’m fine with however she deals with this pathetic lot. But Archeantus,” here Ardwen paused to shift his stance, he placed one foot flat against the wall of the building and crossed his arms, “do you not have even a minute to spare for an old friend? Far be it for one of Twilight born to question the flow of time, but it seems I’ve missed out on either a few decades or several millennia.”

Written by - Archeantus

Walking toward the unseen stucture of the barracks, he heard Ardwen's fiercely calm voice call out to him, mentioning one Kaya, who could take care of herself. Shifting his head slightly toward her direction, he paused, as if gauging the validity of the statement, and nodded in the affirmative. Turning, he stopped and faced Ardwen, who then added, "But Archeantus, do you not have even a minute to spare for an old friend? Far be it for one of Twilight born to question the flow of time, but it seems I’ve missed out on either a few decades or several millennia.”

"Ardwen, if I had my way, I'd spare several millennia to 'catch up'. In many ways," he paused here and slightly lowered his head downward perceptively, almost knowingly "it would take as long to come to know one another like we knew each other on Aerynth."

The wizened warlock lifted his head now, gray strands fluttering in the wind, a sad determination appearing on his weathered face.

"But time is not on our side, perhaps it never will be. Ariana's fate will be decided in the hour. When we have her secured safely in our hands once more, laid waste to the villiany at work here, then you shall have far more than a minute. We have much to discuss you and I."

Archeantus' sightless gaze lingered upon Ardwen.

"It's time to put all those years in Aerynth to the test."

With that, he turned back toward the barracks and began to walk.

Written by - Vylia

"Turin!" Vylia shouted to her old friend, pointedly ignoring the conversation between Arch and Ardwen, it wasn't her business what they discussed after all."If you all are going to dress up like good little guardsmen then I will take the roof near the event. I have twenty arrows left, and I intend at least two of them for the fool who thinks he can simply execute Ariana while I'm still alive. Show me where you plan to set up, and the fool on the platform dying could be a very good signal for the rest of you to move, no?"

Written by - Archeantus

The falling blood rain, seeped into her hair, her face. Jasmine, however, glared lividly at the monstrosity before her, the whites of her eyes seething through her dark hair.

As she slowly became more and more soaked in blood, something awoke inside of her.

Her passive streak ended. It was time to unleash the killer within her once more.

In the moment the beast swung at Teran, she darted forward, like a panther, her own “claw” clasped firmly in her cold deadened hand. It was almost startling how good it felt.

The beast knew she was coming, its many eyes and faces glared down at her, shifting to slay yet another. It’s large putridly green arm, reared back, the massive club in its clutches, and swung down toward the onrushing figure, seeking to splatter her into the bloody pool.

The club slammed into the pool in an explosion of blood, but Jasmine masterfully launched at the near perfect moment, and landed on the club itself. Taking the exact course she envisioned, she scurried directly up its Orcish arm, which immediately flew back in alarm, her dagger plunged into the thick skin and held onto the small bits of hair. Another smaller grabbing hand rushed toward her, and she swung expertly up and out of its grasp, wasted no time, and jumped onto the second arm hanging onto its grotesque forearm, and then to a third furry arm which joined the others, never taking her eyes off her goal. From the third arm, there for only the briefest of moments, she then jumped over a final swipe, twisting her body in the air, and planted her dagger firmly into the cold yellowish eyes of the Orcish face.

It let out a scream of terror, raising its multi-faced head upwards toward the raining bodies and fumbled backward. Able to slightly gain footing on its bloody chest, she pulled her dagger from its home, and kicked off, landing gracefully with a splash ten feet backward.

Not a second passed, and she flew forward again…

*****

Walking toward the barracks, Archeantus suddenly lifted his head to the skies. A small glowing orb had suddenly whisked down and flew erratically about his blindfolded face. It flashed and darted outward, pausing in a certain direction, and darted back, flying more erratic than before.

“She’s there now?” Archeantus said out loud so the others could hear. “Then we have far less time than we hoped.”

Over across the growing throngs of people that were now gathering in the main courtyard, hung the Abbess, there for all to see. Her face was marred with bruises and cuts, and dirt. Her once smooth and elegant hair fell raggedly down across her face. Many pointed, some jeered, some watched in silent curiosity. Guards were pouring in from every corner of the courtyard, some posted on the outside of the throngs of the crowd, others gathered around the platform where Ariana hung, creating a steel shield to ensure what was to happen, would happen, “at all costs” as they’d be commanded. There was a small portly man, clothed in royal garb directing them, who appeared anxious to begin.

It was dusk. The sun grew fainter by the minute, as it lowered downward toward its western resting place. Night was quickly coming.

