Post by Black Cat on Jul 23, 2009 0:28:58 GMT -5
Near the Alema Bridge
The horse was fast. It was one of the best stallions in the stables of the Monastery. However, its rider, Black Cat, didn't notice which one it was and he could care less about the name of his mount. Absorbed in his thoughts, the Grand Master of the order was thinking about the dangers that were lying ahead and also about the recent scenes he had seen back at the Monastery.
A few hours earlier, Kai Monastery
Black Cat was making sure that nothing was missing in his private quarters. Everything seemed fine: the Helghasts didn't took anything. It was probably concentrating on its mission.
Its mission... Black Cat was full of fear: the Helghast didn't have time to accomplish what he had been told to do here, at the Monastery. But now some high ranked Kai knew a little bit about what was the goal of the impostor, thanks to the psychic waves that had been released when the monster was torn apart by the power of the Lorestone.
The sound of the door closing brought back Black Cat to the present moment. Turning around, he saw Ghost bear, the Kai Lieutenant, looking at him with eyes that only meant one thing: he wanted to know.
"Things have been accomplished as you've asked: the Lorestone is back in the vault and the ashes had been clean. We did a kai Exorcism to remove all traces of the malevolent spirit inside these walls," said the Lieutenant.
"Good, good..." was the only replied he got.
Both men were keeping silent as Black Cat was packing up his backpack and changing his clothes for those of a commoner while Ghost Bear was glancing at him. The latter one finally broke the uneasy silence.
"Here are Illuminatus and Ikarna, milord" he said while handing over the two swords to his superior.
"Ha, yes, thank you. Wild Horse will be pleased to see his sword again..."
And then the silence was back, as heavy as a ghorkas standing on a roof made of straw. Soon enough, the pression would be unbearable and everything would collapse.
It was finally Black Cat that talked first. "Yes? You have anything else to say?"
"Ahem, yes, well, in fact, I... um..." Ghost Bear wasn't sure how to bring this to his leader.
Finding courage deep inside him, he finally asked: "What was this Helghast looking for? He was looking for someone, a girl. Who is it?"
Black Cat was unerved by the question. The long periods of silence that had been observe just moments ago had allowed him to think of a plausible answer when this question would be asked, as he knew that it would be asked one moment or another.
"Well... I'm not sure myself, but I think it was looking for one of our female recruits. Maybe was it a vengence of some kind? We'll never know now that the Helghast is dead..."
Ghost Bear did not fell for it. "The creature that gave the order to the Helghast to find 'her' said that she was 'kept' here, as if she was a prisoner or something. I doubt that it was looking for a recruit."
Black Cat scratched his head, as if he was thinking of the real reasons why a Helghast would come here in the Monastery. In reality, he was mad that Ghost Bear didn't swallow his lie.
"Well, you know, sometimes, we also hide high ranked persons here at the Monastery when their life is in danger, so maybe that's what he was looking for."
Ghost Bear replied: "The last time we hid someone was eight months ago and it was one of our spy hiding from the Darklands agents that were pursuing him inside this forest. I would had known if we were currently hiding someone else. I've been in charge of the Monastery for the past week during your absence, so I know that we are not hiding someone".
Black Cat was starting to show some nervous signs. "The maybe it's one of our prisoners?"
"But the prison is empty!" answered Ghost Bear.
The Supreme Master bursted. "THEN I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS LOOKING FOR! NOW LEAVE ME, I'M BUSY!"
That wasn't like Black Cat to act like this. "Milord, you are hiding something to me..." said Ghost Bear, a little bit shocked by the way his superior was acting.
"DAMMIT, GHOST BEAR, LEAVE ME ALONE! I'M NOT HIDING ANYTHING!"
This time, it was Ghost Bear that bursted: "BLACK CAT! A HELGHAST TOOK YOUR IDENTITY TO INFILTRATE THE MONASTERY LOOKING FOR SOMEONE. YOU CLEARLY KNOW WHO IT IS AND YOU ARE HIDING IT! THE WAY YOU ARE ACTING COULD PUT THE KAI ORDER IN DANGER IF YOU ARE NOT TELLING ME WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON."
Both men were standing in front of each other, looking into each other's eyes. They didn't know it, but some young Kai Masters had gathered in front of the door, surprised to hear the two highest ranked Kai Lord yelling at each other.
Slowly, the voice filled with menace, Ghost Bear said: "If you are not telling me, I might asked the Kai Order to declare you unqualified to lead us. Your conduct is putting us in danger."
Black Cat sighed. "You... You are right... I've been acting strangely recently. I have to apologize. It has been what? Eight months now that I've came back from Klarnos? The events that took place there are still fresh in my memory and there are playing on my sanity... I will explain everything to you as soon as I come back from Holmgard. Other things are threatening the whole land of Sommerlund and I can't let this happen. Wild Horse is waiting for me in the capital. I have to go".
Ghost Bear, standing in front of his leader, looked at him, trying to guess if again it was the truth that had been said. "You promise me that you will explain it to me as soon as you come back from your mission?"
-Yes, I will...
-Okay, I take this as a promise. Now, I will get you a horse for your trip to Holmgard.
-Oh, please, bring the horse at the exit of the tunnel" asked Black Cat.
The Kai Lieutenant knew what the tunnel was: the tunnel linking the Vault of Sun to the Forest of Fryelund.
Moving aside, Ghost Bear let Black Cat leave the room. When the door was opened, ten Kai Masters started walking in the corridor, acting as if they didn't know what had just happened inside the room.
The Grand Master of the Order knew the scene that had just taken place in the corridor. He wasn't proud of the way he acted.
"Someone really wants you bad, hey?", he said.
"Just like you want me so badly, hm?", she replied.
"It's not you that I want but what you are carrying. I could't care less about your well-being. For me, it is as if you are dead."
-Oh really? You don't care about me? You need me alive as long as I carry this thing. If I die, this thing disappear and I don't think that you will be very happy about it with all the things you did so far just for it. And I even think that you secretly hope that everything comes back like it was before."
She was right and he knew it. "Just shut up! The Helghast failed to find you and during the next month, I will try to do everything in my powers to prevent that anything bad happens."
"Ah, but you know, the Helghast was probably not here to kill me but to take away what I have that you want so badly. After all, 'they' might be also interested in it. By the end of the next month, they'll pursue you to get it if they don't put their hands on it before."
"I shall see that they never touch it", he replied, pointing a finger at her.
"Now, if you excuse me, but I have an important mission to fulfill".
With that, Black Cat left the room.
Near the Alema Bridge
The Alema Bridge was behind him. In less than six or seven hours, he would be inside Holmgard looking for Wild Horse and a way to stop Aldius doing whatever he intends to do.
While the sun rose, Black Cat returned to his thoughts, more twisted than before.
Post by Simey on Sept 24, 2009 20:33:12 GMT -5
The Inaugural Meeting of the Magnamund Knights' Council, Council Halls, Holmgard
"You must speak the truth, of course."
Knight-Captain Gelas Fleck's solemnly spoken words echoed around Simey's mind as he made his reluctant way from close to the rear of the Durenese delegation towards the podium from which he had just been invited to speak by Lord Kehl Loeman. Given the obvious distress caused them by his having told his superiors of Armadalus' inability - for whatever reason - to inform the council of the apparently dire situation in Southern Sommerlund, Simey had been considerably surprised that they had agreed to let him speak freely at all. He felt oddly sure that it was Fleck himself who had pressed hardest for the sanctionary decision, though he couldn't work out why, since the Knight-Captain's attitude towards him seemed to change every time they met.
Simey felt the hundreds of eyes on him as he walked a little unsteadily up one of the aisles that fanned out between the seating from the dais where the highest-ranking dignitaries sat, and which was fronted by the speakers' podium. He was by far the most junior knight of any of the orders present who was to address the council, and he could sense the uncertainty rippling through the hall as knights of Sommerlnd, Durenor and Dessi, and guests of many other nations wondered what on Magnamund this inexperienced youngster could possibly have to say that was important enough to be voiced to the ears of the entire assembly. Simey sympathised with their ponderings, far from sure himself that what he was about to say was worthy of all the attention.
Plodding with heavy legs up the steps to one side of the podium, Simey wondered again what had happened to him in recent months that made this such a trial. It had long been his dream to address an important official gathering, to inform them of something crucial that they needed to know, to present an argument to them that would persuade them into a necessary course of action; what was it about this situation that made him desperate to return to the concealment of his lowly seat, or even to flee the hall completely? The obvious part of the answer to that was reinforced to him yet again as he nodded jerkily in respect to the most senior knights seated on the platform to either side of the podium, those who had the most power to act upon his words: his report was entirely reliant on second-hand information, the crucial part of which had been supplied by a helghast of all things, and he wasn't sure how much of it he took seriously himself, so the likelyhood of convincing some of the grandest military figures in all of Northern Magnamund of its voracity seemed slight. But Simey felt sure that there were other, less readily indentifiable reasons why he wanted to be anywhere but where he was, and he was discomfitted once more by the notion of his having acquired a new purpose without having a clue what it might be.
He was at the podium now; it was his turn to speak.
"My lords," said Simey, glancing to either side of himself. "Fellow knights. I am sure that you are all aware that strange events have recently occured in and around the city of Eshnar, and that the nature of those events is as yet uncertain."
There was murmuring at the mention of Eshnar. Was there still scepticism amongst the knightly orders about the seriousness of what had happened there, despite the numbers of ordinary soldiers that had been sent to the area? Were the Sommlending present unhappy at a Durenese knight highlighting an uncontrolled situation within their own borders?
"Myself and two fellow knights," Simey continued after a moment, "have travelled directly to Holmgard from a Sommlending army camp near the city, and it is my solemn duty to report to you the way in which the situation has developed."
In his wording and intonation Simey was trying hard to prepare those listening for dire news, somehow hoping that they might leap to some dreadful conclusions of their own, in the light of which his pronouncements to follow might seem somewhat less ridiculous. It was never going to work, and he knew it.
"We were in pursuit of a helghast through the woods north of Eshnar when we encountered soldiers from the Sommlending camp. The helghast went on to infiltrate the camp and it was during the process of hunting down and destroying it that we discovered the information that led us to ride to Holmgard with all speed."
This was it. This was the bit where Simey told the assembled hundreds that the desperate final taunts of a vile spawn and the ramblings of a semi-conscious wolf creature were the only evidence he had that a Darklord had returned to Magnamund. This was where he proclaimed that the helghast's information had apparently been taken from his own mind, it having pulled from his subconscious something which he himself couldn't remember. This was the part in which he dutifully followed the Oath of Truthfulness and admitted that he actually had no recollection of ever having seen the city of Eshnar, let alone been in it. This, basically, was where he made himself a laughing stock, and far from galvanising the combined forces of three great states of Northern Magnamund into essential action, achieved just the opposite as the council fell into disarray in their wonder at anyone having let such a charlatan speak.
