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The year is 4675. At least, that is what the records say. However, it is a world much different than what you may imagine. Any vision of a futuristic metropolis spreading nearly all over the land is a false one. Over the centuries, the rulers of men deduced that people were easier to control if the civilization was not so advanced. The end result caused society itself to revert back to the Dark Ages. Wars are fought once again with swords and shields, bows and arrows, horses and chariots. Any accurate records of the past were destroyed, leaving only a very select few a clear knowledge of what they once had. Those select few sources are locked away within the catacombs of monasteries, and those sources are vague, the only true bit of information that one could gather is the current year, and the year in which society shunned advanced technology: 3389. You are probably thinking to yourself that over the course several hundred years that people would have at least advanced a little out of the Middle Ages. The truth is obvious. They didn’t. For whatever reason it may have been. The conniving government leaders who changed the world unleashed strange and fearsome creatures upon the Earth. These horrors aided their cause by destroying resources that had lead to some of society’s biggest advancements. Creatures that weren’t of human creation also came to exist once again. Creatures of fantasy-dragons, elfs, dwarfs, goblins, and all manners of races that emerged from hiding from the ever present destruction that humans had concocted. That also may be another reason. Though the ancient records are vague and unclear, they hint to a great and terrible war; a conflict that changed the geographical face of the world and nearly destroyed all living things upon it. Your world now resembles two boots, pointing away from each other and connected by one lace. Perhaps people retain some sort of subconscious memory of this nightmarish event and wish to never return to it. Thus, the creative builders, thinkers, and inventors are all shunned. Not banned, but not welcome in society. They seek hidden communes and homes removed from the normal goings-on of the public. However, there is one type of new, innovation that society has not shunned, but rather welcomed. They welcome it, and quite often use it as a weapon…as they had done with other innovations millennia ago. This innovation comes in two varieties: Soul Energy and Mana. Soul Energy is the natural force that flows through all living things. Scientifically, it is known as one’s mental fortitude, or mental drive. However spiritually, it is one’s very soul. Generally people tend to think that the spiritual belief is more accurate, because Soul Energy can only be harvested and utilized if the energy’s vessel has perished. In other words, something has to die before a Soul Slayer (the name given to those who wield Soul Energy) can use this force to their liking. This fact scares some people, so much so that Soul Slayers live in tribal societies outside of the general public. Their small, village-like civilizations are scattered about the land of Thoracia (what your world has come to be known as). Separate, but not quite removed from regular society, they practice their art and live out their lives peacefully.
Each tribe, or clan as they are called, practices only one form of the art. The clans live separate from each other, some out of hostility, but all because of a conflict involving a massive war nearly a century ago. The conflict caused Soul Slayers to choose both sides, fighting each other in nearly every battle. Friends, relatives, family even, forced to fight and kill each other. In the middle of the war, the Soul Slayers declared themselves neutral, withdrew from the conflict, and settled in the scattered civilizations across Thoracia. Originally, the civilizations were home to mixed arts, but over the years that began to change, eventually creating clans that lived differently and separately from the others. Clans grew and faded in size, some died out, others live so secretly, no one knows of their status or of their doings. Mana is the opposite of Soul Energy in origin, but similar in many other aspects. Mana is the force that flows through all non-living things. No one is entirely sure what Mana really is, but what we do know is that Mana is a mix of things. It’s a mix of all the different natural forces in the world, such as magnetism, gravity, heat, sound, light, air pressure, moisture, and the like. When combined, these forces become very similar in appearance and function to Soul Energy. There is no spiritual theory behind Mana. Warlocks (users of Mana) can extract and manipulate Mana at any time out of thin air. Warlocks are often regarded as scientific geniuses, as they are rare beings. Both Soul Energy and Mana can be very destructive forces. Even with the plans and ulterior motives of the conniving government leaders of old lost, people are still people. As people are still people, people still fight other people. Even with the races once considered only existing in fantasy and legend showing themselves, the main enemy of man was still man. Until recently. Exactly 100 years ago, the city that lay upon the very center of the thin strip of land connecting Thoracia’s two halves, Epitropolis, was besieged. However it was no siege staged by humans, or elfs, or dwarfs, or goblins, or any other race or creature on the planet. At the very heart of Epitropolis, a portal to another world tore the ground asunder, and out-poured hordes of fierce, fiendish creatures. Creatures that have come to be known as “Demons.” Demons are abominations of life. Fearsome in appearance and lacking in any discernable mercy, they take their greatest pleasure in ravaging, pillaging, and killing. These ruthless creatures are led by an even more ruthless king. Vercingetorix, the Demon king rules with a cold, calculated, lethal cunning from his home world. From atop his throne he commands his seemingly endless armies of devilish fighters, loosing them upon the doomed races beyond. At least they were doomed. One day a great leader arose. Known simply as “The Great One” he united many of the races and organized an extremely effective defense against the demons. He traveled with a few of his close companions, campaigning across Thoracia, going before Kings, Chiefs and Emperors, beseeching them with blood boiling speeches that spoke of kinship, pride and victory. Most of the races listened to him, but some did not. Most notably the Goblins, who were the first to align themselves with the encroaching Demon threat. Goblins…you can’t find a more spineless, gutless, cowardly race than that. Though he was a great leader, he was also a great warrior. A sight to behold on the battlefield, he gave true meaning to the phrase “one man army.” He is the first and possibly only human to have been known to wield both Soul Energy and Mana. Not only did he wield it, it was as if he were Soul Energy and Mana. He was the only
They have since retreated to their caves hidden in the mountains. when he had pushed the great hordes of Demons all the way back to the very center of Epitropolis. The Great One’s closest comrade. wishing to rebuild their race before any fight can be had. that the greatest and most proud race. and now sat at the left hand of the Demon King. The Thoracian Union is also slowly losing the will and resources to continue the fight. . and I am a Soul Slayer.single being that the Demon King ever feared. relying on the groundwork that The Great One had laid. they successfully restricted the Demons to certain patchwork areas about Thoracia. neither can the Thoracian Union (the alliance of the races). the resistance continued what had been started. Their movements are secret. corrupting the local governments and terrorizing the innocents. This is where my summation ends and my story begins. but the true advances that the Demons make. He was. Though the battle at Epitropolis was inevitably lost. There. If the conflict continues as it is. Who am I? I am Jennifer D`Alessio. the Dragons. had slain him. refusing to aid either side in the conflict. He was killed at the height of his campaign. The Demon King’s agents and some of his officers ravage the country side. Large skirmishes that are fantastic to watch. Though the Demons cannot gain any advantage. then the Demons will surely achieve victory. The Great One was betrayed by his closest friend. were nearly wiped out. their actions are not. are in their psychological warfare. The shock was so deep. His betrayal turned the tide nearly instantaneously. his esteemed colleague and partner of over twenty years. I have told you everything leading up to this point. There are battles between the Demons and the races.
buddy. A herd of alpacas. She stole a deep breath. but the simplicity. It is believed that time speeds up when one is happy.1. drinking in the cool. She smiled softly as she gazed over the cup-like indentation that was her home town. and solitude. carrying baskets laden with ripe cherries. Jennifer watched the boys as they sped down the hill and back into the little hamlet at the base. Setting her buckets down. she believed. plod gaily towards her. life. After a few unnoticed minutes. not in any hurry whatsoever. she went to the water’s edge. gazing into the blue sky. looked up into her eyes and hummed softly. farming. . Not one cloud disturbed the perfect hue of the azure firmament.” Jennifer addressed the alpaca as if addressing a young child. ever occasionally trading with nearby villages and cities. She sighed in satisfaction and looked back down at the surface. A nasally hum on her right side pulled her from her trance. a pair of buckets hanging on either end. sniffing her clothing tentatively. one could not tell that it was there. “Hurry up. is what made the life so pleasant. She stepped along without care. for whatever reason. crisp liquid. “Hey.” Jennifer waited until the thin herd had passed her. looking at the ground as her leisurely climb brought her up the steep hill. grassy hill. no more than forty or fifty. rather than retaining balanced buoyancy. The village that Jennifer lived in was a simple one. Fish that swam by appeared as if they floated in air. studying her reflection in the water. hunting. I gotta get this chore done. A small. and slows when one is sad. She bent her head forward. Jennifer cupped her hands and brought the sweet water to her lips. the nearly noon sun washing her in warm light. for the water was so clear. Jennifer could hear the happy gurgle and churning of the stream that she had been seeking out. then she crossed the top of the hill and descended into the forest at the base. drying her hands on her alpaca fur tunic and pants. sending a rabbit rushing for the cover of some underbrush. Jennifer had led a happy life. buddy. Jennifer trod lackadaisically up the grassy hill. It was a simple. clean forest air. there were no dangerous animals in this forest. Once she snapped a twig. They eked out a rather comfortable life. the loud swishing of dried leaves startling the girl for only a moment. cleansing her lungs with the fresh. as it seemed as her entire life of twenty years had only stretched the span of but a few. The alpaca snorted. the village had been built within the confines of a forest on the western edge of Western Thoracia. down the hill. only stained ever so slightly by the small columns of smoke rising from a few huts in the village at the base of the overgrown. her hands hung loosely over the wooden pole held tightly at the top of her back. They started to cross her path. For reasons of both safety. two young boys raced past her. clay huts and wooden sheds were all that the villagers lived in. Had the stream not been so noisy. When she reached the top of the hill. Jennifer followed a worn path that wound gently through the forest. hazelnut colored one that desperately needed shearing stopped just short of the girl. She hummed softly to herself.