Back near the barracks, Archeantus motioned to Turin.

“Lord Turin, I have been informed they have her hung from a post directly in the middle of the courtyard just west of us. There is already a great crowd forming there, and by the looks of it, three times as many guards as we’ve just faced.”

The old warlock then appeared to listen to his glowing friend once more.

“We need to act, and act now.” He said. “Secure your disguises quickly, I’ll provide the distraction, or rather my little friend will.”

Archeantus shifted his head back toward Angelus, who was now erratically floating around Turin, Ardwen, Vylia in turn, urging then onward.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn had been studying the beast, looking at it's movements in an attempt to find openings in it's defenses when Jasmine rushed in. Keeryn had to admit the woman was very fast, her series of acrobatic movements and attacks had little waste in them. If Keeryn didn't hate her for having attacked Mavigan before she would have admired Jasmine's prowess.

Instead she decided to take advantage of the situation, and as soon as Jasmine landed in the pool once again Keeryn charged in at the same time as Jasmine launched her second attack intending to use Jasmine as a distraction to strike at the beast's armpits when it raised it's arms to swing at the assassin.

****

“We need to act, and act now.” He said. “Secure your disguises quickly, I’ll provide the distraction, or rather my little friend will.”

Vylia smiled slightly at the eager bobbing of the creature in front of her before she brought herself back to the present. "Since we're short on time, and we now know the exact location the Abbess is being held I will head in ahead of the rest of you while you disguise yourselves. I'll climb the wall and attack from there when the signal is given, have Arch's little friend signal me when you wish to begin and I'll start by killing the bastard that intends to sacrifice her."

With that Vylia gives Archeantus' arm a light squeeze, "Stay safe my friend," before walking over to look Ardwenn in the face, staring up into his eyes. "You've changed, but remember that all people change, even the Deathless. There is great strength within you to draw on, as long as you can keep control of yourself," Vylia placed her right hand on his cheek, "You are not a killer in your soul, no matter what you may have done. I have Faith that you will do the right thing from this moment on, let your mistakes be forgotten and forgiven." Her emphasis on the word Faith obvious as she leaned up and kissed him lightly on the other cheek before sprinting off to the castle wall.

It didn't take her long once she had left the group to reach the walls, even slinking through the city's backstreets and alleyways. The layout was familiar, almost like being home after so long. As she climbed the wall she thought to herself with a slight grin on her face, How is it, that as tenacious as humans are, and as many structures as they face, that they always neglect to smooth the outer walls when they are done? Vylia stopped just below the battlements and listened for any guards patrolling it. After a few seconds her keen ears picked up the rattle of chainmail heading her direction as she flattened herself against the wall.

As soon as the guard has walked passed her she slid quietly over the edge and behind the guard silently drawing the shorter of her two blades. "Excuse me, I was wondering if you could help me with something." As the guard turned, a surprised look on his face, Vylia stabbed him through the eye into his brain. She grimaced in disgust at having to kill, even if the man did serve an evil master, before cleaning her blade on the man's tabard. She quickly sheathed the sword, then pulled her bow over her shoulder and looked both directions for any other guards nearby, an arrow knocked and ready...

Written by - Archeantus

"Stay safe my friend." He heard Vylia say, a comforting squeeze upon his arm.

"You as well Lady Vylia. For the All-Father and Saint Lorne."

He heard her speak to Ardwen, nodded at her words, and then heard her quick steps fade off in the distance.

"All-Father go with you Vylia," He whispered to himself, "All Father be with us all."

Written by - Ardwen

"Ardwen, if I had my way, I'd spare several millennia to 'catch up'. In many ways," Archeantus began, "it would take as long to come to know one another like we knew each other on Aerynth." Ardwen noticed a look of steel cross over the warlock's face, the wind picked at his hair and grey strands fluttered in the waning light.

"But time is not on our side, perhaps it never will be. Ariana's fate will be decided in the hour. When we have her secured safely in our hands once more, laid waste to the villiany at work here, then you shall have far more than a minute. We have much to discuss you and I." Archeantus finished calmly.

Ardwen had the strangest sensation pass over him. He knew that Archeantus was now blind, but he could practically feel his eyes staring at him, as if he were using some vision that was not based on sight. Ardwen chalked it up to his nerves and shook off the feeling in his mind.

Archeantus had but one more thing to say before continuing toward the barracks, "It's time to put all those years in Aerynth to the test." Ardwen simply let out a soft "hmm" to himself and remained leaning against the barracks. Briefly he wondered when it would become obvious that he had no expedient means of starting a fire.