Simey suddenly realised the most likely reason why Knight-Captain Gelas Fleck had pushed for him to be allowed to make his report: he was dispensible. If what he said turned out to be true, there was much esteem to be garnered by his order in having brought such a matter to light; if it was all revealed to be nonsense, apologies could be made for the miscreance of such a junior knight, and his ejection from the order, probably followed by a lengthy jail term, would put him out of sight and out of mind at no great loss to his superiors.
At the encroachment of doubtful muttering upon his ears, Simey realised that he had paused in his speech for rather too long. He looked hopelessly around the crowd, not knowing whether to continue with his report or to step down leaving it unfinished would have the worse consequences.
"Sir Vojske, the council would hear what you have to say," said the calmly pressing voice of Lord Loeman from Simey's right. Simey turned his head slightly towards the council's leader, but couldn't bring himself to look at the man. He was trapped, and there was nothing to do but go on, give voice to his feeble account and likely suffer for it. He glanced again at the assembled knights, many looking sceptically between him and each other, some simply staring at him blankly, a few scowling with impatience. And one straightening his shoulders to sit fully upright in his place towards the rear of the tiered seating at the back of the hall under the galleries.
Armadalus was looking directly at him, his face stern. Despite the Sommlending being but one man a good distance away in a great hall full of people, Simey could somehow see him clearly, those around him seeming insignificant. Armadalus gave an almost imperceptible nod of his confidence in Simey.
And the hall vanished in a rush of deepest light and brilliant darkness.
Post by Simey on Oct 11, 2009 10:54:27 GMT -5
Simey's mind rushes headlong into the moment, thoughts of his horrifying vision, which have consumed him ever since its happening, finally thrust aside to linger in the half-light of his consciousness until unpreoccupation next beckons them inevitably forth. The Armadalus that he has seen over-and-over collapsing on the threshold of the summer house, a fatal knife wound in his belly, is in front of him, turning to spy the source of the danger. The Kai, Wise Fox, is behind him, gesturing at a wall on the opposite side of the junction they have just crossed. Pouring over the wall are a deluge of the walking dead. Snapped into the present, Simey realises that the aura of whatever has been happening in this dread city coming to a climax has been building for some time, though he has only just become conscious of it. These dead are clearly also aware, judging by their moving faster than any they have yet seen. Faster, and directly towards them.
"Through there!" shouts Armadalus, pointing to a substantial hole in the side of the building they are approaching. He rushes to a position to one side of it and then supports first Simey and then Wise Fox as they clamber through.
This building appears not to be alive, something that with great relief they have found to be more common since leaving the governor's residence. Simey glances about at an obliterated scullery and notices that much of the ceiling has collapsed.
"Upwards!" barks Armadalus as he drops into the room, unsheathing his sword. "Climb! Quickly!" The Sommlending spins to defend the opening against the oncoming horde.
Simey and Wise Fox glance at each other, both clearly reluctant to leave Armadalus to fight alone, both clearly understanding that they must do as he says. Simey runs to the far wall and begins to climb towards a gaping hole in the ceiling. The wall is badly damaged, so hand holds are not hard to find. Soon he's passing what's left of the ceiling and continuing up the wall of the room above. He can see Wise Fox climbing beneath him, and he can hear the sound of Armadalus' sword hacking into loose flesh and bone.
Dome-tinted daylight makes it obvious where best to place hands and feet on the wall, and makes it also obvious that this building has lost its roof. Simey climbs through a third room and up into what was an attic, though it is now in the open air. With most of the roof gone, the remaining joists and boards of the attic floor are now the highest accessible part of the building. Simey finds a solid section of floor and, breathing hard, looks down into the battered house below. Wise Fox has nearly reached the attic. Further down, Simey is relieved - but somehow not surprised - to see, Armadalus has begun the climb. The Sommlending is frequently lashing out at movement beneath him, but is making steady progress.
As the Kai pulls himself up onto the boards, Simey looks around to see where they can go from here. Two sides of the house lie on wide streets and so invite no escape other than a forty foot plunge. On one side must be an alleyway, because the distance to the next building is at most eight feet. Most promising though is a quick clamber onto the remains of the adjoining house's attic; several buildings form a long row this way, and if they can climb down at the far end it will leave them a good distance from where the dead appeared.
"That way?" gasps Simey, seeking confirmation from Wise Fox. Catching his breath, the Kai glances about and then nods once.
A crash from below has them both casting their eyes downwards in concern. Armadalus has kicked at a badly damaged beam and succeeded in bringing down the ground floor ceiling on top of the dead trying to come after him. His subsequent climb is swift and sure, and Simey turns his attention to getting onto the next house.
Negotiating the remnants of the end of the attic is not difficult, and the floorboards atop the neighbouring house are largely still intact, making progress across the top of the building easy. Simey is confident enough of his footing to risk a look back and he sees that Armadalus has made it up to the roof and is following himself and Wise Fox. Armadalus' eyes catch his, an intense concern in his expression that in most others would so obviously be outright panic. "Hurry," says the Sommlending; "they're coming."
Simey looks ahead again and focuses on getting from this building to the next, where there are considerably fewer boards and beams still left in place. Traversing the top of this house is a delicate business, sometimes reliant on stepping between one narrow beam and another. More than once Simey's gaze passes beyond the joists on which he is determinedly planting his boots and down into the rest of the house to see just how much empty space he will fall into, just how much jutting, splintered wood there is to impale himself on, should his footing - or the strength of a beam - fail him. His heart is pounding as he gratefully reaches the other side and grasps a broken piece of timber still slanting upwards in reminder of where the roof once was.
Looking back to check on the others' progress, Simey sees Wise Fox only a dozen feet away and Armadalus no more than twenty feet behind him. His eye is swiftly taken though by the movement back on top of the first house; several of the dead have made it to the roof, and one of them is huge, semi-armoured and wielding a large, splintered piece of beam, presumably gathered on the way up. Simey is transfixed by the horrifying sight for a moment before Armadalus shouts, "Don't stop, Vojske! Move!"
Simey, Wise Fox now next to him once more, turns desperately to look at where they must go next, and his heart beats even harder in panic. There is almost nothing left of the next house's attic; only a single beam still goes from end to end, all the rest having collapsed in various places. Floorboards in assorted states of destruction still cling to parts of the beams, making the route not only wildly precarious, but clearly unsafe underfoot.
"I'll go," says Wise Fox, staring ahead. Simey looks at him and feels that he is assessing the roof using senses beyond simple sight. "Wait until I'm a few feet out," says the Kai, "and then tread only where you can see I've stood safely." Simey nods dumbly and then watches as Wise Fox clambers over onto the edge of the next house and begins to make his way across it.
"What are you waiting for?" says Armadalus' voice, heavy with concern, at Simey's shoulder.
"I think if anything collapses underneath him, he doesn't want me so close that I fall as well," says Simey, feeling a little pathetic.
"That's nice," grunts Armadalus. "But we don't have time for noble sentiments. Get moving."
Ducking under the roof timber, Simey steps over what little remains of the wall between the two houses and shuffles sideways to the end of the one unbroken beam, all the while trying to keep half an eye on where Wise Fox is treading. The first part of the crossing looks relatively straightforward, since for a few yards several other joists still intersect with the whole one, allowing for missteps to not lead unavoidably to a plummet into the scant remaining innards of the building.
Simey starts forward, the concentration of trying to step in the same places as Wise Fox helping to distract him from the giddying drop below. The Kai has reached the point where only a single beam is left and is beginning the ridiculous balancing act that is the only way to the other side. Simey tries not to let Wise Fox's precarious progress take his focus away from his own task of merely getting that far. He can hear movement behind him, both close and further off; Armadalus must be starting across this roof himself, whilst the dead are crossing the other buildings.
After what seems like too long, but also not nearly long enough, Simey comes to the dreaded place where the joists to his left and right have been broken, smashed away by some unknown force, and a lone beam stretches out ahead, daring the insane and the desperate to set out across it. Simey ruefully admits to himself that he probably fits into both categories, but is still supremely reluctant to test his luck - and the beam's strength - by continuing on. As if crossing half a dozen or so yards of gaping space on a piece of wood mere inches wide isn't impossible enough, the middle few feet still has bits of floorboard loosely nailed to it: too many to avoid completely, and clearly liable to shift underfoot.
Wise Fox is just reaching this most dangerous point, and a few of the most weakly attached pieces of wood are falling away in front of him, whether through the Kai using one of the powers the warrior monks are famous for or simply through the vibration of the beam, Simey cannot tell. As Wise Fox is forced to start stepping on the remaining floorboards, Simey casts his eyes down at the part of the beam directly in front of him; he tries to consider that if the drop below was only a matter of inches, he probably would not find balancing on it particularly difficult, but such rationalisation does not stop his legs trembling at the prospect of moving any further.
"You can do it, Vojske," says Armadalus, only a few feet behind, his even tone, unusually, communicating genuine faith in Simey.
Without looking back, Simey takes a step forward, his arms automatically spreading out to either side to aid his balance. His teeth and lips are clenched tightly together and he is breathing heavily through his nose. More steps follow, and with each one he has to consciously dismiss waves of nausea that seem to emanate from his stomach and pulse up through his chest to his head. Somehow he stays upright long enough to reach the remaining floorboards, and almost without hesitating continues forward onto them, his mind rapidly developing a fatalistic attitude towards whatever should happen next.
Simey is part way across the treacherous floorboards when he hears a sharp intake of breath and a clattering sound somewhere behind him. For some reason feeling that the board he is standing on is fairly secure, he twists round to see what is happening and is alarmed by the sight that confronts him.
The dead have reached this building: more than that, are part way across it. Armadalus, having turned to face them, is now, drawn sword in hand, moving backwards onto the lone beam. The armoured giant, undoubtedly over seven feet tall, is moving ominously toward the Sommlending, surrounded by a chaotic phalanx of other dead.
Two suddenly rush forward, spindly grey arms reaching voraciously for Armadalus. The Sommlending, with a double slash of his blade, somehow cuts them both down without losing his footing or balance. Their already tattered remains fall and smash apart on what little is left of the lower floors of the house.
The giant has used the distraction of his fellows to advance and now takes a mighty two-handed swing with the chunk of beam that it brandishes. Armadalus is forced to duck low, flinging his arms out to maintain his balance as the improvised weapon whistles close over his head. Rising quickly, the Sommlending takes another couple of poised paces backwards and raises his sword to defend against another strike. The giant lashes out again with the beam, but Armadalus has successfully moved himself just out of reach.
Almost without pausing, the titanic dead releases one hand's grip on the beam, sweeps up one of its smaller fellows and hurls it at Armadalus. The Sommlending's reactions are lightning fast, but even he cannot simply cut an entire body out of the air. His sword slices through an exposed lower spine, but a rotting pelvis and legs hit him, whilst the torso, arms and head spin past him to strike Simey's twisted upper body in the shoulder and back.
Immediately Simey is falling, but incredibly he topples over directly onto the floorboards in front of him. Desperately he tries to reach forward beyond the boards and wrap his arms around the beam whilst his body is inevitably rolling off into space, but, tugged by the weight of the rest of him, his arms and hands slither past the beam, unable to get a grip, and he drops into the carcass of the house. Above him, Armadalus has stumbled, and the boards beneath him have been wrenched free of the single beam they were nailed to; the Sommlending also has been pitched into the air.