Puzzled. she had more than once been mistaken for someone of nobility. In fact. something caught her eye. chasing and being chased by men clad in dark green armor. Her most striking feature. and inspect the workings of your body to the finest of details. his life drawn from him instantly. she could discover every secret you kept within your memory. triangular blade screamed into existence. divine ever ounce of knowledge you have gathered. were her eyes. and all outside influences were forgotten. It snaked viciously down the once peaceful-looking stream. a soldier chased a woman clutching a baby. she charged down the hill. Jennifer dropped her bucket and sprinted off towards the village. this time deciding satisfaction.Jennifer was. Within moments. she sat back on her heels as she undid the tie keeping her hair held in a pony tail. gasping. barely detectable over the mold and freshness of the forest ground. Jennifer followed the discoloration up stream. your focus was instantly put upon her. however. the stench of the blood. Hopping over the body. Jennifer set it aside and reached for the other one. when the opposite was the truth. Rage and purpose swelled within Jennifer. she leaned over the surface to examine herself. a glowing orange. watching as it grew wider and wider. Before she could dip the rim of the wood into the stream. she was suddenly aware of all around her. .’ In her right hand. however. the bucket was heavy with the clear liquid. screams and battle cries flowed over the crest. she was upon the source…a corpse. a streak of crimson destroyed the crystal clearness of the water. You felt as if. These eyes gave a look that no one could ever forget. in flight and in fight. One bore a flag. The water bubbled calmly as its flow carried it to the bottom of the bucket. and she once again tied it up. a beautiful young woman. Not giving her armored opponent a chance to fight. After deciding dissatisfaction with her light brown hair. he leveled his spear at the charging girl. much more powerful than what was usual. a nobleman who had pledged his life to Vercingetorix. she propelled the blade at her attacker. what one might consider. badly hewn. causing it to ripple like the stream before her. thin. she reached behind her for one of the wooden buckets. she discerned that it was one of the villagers: the bridge keeper. as Jennifer had caught his eye. When she gazed upon you. The village was under siege. the only thing racing faster than her heart. Suddenly. The smell of smoke suddenly assailed her. for she observed the world through windows of a brown so dark. Jennifer’s senses heightened. A swift shake of her head. and sprinted to meet her. Clearing her throat. filling it swiftly. She was generously proportioned. sweeping motion. that it was difficult to ascertain where her irises ended and her pupils began. She broke free of the forest. Jennifer’s stomach clenched. Upon a closer inspection of the carcass slowly flowing with the water. but stopped his pursuit. wisps of Soul Energy swirling about it. A stain. by looking at you. was her mind. Villagers ran rampant. and sported a visage that the commoner would think belonged to someone of high status. The soldier collapsed to the ground. the flag sporting the angled blades of two crossed kukris. Overtaking the top of the hill she halted. speeding furiously up the hill. she repeated her mantra in her head: ‘Kendowei. With a swift. a tarnish. Between two buildings. Again. Jennifer continued towards the chaos. One might assume that such coloration would make her appear as if she were unfocused. Grinning at his new prospect. The blade punctured cleanly into the thin area of armor at the neck just below the chin. the flag of Kornin Aidus.
Leaping through a large hole in the blazing wall. sinking it in a few inches. The village would burn to ash. She grabbed up the few things that weren’t on fire: a traveling cloak and a survival knife. some were soldiers. The fires ate away ravenously at the buildings. a shadow on the horizon. she happened across one of Kornin’s men just as he was executing a pleading old man. towards the bridge. she ducked under the crumpled door frame and into the main room. Startled from the impact. profusely leaking crimson. . The mantra smoothly replaying in her conscious. away from the town. she watched. a pair of nunchaku materialized noisily in her left hand. crying. Squinting from the smoke and heat. Some were villagers. she escaped the inferno. Jennifer continued towards her home. and riding in all directions. donned the traveling cloak. There was nothing she could do. Panting. glancing about. or lay in a state so close to death. screaming. Frustrated she ran down the road towards her own residence. The blow from her weapon sent his helmet cascading into the upheaval. so barbarically hewn they were. There was but one thing she could do. as Kornin and his contingent road the dirt path up the hill. and looked back at the town square. The town was discordant. crawling. Jennifer fastened the survival knife to her belt. When she reached it. The weapons faded out of existence. and the dead soldier crumpled to the ground. darkening the once creamy skin on her knuckles. Pressing her lips together she observed the destruction that they had wrought.She stopped short of the dirt road. Bodies lay strewn all about. died. it was fiercely ablaze. The soldier proudly lifted himself to a standing position. laying in pools and streaks of dark red. that she could not aid them. and started up the road. faded over the hill. Before she could make it there. the villagers had all either run far away. seeking out an opponent. her rage and energy fading. Flames and smoke blocked Jennifer’s vision. struck the ground with her fist. Seek vengeance. the smoke choking out the sun’s light making noon seem like evening. he was too slow to react to the following blow from the newly formed sai in the Soul Slayer’s right hand. staining the once tan dirt. Jennifer had witnessed enough. hanging his bloody sword loosely at his side. people were running. Wrath once again swelled within Jennifer. The last soldier. Jennifer dropped to her knees. and some could not be identified. not seeing Jennifer until the last second.
what is the rush?” Jennifer stopped and stiffly turned to him. so that she could not fail in her attempt. So focused was she. Jennifer thrust her shoulder forward and up. my. “I am no maiden. small beard and moustache. Taken by surprise the ranger took a step back and let his arms go wide. She was made aware and brought back into reality. Though Karrock was ruled by a king.” Jennifer insisted darkly. After exiting the forest she would walk for about another three miles. Spinning to her left. “My name is Jennifer D`Allessio. Jennifer was focused on her plan. After a moments silence. leaves. leather scabbard. pompous appearances. now if you’ll excuse me-“ Jennifer tried to turn away. Karrock was truly ruled by Kornin Aidus. His jet black hair hung down in scraggly. the city of Karrock. “My lady!” the ranger called after her. she was formulating her plan of revenge. Grimacing out of annoyance. then come to a city. I am a Soul Slayer of the Form Village. It had been nearly two hours since she left the village. His eyes were of a dark green that made them seem as if they absorbed the colors of the leaves above and the grass below. That is when she would make her move. and exact her revenge. spreading the cloak to reveal an olive shirt. I am on my way to assassinate him. She turned and continued along the road. “what is a fair maiden like yourself doing so far away from her palace? Let alone her bodyguards?” Jennifer turned her head and beheld the unshaved countenance of a ranger. seeds in order to give it camouflage on a three-dimensional level. he was nothing more than a figurehead. a sai burning into reality in her left hand. “My lady.” a masculine voice mused. He was garbed in a dark green cloak. Jennifer held the tip of the glowing blade near to the ranger’s neck. framing his unkempt. that she didn’t realize the presence that had been following her for some time. grinning at her sideways. All the while she was walking her lonely walk.” . but the ranger took hold of her arm. worn brown pants and a sword held in a dark brown. Kornin Aidus. His steady breathing played with a small leaf stuck in the top of his moustache. she murmured her mantra in her head.2. running through every possible scenario. pushing the blade off of her neck. His teeth were abnormally clean for a man of the woods. She pulled her arm from him and took off her hood. moss. sheathing his knife and hurrying to catch up. loose spirals. dirt. The cloak was bristled with sticks. “So you are agreeing that you’re fair?” the ranger joked. Jennifer allowed the sai to fade away. and the road had carried her deep into a small forest. Jennifer trudged down the dirt road at a brisk pace. “My lady-“ “Stop calling me that!” Jennifer exclaimed. bits of moss sloughing off of his cloak. “My village was just burned to the ground by a lord who lives nearby. just over his shoulder. Once in the city she would keep a low profile until Kornin made one of his predictable. when the presence pressed the tip of a curved blade against her neck. drawn about his front so as to conceal his garments underneath. “My.
” The ranger started off into the woods. The ranger’s bedroll lay unfurled near his bow and quiver. and assassinating someone does take some energy.” Brennus stopped. “Very well. turning at seemingly random times and hopping over small streams that seemed to come from nowhere. “Brennus?” she requested his attention. we can eat it all tonight so that I won’t have to spend precious hours salting and packing it. but he was cut short as Jennifer disagreed. She considered for a long time. once again taking the serious tone. “Excellent. “With all due respect. seeing him in a different light.” His tone once again resumed its previous humorous tone. the deer is waiting. “I also have a similar debt to repay to Kornin. Brennus took off his cloak and tossed it onto his bedroll. but first. “If you keep following the road you will have to go past three road blocks that Kornin’s men control.” Jennifer extended a hand of greeting. This time the ranger did not pursue. shaking it firmly. you’re tired. . setting it down next to her. Now.” Jennifer turned to look at him. its blood collecting in a hole dug into the ground.“Pardon me. and have recently killed a deer that I cannot finish in one night. Taking some flint and steel out of his pocket. “You won’t ever make it to the city. She stared at him for a minute longer. it shall be night soon. “So we’re on an informal first name basis now. kindling and logs waiting for their burning.” Not wishing to respond. but submitting to her heavy limbs and grumbling stomach. Clasping his hands together he addressed her “Jennifer. bowing overly-politely. “No.” Annoyed. I must be off. A moment’s pause passed before the ranger continued. eh?” Brennus replied.” Jennifer stopped walking. and was pulling firmly at her belt. under the shade of a large cherry tree. accompany me to my camp. nearly eye level with him. he lit a fire in the pit. deducing whether he was telling the truth or not. miss Jennifer. Brennus beamed and took it. she followed him.” He turned to meet her gaze. I’m also hungry. miss Soul Slayer. I ask that you allow me to aid you and accompany you on your task.” Jennifer once again put up her hood and turned down the road.” Jennifer stared back at the ranger. instead his demeanor took on a more serious tone as he watched her walk. An unused fire pit lay between the two trees. A dead deer hung upside down from an ancient pine tree. unless you want that meat to go to waste. “The roundabout way is nearly a days worth of traveling. The ranger took her on a haphazard route. might I suggest that you rest for awhile first? I mean. you must have been walking for hours. we shall go to the city. The ranger hurried around the front of her. not looking back at her as he carved the deer. now that we’re acquainted. “I am Brennus Zelten. The hilt of her survival knife had gotten jammed into the crook of a tree root. and raised his head in annoyance. She readjusted it and looked to Brennus. but I know of a roundabout way to get there. I’m tired. “Now come.” “Well. you may join me in my task. and started to busy himself with the deer. She took off her own cloak and folded it up neatly. No don’t try to deny it. Deciding that he was she calmly walked back over to him. a ranger of this forest. Jennifer sat down under the cherry tree facing the ranger. we can still make it before nightfall. it wasn’t long before they arrived at his campsite.” the ranger smiled. Jennifer pushed passed him and continued briskly down the road.