Ardwen noticed something else a few moment later, a glowing point of light and fire began to dance around Archenatus's head. Ardwen thought he recognized it as a pheonix, a familiar of sorts that summoners could conjure. "Was Archeantus always a summoner? I do not think . . ." Ardwen thought, before letting the thought die off, it seemed so trite in light of all the other changes.

What Archeantus said next though, was anything but trite, “We need to act, and act now.” Secure your disguises quickly, I’ll provide the distraction, or rather my little friend will.”

Ardwen was just about to walk over to the guardhouse when he heard Vylia speak, "Since we're short on time, and we know the exact location the Abbess is being held I will head in ahead of the rest of you while you disguise yourselves. I'll climb the wall and attack from there when the signal is given, have Arch's little friend signal me when you wish to begin and I'll start by killing the bastard that intends to sacrifice her."

What she did next however, surprised Ardwen. Vylia walked over and stared right into the warrior's eyes and said, ""You've changed, but remember that all people change, even the Deathless. There is great strength within you to draw on, as long as you can keep control of yourself," Ardwen kept a still poise as Vylia's right hand came up and rested on his cheek, "You are not a killer in your soul, no matter what you may have done. I have Faith that you will do the right thing from this moment on, let your mistakes be forgotten and forgiven." Ardwen couldn't but noticed the stress she placed on the word 'faith'. Then, she kissed the warrior on the other cheek before swiftly sprinting away to her sniping post.

Ardwen finally stopped leaning on the building next to the guardhouse. He watched as Vylia dissapeared amongst the streets and buildings of the city. "Vylia . . ." He said to the empty air, but he could find no more words. He could never seem to find the right words at the right moment. But he knew in his heart what he wanted to say, he wanted to say, "Thanks for believing in me, for all of you saying that it's worth saving me."

He walked over to the guardhouse and looked at the door, it was closed. Drawing the longer of his two remaining blades Ardwen held the blade over his head and brought it down in a shockingly fast arc, two sparks shot through the air and two rusted hinges hit the ground, cloven in twain. The door wavered and fell inward, it thumped against the floor and sent dust and dirt scattering in the orange evening sunlight. Ardwen looked passed the threshold and said loudly, "If anyone's in there and wants to live, then come out unarmed; don't do as I say and I'll kill you."

Ardwen nodded and said gruffly under his breath, "I'm getting soft on these barbarians."

Written by - Turin Wallace

Turin nodded, knowing full well that time was running out for them and for Ariana. Watching Ardwen break the door, Turin walked into the now empty guardhouse. Taking a look around, he then exits just as quickly. His search was only meant to be sure no one was left alive once the distraction was set.

Moving outside, Vylia had already left, and the others were waiting. Closing his robe, he nods to Archeantus, saying,

"Burn it down."

Pausing, he then continues,

"Once it is set aflame, we will head to the square where she is being held. Disguise yourselves as best you can and remember, once the killing starts protect Ariana, nothing else matters."

Giving each a long look, he finishes by saying,

"My friends, we have faced death before and tonight we shall do so again. We have courage, we have hope, we have faith and we have each other. Now, let's do what we all came here to do."

At a brisk pace, Turin leaves the burning guardhouse and moves quickly toward the sacrificial square with his friends.

Written by - Archeantus

"Burn it down."

It was time. He had his directive. The way was clear.

The old warlock lowered his head, and whispered mentally to his small little friend who was flying around and around and around its master’s hooded head, forming a sort of glowing crown in the dying light.

“Angelus, ignite.”

Upon the command, the fluttering ember suddenly pulsed in excitement as it shot upward in the air. It flew just above the tops of the roofs, overlooking the barracks. Swirling energies coursed around the small nucleus of flame that now gathered momentum and blazed brighter and brighter. It descended suddenly, now a ball of flame, a falling star. Moments before it burst through the upper window, near the top of the building, the ball of flame again transformed, and in a brilliant display, wings exploded outward from the center, and a loud shriek coursed through the air.

It echoed for only a moment down the streets, as clarion call to those who remembered it, those who had fought long ago in a long forgotten sundered world. It was the sound of warm harsh memories, the song of hope renewed.

It was the phoenix’s cry, the very sound of rebirth, and it went through those that had long ago called themselves the Hands like the warm sea wind of the eastern sea they each knew so well.

The next moment the flaming bird burst through the window in an explosion of embers and flame.

A few seconds later, the windows glowed with fire, which hungrily crept up the walls and burst out the roof, becoming pillars of dancing flames. Smoke poured upward, dark black ominous smoke.

Feeling the heat of the burning building, the destroying wind whipping his loose robes about him, the blind warlock turned away toward the direction Ariana was being held.