Simey is vaguely aware, in those long, drawn out few seconds for which he is falling, that Wise Fox, having reached the relative safety of some intersecting joists, has turned and is watching aghast at the fate of his companions.
Simey is the wrong way up to see the floor, but so much of the house has already rushed past him that he is sure both it and the end of his life are but a moment away.
He closes his eyes.
Post by Simey on Nov 4, 2009 20:51:37 GMT -5
A glow of sensation coalesces from nothingness. It grows to become the centre of all feeling. For a moment it is comfortable and safe, pressing back the impressions of doom even as it reveals them.
Then it begins to change. Tendrils protrude from the centre and become strands of inspiriting energy. They reach out until encountering the periphery of something which it takes a moment to realise is your self. Upon touching the limits of your being they cause a slight sting of pain. This is not immediately troubling, but the sensation increases at every point at which the warmth has met the edge of your being until your are tortured by numerous agonies. You are being branded, marked from a fire within yourself. All that you are is being seared by a heat that will not subside.
You are plunged into the sun.
Simey gasps himself awake, and a scene becomes visible through the parting curtain of white heat.
Wise Fox's face is close in front of him - above him, he realises, since he is lying on his back - the Kai's features taut with concern. Beyond him is the skeleton of the house through which he fell, and there is movement of some kind near the top of it.
"Sir Vojske," pants Wise Fox, "are you alright? Can you move?"
There is urgency in the Kai's voice that prompts Simey to try and raise himself straight away without questioning the situation. Immediately as he tries to move, however, he realises that his numerous agonies are still very much present, only momentarily having been pushed aside in his awareness by the shock of being conscious. He gives out a tormented growl and ceases motion in an attempt to subdue the pain.
"I've done all I can," says Wise Fox, a desperate look on his face. "You must try and get up."
The Kai shuffles sideways slightly and reaches out to support Simey's shoulders as he lifts his upper body from the ground. The agony of movement threatens to snatch Simey's consciousness away once more, his vision clouding with a grey haze, but once he is sat upright the all-pervading torture ebbs slightly and becomes merely several extremely painful points on various parts of his body. Most notable amongst his injuries is a deep gash on his upper right arm which has clearly bled considerably and only just ceased so doing.
Looking away from himself to take in his surroundings, Simey is suddenly emphatically aware of the reasons for Wise Fox's urgent demeanour. He is not only surrounded by the destroyed remains of the dead, but sitting on those he must have crushed in his fall, their having cushioned his collision with the ground surely the only reason he has survived. Those remains not flattened by him appear to have been demolished by Armadalus, who is still cleaving head from shoulders, shoulders from torso, torso from groin as he fights a wall of dead at the far end of the building.
"You have to move," says Wise Fox tightly, starting to pull at Simey to get him on his feet. Simey notices the Kai glancing concernedly upwards and looks up himself. The giant dead that caused his fall is climbing slowly but steadily down the far wall of the house, almost directly above where Armadalus is fighting.
Once upright, Simey finds that despite the pain he cannot, astonishingly, be that badly injured since he is able to stand unaided, albeit shakily. He accepts Wise Fox's support, however, in actually moving away from the combat and being propped against the wall.
"We should get you through there," says Wise Fox decisively, nodding at a nearby hole in the wall large enough to pass through into the next house.
"No," says Simey firmly. "Go and help him."
Both Simey and Wise Fox look to Armadalus fighting furiously at the other end of the building. The tide of dead pouring through the rent wall from the house beyond is perhaps thinning, but the enormous dead approaching from above is nearly far enough down the wall to jump without shattering on the ground.
Wise Fox turns and makes his way nimbly across the floor of grey flesh and bones towards the fight, drawing his sword as he does so, but he has only crossed half the distance when the giant dead leaps from the wall to land directly in front of Armadalus, crushing several of its smaller fellows.
Immediately the Sommlending is forced to take a couple of steps back to avoid its long arms as they whip round at his face, and in so doing he allows more room for the other dead to spread out to one side of him. Clearly noticing the danger, he lashes out with his sword to try and ward off the lesser dead, but the giant is quick to exploit the division of his attention and lands a heavy blow to Armadalus' cheek with its outstretched fist. The Sommlending stumbles back further, managing a glancing strike with his sword to the giant's armour that holds it back, but still making more space for the other dead to try and surround him.
Simey pushes himself away from the wall and tries to step forward, desperate to help his companion - little assistance though he will likely be - but sharp pain in his right lower leg and his left ankle has his legs giving way underneath him, apparently less able to support his weight than he thought. On his hands and knees he watches helplessly as Armadalus is forced gradually backwards, his previous success at holding back numerous dead being gradually defeated by the sheer reach and power of the armoured giant. The Sommlending is skilfully keeping a ragged portion of inner wall close on one side, but the open area on his other side means that some of the smaller dead are now almost approaching him from behind.
"Armadalus!" comes a sudden shout from Wise Fox. "Keep moving it back this way!"
Having not noticed the Kai for several moments, Simey now sees that he is positioning himself on the opposite side of the remaining inner wall, seemingly ready to drive a chunk of beam into its base and lever it to topple over. Simey hopes that the dead are not able to understand what Wise Fox has said, but they do not appear to halt their advance.
Armadalus clearly responds to the instruction, however, after a moment taking a big step back and unleashing a mighty swing of his sword to his exposed side and rear. Two of the ordinary dead are cut in two, and as their bodies flop to the ground the giant moves menacingly forward, grasping claws reaching for the Sommlending.
Armadalus is now only a yard or so from passing beyond the dozen foot high block of barely-still-standing inner wall and leaving the way clear for Wise Fox to try and bring it down on the giant and other dead close by. Suddenly though, the giant, in an echo of its action up on the roof, scoops up a chunk of masonry and pitches it directly at Armadalus. The Sommlending's instant defensive reaction shows that this is a move he has been waiting for, but the block of stone and mortar is simply too heavy to be deflected and Armadalus is knocked flat on his back, all of him bar his head and shoulders still very much under the wall.
"Now!" yells Armadalus, whether having guessed Wise Fox's intention or due to simple desperation, Simey cannot be sure.
The Kai thrusts the piece of beam he holds hard at the base of the unstable wall and pushes down heavily on it, giving a roar of exertion. A large section of the wall, looming above Armadalus and his huge adversary, shifts slightly, tilting tantlisingly in the intended direction. Armadalus, raising his upper body from the ground brings his sword round in front of him in a broad two-handed sweep, trying to delay the giant for just long enough. He then tries to scuttle backwards on his feet and forearms just far enough to avoid being flattened by the wall. He has almost made it when the giant takes a mighty stride and stamps down hard on his ankle. The Sommlending growls in agony, but Simey can see that the enormous dead's next step is likely to be far worse, delivering a crushing blow to either Armadalus' chest or head. And the wall still hovers over the two of them, moving no further.
With a snarl of frustration, Wise Fox drops the chunk of beam and shoulder-charges the wall, desperately trying to topple it. The giant dead raises a heavy, armoured foot above Armadalus, ready to land the killing blow to a foe that simply cannot escape any further.
In a deluge of collapsing masonry, the giant is knocked aside and flattened. Several of its fellows are crushed also. Through the dust billowing up, Simey can see that Armadalus has scrambled clear and is quickly up on one foot, as ready as he can be to take on the few remaining dead still stalking towards him.
His relief at seeing the greatest threat destroyed brings Simey's mind back to his own position, and he is suddenly aware again of an excrutiating pain in his right lower leg. Twisting to look back, he is horrified to see a bony arm and hand whose sharp index finger has dug deep into his calf. He reaches quickly back and rips the hideous disembodied limb away, further tearing his own flesh as he does so and causing himself to cry out in agony. As he hurls the arm away he notices several other body parts nearby twitching and trying to move towards him. Remembering the pain in his left ankle, he looks round to see a pale hand gripping it tightly, trying to crush it. He has to beat it repeatedly with a stone, badly bruising himself in the process, before it breaks apart enough to drop off.
Blood now streaming down the back of his right leg, Simey is desperate to push himself to his feet and get away from these ghastly ground-crawlers, but doubtful of his ability to do so. He goes to plant his hands firmly on the ground, but the fingers of his right hand meet with some cold, cloying liquid. Glancing down in further alarm, he is appalled to see that he has plunged his fingers into the eye sockets and gelatinous, semi-melted eyeballs of a decaying head, the spasming jaw of which seems to be trying to bite his thumb. His shock and disgust has him on his feet in an instant - despite a dozen agonies - casting the head away and preparing to stamp on any other bits of dead attempting to attack him.
Now upright again, he notices that Armadalus has cut down the last of the dead that were intact and is now hauling Wise Fox out of the rubble, the Kai apparently having fallen forward with the wall as it collapsed.
"Armadalus!" calls Simey, kicking away a creeping forearm and gesturing at the hole in the wall . "This way!"
The Sommlending looks up, nods in acknowledgement and with what is obviously a tremendous effort, pulls Wise Fox up onto his shoulders. Limping badly he makes his way towards Simey.
Leaning heavily on the wall for support, and stamping down hard to break a twitching lower leg, Simey makes his way to the opening and struggles through. When Armadalus reaches the hole, he is forced to shrug Wise Fox down and pass the Kai's unconscious form through to Simey before ducking through himself.
Once they are all in the ruins of the next house - the lack of any dead in sight suggesting relative safety - Simey props Wise Fox against a wall and makes immediately for a filthy blanket he has spotted to tear a strip off and bandage his bleeding calf. Armadalus noisily breaks a large chair to pieces to fashion some semblance of a crutch for himself, so he can avoid putting any undue weight on the ankle stamped on by the giant dead.
Satisfied with the binding round his leg, Simey prepares to bandage his upper right arm also, since the wound is glistening threateningly. "How bad is he?" he asks, seeing Armadalus examining Wise Fox.
"I don't think he's badly injured at all," replies the Sommlending, "but he's taken a heavy blow to the head; who knows how long it'll be until he comes round?"
"We'll have to carry him," says Simey. "Or at least I will - you can hardly walk."
"That'll have to do for now," says Armadalus gravely. "But I think we'll need his abilities to help us if we're to get out of this city alive."
Simey knows very little about the powers of the Kai, but he silently cannot help but agree.
Post by dharn on Dec 10, 2009 12:16:24 GMT -5
The knocking on the door could be heard for a few blocks away, eeriely echoed in the dark and stillness of the night. Carried with it was the sense of urgency and desperation. The door creaked opened reluctantly, the occupant of the house unsure of whom could it be, but as Annette peek out from behind the door, her tired eyes widened with surprise.
"Dharn?" said Annette when she saw the young Oakenshaft standing in front of her door. The first thing that she notice was this serious look on his face, one that she was not use to see in recent times. Dharn was standing still, straight as an arrow, but he was shift left and right uneasily. "What are you doing here? We were about to have dinner."
"I'm sorry, Lady Annette," Dharn said, his voice was sharp and the same urgency and desperation from his knock was also evident in it. "I have to speak with Lord Yves, it is a very important matter."