She then politely handed it to the squirrel. “Thank you. I lived there with my family. are you Christian?” Jennifer asked awkwardly. it’s just this area. “My family hadn’t minded. ‘Sins. “I lived in a cottage in a small woodland just north of Enthra. and even became a member of the militia. she peered up to ascertain the nut’s origin. . “Talking squirrels are actually quite common in this area. In fact. I think…” Brennus paused. The ranger stuck the knife deep into the haunches of the deer and turned to face the Soul Slayer.” the squirrel retorted with a nod. a large hazelnut bounced off the top of Jennifer’s head. withdrew the knife and continued his cutting. “Brennus. “Wow. “You act like it’s a rare thing!” “Oh yes. my father.Jennifer snorted softly. Kornin Aidus’s father. Kornin was displeased in his father’s ideals and choices. Zirthan Aidus. horrendous day forward.” Jennifer cleared her throat. all the squirrels in my village talked. “I think that’s where the trouble started. and therefore. A curious looking brown squirrel stared down at her. Her previous thought again occurred to her. My brother and I spent the rest of our youth there. The only ones who believe in sins are-‘ Suddenly.” The squirrel looked appalled. Kornin inherited his guards.” Jennifer said sarcastically.” Brennus gestured at the air with his deer stained knife. if we’re going to be traveling companions. we could kind of see it coming. except for a select few. ‘There’s an odd word choice. Jennifer took her hand from her head and looked down at the ground. I stayed and became a full-fledged ranger. seemingly to the tree. “Yes. before he left for other things. he began to skewer some pieces of meat on a sharpened stick. One day.’ Jennifer pondered. “Anyways. Jennifer shifted uneasily in her seat. isn’t that sad?” The squirrel said. so we got along well enough. “Would you mind handing me my left nut?” Jennifer blinked. advisors.” “Yes. rolled and came to rest on a small heap of leaves. It was a village of rangers. my father. burned our house. My father worked as a guard for a noblemen. My brother and I fled to the woods and away into a nearby hamlet. but his eyes sagged with sadness.” Brennus interrupted.” Brennus turned back around. still covering her head. “But from that one. feeling like she had absolutely nothing else to say. reached down. we might as well be comfortable with each other. and little brother. feeling that perhaps she shouldn’t have asked. the only thing that seemed immune to the silence that descended between the two. Those men were brutes. Kornin came with his men. a talking squirrel. He spit it out into his hands and spoke. his expression was that of deep thought. my nut?” Jennifer. our town crier was a fat grey squirrel. and plucked the nut from the ground. “Now. and as she looked up to Brennus. father did some mercenary work with the local police.” The fire crackled and snapped. and killed my father and my mother. exactly what kind of debt do you have to repay to Kornin?” Brennus stopped his sawing motion of his knife for a moment then immediately resumed it. I swore an oath to hunt down that bastard and force him to atone for his sins. and guards. clutching another hazelnut in his right cheek. mother. so dismissed all of his inherited servants. “Sadly. When Zirthan died. But. just before stuffing the hazelnuts in his mouth and scampering off into the depths of the tree. Covering her head with her right hand.
people don’t tend to notice. “Well then. Without saying anything. Brennus laughed. she spit the pit into the fire. she threw the hood of her traveling cloak over her head and sighed loudly. she inhaled the smoldering wood one final time. “So. With an expert twist of fingers.” he said gaily.” “Well. Brennus waited patiently. “Was that the huge giveaway?” “It was just an interesting word choice. her stomach full of venison. When she was satisfied with herself. putting away the salt and gathering up the meat into a drab cheesecloth. “Filth like him are proud of everything they do…even killing innocents. I just believe. . “I’m not devout. smiling with one eyebrow raised humorously.” She paused. “How did you find out?” “You said ‘sins.Brennus turned to her. then silently lay down. Carefully chewing away the flesh. Brennus swallowed his mouthful of venison then spoke. Jennifer’s expression faded. crouched over some dried strips of deer meat.” Jennifer popped another cherry in her mouth. “what is your plan for killing Kornin?” Jennifer lay back against the cherry tree.” Brennus began.” Jennifer chewed the cherry loudly. and the yellow glow of the fire was the only light source keeping their conversations alive. She swallowed the last bits of cherry in her mouth. She stared at the fire blankly for a moment. It’s not so bad if you’re not devout. “Yes. He grabbed a hefty handful of dirt and threw it onto the fire. his voice distorted with a mouth full of venison. lightly salting them. I’ll have to be more careful. Jennifer adjusted her belt one last time. trying to change the subject. “I suppose that I will strike him down when he’s parading himself. he reached a partially gloved hand under his tunic and produced a small. I’m sorry. he’ll be too absorbed in his “glory” that he won’t notice me. “You must be so lonely. I think that if we will be ready for this.” Jennifer said behind a smile. “Ok. tucking it into her cheek to squeeze out a final sentence. resting his head against his folded traveler’s cloak.” “Ok?” Brennus replied. “Good night. as someone would do after a hearty meal and absent mindedly reached up to a low branch and plucked a few ripe cherries. “I’m not sure. we should definitely sleep now. Brennus lay on his bedroll.” Soon darkness fell. resting her head against her own folded cloak. “Oh. Brennus paused for a moment as the loud crunching emphasized Jennifer’s feelings.’” Jennifer pointed out. Before the trance of sleep could steal her away. she removed the stem of one and popped it into her mouth. “Well. silver cross bound to a decorative chain.” he said enthusiastically.” “Are you sure that he will put himself on display like that?” Brennus swallowed a poorly chewed piece of venison roughly. fussing with the scabbard of her survival knife.” Jennifer thought for a moment as to how exactly she should perform her act of vengeance.” He sat cross legged and rested his head on his hands.” Jennifer did not respond. With the light doused.
brown. ‘Kendowei. she was not expecting a bear to come after her. kicking up massive amounts of debris in its wake. I’ve got him. Drawing an arrow. just don’t-” but it was too late. staring out across the stream which had. I’m ready when you are. Jennifer turned her head slowly to her right. arm nearly locked out. but not completely. but she had lucked out. Jennifer would have died then and there. watching the back of his head as he stood. all mounted on a great. but not past the big stump. Though she could see the eyes. the rock is slippery.” he said. So absorbed. she could not ascertain what manner of beast they belonged to. clawed paw high into the air. Like a cat sensing its surroundings. Naturally. The bear was suddenly on her. scanning their environment. he was not. He held his bow horizontally in front of his body.“Yep. Leaping to the side. “We are not alone. indifferent eyes staring back at her. his were ever silent. grown larger since she had last checked. throwing the hood of his own cloak up. sticking it firmly into the dirt below. His gaze caught Jennifer’s and he put a finger to his lips. to her surprise. Brennus pointed upstream and the two followed his gesture. but Brennus seemed almost as if he were a part of the forest. and the sais faded into nothingness. Their conversation was limited to the occasional “Watch this step. Instead the very tip of the bear’s claws scraped at the flat side of her survival knife. “Jen. she drew her survival knife. The bear roared aggressively. . The bear brought his paw down. roaring in exertion. “Don’t worry. she prepared to say her mantra. Brennus noticed. Jennifer became absorbed in simply watching as the ranger moved.” Her eyes were on Brennus. rangers are at home in their respective forests. He turned his head back and forth. “Look just to the left of that group of saplings. Still.” Brennus’s voice was a whisper only in the sense that it made noise. Normally. he crouched slightly and focused his movements on his upper body.” As the two of them traveled on. the sheer power behind the animal’s swipe knocked the blade from her hands. half full with arrows would hinder someone stooping under a low fallen tree. muscular body. he nodded gently in the direction of a group of saplings. missing the bear by yards. Jennifer could not help but notice how at home Brennus was. The pair started off in a generally East direction.’ The flaming blades screamed to life in her hands. He held up his right hand. Jennifer was not so lucky. she summoned a spiked gauntlet over her right hand. When they reached a stream. bringing in tow a large round head. “SHIT!” Brennus fired his arrow but it went wild. he tossed his bow down and drew his sword. Had the bear been any closer. bulbous. raising a massive.” She returned her gaze back to Brennus. Normally where a three and a half foot quiver. Of all things.” and “Careful. Where normally footfalls would snap dry. Flexing her hands. who was now down on one knee. that she did not notice that the two of them were being watched…and followed. stay quiet. and grabbing his bow. Her reflexes ringing the proverbial bell in her head quite loudly. winding it back to about even with her ear. Jumping back to the edge of the creek.” Jennifer scrutinized the area and beheld two black. Brennus turned. topped with tiny circular ears. she could not in this instance. where she could easily keep a shred of her concentration alive and well to keep her Soul Energy running. which she had brought to bear in front of her face. The eyes suddenly burst out from behind their cover. old twigs. “Then let’s be off. signaling for the two of them to stop walking.