“There Turin, it is done.”

But he was not there, Turin had already launched forward down the cobbled street. Archeantus could hear them following him. He had the fleeting sensation of a single wish that would never be fulfilled. He wished he could had seen them, going to save her, their armor flashing in the setting sun.

Taking a breath, preparing himself, the warlock took his long staff, and pulled in a fluid motion, revealing a remarkably ashen blade of perfect straightness, a blade that hadn’t seen the light in ages, a blade once known as the Jen'e'tai.

The blind Warlock took the blade in both his weathered hands and burst into the air.

Written by - Tempyst

"Burn it down." Turin paused, then continued. "Once it is set aflame, we will head to the square where she is being held. Disguise yourselves as best you can and remember, once the killing starts protect Ariana, nothing else matters." Giving each a long look, he finishes by saying, "My friends, we have faced death before and tonight we shall do so again. We have courage, we have hope, we have faith and we have each other. Now, let's do what we all came here to do." Turins eyes caugher hers and she felt his gaze pierce her being.

Kaya disguised herself as best she could, but the best disguise was to keep her cloak up. She listened to the words of her new friends, then watched as the barracks caught fire and heard the scream ofthe phoenix. It was a cry that set hope in her heart and cleansed her soul. It felt good to have purpose again. Being a demon hunter gave her purpose, but she was used to fighting for the people with the people, and this was going to be a good fight. She turned and quickly caught up with Turin and the others, with Dorve close behind.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Alarin grinned as he swung his sword in a downward two-handed grip, the blade splitting through the helmet and skull of a doomed young man. The man who now lay crumpled at his feet was a militiaman for the city of Smarsh. This city was the last stepping-stone for the Army of Terror controlled by his Mistress, Kiradia. It was a small speck of a city compared to what Alarin planned to use his army to conquer but it controlled a large expanse of mountainous country that included a passage through the land into Orc territory. That passage would decrease the amount of men and animals Alarin would lose to rough terrain.

Looking across the horizon of the hill he stood on, Alarin watched as a small group of six plate armored, great sword wielding minotaurs charged into a group of Militiamen nearly triple their number. Even with such a difference of numbers, it was very nearly a slaughter, the small, weak men (with almost no training in war) only managed to kill one of the Minotaurs before they were brought down and butchered.

The king who ruled Smarsh was a fool, Alarin thought to himself. To believe an army like his could be defeated by a bunch of boys with toy swords was insulting. Alarin would make sure that king felt his blade, on the battlefield or the altar of terror, he would feel it.

Later that night…

As the army of Terror made camp for the night, and the men drank and diced and slept, Alarin came up on the lavishly large tent of his Mistress. All around the tent, and three at the entrance were men that even Alarin only barely understood. He could feel their power, the icy chill that went down even his spine. These men unnerved even the minotaurs with their quiet manner. They never spoke to you, though if you were denied entrance, you would know about it very quickly.

As it was, the men stood at attention, and the first man nodded his head slightly, letting Alarin through to enter the tent. Kiradia sat upon the floor, her legs crossed and her palms on her knees. In front of her was a floating orb of burning fire; the heat coming off it was enough to sear the skin off a dragon if you touched it. Alarin squinted, seeing that the same fire was reflected in the eyes of his Mistress.

Sitting on a comfortable chair, Alarin waited for Kiradia to finish her meditations. Knowing that to interrupt for any reason other than to protect her life was a death sentence in the making. As Kiradia slumped slightly the fire burned out, leaving nothing more than a dull black orb, which promptly fell to the ground with a duller thud.

Alarin silently handed his Mistress a glass of wine, which she drank slowly, “Thank you Alarin. Now, give me your report.”

“Yes Mistress. Today we fought a group of about five thousand men. Militia more like than not. We lost less than one hundred men. I expect the King to send out his entire army when he learns of the true size of our army, given that many of the Militia broke rank and ran like the dogs they were. Word of this will spread, and when we conquer Smarsh our coming will spread even more. These rumors will spread to Orcs first, and a few of the humans will survive the Orc lands and reach the Elven and Human lands to the west.”

“Very good Alarin, go now, I must rest. Tomorrow we will advance again.”

“Yes Mistress,” said Alarin, as he walks slowly out of the tent.

Written by - Archeantus

She dashed quickly along the shallow blood pool, directly toward the monstrosity. It had hardly gained its footing when it detected her coming at it again. Raising it's large arm which held the large club high into the air, it brought it down again, with a great splash of red, but Jasmine had beat it, and ran directly underneath the natty legs.

Again she launched upward, her dagger in her teeth, and began her ascent.

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