"Now, now Dharn, how many..." Annette was about to reprimand Dharn, the young Oakenshaft couldn't stopped addressing Annette as a Lady when he found out her husband was somewhat related to the royalty, but the look in his eyes made her pause. Luckily for her, her husband called out at the exact moment.
"Who is that Annette?" He called out from the dining room at the back.
"It's Dharn, dear," Annette answered without even looking back, the enormous wait on Dharn shoulders began to settle in her mind. She ushered Dharn in and began to lead him to the dining room. "He wants to see you."
As Annette lead the all the way to the dining room, she noticed a lot more erratic behaviour from Dharn. The Oakenshaft was uneasy and uptight, more than usual. He was practically marching all his way from the door to the dining room. The look in his face was what bothered Annette the most. She had caught, even if it was a brief glimpse, a look of fear on him. That was one emotion that she had never seen before from him. There was nothing on her mind that she could thing off that would scare the mild mannered young man.
They arrived at the dining room and was greeted by Yves, lord of the house. He was old enough, around 50 years of age, but his white, long, straight hair always give the impression that he was older. Or that he was some sort of mage. It doesn't really help that he has a permanent frown on his face and a few broken teeth. His slender body moved gracefully when he stood up at the sight of Dharn.
"Dharn, come on in," Yves flashed a genuine smile, he was quite fond of Dharn and was grateful to the young man. Though his visit was sudden, it hold no candle to the friendship that they had. "Have a seat, we were about to eat."
"Lord Yves," Dharn said, his words were as cold and hard as the icy regions of Kalte. Both Annette and Yves stopped dead in their tracks. His next words completely floored both of them.
"You have to throw me into the dungeon."
Post by dharn on Dec 12, 2009 10:21:51 GMT -5
"I beg your pardon," said Yves, his mind couldn't fathom and rhyme or reason for Dharn to say what he said. "Can you run that by me again?"
"I need you to throw me into the dungeon, Lord Yves," Dharn said without even blinking an eye. Having known Dharn for a while already, Yves knew that the young man was not playing around. Both Dharn and Drake seems to be borned without a funny bone inside them as he had already discovered. Apparently it's missing from their entire lineage.
"Annette, go and fetch water for us and hold the broth will you? Let's settle this one first before dinner." Yves sat down wearily and showed Dharn an empty seat. "Have a seat, Dharn."
"I would prefered to stand, Lord Yves," Dharn answered bluntly.
"Dharn," Yves retorted as soon as he heard the answer. Stubborness is also another one of the Oakenshaft family traits, but it was one that Yves has little patience for currently. Luckily, someone had already taught him how to handle it. "Are you trying to shame me by saying my accomodations are beneath you? If you really think so, then stand as long as you need."
Hearing that, Dharn promptly sat down on the chair but his back was still as straight as a signpost. Annette came back with some hot drinks and began to pour a cup for everyone. No words passed between all three of them until Annette had sat down and Yves waited for an approving nod from her. Yves started after taking a deep and thoughful breather.
"Alright Dharn, you can start now." he said and took the ball and run with it.
"Lord Yves, I came under your services not too long ago, about a few months before this when Lady Annette came to my house to ask for help."
"Yes, the back injury..." said Yves.
"Yes, the bookcase incident..." said Annette at the same time which her husband glancing disapprovingly. It was something that he had try to forget.
"You have suffered a back injury from a falling bookcase when you tried to climb it to get a book from the top shelves. Not only did you slip and fell, the bookcase had also toppled over and broke your back. The healer had tried their best to help but since you were reaching your golden years, they could do little to ease the pain from your back. As a result you needed someone to help you to get to work." Dharn continued.
"Thank you so much for that long-winded reminder..." Yves said, recognizing the version of the tale that Dharn was using was the one propagated by his own wife. His intervention was not even heard by Dharn who was busy weaving his tale.
"Lady Annette came to me because she knew that I was looking for a job and decided to hire me to help you. Starting from that day, my job was to help carry you to work until you were strong enough to go to work by yourself. You could have taken the time off to heal first before coming to work, but since your work for the Knight Council was important, you could not and would not let the job go."
"That is true, Dharn, but what..." Again Yves tried to interject but Dharn was lost in his own words again. Yves has a suspicious feeling that Dharn had prepared this long tale long before he even came to the house.
"My original duty was to carry you from the house to your room inside the castle. That privilege allowed me access to the common parts of the castle. As the time passes, you began to let me help you in your daily chores. I became your personal servant and did duties like sending documents, finding people and searching for items that you required. That allowed me greater access to the castle just before the Knight Council began."
Dharn paused and finally took stock of his audience. Both Yves and Annette looked at him with a puzzled look, without comprehending the need for his long exposition. This was the effect that Auntie Fanny told him to get so his next words would have an even greater meaning.
"It is my believe that all that time, I could have brought a Naar spy with me."
Post by dharn on Dec 21, 2009 15:02:52 GMT -5
The silence hung on the room like an invisible mist that just suddenly appeared. Both husband and wife couldn't believe the words that came out of Dharn and yet they couldn't imagine the young man was faking the entire thing.
"A spy?" Yves asked, he's mind still couldn't digest the information properly. "Do you understand what you are saying Dharn? What you are implying..."
"Yes, Lord Yves," Dharn said stoically without showing much emotion other than determination. Yves sighed in defeat. In the short course of the time that they had spend together, he found Dharn to be missing a funny bone. The severity of the situation began to weight heavily upon him.
"Have you talk to your uncle about this Dharn?" asked Annette, seeing her husband's worried expression.
"He was not available, Lady Annette. He's stationed with most of the new recruits the entire length of the Knight's council." It was at this moment that Annette had sense something in Dharn's voice. "If not I would bring up this matter straight up to him first and thing would have been much easier."
Annette could almost grasp what was bothering her about Dharn when Yves interjected.
"Do you have proof of this spy, Dharn?"
"Yes, this is it," Dharn pulled out a folded piece of paper from his pockets and handed it to Yves. It was crumpled and wrinkled, Dharn had sat with it still in his pocket, but the writing on the inside of the paper could still be read easily.
The handwriting was clear and sharp, like the work of a well trained scribe, but was a bit too bold to Yves's taste. It like the writer really wanted to make a point.
it is good to hear from you again so soon. The entire family was happy that you have began serving under Lord Yves and this Lady Annette. Grandmother reminds you to remain respectful at all times and never, ever, speak against the Lord or she will disown you faster than a blink of an eye. Since that girl is with you, I guess everything would be fine.
Do not be worried about us, ever since the Giak attack grandfather had been even more vigilant than before. I think he was actually glad that grandmother threw him out of the house at times, you know how he is. Father is taking over all the work nowaday with all of uncles pitching in once in a while. It was a good thing that Father started to take apprentice, with you gone, grandmother was worried that no one would continue the family work. At least there'll be someone to do it until Garth is old enough to take over. If you ask me, she should not worry at all.
Cousin Freeda and cousin Colin will both have new members in their family. Mother asks, when will you find a wife? We have to take a look at her first before you gone off and get married somewhere. By the way, did I told you that Aunty Kell is also carrying? I hope our next cousin would be a boy, so I can tease him. Speaking of which, the entire village is missing you dearly, brother. Without you doing all the work, festivities are harder and takes longer to clean up. Both shopkeeper Ned and missed your handiwork though, they said only grandfather could rival some of your best works.
Returning to grandfather, he sends his regards to you. He wishes that he could congratulate you on the new job but he can't seemed to understand what actually are you doing there. He says that you're a dumb as a horse, so what good would you be to a scholar? As soon as he heard that you are working on bringing all the knights together in Holmgard, I could have sworn he was beaming from ear to ear. He says do your work, whatever it may be, properly and do not disgrace the family name or he's disown you faster than a bolt of lightning from the sky. Father wished to tell you that he is proud of you and mother wants you to just be happy. The rest of the family wished you good luck on your new work.
I, myself? I want you back here as soon as possible.
Yves and Annette look at each other. There was nothing in the letter that seemed odd to them, other than the family matters that was beyond their comprehension. There was no such thing that raise any flag of suspicion to them, nothing of the sort at all. Both of them look at Dharn, searching for an explaination.
"Can you see it?" Dharn said in disbelieve, he quickly provided the explaination, "Joline was very angry when she wrote the letter. She wrote it all thick and big for me, and she only did that when she was really angry. Mother must have force her to write this letter. And she wrote this special word just for me, so I can really see what she was mad about."
Dharn grabbed hold of the letter and placed it neatly on the table between the empty plates and glasses. He pointed at one word in particular.
Post by Beowuuf on Dec 21, 2009 17:36:56 GMT -5
Many months ago, in the council halls of the Magnamund Knights' Council.
Two scribes sat in occasional amiable silence, and occasional amiable chattering. The two had corresponded as their jobs demanded over the last year, and it was indeed pleasant to finally be in one place with each other. Their jobs were no less haphazard for being compressed in to one place. Indeed, their workload seemed to have been increased now they were pushed in to one room together. However, the two scribes were in no lesser good spirits for it. It was merely a temporary increase, the darkness before the dawn. They were now together, as were many other scribes, officials, functionaries and clerical staff. They were now in one place as the Magnamund Knights' Council was properly coalesced in to a material form. No longer were the scribes the hands of some ephemeral organisation that possessed a disparate consciousness. Very soon, the collective mind would be a flesh and blood set of individuals sitting and supervising this work themselves. Very soon, the scribes, and others like them, would need only deal with the mundane matters and narrow their focus. In a way it was a shame. It was interesting to see the bigger picture played out in various missives. And the scribes had, as had others in other rooms, become masters at signing the names of the heads of the Council.
"Vojske, Vojske.... why do I recognise that name?" asked one scribe breaking the current amiable silence with an out loud question. Had the other man not known the answer, the question would have drifted lightly in to the amiable silence, however the other man obviously needed a mental break himself from his own problem.
"Yes, the name does ring a bell... it does not sound particularly Durenese, but my mind drifts in that direction."
The first scribe came out of his half-musings to engage his fellow. "Well, the name in question is a Durenese knight I think. Vojske - V-O-J-S-K-E, first name Simey, S-I-M-E-Y."
"Well," said his fellow, "considering I cannot remember currently the new Durenese head of the council, I am not sure you should trust my memory on anything Durenese!"
"Percival!" said the first man.
"Really? That's my name too, you would think I would have remembered that."
"No, I mean, 'Percival’ as in...well, as in you! I am amazed at your memory for names one minute, and you failure at it the next!"
"Ah, I see. I am very good at associating names to deeds once I write it down, not to positions!" said Percival. He sighed. "You would think I would remember the name of wolf creatures awarded knighthood, but I shall need to refer to the previous request by Lord Giligar, whom requested a position for the creature."
"A wolf creature? You jest!"
"Some poor fool is to be assigned to chaperone him, if I can remember the name of the council head! I guess to make sure he does not eat anyone."
"Oh, who has pulled that position?" asked the first scribe.
"I have not written it down yet! One name at a time!" said the second in good natured consternation.