“When he’s not looking I’m going to stab him. Sheathing it slowly he replied.” he turned back.I don’t think anyone saw us. she posed a question to the ranger’s back.” “No. we’ll be good to go. In hindsight that had been foolhardy. he could be trusted. down a short alleyway into the street. small bolts of blue lightning scattered over his body like a pack of ravenous ferrets. Sheathing it.” Brennus turned and started up the stream again. despite the fact that he hid this from her or not. they won’t. When she clasped it. Its fur was a chaotic sea. figuring that it would just come to her spur of the moment. So if we just slip into the crowd nonchalantly. the bear stood frozen for a moment. “So how are we getting in? By the sounds of things. When the assault finally ended. Jennifer approached Brennus.” Jennifer nodded her approval. “Ok. Now she imagined Kornin riding on a horse.. Picking stray hay straws. to a certain extent at least. but discarded it. come. Jennifer waited patiently for the ranger’s call. then leapt gracefully into the hay cart below. That was when she would strike. Brennus heaved great breaths of effort. parading through the people towards his barracks. bringing a generic. Brennus eyed the blade. still slightly out of breath. yet long bladed knife into existence in her right hand. . “I think. She stared back at the ranger. Thinning her eyes in suspicion. She had not given any thought as to an exact plan. “Yes.” Jennifer felt a pang of distrust for the ranger. Standing just adjacent to where the bear was a moment before. She pulled herself out and slipped into the shadow of a tavern.” Jennifer steadied herself on the edge of the stone block. Snapping out of her train of thought she stood a little straighter. its cry grew high pitched and strained. in Brennus’s wake. “How far are we?” “Not far. He held out his hand to assist Jennifer. but specifically. seeing Jennifer grooming he wiped a few bits of hay off his own body. hoisting himself atop of a large. but otherwise gave no other acknowledgement as she continued her hunt for hay straws. Lying still for a moment she briefly let her thoughts wander to how warm the hay felt. he added “so we’re going over the wall.. “It’s good. Brennus peeked around the sunny corner of the tavern.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I didn’t find it necessary at the moment. what are you going to do?” Jennifer let the blade fade away. “You’re a Warlock?” Brennus ceased the flow of Mana over his sword. I don’t think they’ll let us in the front door.The bear cried out in pain.” Jennifer said her mantra in her head. his sword crackling with blue electricity. Brennus adjusted his sleeves and looked up at the Soul Slayer seriously. then turned and hobbled off. “So how are you going to do it?” Jennifer stopped and met Brennus’s gaze. whining and coughing. The ranger had just saved her life. pressing his tongue thoughtfully against his cheek. Jennifer pulled her survival knife out of the dark earth and wiped it clean on her cloak as she walked. I am. mossy boulder. its joints shook and buckled under the great weight.” Brennus said curtly.
he raised his arm up past the shoulder of the redhead on his left. firm slap. waste. but no scent could be had. The faces were dismal. Brennus grabbed her free arm. decay. she could feel the air moving down into her lungs. grime. serious. aroused. “Yes.” she began. not wishing to give anything away. “I will run into the parade group. The general air of the city was one of somber neutrality.” Brennus shrugged and turned. All was quiet. The noble’s look was very smug. holding his own ground. Over even his own proud voice. again. the crowd faded until there were simply a few people that were walking hither and thither. he threw up his hood. Adjusting his gold striped beret in an unneeded way. her eyes staring straight ahead. The girls about him did not seem to mind. “I will strike first. and kill him.“When he’s rides past me. “Let’s go.” “Of course. Cocking an eyebrow in the slightest of ways. The pig nobleman turned. “We shall flank him as he marches. The third licked her lips. A bright clash of clean and vibrant colors. Brennus did not realize she had stopped until the last second. The two of them walked calmly into the sea of cloaked and hooded faces. Jennifer closed her hand angrily about the hilt of her survival knife. No one paid any never-mind to anyone. but no one cared. he could make out a word here and there. As Brennus and Jennifer continued walking. it seemed as if the sound had limited itself to the very bare minimum. and stopped his stride halfway. right on the Soul Slayer’s backside. In response the nobleman raised his eyebrows and then lowered them in quick succession. The smell was no different. Everyone’s eyes were either to the ground or straight ahead. fresh and rotting. and he smirked after everything he said. A moment passed and then Jennifer started to take a step forward. jump. you strike first.” Jennifer put up her hood and followed him. . Though there was still the usual scrapes and clomps of footfalls and the background drone of voices. “Meh. The conversation sounded very interesting to him. stiff as a board. The prince tore his gaze from a curly brunette to spot Jennifer. mud. became absorbed in her thoughts and did not notice the anomaly that had strutted into view. surrounded by a trio of dizzy. Two of the girls of the trio looked mildly concerned. about…” Jennifer. giggling girls. Jennifer leaned in close to Brennus so he could hear her whisper. he moved his group closer to her. The city had no scent. smirking smugly. Jennifer stopped and straightened. and strained. As if a switch had been hit. Smirked. this city smelled of nothing. The city was also abnormally quiet. if I fail then you set yourself upon him immediately. Where a city was typically pungent with the great menagerie of food. as the girls around him giggled in unison.” Jennifer explained. her breath was stiff.” Brennus nodded as he said. now we shall stand back. The city’s soul…was missing. their gazes floated airily between their object of affection and the girl he had just touched. or in trouble. No one was in danger. Jennifer’s face was contorted with anger. causing him to wobble a bit. and disease. but allow me the killing blow. if Jennifer were to inhale deeply. Just as Jennifer passed him he brought it down in a quick.” Looking around the corner one last time. it’ll work. With a flash Jennifer had the tip up and under the nobleman’s chin. and the ridiculous laughter of the girls. a handsome nobleman.
“No, no, no, save it, save it!” Brennus’s words came out in strain. Jennifer’s body began to move away, but her knife remained where it was. With a final heave from the ranger, she pulled her knife away, giving the nobleman a final look of disgust before sheathing it and turning. Watching her leave, the nobleman wrapped his arm about the shoulder of one of the trio, drawing her in closer. He said to all of them, his gaze still upon the Soul Slayer, “Let us watch the parade.” Jennifer glanced one last time at Brennus. She could just barely see him through the crowd. The two of them agreed that standing two people deep into the crowd would hide suspicion and give them ample time to descend. Two of Kornin’s thugs had walked ahead of the main parade, clearing the way by cursing, bullying, and shoving the crowd about. Brennus met Jennifer’s gaze, and nodded. Jennifer nodded back at him. The sounds of marching feet grew closer. Jennifer, although eager and bloodthirsty, kept her cool, tilting her head in non-aggressive speeds so she could see better. Three neat columns of Kornin’s men came into view. Though the columns were disciplined in shape, they were not in behavior. The soldier’s called out to the crowd smugly, cursing drunkenly and waving their weapons in showboating triumph. Next to some, young girls walked on solemnly, their empty gazes staring at the cobblestone street. Suddenly, a soldier near to Jennifer broke rank and reached into the crowd. “Yeah! You, you’re comin’ with me!” His gauntleted hand wrapped forcefully about the arm of a frightened looking girl. With a rough yank, he extracted her from the crowd. He returned to his rank and file with the girl beside him; she was choking back tears. Somewhere behind Jennifer, an old woman called out the girl’s name between sobs. The soldier held the head of his axe up so the girl could see it clearly. “Mm, yeah, there’s a lot of blood on it!” Jennifer’s rage burned deeply in her gut. She had all she could do to stop herself from descending upon the shameless grunt as he thrust his dirty face into the girl’s, forcing her into a kiss that sickened Jennifer. But then all seemed to grow quiet, and a ringing in her ears began to fade itself in. Instinctively she turned her head. Jennifer beheld a pair of long musical horns thrust up into the air in wild fanfare, their sound lost upon Jennifer. Behind them, riding majestically was Kornin Aidus. Jennifer’s heart pounded harder. Not out of nervousness, but out of eager anticipation. The dark noble kept his helmet upon his shoulders, the terror of its bestial pattern emphasized by his calm demeanor. The world seemed to slow, as Jennifer burned a hole through the man with her eyes. Burning houses, bloody corpses, screaming elders and children, the wicked laughter of pillaging soldiers, all flashed rapidly within her thoughts. ‘This was it,’ she thought to herself, the ravenous beast that was her wrath drew its forked tongue excitedly across its fangs. A gentle hand landed upon her shoulder. Suddenly the sound, the speed, the smell, it all returned to her in a massive whir of reality. A voice leaned in close to her ear. “Come with me, I wish the same ends as you do. I can help you.” Jennifer turned her head enough to see the smug nobleman in her peripheral vision. She returned her
gaze to Brennus. As Kornin’s flag briefly cast a shade over Jennifer, he met her gaze. His eyes held a look of surprise. A slight movement of his shoulder suggested to the Soul Slayer that he was drawing his sword. Jennifer closed her eyes and shook her head. Brennus, confused, relaxed. As Kornin passed the two of them, the crowd began to disperse. He was the end of the parade. Twisting here and there to avoid people, Brennus approached Jennifer and the nobleman. Jennifer looked up to the nobleman. He looked at the two of them, pulled his fancy beret down more over his head and nodded in the direction of the castle. “Come with me.”
Jennifer leaned back against the papered wall, staring impatiently at the polished stone floor. She was annoyed at the nobleman. He had taken her and Brennus back to his royal bedroom and had done nothing but offer them a drink, a seat, and flirted with his triad of girls. Brennus had fared better than her by busying himself with examining the vast plethora of alcohol resting atop and within a gold trimmed, dark wood cabinet. The red head giggled giddily at something the prince had whispered in her ear. Jennifer had had enough. “Just tell us how to kill Kornin, so that I may leave,” she said forcefully. The prince looked up to her from his poufy loveseat. His expression of aroused amusement had not changed, and stayed the same as one of the girls playfully pulled off his beret and tossed it onto his bed. “Yes, I will, but first there is something I must urge you to undertake.” Jennifer sighed, and massaged her temples. “What?” “Before you kill Kornin, I want you to speak with King Harold.” Jennifer looked up to the prince in her continued annoyance, only this time there was a hint of curiosity. The prince noticed it and his expression softened. “I want you to tell him what you’re doing.” There was a small chink of glass on glass as Brennus poured himself a drink of dark amber liquid. Although he did not show it, Brennus was listening to the conversation intently. Jennifer pushed herself off the wall, and sank down into a large cushion. She sat in thought for a little while, staring at the hilt of her knife, the only visible part of it, as the rest had intruded down in. Brennus turned and she began. “Why do you want me to speak with the King?” “As you know, the King has no real power; has had no real power since Kornin arrived,” the nobleman gestured to an antique lounge chair that sat adjacent to Jennifer. Brennus sat in it improperly. “This has not been easy for him, and not for the people. You’ve seen the city, they’re miserable. Kornin’s rule is of fear, not loyalty. He assigns his men as policemen, and gives them unlimited power. No one dare stand against him, not even the King, especially since the only forces he has to himself, are his six royal guards. I am confident that you can change all this.” The nobleman’s face hardened into a look of grave seriousness. His girl’s looked at him softly, as if he were saying something very sweet. The red head gently traced a finger around in circles just below his shoulder. “If you speak with the King, he can cover up anything you need covering up, and he can hide you until you feel safe again to walk the streets. He may not have much power, but he is also still wealthy, and will happily compensate you.” Brennus had done very little drinking and much listening. When the nobleman finished, Brennus took a large swig. Standing, he began to speak, “How do you expect us to speak with the king?” “His room is at the very end of the hall, guarded by two knights. If I go with you, they will let you in.”