"Lord Rahmona," said a voice. The two scribes turned surprised at the voice, having not heard the door open.
"Ah, Lord Rahmona, greetings sir," said the first scribe with the due respect to a Sommlending Knight of the Realm.
"No," said the knight in a strained voice, apparently his patient irritation was already cracking, "my name is Ramtop. I have been re-assigned to supervise here. Rahmona is to meet the wolf." There was a disdain in the voice that made the two amiable scribes uncomfortable.
The first scribe seemed to be in confusion for some reason. Ramtop ignored him and handed a sheaf of papers to the second scribe instead. "The first pile is confidential, please file them and do not read them. The second pile needs the Council’s seal. I have personally supervised them, they are correct."
"Ah, yes," said the second scribe now embarrassed. It added to his confusion of possessing three sets of papers, and only two hands to hold them. He quickly passed what he was working on to the first scribe who amiably accepted them in no less confusion. "I seem to have temporarily forgotten the new head of the council for Durenor," continued the second scribe, embarrassment growing at voicing it to the knight.
"Bryont," said Ramtop, irritation n his voice rising, and then an obvious shift in stature as if remembering that, for some reason, this was a welcome necessary evil.
"No, sir, my name is Percival!" said the second scribe happily.
"IDIOT!" snapped the knight, "LORD. SIMONY!"
There was shocked moment of uncomfortable silence, and both scribes bowed their heads uncomfortably. The second scribe was suitable cowed, reminded that some knights did not like to be corrected by squires or others in the lower orders of the knighthood. At least he knew why the name of Vojske was familiar.
"Oh, that is how it is pronounced," said the first scribe to break the tension, making the same leap in logic as his friend.
"What?" said Ramtop, turning his irritation on to the first scribe.
The first scribe felt even more uncomfortable, ad now even more confused that he had two sets of pages himself. "We were just taking about Vojske."
Ramtop blinked in irritation. "What, of the old admiralty staff who almost stopped Lone Wolf from gaining the Sommerswerd?"
"Ah, that is why I know the name!" said both scribes together in glee, then confusion, looking to each other then averting their gazes from the knight Ramtop.
"What of him?" asked Ramtop trying to follow the thought processes at work.
"Oh, I was trying to remember why I knew the name on what I was working on... oh..." The first scribe then looking in confusion at the paper in front of him that talked of a wolf creature. He scrambled around with his other hand and found the one he had been working on earlier.
"I see," sad Ramtop, spotting the previous missive to do with the position of secretary for the Knights’ Council, a good fast track move for a knight of potential. "There are two Simeys,” Ramtop explained in something approaching a reasonable voice, “one is the old Simey of Lone Wolf fame, the other the Durenese knight."
"Simony," corrected the second scribe.
"Yes, Lord Simony Bryont," said Ramtop with a snap.
"The name is still Percival, sir," said the second scribe, but he said it under his breathe, and immediately regretted his negativity internally.
"Vojske has been selected to be a form of scribe himself, to work here with us at the council. I think it is hoped he advance his diplomatic career before he commits career suicide by championing concerns outside the freelands." Again, Ramtop had a nasty tone of voice to do with other countries that did not sit well with the first scribe nor the second.
"Good to have a family member in a high place looking out for your interests," the first scribe said instead amiably.
Ramtop looked confused and irritated again, and the first scribe did not clarify what he meant, merely put his head down and wrote 'Simey Vojske (the elder)' for clarification as the new scribe for the internal Council meetings, and signed 'Simey Vojske (the younger), Council Head' as the authorisation name on the document.
Ramtop was meanwhile looking across to the second scribe. "And you will deal with those papers for me quickly, yes?" he asked. The second scribe nodded. "And you wil remember the name of the Durenese head of Council now, yes? Bryont?" Ramtop continued with a nasty tone. The second scribe merely nodded furiously, writing 'Simey Vojske' on his own documents without further comment and with the beginnings of a shaking hand.
"Good, then I have other business to attend to, so I will keep you from your work no longer."
While both scribes nodded politely, and did not say a word against the knight when he had left, both seemed to also breathe a sigh of relief that the knight was gone. Their amiable natures soon came back to them.
"Wait, who was to meet the wolf?" asked the first scribe, realising he had written ‘Simey (the younger)’ on the scroll of his comrade, and wondering if a head of the council was really to meet a deadly wolf creature, a knight itself or not.. "Was it Lord Rahmona himself?" The first scribe pointed in the departed knights' direction.
"What, that was not Rahmona, that was Ramtop!" said the second scribe with an amiable laugh, glad to clear the air again.
"No, I am sure he is Rahmona, I recognise him from before when he was placed in charge of us."
"Nonsense, the man just handed me a death certificate for Rahmona! He should know!" said Percival, who had accidentally seen the names in the confidential sheaf of papers. He brandished the death certificate with Rahmona’s name on it, and Ramtop's signature. "Oh, how grizzly. Death by Helghast. Hmm, it seems the man made another mistake with the month -it’s dated a month from now. Easily done!"
"Well, that proves it, I think Simey - I mean Simony - must have volunteered to meet the wolf first hand." The first scribe handed the scroll back to Percival unaltered. The second scribe nodded, scrambled around some other papers for a name, and wrote down ‘Beowuuf.’
They nodded satisfied, and shuffled some more paper. There was an amicable silence, although a small niggle was in the back of the first scribe’s mind.
"The knight Ramptop?" said the first scroll.
"Yes?" said Percival.
"This may sound unworthy, but I do so hope I do not have to meet him again any time soon," said the first scribe, a man named Tholin.
* * * *
Outside walking the halls cautiously was the knight - Rahmona only for a few weeks more. Luckily, only those highly placed who shared the common vision, or those too lowly to count, knew his face. He could be Rahmona, or Ramtop, or even go back to being whom he had once been long ago. The disorganisation for the last year had been useful, allowing many decisions to be made by those who saw the greater good and need for action. Soon the bureaucracy and order this building represented would end those useful avenues, although it would be good to close off the incompetence that had came with it, hiding the clever, necessary and ‘questionable’ decisions.
Soon Nighthunter would be stationed in the building himself overseeing his creation, along with the other real heads of the council. Soon the real decisions would be made by the heads alone, in concert. And unless those with vision within the knighthoods could find a way to stop them, Magnamund would surely be doomed.
Post by zipp on Dec 26, 2009 22:19:57 GMT -5
Eshnar, inn of the Pick and Shovel
Mom had been dead for two weeks now and Sera already was beginning to forget what her face looked like. Mom didn't provide food or shelter anymore. Shelter was wherever the monsters didn't go. They hadn't come to the Pick and Shovel yet, so that was where the children stayed. As for food, that had come from Jared at first, but then the group had kicked him out. After that, the Lady in Yellow had come and brought bread and meat, but then she had disappeared, too. Now Sera had to find her own food.
At first, it hadn't been easy. Sera was used to foods that were already created, like breads and cheeses or roasted mutton. These foods were hard to come by. The only places that had them were homes and most of those had already been raided by the other children or were too close to the dark parts of the city where the monsters lived. After a couple days without food, Sera realized rats and bugs, while maybe not as filling as pork and grain, were easier to find and after that while she didn't ever feel full, she never starved, either. Catching rats made her fast, too, which came in handy when the other kids ganged up on her and tried to catch her or beat her up. She was getting better at dodging them and she'd even thrown a few punches back at smelly Jordain. He was the one who had come up with her nickname. "Crying Sister," they called her, because she had cried for two days after the monsters took her mother. She knew why they harassed her. She was the oldest now that Jared was gone and they were getting ready to kill her. At 14, Sera was hardly an adult, but she was three years older than the next oldest child and, anyway, Jared had only been 16. She'd cried for Jared, too, after they had driven him into the city.
Jared hadn't done anything wrong. It had been the other man's fault, the one who had told them he would protect them. He liked to take some of the girls, the ones that cried the most, to sleep in his bed. He said it was to comfort them, but he frightened Sera. Sera cried a lot. She tried to stop, afraid that if she didn't the man would come and take her, too. Sera was already growing hair and had breasts. She'd heard stories about men liking that, but this one didn't seem to be like other men. He stuck to the younger girls. They always went with him crying and red eyed and came back quiet with blank stares that went through you.
Sera had known that something horrible was happening to the girls. Everyone knew. But they were scared. The man was an adult. He was supposed to look after them. He had food and owned a house and beds. He tucked the children in at night. And he did get the girls to stop crying. Adults were good... weren't they? In any case, no one did anything until the night he chose to take the little brown haired girl, the one that no one seemed to know.
The one that called herself Hazelae.
Post by zipp on Dec 27, 2009 19:37:24 GMT -5
Eshnar, near the barrier
From this distance, you could only see it if you sat at the right angle and even then only if you squinted your eyes. After that it looked blue and shimmery. It was like the way the air would wave over a night's fire. It didn't seem real. But she knew it was real. She had seen Jared go out to it. And when he touched it he...
Sera shook her head. She didn't want to think about that, not now. But then, why had she come out here? Was she getting ready to make the same trip that Jared had made? Smelly Jordain was dead and she'd killed him. They wouldn't listen to her now. They would beat her, kill her, too. The once idle talk about the meat on her bones, how many she could feed and for how long... that talk wouldn't be idle any more. She couldn't stay with them. It was either head into the city where the monsters were or walk the expanse of dry grass to the edge of the sphere. Sera sat atop the watch tower and wondered which way was her path.
Nobody knew where the sphere had come from, though many thought it was the work of the gods Kai and Ishir. They were being punished, locked in with the monsters for their sins. Strangely, Sera couldn't remember ever sinning. She thought back on her short life, trying to figure out what exactly she had done. There had been the time she had eaten two sweets when her mom had told her to only have one and she lied and said it had been the dog. And there was the time she had let Macain show her his Thing. Still, somehow they didn't seem sins deserving of what they were living through now. She wished she had sinned worse. Then at least she would understand what was going on.
She knew she must've done something wrong. Otherwise, why would her mom had been killed by those things? Why was she forced to eat rats and worms for her supper? Why had she started bleeding down there the day after Jared had been forced out? Why had Jared been forced out in the first place? Although that one, she knew, was no work of the gods. That was the work of the other children and it seemed to her a bigger sin than ever Macain's little penis had been.
The night the man had taken Hazelae into his room no one had been able to sleep. There was an energy in the Pick and Shovel that seemed almost palpable. Like, if you stuck out your tongue, you would feel the saliva on it sizzling. Sera had kept checking her long black hair, expecting to find it standing on edge. It wasn't, but she felt like ants were crawling all over her all the same. Jared had been there, then. He was the only one who didn't seem afraid, though Sera could smell his sweat in the cool night. It just smelled like onions and garlic but it agitated her. He was afraid underneath his soothing smile. His body was betraying him. Jared tried, though. He lit a lantern and sat with the children and whispered reassurances to them.
Jared had never liked the man but he was only a boy of 16 while the man was full grown. And he had huge arms. One of the children said he had been a soldier, once, or a bandit. Sera couldn't remember which but she could believe either one. Those were definitely arms that had swung a blade many times. Jared watched those arms take the girls upstairs and he said nothing. Not until that night.