Where she had expected ornate curtains. her elbows on her knees and her fingers laced together in front of her mouth. her protection from the horde of Kornin’s soldier’s was guaranteed. the gears in her head turning slowly and purposefully. If the king refused to see her.Brennus gave the nobleman an incredulous look.” the nobleman explained without looking back at them. His voice was so deep that it rattled the face shield.” the guard on the right rumbled. writing on a scroll . Caressing her chin. “Yes. Duke Bonhomme. “I shall return. she closed her eyes and sighed. The trio rounded a corner and beheld the sight of two shiny. my lovelies. and maybe even a concubine. “and speak with the King? Just like that?” Brennus concluded his sentence with a snap of his fingers. “I will get you past the guards and inform the King of what you are here to discuss and to do. leaning back into his armchair. As they approached. After that he will ask you to speak.” The nobleman smirked. the blonde whimpered playfully. that is when you will get your chance to explain yourself. “By my authority. who had been expecting the dingy. It had taken Jennifer until know to notice the great flowing. golden “R” that was emblazoned upon the door. The nobleman’s visage remained as stony calm as it had before. he does not take it seriously. but not in the smug way that had been attributed to him. Not to worry though. he gave them each one last smile then gestured for Jennifer and Brennus to rise. she instead found a rather modest looking. The two guards immediately brought their halberds back to their original positions. a humble desk. Jennifer and Brennus followed behind the nobleman. I’ll speak with him. ornate hall. was not what she had expected to see as a king’s bedchamber. and a motherly looking. even as he switched his focus from Brennus to Jennifer. Within. matching his slightly brisk pace. armored guards flanking a door at the end of a short stint of hallway.” The girls gave him looks of pout.” Jennifer raised a suspicious eyebrow. his eyes weak with surprise. At length. Jennifer hunched over. dark armor of Kornin’s men. the guards. It seemed very strange to her that a king. bedding. The nobleman turned his head to the guard. I request an audience with King Harold to discuss pressing matters of the utmost urgency.’ Jennifer mused. expensive couches. grayed woman who sat against the headboard. The change in appearance was nice to the Soul Slayer. a group of minstrels.” The Duke’s voice was surprisingly commanding. “Good. Upon entering.” he said rising and extricating himself from the arms of the whining girls. King Harold is likely to be reading. The three of them exited the room and started down the dimly lit. walk on down. ‘I thought you said that he wasn’t like this. Without another word. “Fret not. however if the king can be convinced of her plan. Jennifer raised an eyebrow in amused surprise. without moving anything else.” he exaggerated a walk with his arms held horizontally. dark wooden four poster bed. staring back at the nobleman.” Brennus sat back down. crossed their halberds in front of the door. deep in thought. she risks drawing attention to herself and losing the opportunity to slay Kornin. even one in the position that King Harold was in. rather a smirk of approval. “So. “Fine. She sat for a long time. would see them readily and openly without invitation. the nobleman opened the door and Jennifer and Brennus followed suit.” he said sweetly. “At this time of night. you expect us to just. “The King sees no one.
“I will cut his throat and watch him bleed. For emphasis she drew her survival knife. now what do you intend to do?” Jennifer looked up to the King. and his silver beard curled wildly in all directions for several inches. “Tell me who you are. also now deeply interested with the conversation had stopped her writing and looked up. He looked up. and her heart pounded more stiffly in her chest. “I am Jennifer D`Alessio. “Duke Bonhomme. and walked over to the bed. The King sat in thought again. as if he were meeting his grandchildren. Jennifer and Brennus approached. After a minute he nodded several times to himself. only looked up to them for a brief second. He caught her gaze and held it for a heartbeat.” the nobleman gestured to Jennifer and Brennus. something that had again surprised the Soul Slayer. Jennifer looked again up to the King. bowed his head and took a brief knee before standing with his hands clasped behind his back. albeit Brennus a little more awkwardly as he looked about scanning faces to ensure that he was bowing correctly. His dark grey hair crawled down to just below his shoulder line. hunched over a candle and a rough leather-bound book that he held with one hand. now what do you intend to do after he is dead?” “I was hoping that you could assist me in hiding from his soldier’s until it is a safe time to be seen again. The King sniffed loudly and looked to them over his shoulder. The Queen. The King sat at the desk. return to this bedchamber after he is dead and I will hide you.” the Soul Slayer drew the blade between her fingers. whom Jennifer assumed to be the Queen. “Come. a ranger of the Briarbuck Woods. “Hmm.” The King’s demeanor did not change. he gestured towards King Harold. stood. stuffed in a book mark.delicately. “Very good. from what Jennifer could tell his pajamas were of an old. She saw no threat in his eyes. but the hand that had rested on the desk began to play with a quill. “I intend to slay him as he sleeps. I am a Soul Slayer who hails from the Form Village. very good. I come to tell you that tonight Kornin’s reign of control over you is at an end. She glanced slowly at Brennus. The King looked back down at his book. King Harold was an aging man who had not had a haircut in some time. and exactly what you intend to do. uh…” he paused thoughtfully. “to his assailants.” “And I am Brennus Zelten. now. With a nod and a shift of the eyes. The woman who sat on the bed.” The King looked to them and smiled warmly.” the King’s voice was that of fatherly. to what do I owe this visit?” The Duke approached the King calmly. “ahem.” Brennus smiled widely. then swiveled himself around on his padded stool.” she said calmly. The King wore modest clothes. worn cotton that were hued to a drab brown. The King smiled. only curiosity.” The King nodded in understanding. “I will not leave the room until his heart has stopped beating. authority. causing one of the guards flanking the king to curl his hand tighter about his halberd. his lips pursed and his eyes lying upon the foot of his bed. “Sire.” Jennifer’s face felt hot. then went back to her activity. “Right. rather than of dictatorial. “You bear witness. The King bowed his head in contemplation. . Jennifer blinked rapidly in surprise. each of them bowing.” The King gestured for them to approach. and the desk were similar looking royal guards who all snapped their heads in the direction of the visitors when they entered.” Jennifer’s response was quick. Flanking both the bed.
sword drawn. stood the massive four poster bed. It was hungry for life. Although it was clear of scars and blemishes its features were hardened and rounded. Jennifer turned the knob of the door. that’s it. he twisted the foot counter clockwise. “Now go and come back. flopped himself down on the bed so he was sitting upon the nobleman’s knee. aghast as the guards shuffled them to the portal. King Harold. even by looks. single file. but before doing anything else she glanced back at Brennus who stood watchfully at the door. lying limply at his side. His breathing was heavy with rage. He looked to her and nodded confidently. The room was dark. “Th-that’s it?” Jennifer begged. Jennifer’s elbow lifted. heart pounding. Kornin’s eyes snapped open and his head tilted towards the Soul Slayer.” As Jennifer was shooed out the door she could just barely glimpsing the light from the King’s candle extinguish. The rising and falling of his chest was so slow. Jennifer and Brennus stood pressed flatly against the wall of the hallway. besieging the windows of her soul with a contingent of bright colors and flamboyant patterns. but none could deny that the man was evil. The fine taste of the evil nobleman would be his downfall. under an expansive blanket that glowed in the dim light. his eyes closed as if they would open at a moment’s notice. Grand tapestries and vibrant carpet designs assailed her eyes. her hand upon the knob of the sleeping quarters of Kornin Aidus. “Yes. The Soul Slayer had opened the door just enough so that her and Brennus could sidle in. and his hair was cut painfully close to his head.Climbing in he gave his wife a kiss as they pulled themselves down under. and so gradual that a poorly trained eye would swear that he were dead. He gathered up blanket around the foot of Kornin and gripped it at the toes and heel. causing the leather to creak as he shifted his grip. quietly slept Kornin Aidus. gripped the hilt of his weapon tightly. His arms were over the blanket. who had his head upon his pillow and his eyes closed already. braced her hand on the side of the bed and pounced on the dark nobleman. lifted his gaze to look up at them. A faint crack emanated from under the blankets and the muffled cries of pain of the . In response the desk guards approached Brennus and Jennifer and gestured for them to rise and leave. bouncing and straddling his abdomen. On the near end of the room near the massive. The beast inside of her could wait not a moment longer. His mouth opened but before he could make a sound.” The King waved them away. Leaning her wait onto his upper body she slid forward. between his biceps and triceps. Kornin’s face was one that had been hardened with combat. Kornin was immobilized. preparing to make the cut. but Jennifer could easily see that it was ornate. pressing the knife threateningly against his neck and rolling her knees onto the inside of his arms. With a great jerk. Jennifer drew her knife. With as much delicacy as she could muster. Some may have considered him handsome. Behind the curtains of dark silk. His eyes were deeply inset. giving one an intimidating impression of war. The orange glow of the corridor illuminated his face. We shall discuss more in the morning. Jennifer cupped his mouth and pressed his head down onto the pillow. Jennifer approached the bed. Brennus. “Wait!” Brennus rushed over. Jennifer took a moment to study the man before she would take his life. antique wardrobe. the well greased hinges and the finely crafted inner-workings of the door knob betrayed no sound to the pair as they stealthily entered the room. his head remained still. She landed.
glaring at Jennifer as she stared back into them darkly. the nobleman’s lips spat out at the Soul Slayer.nobleman emanated from under Jennifer’s hand. under our care. never uttering a word or making any sound besides the soft hiss of their breath on their armor. let us return to the King’s chamber.” “Thank you. whose breath became fierce hisses upon her hand. Jennifer never looking back at the corpse or the door left open. Contorted with rage. they sped silently along the wall of the corridor. She pulled her glance from the dead Kornin and studiously cleaned the blade of her knife with the stained blanket.” Brennus glanced at her and nodded. she whispered into Brennus’s ear. Thennox will take note of you. it is best that you remain here. One of the guards held a candle cupped so the light would not fall upon the slumbering royalty. stepping softly so as not to wake the King and his wife. satisfied she side stepped and knelt down at the corner of the bed. Returning to the doorway without looking back. there had been more blood on it than she had initially imagined. save for the thick river of blood streaming from the clean opening in the neck. Jennifer and Brennus followed the guard. but it soon snapped like tight elastic as the blade sliced it. Jennifer held the blade out to her side.” Jennifer released her muting hand from Kornin’s mouth. The throat fully slit. Pressing down as hard as she could and pulling strongly. An amusing thought occurred to her. and then to the guard. The flesh parted and oozed crimson. “Mutter your final words nobleman. She examined it in the dimmed light. but for now. Kornin’s eyes widened in pain. . The two of them slipped out and away.” Jennifer and Brennus looked up at the guard in understanding. which Jennifer had just noticed bore an open trapdoor. Be assured that we will feed you and keep you hidden until the time comes. Gesturing for them to sit. but she held it in place.” Jennifer looked back to her quarry.” Brennus said. the guard announced to them. the King and Queen lay asleep. She again covered his mouth and lifted her elbow in anticipation. Like two shadows. She cleaned her face with the corner of the blanket. “You will remain in here until I or one of the guards comes to fetch you. “Ok. which bore a single bed that could barely fit the two assassins. Within. and you will die. She leaned in close to his face. breathing a little heavy looked to King Harold. After a moment all was still. “We do not know how long it will be before the two of you will be safe. though the door and down a cramped spiral stairwell.” Brennus whispered as he returned to the door. Jennifer savored the moment for a second longer. “now kill him.” Jennifer decided she had allowed him enough. They entered into a spartan room. tracing jagged lines over Jennifer’s tunic and cloak and face. Jennifer and Brennus. whipping left and right around corners until they finally returned to the King’s bed chamber. then slowly climbed off. The guard nodded towards the corner of the room. “You will regret this. allowing the deep red liquid to drip off. Great shoots of blood thrust out from the open wound. “The deed is done. she drew the sharp edge across the exposed skin of Kornin’s neck. The guards recognized them and immediately let them enter. His head shook violently. A droplet drew too close to her left eye and she had to close it. Half way through the cut she could feel the resistant pull of the tough windpipe against the blade. She watched in dark glee as Kornin’s life poured from his neck and faded from his eyes.
wrapping the knife up in the cloak. Then she lay back. Jennifer looked at her hands thoughtfully. The ranger snorted happily then shifted noisily on his side. . “I know I am. Smiling to herself she removed her cloak and knife. She searched her soul. groped about for a pillow and finally fell asleep. “Good work. Jennifer sat for a few minutes longer. The guard bowed in polite recognition of their thanks and then ascended the stairs. Brennus stripped himself of his sword and most of his clothes. Jennifer did not reply. stuffing his belongings into the cramped crack between the wall and the bed.” Brennus whispered. her eyes had still not adjusted. but instead at the dark in front of her. reflecting on what she had done.” Jennifer reached over and patted him reassuringly on what she guessed was his knee. She felt no twinge of guilt or sickening taint of darkness on her heart. “You should feel satisfied. she continued to stare at her palms.Jennifer closed her eyes and nodded slowly.” he whispered at length. to fall asleep. then lay back on the bed. Opening them she also thanked the guard. She could hear the ranger shifting about uneasily. Jennifer stared at the floor. wondering if vengeance had been the right thing to do. staring not at her hands.
except for his boots and greaves. placed napkins and utensils on the tray that he had stowed under the tray. a bottle of wine. the blankets curled up around and over his head. and then to the food. Soul Slayers hold a ceremony every year (or at least every year that . “Thank you. my favorite!” The two didn’t chat much over their breakfast. His attention was immediately drawn upon the candle. Jennifer and Brennus emerged squinting into the King’s bright.” Whether soon meant later that day or later that month.” The guard bowed politely. “Wine and eggs. while leaving the tray on the floor for the guards to receive later. The guard carried the candle on a tray. of course! I shall fetch some servants to draw you a bath and bring you fresh clothing. it tricked the eyes into being very elegant and ostentatious. Brennus still lay asleep next to her. The ranger and the Soul Slayer then slept off their breakfast. brushing greasy feeling hair out of her dark eyes. Jennifer awoke to the echoing of clanking footsteps on stone as a guard descended the spiral staircase to her and Brennus’s hiding place. yes. “I haven’t bathed in days. Instead they merely munched and drank their fill. The guard set the tray down at the foot of the bed. You will be able to leave soon.” “The guard looked mildly surprised that that fact had not arisen earlier. which had caused the clanking on the stairs. A soft orange glow grew stronger about the corner of the staircase with each step. Brennus did rise out of his sleep grumbling incoherently. Jennifer caught a glimpse of herself in a distant mirror that she had not noticed earlier and stopped the guard. The guard was not wearing any armor. instead of bringing lunch. Jennifer had only worn a dress one other time in her life. This continued on through dinner and breakfast of the next day. a large plate of eggs and a bowl of fruit.4. and though the design was simple. his face buried in a pillow. which also bore two overturned cups. lit it on the one mounted on the wall and then re-ascended the stairs. Jennifer poured herself a glass of wine as she listened to the soft thump of the trap door being closed above. The guard looked to her and said. Jennifer cocked an eyebrow in curiosity but paid little attention to it. extracted a candle from his pocket. they were summoned to see the King. She had only worn the dress out of custom. When they were woken again by a guard. He smiled excitedly. Jennifer did not know. Though the noise was low. which he squinted at uncomfortably. “Can I at least bathe before I see the King?” she asked exasperatedly. until they were again woken by a guard who had brought them lunch. “The situation is being handled better than expected. Then his gaze turned to Jennifer briefly. and placed it in a wall mounted stand that Jennifer had not noticed before. removed the candle from its stand. She sat up and rubbed some of the slumber-fuzz from her eyes. but still humble. bedchamber. “Why. The source of the glow finally rounded the epicenter of the staircase’s spiral bathing the room in warm candlelight. The material was of a very fine silk. and that was the ceremony of her movement into adulthood.” Jennifer felt silly in the colorful dress that the servants had left out for her.
then stood. Most ceremonies are very similar with only minor tweaks in their methods of celebration.” he said politely. The King gestured to one of his guards. bejeweled crowns. The King leaned over and whispered something to his wife. In the background. above the thrones. Jennifer and Brennus climbed the stairs and sat down comfortably on the stools. open with fingers spread in front of a four pointed star. Jennifer could faintly detect the smell of molten metal in a kiln. It had been many summers since she had worn sandals. great purple decorative drapes hung from the ceiling and tied into the base of the walls’ floor. and kneeled graciously just before the small stairs leading up to the platform. They were wearing greatly decorated purple robes as well as scintillating golden. Although he had refused to wear the hat. over the scroll and his glasses and beckoned them to come forward. was the flag of the Thoran nation. but Brennus leaned forward . but then assumed that the new armor had simply been lying in storage and that they were melting down the dark armor for use elsewhere. gauntleted hand. Jennifer caught his eye and he passed her a look of queasiness as the two proceeded down the hallway. with massive windows running nearly to the top. red and gold trimmed thrones sat the King and Queen. ‘Could they have melted down all that armor. Upon their entrance. Between each large window. a gray. Jennifer herself had been given a pair of elegant sandals. The ceiling measured well over sixty feet high. the King looked up. “Sit. stopped. The Queen elegantly picked up a golden goblet off of the side of her throne and sipped at it statuesquely. Dominating the far wall. wearing shining silver armor. The vibrant colors flowed freely into the exaggerated joints and stitch lines.” he said humorously. however there are a few villages that celebrate in very exciting. causing both of them to roll up their documents and stow them into the sides of their thrones.” Jennifer and Brennus looked up happily. all previously men of Kornin Aidus. white circle.bears the properly aged children) in which all the youth of age nineteen are sworn in as adults in their respective villages. and were admitted in by four silent guards. would host a deadly tiger hunt. and re-crafted it that quickly?’ Jennifer mused to herself for a few moments. who immediately brought over two luxuriously padded stools and set them down in front of King Harold. who had been given a-not-so-subtle nobleman’s dress outfit. These hunts would always end in at least one person not returning home. The King snorted. which squeaked softly as he walked. but stopping just before it curved into the arch. you have my blessings to be informal. There were many more guardsmen in the hallways now. she felt sympathetic for Brennus. Instinctively. The pair finally came to a great wooden door. The throne room was one befitting someone of grand stature. black leather buckled shoes. the clothes themselves were more than enough to suggest that he were royalty. their death attributed to the tiger or simply the jealous cruelty of a fellow Clansmen. “you returned my kingdom to me. On the two regal. Although Jennifer felt strange in her dress. In the palm of the hand rest a very small. who now proudly strutted. “Please. Jennifer sat upright with her hands in her lap. which she wore with glee. or sobering ways. The now extinct Death Clan. Jennifer and Brennus approached the thrones. looking over scrolls. for instance. towards the throne room. He was even given a pair of polished.