When they heard the scream, nobody moved. They had heard noises before from upstairs. Small sobs from the girls, grunts from the man. They didn't know what they meant, except maybe Jared who slept near Sera. She would watch him grind his teeth and clench his fists and sometimes he would even start to get up. But then he would lay down again and roll on his side. Sera would watch his back until the noises stopped and she fell asleep. But this was different. The only times they had heard screams was when the monsters had come. Then it had been the man who had fought them off and brought them to the inn. Now he was screaming and nobody moved.
Before the echoe of the scream had died away, there was the slam of a door and the man appeared on the balcony above them. He was naked and in the light of the lantern they could all see the red splashed across his chest and waist and dripping from the unsheathed dagger he held in his hand. He was yelling at something they couldn't see, something in the direction of his room. He didn't yell for long, though. With a grunt, he turned and fled down the stairs into the midst of the children. Then they saw what he had been yelling at.
It was Hazelae. She was naked as well and stood at the balcony looking down at the man with an unexplainable expression on her face. It was a blank stare, her lips slightly parted and her breathing heavy; her tiny chest rose and fell with each long breath. In that moment, seeing Hazelae on the balcony, something broke in the children. They didn't all know what the man had done, but they knew he was a predator. Something primitive took over, then. Even Sera, who was furthest from the steps where the man was, felt it.
Jared was the first to act. He yelled something indecipherable and leapt at the man, grabbing for one of those massive arms and for the knife. Had it been just Jared, he probably would've died then, but he was followed by three other children and then four more and then more until nearly the entire room of twenty was on him, pulling him down into their midsts, attacking him with whatever they could use for weapons.
Some were biting. Others were hitting. One of the youngest was hitting him with a piece off of a broken chair. Jared came up from the crowd holding the man's dagger, slick and red with blood. Sera was one of the few who didn't join in. She wanted to. She wanted to beat the man and feel flesh under her fingernails, punish him for hurting Hazelae and the other girls. But she was crying again. The tears sapped her strength. She couldn't move forward. All she could do was sit and watch and listen to the screams and think about her mommy getting eaten by the monsters. She couldn't see anything or feel anything except the tears and her stuffy nose and the cold night air. It was only after many minutes of crying that she realized Hazelae was sitting next to her, holding her and telling her it was going to be alright, that it would be over soon, that no one would hurt her again.
Thinking back on it now, Sera thought that Hazelae deserved those words more than she had. After all, she had been the one who had been taken upstairs. Sera, despite all her fears, had never been chosen. At the time, though, Sera had needed someone to tell her those things, even though they were lies. Sera sighed in the watchtower. The truth was an enemy, she thought. It eventually killed all the beautiful lies that made things okay.
Hazelae had told her such wonderful lies. But now Sera knew it wasn't alright. They had killed the man who brought them food and kept them safe from the monsters. She knew it hadn't ended. Jared wanted to protect them, but the children were scared of him. He had hair on his balls, they said, the same as the other man. He would hurt them the same. They stole his dagger and cut his leg bad and he ran away. Hazelae had said no one would hurt her again and for a while it had been true and Sera had dared to have hope. But now Hazelae was gone, too, and Sera had killed smelly Jordain.
Sera looked back at the city. From the tower, she could see all the way to the center. That was where Hazelae had gone. Gone to find her mother, she said. Sera's mother was dead, there was nothing in the city for her. She looked the other way, to the sphere; the edge of her prison.
After a moment, she climbed down from the tower and began to walk across the dead grass, away from the city.
Post by zipp on Dec 28, 2009 21:04:45 GMT -5
Eshnar, City Hall
Little Hazelae walked across the marble tiles of the City Hall. It was a rich building, representing the wealth that Eshnar held within its walls (now its prison). Hazelae could sense the history of this place. She could sense that, at one point, Eshnar had been the poorest city in Magnamund, little more than a dusty street and the Pick and Shovel inn. But now, it was one of the richest, fat off the new found trade routes between the Southern and Northern nations. Or rather, it had been, until her mother arrived.
"Are you there, mother?" Hazelae called into the darkness of the City Hall. The huge stone pillars lining the immense hall towered above her. Her mother might be behind any one of these pillars, waiting for her. "Mother, I've come back to you."
A rasping sigh... a shifting in the dark... and then the hoarse voice calling from out of the shadows. "I'm here, little one. Come forward. Come to mother."
Hazelae felt like skipping in her glee, but she could sense that this moment wasn't right for such frivolity. So she walked forward instead, peering ahead, trying to find the mother she knew was there. Presently she saw a large shape in the gloom. She concentrated, willing the darkness to vanish, the way she'd done while finding her way through the Wildlands at night after having left Dharn. Some of the darkness did vanish, but around the large shape it simply pulled closer, blocking her attempts to see exactly what it was.
"What are you staring at, child?" the voice said again and Hazelae realized it came from the dark shape. "Come closer."
Hazelae started to move forward again and nearly tripped over something lying in her way. She looked down, still concentrating, and saw the body of some kind of animal. It was almost human but had more than a few feline features. Hazelae thought it might have been a woman. Her fur was blue and the yellow robes she wore were stained with red and black blood. Hazelae sniffed at her for a moment and smelled death. This one was dead, then.
"Did you do that, mother?" Hazelae asked. The shape shifted in the darkness and Hazelae heard something wet splash against the floor. Blood, her mind told her.
"The woman... she injured us," her mother wailed. "She tried to stop us from joining. Her sword hurts us. Ah, it hurts!"
"Let me see, mother. Maybe I can do something."
Tentatively the darkness began to withdraw from the shape, like a child slowly removing his hand from a wound, as if somehow exposing the wound would make it worse. Somehow the movement reminded her of the girl Sera, whom she'd left at the Pick and Shovel, but she didn't understand why. When the darkness pulled back fully, Hazelae saw her mother for the first time.
It was hard to describe exactly what the creature in front of her was. It was a bulbous, dripping shape, starting at the high ceiling and elongating from there to the floor. It was attached to the wall by strong strands of grey mucous and pulsed in various places with a steady rhythm. It had no recognizable features except near its base where Hazelae could make out a woman dressed in noble wear and half submerged in the black shape. Hazelae felt recognition brush across her mind. This was also her mother... or rather, a part of her.
Sticking out of the woman was a bright thin sword, the kind that Dharn called a rapier. The woman groped mindlessly at the blade, but she couldn't seem to stand touching it and every time she moved, boils burst on the black shape and oozed black blood onto the marble floor.
"Was this the cat woman's blade?" Hazelae asked, looking at the sword. It was very pretty, even when stuck in her mother.
"Yes," her mother hissed back. "It burns. But we can't touch it. It burns."
"Really?" Hazelae said, reaching for the blade. Her little hand cupped around the crystal hilt. She almost expected to feel a surge of pain, like the time she touched a pan hanging over a fire in Dharn's rooms, but she felt nothing except the warmth where the cat creature had gripped the blade. Hazelae gave a little tug and the blade came free. Her mother gave a mighty heave and then suddenly lurched forward on her mucous ropes, expanding and constricting. Hazelae stood back a bit and watched as the noble-lady-mother was sucked completely into the dark folds of the giant-mother.
Her mother gave a great sigh and Hazelae felt that she had grown. Not in size but some other way. She could feel the room vibrating with her mother's intentions, her power.
"It is time, little one," her mother said. Her voice was different now, deeper and heavier. "You must rejoin us."
Hazelae nodded and took a step forward. At once she felt her mother recoil.
"No. Not with the sword. You must leave the sword, little one."
Hazelae looked down at the blade still in her hand. "I like the sword," she said. "It's pretty."
"No, little one. It would do us much harm from within."
Hazelae frowned. "It would make mother sick?"
Her mother chuckled, a low thrum that made the walls shake. "Yes, it would make us sick. And you, too, little one."
Hazelae frowned at the sword. It felt good in her hand. She didn't really want to let it go. She wished she could at least give it to someone. To Dharn, perhaps, or maybe Sera. It felt wrong to leave it here. Than she remembered that it had been the cat lady's and so she placed back in her hand. When she straightened, her mother was talking again.
"You're a very special girl, you know that? You are our power. You are our strength. It is time you joined us again so that we were whole."
"Like a family," Hazelae said. It wasn't a question.
"A family," the voice agreed, as Hazelae stepped forward and let herself be enveloped by the darkness.
Post by zipp on Jan 3, 2010 23:01:53 GMT -5
Sera Veshin stood in the shadow of the barrier. It was a shadow, truly, though an odd one. Though the sphere covered the entire city the only place that it cast a shadow was here, within a few feet of its shimmering surface. It wasn't black like the shadow cast by a large tree or by the Pick and Shovel when the sun set, a shadow that Sera often felt was reaching out to her, pulling her back into the inn for another sleepless night. This shadow was blue green and filled with more light than darkness. Like sunlight passing through a glass of water it played across Sera's hands as she watched them in the dying light of day. She had to be out of Eshnar by dark.
Sera raised her head from her hands to stare at the wall in front of her. It was strange to think that Jared had been standing here two weeks ago. It seemed like seconds ago to Sera. She felt that, if she were to listen hard, she would still hear his dying scream drifting across the Wildlands, the scream she had heard from up on the Watchtower two weeks ago when he put his hand on the wall and...
... and burnt alive.
She would never forget the sight of Jared catching on fire; the tiny beacon of flame that marked where her friend was dying. She had an old spyglass that she'd stolen from the Watchtower and through it she had watched him burn, not wanting to see it; not able to turn away. She had thought all death would be like that; disturbing, and captivating, and frightening all at the same time. She'd been surprised how easy it had been to watch Jordain die. He'd tried to cut her hair. She remembered his nasally voice taunting her and then turning into a gasp as she twisted free of him and grabbed his knife (no, Jared's knife) out of his fat fingers. Plunging the blade into his throat had been almost an afterthought. She watched him die as closely as she'd watched Jared.
Jordain's death was messier. He made a mess in his breeches as he died and his throat sprayed blood all over her clothing. His spasms were almost funny, like the dance of a jester her mother had once taken her to see. But it was his eyes that were most interesting to her. While all the rest of his body was a flailing mass of flesh and muscle, his eyes remained Jordain. There she could still see his anger and cruelty... and his fear.
It was the fear that made Sera realize she had never really been afraid. She looked into Jordain's eyes and saw true fear and it was something she'd never seen in the little bit of mirror she carried around with her. Her eyes were wide, yes, and she cried a lot, but now she knew that wasn't the same thing as being afraid. After Jordain's eyes finally went dead, she didn't linger long. She knew the other children would find them soon and then it would be her eyes that went dead while they watched. She took back the knife and only stayed long enough to change her clothes. She knew little about travel, but she remembered the dog she'd once owned always sniffing out anything with blood on it, especially fresh meat. She didn't know what was out in the Wildlands, but she didn't want it finding her.
One death and a matter of minutes later and she was here, staring at the final obstacle between her and freedom. But Sera was no longer afraid. She reached out her hand and touched the wall.