one of demons. “castle at night and then FLED into YOUR hiding place for safety. let me emphasize that. such a gesture of kindness is greatly appreciated. but not solemn. Thennox is the closest agent to the Demon King himself.” Jennifer began. I know what power he holds. in this realm.” There was a brief pause. But I also know what powers you hold. that no one else has.” the King interjected. I have a request for you. Having finished our task we simply wish to have our belongings back and be on our way. The King’s tone was one of great foreboding.” The King smiled and nodded with his eyes closed.” The King leaned back. “If only all of my subjects could be as selfless as you. The King looked serious. one of goblins.” “Yes you do. good King. The other was propped upright on his hip.” Brennus shifted uneasily. relaxing.” The King leaned forward to Jennifer and then turned to Brennus. that is desperately needed. “we may not have escaped the castle without your assistance.” “It was gracious and generous that it was offered to us. Now one thing that you have. “My good King. “Thennox commands all of the Demon King’s armies in our world. “You forget that though Thennox is a powerful Warlock he is still mortal.” Jennifer’s smile slowly faded just as Brennus sat himself up straighter. If Thennox could be slain. King Harold cleared his throat before he continued. “we are only two people.” “Thank you. then perhaps this war could come to a close at last. you are asking us to face two entire armies. “It pleases me that I could be of assistance.” Brennus began. “Don’t make me out to be a saint yet. it’s too fluidic. “Yes. not to mention that he commands a sizeable army of demons AND is the liaison between the goblins and the Demon King!” Brennus snorted sarcastically. is courage. “I can tell by the way you move. “I also know that you are no mere ranger.” Jennifer’s stomach began to churn uneasily.” Jennifer gently placed a hand on Brennus’s arm to calm him. “So how was your stay? I know that it was cramped but it was all I could offer. “Your lordship. “Kill Thennox Dantus? Thennox is the most powerful Warlock in this entire land.” Jennifer knew what the King would ask of her. We do not have the ability to end the life of such a powerful being. I am no imbecile. good King.” Brennus pointed at the King as he spoke. The King adjusted himself in his seat and then slouched a little. “Anyone in . perhaps he had been expecting such a response. I want you. as soon as they are done being cleaned.” Jennifer replied. “I suppose that you want some sort of reward for your services?” “Your majesty. “Now I cannot force you to undertake this task.” Jennifer replied.” The King laughed. Kornin was an agent of the Warlock Thennox.with his head on his fist and his elbow on his knee. but it would be of great favor to me as well as the entire Thoran nation.” Brennus added. The pair would not like the King’s request.” “Kill Thennox?” Brennus begged incredulously. “As you may or may not know. if you could do this. and quite possibly the most dangerous man in the world! We were only able to kill Kornin because we snuck. “your hiding us was reward enough.” Smiling quietly to herself the Queen took another sip of wine. to kill Thennox. “Your belongings will be returned to you promptly. snuck around your.
The queen took another sip of wine as she looked from Jennifer to Brennus. I have no knowledge of Thennox’s whereabouts. And you succeeded. “I have nowhere to go. At least I’d be doing something other than running and hiding all the time. he looked to Brennus. and the commanding general of the Thoracian Union. any of my subjects. you were driven by your thirst for vengeance to slay that evil man.” Jennifer was shocked. “I will only go if Miss D`Alessio goes. little knowledge of who he is.” Jennifer and the King stared at each other for a moment. It had appeared to her that this mission was important to the King. By the time you will have arrived. “You would be doing this nation a great service.” King Harold added. But those people who are left need me. as well as prepared one of my fastest ships to bring you across the sea to East Thoracia.” Jennifer sat up and looked at the King.” Jennifer blinked. Seeing that the Soul Slayer was seriously considering his proposal. “King Harold. I can’t be of any assistance to you. I simply cannot.” Jennifer looked to him curiously. she could face her own death. accept this mission. If you hide then he will just find you eventually. but now she feared that if she did not accept. I simply cannot accept your request. but if you actively seek him out to destroy him. and no guaranteed way of getting to him. “No. She had not been expecting any of this. “I’ll bring them into the castle and give them refuge here if need be. and brought his eyes down into contact with Jennifer’s after her statement. because of frustration at wasted efforts. There. She did . searching for the right words to say. It’s just the kind of man he is. He will send assassin’s after you. Brennus opened his mouth and closed it several times.” Jennifer felt the need to burst the King’s bubble.my Kingdom. King Samuel was the King of the Thoran Nation. “I hold no grudge for Thennox. But not you. could have killed Kornin. Please.” She paused.” he said slowly. But everyone is simply too afraid. too tired. even I in my old age. “I can guarantee the safety of your people with my own personal guard. you do not. “I was driven by rage and the thirst for vengeance to slay Kornin. and will practically welcome you. No. he will find the challenge amusing. too demoralized from this war to have lifted a finger.” The King drummed his fingers on the arm of his throne.” The King had been staring at the ceiling of his throne room. She stared at the floor. a caravan will bring you to Thora where you will have a personal audience with King Samuel. my message will have been read and he can properly instruct you on anything you need to know to be able to end Thennox. By now they must have started to rebuild and I must return to them. but King Samuel does. “It will be months before everything is back as it was and I simply cannot abandon them. You would do well to seek him out. “But you must know that Thennox will not take this lightly. but I can’t do it alone.” Jennifer leaned her elbows on her knees and laced her fingers in front of her face. He sighed and covered his face with his hands. and I can finance the rebuilding of your village at the discretion of its people. “I’m sorry your majesty.” “Neither do I. the humans. otherwise she may be roped into something dangerous.” She looked down solemnly and then back up. resting her nose on her right forefinger.” The King straightened himself. “I have sent two messengers en route to the capital city of Thora. “no place to call home. He burned down my village and killed many of my family and friends.” Jennifer shook her head. Thinking.
not feel that the King would go to such extent. the King was right. called the crewman away. Twenty-four-seven. and Jennifer had not spoken a word. The fish spurred on Brennus to speak. “Excellent. deep in thought.” The queen took another sip of her wine. . The soft ocean breeze played at her cloak and hair delicately.” Jennifer was silent for a long time. lips forming and “O. all of them doing something the keep the old boat afloat. breaking the relatively constant tension that had occupied the surface until now. the sleeves of his washed shirt sliding a few inches on the cool wood.” Brennus exhaled strongly.” Brennus nodded approvingly. though there was a crew of thirty-some. On the deck. A rough call from somewhere on the port side of the ship. “Those traitorous soldiers of his are in for a nasty surprise. “King Harold? Yeah. Brennus stood next to her. he’s trustworthy. we really are the only people who can do this.” “Blinding?” “You never made mention about the fact that my bow broke in Briarbuck woods. Jen. archers. rather than towards the sea like Jennifer. so instead she pressed a different subject. “You can’t expect to do this without a bow and arrows can you?” “No.” Brennus turned and mimicked the way she leaned on the ship. but with the commander of two great armies already seeking the end of her days. the crewman went on with a dirty smile. “Listen. King Samuel shipped a contingent of fresh troops down to him. but he had to do something. I’m going to get one from King Samuel. you’re determination is so powerful.” “How do you know?” Jennifer asked. sorry. so I hear he’s gonna off the ones that went with Kornin…at least the ones that went out of free will. “Fine.” “Ok. information.” the crewman drawled.” “Oh.” she said at length. you can bet your ass that it’ll be guarded. crewman went here and there. A fish jumped out of the water. “I will go. also leaning on his elbows. a boat crewman intervened. Jennifer did not know what to say for herself. Jennifer leaned on her elbows on the side of the salty. wooden ship. carrying supplies. He did not have a bow or quiver on him. and that I left my arrows and quiver behind. “Do you think King Harold will guard my village?” Before Brennus could speak. “Jennifer what’s the matter?” Brennus felt awkward that he had asked. riders. The pair had just shipped off but an hour ago with sixteen other passengers.” Jennifer felt a pang of frustration as she realized that he was right. but faced away from the sea. “I just feel that I’ve gotten myself into something that I wouldn’t want to be into in the first place. infantry. Jennifer. “Because I get a sense about you. turning her head to him. the King-” “Call me Jennifer. “If he said he’ll guard your village.” Brennus paused. it’s blinding. Jennifer did not want to risk another enemy. Jennifer sighed. nor had she seen him bring one on. The King smiled.” Shrugging the barrel that he had been carrying up onto his shoulder more. Listen. you name it. tools.
the sigh resembling more of a hiss than a sigh.Jennifer sighed loudly. you’re aware of it and thinking clearly now. “Don’t worry.” . I know it.” “I hope so. “I’m gonna die on this trip.” Brennus patted her back reassuringly.” She put her hands over her face. “I didn’t even pay any never mind to how seemingly readily he reaccepted those soldiers.
was also known for its great gladiatorial competitions. his words were indiscernible. the lantern flickering and flailing wildly as it nearly fell off its hook. the drone of the rain on them the whole way. the only noise being the rain. thanking the driver. Jennifer jostled in her uncomfortable carriage seat as it rolled down the old. It had been three straight hours since then. She mostly occupied her mind with thoughts of home. mostly due to the fact that the not-so-smooth ship ride had kept them awake and slightly alert. most citizens were still out and about. “COME ONE. Jennifer was lost in thought when suddenly the carriage came to a halt. Brennus followed suit. Jennifer snorted. and the soft shuffling of Brennus making an inventory check. the creaking of the carriage’s wooden chassis. Brennus sighed. but she did try. Outside a man shouted something at someone. Jennifer put up her hood and stepped out of the carriage. making them quite tired now. sir. Thoran humans were known to be resilient. his footsteps splashing louder as he came around to her door. to look out the carriage window. COME ALL! SEE THE GREAT MATCH BETWEEN MERAS: THE UNMERCIFUL AND HIS COUNTER PART. the pure sound of rainfall cascading into the carriage. Outside. as well as stubborn. known for its citizens.” Brennus echoed her thoughts. Jennifer simply couldn’t remember the name of the port city. .” The remainder of the trip was spent in relative silence. “Hey. “No more than ten minutes. “We sure could use those men in the war effort. annoyed. Try as she might. Shadows from the swinging lantern slid and slipped across her face and the bored body of Brennus. Brennus smiled a crooked smile at Jennifer. Successful veterans of wars would often become gladiators. Jennifer wistfully wondered why those soldier’s wouldn’t join in the war effort. “Good. The carriage rolled through a puddle. Brennus was laughing heartily when suddenly they hit a violent bump. With a loud click the door opened. crumbling cobblestone streets. his hood also up against the rain. They had landed at a port city just west and a little south of Thora. vainly. their search for glory continuing into the arena. where they immediately boarded their carriage and were quickly on their way. BORIS: THE MAN WHO CAN CLIMB WALLS!” Thora. Despite the rain. The entire contents of the carriage lifted nearly a foot off of its resting position. rain soaked the streets and drummed a droning beat on the top of the carriage. still in silence. the puddle hissing in protest as they passed. but breaking it every once in awhile to make some smart remark about the city’s inhabitants.5. She could hear the driver stepping off and into a puddle. The pair hadn’t spoken much on the carriage trip.” the driver called back. which had persisted even through the war. They were definitely in a city. Every time she was merely rewarded with the drooping and distorted shapes of the outside world marred by the rain. how much longer?” he called to the driver with a knock. They continued on through the city. bringing in its wake the pale blue light of the evening.