Post by Simey on Jan 5, 2010 20:17:58 GMT -5
They have passed through the ground floors of several more houses, a process made very slow and complicated by both the amount of debris to be negotiated and the fact that they are severly hampered in their movement: Simey by the unconscious form of Wise Fox and Armadalus by his injured foot. Simey has been feeling entirely unreasonable annoyance towards Armadalus for allowing himself to get hurt, knowing that in normal circumstances the big Sommlending would be able to carry the Kai himself without being greatly slowed. There has been no further sign of the walking, running, attacking dead, however, so they have managed to struggle onwards, hoping that upon eventually reaching the end of the line of houses they might come across some straight forward means of escape.
Now, however, Simey and Armadalus stop as one, glance at each other in acknowledgement that they have heard it, then listen intently. Somewhere beyond the ruins of the next house there is a conversation going on, though it is too distant for them to discern what is being said. Armadalus gestures for Simey to put Wise Fox down and he does so, being careful to be as quiet as possible. Armadalus then jerks his head in the direction of the voices in indication that they should go and see who is speaking.
They move carefully - Armadalus particularly so on his crutch - on to the next house and then through the ruins of that until they reach what is left of its far outer wall. The sound of conversation gets louder, though it is only when they have crept up behind a waist-high piece of wall and stopped that they are able to concentrate on it enough to hear what is being said. Much further distant a considerable commotion is now audible too.
"His ostensible master must know that ultimately he serves no one," says an even-toned, yet thoughtful voice in Sommlending.
"Probably too stupid," comes a coarse, deep, grunted reply. "Most of them were."
"Or perhaps he believes his trinket holds enough power to bend all to his will," ponders the first voice. "I wonder...."
After an agreeing glance to each other, Simey and Armadalus chance to raise their heads to look over the wall. About thirty feet away stand two figures, sheltered in the open-ended ruins of the last house in the row. Silhouetted as they are against the relative brightness outside, it is impossible to discern a great deal about their appearance, but the smaller one is clearly dressed in a hooded cloak whilst the bigger, bulkier one seems to have a largely shaved head with just a wedge of spiked hair running down the middle. Both are looking down the long street that runs away from the house. From their low angle Simey and Armadalus can't tell what the two are watching, but they can see that whatever it is, it is causing a good deal of dust to rise into the air.
"Don't wonder," says the larger figure after a moment, revealing himself rather unsurprisingly to be the source of the deeper, harsher voice; "it's a waste of time. This whole situation is a waste of time. They're fighting the dead. What use is that?"
"Impatience will ruin all," says the gently chiding voice from the cloak. "Look how the hunter fights: it's magnificent. And there are more of his ilk."
"But are we to wait for the war after the war after the next war?" says the second figure, a little less roughly, as though slightly cowed by the words of his colleague. "Because the next war...."
Turning his head slightly towards his companion, the cloaked figure finishes the sentence left bleakly trailing: "The next war will be against the resurrected Darklord Xog." Looking back out along the street he continues, "But who knows what his armies might consist of?"
Simey and Armadalus' eyes flick to each other's faces, both to see their own look of disbelief reflected.
The larger figure gives a half-hearted grunt of derision. "Well, whatever they consist of right now," he says sullenly, "they'll be here soon, as will he."
Armadalus looks back towards the two figures and Simey follows suit, wondering - as he's sure is his companion - if he has just heard correctly.
"True enough," says the cloaked figure. "It was difficult enough to get here, and I think we've seen all as is likely to be useful: we should leave." He appears to reach inside his cloak to retrieve something, but as he does so he and his companion turn away from the street outside forcing Simey and Armadalus to duck down quickly behind the wall to avoid being seen.
"I'll be glad if I never have to see this place again," says the harsh voice accompanied by the sound of him and his colleague starting to walk.
"This city you mean?" says the softer voice, gently mocking.
"You know what I mean," comes the gruff reply.
The sound of footsteps fades, and Simey and Armadalus peek above the wall to be sure that the two figures have gone. Seeing no one they turn as one to rest against the wall.
Simey's heart freezes.
Looming above them is a huge bestial figure partially clad in plate armour. Its legs are wildly furry and end in viciously clawed feet. An eel-like tail swishes round from behind it. Muscular arms - as though those of a giant human - swing powerful fists that almost seem to glow as they smash aside any masonry that dares to come between them and their prey.
Simey pushes himself uselessly back against the wall, desperate to get away from the monstrosity, but too tightly gripped by panic to raise himself to his feet. Armadalus' alarmed face swings round in front of him.
"Vojske!" barks the Sommlending as he grasps Simey's shoulders tightly. "Vojske! Look at me!"
Simey's eyes stop trying to stare in terror past Armadalus and instead focus on the Sommlending's face. Though it makes no sense, Armadalus is clearly worried solely about him, paying no heed to the creature behind him.
"Vojske," says Armadalus again in a slightly more calming tone. "Are you alright?"
For a moment Simey just looks confusedly at the Sommlending, then he raises an arm to push him to one side, as though drawing aside a curtain. Armadalus allows himself to be moved.
Standing above both of them is a dazed-looking Wise Fox. He is his normal size. He has no bestial features. He is not pummelling walls to dust, but simply leaning on a large chunk of brickwork to support himself.
"What's happening?" asks the Kai in a vaguely puzzled voice, his eyes widening, narrowing and blinking as he tries to focus properly on his companions.
"Nothing. Not now," says Armadalus, clearly trying to cover up Simey's moment of panic.
Maybe not now, comes a thought unbidden into Simey's mind, but soon.
With a chill of dread Simey suddenly knows for certain that the creature he has just imagined in place of Wise Fox is very real. Is the Darklord Xog. And the image he saw may not be an image of now.
Post by Beowuuf on Jan 10, 2010 13:58:02 GMT -5
Innaugural meeting of the Magnamund Knight Council, Council Halls, Holmgardl
Beowuuf tried not to fidget. He tried not to grip the podium. He certainly tried not to stare too long at any one member, nor alternatively cast his head down. Most importantly, Beowuuf tried not to laugh out loud.
He was a beast creature addressing the most respected knights of three illustrious orders. He was a wolf-man dressed as a Vakeros, somehow being taken seriously by kings, princes, queens and elders of many lands.
Beowuuf was not sure if it was nerves, or if it was simply the delayed cumulative effect of the many things that had happened to him over the past few months. More than a few of them were life changing, some were life affirming, and a couple would haunt him as nightmares.
Recounting them in such a bland fashion, to the rapt attentions of so many intimidating listeners, made both his life and his current situation seem ridiculous.
Beowuuf felt his gaze drawn to Gralmis. The Elder Magi gave the wolf a neutral look in return. Beowuuf wondered if the man knew the thoughts going through the wolf's head right now. Gralmis then seemed to smirk, and shook his head imperceptibly. Beowuuf again remembered the power and inscruitable nature of the elder Magi, and respctfully stopped his staring.
Beowuuf found his eyes glancing over the chairman of the Knight's Council, Loeman. Beowuuf found he had no firm opinion on the man whom represented the organisation that had driven Beowuuf's motions from afar these last few months. Like the organisation, Beowuuf felt no personal connection yet, even though he accepted the authority. Certainly, Loeman seemed to be an active knight and a solder, not just a paper pusher. From comments made during speeches by both Ironforge and Loeman, Beowuuf worked out that the man had stood shoulder to shoulder in battle with the council's dwarfish allies in uncertain times.
Beowuuf looked towards the dwarf Ironforge. Beowuuf had now reported on his own parts of the puzzle of the mysterious non-magical yet unnatural metal both had found. Beowuuf had also reported on his meeting with the sadly absent Dwarfish prince. The former meant Bon-Al seemed attentive to Beowuuf's words. The latter seemed to ensure the dwarf was inspecting the wolf with appraising eyes. Beowuuf nodded to the dwarf in respect, and received a cautious nod in return.
Certain noticeable absences reminded Beowuuf to scan the crowd once more for a few faces that he could not see. The first was Master Andras of the Brotherhood of the Crystal star, and in turn the Guildmaster. Beowuuf had been under the Brotherhood's direct authority on behalf of the Council. That none of the Brotherhood whom he would recognise as an authority was around seemed strange in and of itself. The fact that it niggled at the back of Beowuuf's mind, as if he hadn't quite finished the hand over back to his original superiors, did not help his discomfort. Also, it meant he had no way of discovering the fate of the vessel tasked to carry him to the Darklands previously. This was probably a blessing, no news could be imagined to turn out happily. Beowuuf felt a small prayer to those sailors annunciate in his head, and a moment later he swore Gralmis shifted uncomfortably.
Speaking of strange absenses, Beowuuf again looked to see if any ranking Kai had arrived late. Beowuuf was not completely familiar with the organisation and insignia of the Kai, but he thought himself proficient enough in body language and seating placement to recognise that none of the leading Kai seemed to have attended.
It was unfortunate. Beowuuf had hoped to speak to someone such as - Ghostbear, was it? - upon the matter of Wise Fox. Beowuuf had never known the Kai Lord personally, sadly, and had wished to pass on his person condolences and learn of the man that had been slain by Helghast mere moments before Beowuuf would have met him.
And, of course, Beowuuf was honest enough in himself to admit it would merely be the opening gambit to discovering how the children were that Beowuuf had left under the Kai's care. Kamlyn and Simmista. The death of their father by Helghast, directly as a cause of Beowuuf's presense, was somehow too small a matter to be mentioned in this bland summary. Or perhaps too important to be given such light treatment now.
"And in conclusion, that is how I returned to Sommerlund, and eventually this council," said Beowuuf. He again looked over to the gathered assemblage of the Elder Magi, very aware of his orders. The Sommlending and their direct allies could report on the incident in their own borders. It was not the place of the Vakeros to create confusion and add any concerns of their own at this most crucial of times. Or that was the official reason he had been given.
Kehl Loeman was perhaps taken aback that Beowuuf's report did not continue onto what happened within Sommerlund's borders, but he quickly recovered and nodded thanks.
And that had been that. It was such a bland report, and one not addressing the real matter that everyone in the room seemed to know of, yet none - none - wished to address. As if to name the matter was to claim it. As if to go so far out on the limb would be to irrevocably weaken one's position.
Beowuuf had no particular love for any of the Sommlending leadership, even the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star that apparently could not be bothered to contact him again now he had done their dirty work for them.
He was not about to embarrass the Elder Magi if the rumours were false, and it was - for the moment - a problem happening in Sommerlund. Beowuuf wished he could believe that is was just a problem for sSommerlund. He wished he could believe they could have been mistaken. However, like all Beowuuf knew he seemed just as bound in his petty uncertainties and politicking as any around at this moment. At a time when all should be gathered in union, specifically to share information, all parties had never seemed so far apart and bound in silence against one another.
Ruefully Beowuuf wondered if this day would be any different if one of the leading Kai were here, or the Brotherhood. After all, they were above politics and acted for the good of the world beyond their own borders. It shamed Beowuuf almost as much as he could bear. Almost. Now quite however. It was shameful to think that a Kai would step forward where apparently the Vakeros would not, but of course the Kai did not have their gods walking amongst them. A convenient luxury. why weren't any here?
And why was Beowuuf remembering this? Perhaps as a comparison on how it could have gone. After all, it wasn't entirely outwith the bounds of possibility that it could have been Beowuuf himself up there.
Still, it appeared the dubious honour of noteriety would fall to the last of the knights eligable to talk on the matter, the knight Simey. Noteriety he would not soon shake, perhaps, because it was not ever day one collapsed on the floor, screaming the name of Darklord Xog, infront of the assembled leaders of the Freelands.
As Beowuuf finally found the courage to rise and rush forward, he saw Armadalus moving out of the corner of his eye from the seating below, moving in a perpendicular direction towards the podium and Simey.
Now was the interesting part...
Post by Beowuuf on Jan 10, 2010 17:00:15 GMT -5
Innaugural meeting of the Magnamund Knights' Council, Council Halls, Holmgard
Armadalus of course was causing a stir as the knight was rushing towards the podium - though perhaps less so since there were no ranked knights currently there. The man had more guards to deal with, and more distance to cover, than Beowuuf yet he was a recognisable knight of Sommerlund dealing with Sommlending guards and occasional lesser knights.
Meanwhile, Beowuuf's journey should have been shorter, but did force a wolf creature to walk directly around many of the Sommlending high command, and get close to the head of the council himself, and make a move directly to the podium that had been biased right beside the high command of Durenor. His wolf body appreciated being able to move finally, and Beowuuf's mind winced each time he landed awkwardly on his legs. Still, they seemed to be holding up ok.
Needless to say, in not a few cases swords were almost drawn, and Beowuuf was impressed to see that Kehl Loeman himself was one whom drew a blade first. And not a ceremonial one either. What was the nickname the man had - Nighthunter? Certainly no paperpusher. Beowuuf would have nodded appreciation in the direction of what was effectively his superior officer, had such eye contact and delay not carried the threat of violence.
As it was, Simey's collapse and the disruption caused by people flooding towards the podium - two knights with no need to especially - was causing a dangerous atmosphere to develop.
Kehl Loeman ignored the wolf creature passing by his position, and the odd ripple of disruption on the floor. His concern was the disruption around each head of state above. He strode towards his own podium, and the sound of his greatsword's pommel striking violently on the solid oak got everyone's attention.
"Please, all, you must settle! There is no cause for alarm!"
The platitudes did not seem that persuasive, but something in the tone perhaps gave reassurance or threat enough that all looked around at each other. Bodyguards and knights felt collective embarrassment enough to stand down.
Meanwhile, Armadalus managed to bound up the steps to the Durenese side with remarkable ease at about the time Beowuuf managed to reach the podium from the side.
"-is on his Oath! What is the meaning of this?" said a high ranking official, not a knight but an ambassador either of Sommerlund or Durenor. By the trim on his clothes, bearing and tone, the man obviously he had the ear of one of the two kings directly.
"If we are responsible for the truth of our words when we are unconscious, then there are some references to cheese I must beg forgiveness from the Mountain over." This was said by some ranked Knight of the White Mountain. His hand on his sword was possibly a subconscious motion that meant nothing. His tone of voice that conveyed gentle contempt in the direction of the dignitary was less easy to mistake.
"That is not the point, he stated clearly the return of Xog! What says the Durenese on this accusation by their representative?" Beowuuf, along with the ranked Durenese knight apparnetly, would have happily strangled that high-voiced man. His words unfortunatly carried well in the quiet Loeman had generated. And he tipified the political thinking and manoeuvering that was keeping this matter from normal discussion.
Beowuuf could feel the atmosphere. Centred on the knight Simey, on one side the unconscious man had the pressing weight of his whole knighthood and country looking to him to speak the truth. And yet, of course, to shut up for fear of the truth being false and an embarrassment. And, of course, on the other side the rest of the gathered nations were eager for the bubble to be burst and yet ready to tear the burster apart to save face.
That damn diplomat was redrawing battlelines that this incident had almost managed to skirt around. Luckily, Simey was still unaware, not yet having come back around despite ministrations of a junior Brother of the Crystal Star.
"He is probably reliving in dream the same experiences we all had," said Armadalus coming level with the rest of them. Beowuuf could feel that the weight of the man's own knighthood and country were pressing upon the Knight of the Realm's back, yet he spoke clearly and loudly to be overheard. "After all, the wolf has no doubt reported he has collapsed in a simlar fashion and said the same thing."
Beowuuf flinched. Every eye of his own contingent was a physical prescence boring into Beowuuf's back. "Indeed, all three of us have reported similar information to our own leaders," said Beowuuf. If felt physically painful to draw the Elder Magi - including Gralmis - into this, even though it needed to be done. Beowuuf could not tell if Armadalus had been looking to draw Beowuuf into a united front, or had been politicking to have Beowuuf break first. Either way, Beowuuf knew a smile and wink back at the Sommlending Knight was the best way to deal with the acceptance and rebound.
"Quite so!" said Armadalus with finality, again loudly. For a moment the knight looked around to some point in the crowd before he turned his attention and concerns to Simey. Beowuuf was embarrassed to say he'd forgotten why they'd came across, and also moved to check how the Knight of the White Mountain.
As Simey slowly came too, and seemed confused by the vision of the faces around him, there was wave upon wave of loud discussion and questions from the three knightly orders.
"-cannot be again, another champion of Naar?"
"-no communication save these three, even though-"
"-the high watches reported unusual glowing-"
"-knew the loss of the Doomstone was no-"
"-Dessi shield was for, anyway? Whom agreed-"
Beowuuf's ears pricked at that Doomstone comment, it had been said quietly but it had carried. Beowuuf had no idea who said it though. However the Vakeros's thoughts were disrupted, as were all the babble of speech, by Loeman's sword pommel once more.
"Please! There is a report to be finished!" Loeman looked across at the group, which now included Lord Bryont whom had descended to be near. Although the leader of the Knights the White Mountain had not come too close.
Simey was allowed to stand, and uncertainly continued his report, describing in brief his memories of Eshnar that the Helghast had manage to free. Armadalus stood close, nodding to details of Eshnar and supporting Simey from the sidelines with comments every so often.
Were Beowuuf less suspicious, he doubted he would have spotted Armadalus's round-about support of the discovery of Xog's return. Armadalus was supporting the general placement in Eshnar, but clearly did not recall the exact incident himself. No, suspicion could not allow Beowuuf to be so certain. That was not it at all. It was some odd intuition of the wolf - or rather the wolf's true mind Sorba - that kept surfacing, allowing Beowuuf to know more than he should about Armadalus's words.
Beowuuf could do even less than Armadalus, but made sure to nod and agree and add small details any time the post-Eshnar times could be supported. Beowuuf had to stop himself from agreeing with anything to do with the internals of Eshnar directly - after all, strange visions were not something to admit to in the fragile climate.
There was a hushed silence as the united front of the three knights, led by Simey, finsihed the report. There was an uncomfortable stretch of time filled with more hushed silence.
Slowly, a bubble of voices rose, as people starting speaking to those beside each other. The communally agreed noise level rose higher and higher until there was a sea of voices speaking again. Interestingly, the three gathered countries of the knighthoods were keeping relatively quiet. It was, instead, the other gathered countries now taking their pot shots. In equal voices some were demanding to know why such information was being kept quiet until now, and other were asking why such foolish accusations were being thrown around without solid evidence.
And Beowuuf's blood chilled when he caught some Vassgonian questions and insults being thrown around by that gathered section. Far away from the Vakeros sadly meant they were close to the Durenese and Beowuuf's own position. Beowuuf's worry came from the fact that part of the evidence was the words of a Helghast. And the question of whetherthe words of the Helghast had been based on what it had extracted from Simey (which could be false) or whether the words were part of a bluff that had also seen images planted into Simey's mind. Had Beowuuf made a mistake being so eager to come forward?
One last time, the pommel of Loeman's greatsword was heard. "The combined council has reported the information the combined council has currently discovered. Once more has been learned-"
"Fine, the errand boys have delivered the message, now what are the real powers going to do?" came a nasty question whipped out in the silence. Beowuuf really, really wanted to say he knew for certain it was the Vassgonian contingency that had asked that.
Kehl Loeman did not look shocked, nor hesitant. He simly span his greatsword with ease one handed, and drove it point first down into the wood of the floor beside the podium. There was a design on the sword's pommel, a combined council's crest with florishes that flavoured it towards the Sommlending crest. Loeman regarded it proudly.
"The Magnamund Knights' Council has not yet finished its investigations into the loss of contact with the great many men and woman of all three countries that were camped around Eshnar, and whom we have no recent dispatches from. Once we have launched a further exploratory force to recover such information, we will report fully and stand ready to act."
For a moment Loeman looked to his sword, then he looked to his opposite numbers in the two other orders of knighthood. There was just a moment before someone would say something...
"I personally will lead the force, and I shall not return until I know all," said Kehl Loeman again, looking back towards the whole hall. There was a moment of stunned silence both infront and behind of the man.
"Finally, someone says something sensible!" said a strong voice to the side, "Bor stands with you as the prince agreed!"
There was a series of answering calls from more dwarfs along the side, and Ironforge could be seen to nod in agreement.
Loeman waved a hand away. "While the council appreciates the gesture, I am sure Prince Torfan's offer of alliance did not extend to such martial matters."
There was a shifting of a seat, and a young dwarf took to one of the steps close to their own podium that allowed him to be seen. Beowuuf recalled the dwarf to be called Zundar, and was technically Beowuuf's opposite number in terms of being a diplomat. Unlike Beowuuf, it sounded like Zundar had earned his position - one vacated recently by the previous ambassador Tootshillman. Zundar had been nominated because of the aid he had given in Ironforge's campaign to Kalte.
"If Prince Torfan offered his alliance to the Council directly, then that alliance extends to battle! We have always stood with the Freelands' armies! Why should we do less under official oath?" While the dwarf perhaps seemed uncertain to be standing and addressing the Knights' Council in the hall, his words were strong and proud. Bon-Al Irongforge was seen to strongly nod in the background.
Kehl Loeman smiled and bowed. "Then it is agreed. The forces of the Magnamund Knights' Council, aided by a representation of the Dwarfs of Bor, shall go forth to discover the truth of the words spoken here. I shall begin the arrangements at once. My lords, ladies, dignitaries and peers, as we have reported them I thank you all for attending this first meeting. I call it ajourned!"
And with that, the Nighthunter pulled his blade free and sheathed it as he walked away. In confusion everyone looked around. Quite quickly, the knights of the three knighthoods around began to cheer. It was raised for the strong words of their leader, and before those others gathered could perhaps raise voices to object or question the words.
And that, it seemed, was the end of the first council's meeting. All around the stands the three orders of knighthood took their cue and began moving out, to allow those other countries and the dignitaries to engage in their politicking and networking. The Magnamund Knights' Council had made it clear there was work to be done, and they would be doing it. And Beowuuf knew that certainly, this first meeting would be well remembered. Beowuuf just hoped it would not be remembered with noteriety for the events that could unfold from it.