“I think I remember hearing about you. he called to the two.” she said. She looked back to Brennus and saw that he also had removed his hood. stretching gracefully high into the air. A few stray windows were dim orange with candlelight. Even in the rain. tense moments passed before the guard returned. guards in armor stood at attention. agent of Thennox Dantus?” The spear wielding guard to Jennifer’s left flared his nostrils once. and traced a perfect circle about the outside of the royal fortress. the castle was grand in the sense that it was intimidating. Squinting around his flat metal nose piece. the King wishes to speak with you. two of which kept the tips of their spears trained dangerously close to the pair’s faces. not bothering to put them on completely. they were immediately halted by four stone-cold faced guards. Brennus Zelten.” Jennifer and Brennus entered the castle. for the guards made no attempt at stopping them. wooden gates. but in the dim light of a stormy evening. The castle courtyard must have been open to the public. keeping their spears up. the other two didn’t move an inch. bringing with him a tired looking. Form and function present. Jennifer took off her dripping hood and scanned her surroundings as she followed the man. she pulled the front of her cloak closed around herself. “And you are Brennus Zelten? The ranger of Briarbuck Forest who assisted Miss Alessio in her assassination of Kornin Aidus?” “I am. The man turned his gaze to Brennus. As the guards relaxed and returned to their watchful poses. her voice raised over the rain. “and this is my companion. dark conical roofs. the glum color of wet stone and the jagged shapes of the towers piercing into the light sky gave the castle a feel of grim power. as he followed a dark red carpet down the surprisingly dark and empty antechamber. She imagined that on a sunny day it must be a place of breath taking beauty. skinny man whose ornate robes drooped over his frame.” The guard pushed open one of the great wooden doors and stepped in.” his accent was thick. Every tower was looming and slender. the huge wooden door thundering closed behind them. but most were dark like rectangular. soulless pupils. “You say that you are Jennifer D’ Alessio? The Soul Slayer of the Form Village who slew Kornin Aidus. disciplined and ready for action. weapons brandished. peering over the side of the castle. He produced a pair of small spectacles and held them up to his eyes. All of them were crisscrossed with metal bars. Jennifer could not imagine what courage an enemy must be able to muster to charge at such a powerful looking structure.” the man said. “Come in. however. One of the guards nodded at the other. walking steadily towards the great.” The man nodded in approval and stowed his glasses back into the inside of his robes and told the guards to ease their stances. . Several long. puzzled at why the only source of light were some pathetic candles that burned weakly in front of the rooms eight towering marble support pillars. “My name is Jennifer D’ Alessio. Lowering her face against the rain. “Follow me please. Jennifer nodded. “I’ll jest check within to ensure. but otherwise made no recognition of what the man had said.” Two of the guards looked at each other. We have an audience with the King. The gates were open and flanked on either side by guards. At the interior castle doors.Jennifer stared. capping themselves with great. the robed man beckoned them forward. the castle’s outer wall stood over one hundred feet high.
rise and present yourselves. allowing them access. First. King Samuel was a noble looking man. Pierce the wall. “To kill Thennox you will have to exude great effort against great odds. waiting politely. It is forty stories until you reach his chamber. Three hundred yards. clothed not in royal garb. He looked down at them with steely eyes that pierced the mind and soul. Above. Specifically. and acknowledge him with a curt wave. someone would bring something to another table and show it to one of its members. They would nod or shake their head and send them back to the previous table. Her suspicions were confirmed when she beheld King Samuel. protective wall made of obsidian. south of here. “Anyone who wishes to see the King. Now and again. a titanic chandelier provided an incredible amount of light for the workers. You’ll have to fight your way up.” the Kings voice was clear and slightly intimidating. He must have been a powerful orator. King Samuel pointed and gestured at the map. Jennifer saw all this and guessed that this was the King’s center of military intelligence. which is the highest room. who by appearances seemed one of much education and much experience in warfare. over open.“My name. He surrounds his tower on all sides with a distant. you will need to do three things.” the robed man spoke.” Jennifer felt like laughing but kept her composure. must first go through me. but it can be done. The man’s eyes were focused. you must pierce his outer wall. merely filled with a moderate buzz. He had the aura of a true King. or wishes to bring the King a message. from every angle. introducing themselves. Jennifer and Brennus climbed the steps. “The final challenge presents itself once you are in the tower. The pair stood and spoke. dry. is the distance from the wall to the tower.” They climbed up some regal looking steps and came to a normal size wooden door that was lavishly decorated in silver. the King glanced up at him.” . upon his throne. After a few more comments and nods the King dismissed the man with the map and looked to Edward. “Please. Jennifer and Brennus could not quite hear what they were saying. and you are met with your second challenge: reach the tower. Jennifer saw many people bent over tables that were covered in papers and maps. and full of people. The next room was well lit. and he nodded continuously. the room was not loud at all. I am the King’s advisor and royal secretary. in the Thoran Mountains. none of whom bothered to look up as the two strangers entered. Thennox dwells in a tower. Despite the great amount of people. Edward stood patiently at his side. well I don’t have much time for formalities. and they immediately opened the door. only once pointing out something to the King on the map. I want you to kill Thennox Dantus.” Brennus sighed quietly. is Edward. speaking quickly and seriously. earth. but they could see as Edward gestured toward them and the King nodding in understanding as he called them forward with both hands. Edward held out a hand signaling to stop when they approached the throne’s platform. I know that this is no easy task. you are the ones that King Harold has sent me. I am no ignoramus. and took a knee before the King. As Edward climbed the short stairs to the throne. He signaled to the guards who stood at attention on either flank. “Ah. looking up over the king’s throne. a mile north of Mount Antagonist. speaking with someone about a map he held unrolled before the King. empty. authoritative and powerful. and every now and then would look up at the man. but rather in worn arming clothes.
” Jennifer prayed not. Go to him. “To pierce the wall you will need to seek out an alchemist who can produce an explosive powerful enough.’ Jennifer thought to herself. and a vertical conflict stretching up forty levels? Will we have an army with us?” Jennifer blurted out. I would recommend that you also go to the dwarfs.” . laying both his arms on the arm rests. His grey eyes remained poised on Jennifer for a silent moment. I do not think that it would take much convincing to earn their assistance.” Jennifer felt more at ease. and rested his head on his fist. it is the same man who once quested against the demons with The Great One. with an escort of seven men from my special forces unit.” the King said. when you make your way through the mountains. now unable to control herself. “Yes. You will rest here for the night. do you have any questions?” Jennifer and Brennus remained silent. The King took a deep breath. and then sat up straight in his seat. “Very well then. His name is Gregor Katchil. “No. a wide open charge. “There is one East of here. is a man named Gunnar Cartel.” the King said as he sat back.“A protective wall. Although the dwarfs have a peace treaty with Thennox. “Good. he would be of great assistance to you in a fight. but I can provide you with the intelligence required to gain yourself victory. And as each day passes. As Jennifer and Brennus turned. living in the sparse wilderness of the Stony Bank Valley. Brennus leaned in to whisper to Jennifer. “you will be handsomely compensated. dictating with his hands for them to follow him. they also have a long standing grudge against the goblins. King Samuel smirked. In the morning you will begin your journey. “His art…of war…is unlike any other….Finally.” Jennifer’s eyes widened. Edward hustled out in front of them. “Right down to business.” ‘That’ll help. he once concocted a potion for my health when I was gravely ill with pneumonia. his voice toned down to a more comfortable feel. eh?” “I guess so.” The King paused thoughtfully. Thennox’s grasp on demon reinforcements dwindles.” The King dismissed them. Seek out his assistance.” Jennifer and Brennus bowed in gratitude. “You may also visit the armory and select any equipment that you deem necessary. “When this is over. South of him.
” The Captain smiled warmly and clapped his hand on hers reassuringly. trying to wrest himself from his fantasies. After a moment of rapid thinking. “It’s possible. the nine of them had been given excellent horses. wrapped about them were dark cords that trailed off for an inch at the butt of the bolt. only daggers as fallback melee weapons. because Thennox feels threatened by the Soul Slayers. It’s no secret. below the bright sun. unsure of what to say. metal crossbows. Yours just happened to be next. but the intelligence on Vercingetorix is very limited. The soldier’s did not carry bows with them. “Let me guess. He’s been molesting Soul Slayer villages all over. In hindsight. Their bolt’s we’re also quite peculiar. eyes wide with contemplation. “The King didn’t tell you did he?” Jennifer looked about.” Jennifer felt betrayed. She sighed. glanced forward. but rather strange looking. She and Brennus had been riding with seven of King Samuel’s special archer’s. “Why wouldn’t the King just tell me this outright?” The Captain’s expression stiffened. “Kornin Aidus is an agent of Thennox. First. they spoke softly.” Brennus looked on forlornly. Brennus turned. Though they did talk amongst themselves. then relaxed them. Their armor was a steely color. she would have thought that it would have been all too convenient for her to have qualms against the man that the two King’s wanted her so desperately to kill. For all we know. Jennifer suddenly remembered that his name was Captain Kertz. who had kept their specialty a secret from the pair. just behind the tip. I feel like I’m getting drawn into something against my will. he could be . Thennox only takes action when ordered by the Demon King?” The Captain looked her in the eye. dark colored cylinder. was the archer’s officer. “Would you have believed him?” Jennifer was briefly taken aback. Ever since the trip had started. “I guess he didn’t. confused. and only does things under Thennox’s orders. with a hint of bitterness in her tone. Jennifer sat in silent contemplation. rested a bulbous.6. but was tinted very dark. I wouldn’t have. “Tell me what?” Jennifer blinked rapidly. it’s all just happening so fast. was that she was being sucked into something that she would regret. The thumb. She did not feel at ease. then said. Another strange detail that Jennifer had noticed was that the soldier’s did not carry swords. “What?” Jennifer sighed and fidgeted in her saddle. “I dunno.” Kertz straightened in his saddle. “No. “Do you think that this will end badly?” Jennifer suddenly asked Brennus. and then returned his gaze to Jennifer. startled. Riding next to her. None of them wore helmets and the only thing distinguishing the officer from the rest of the lot was their behavior around him. Jennifer looked over to Brennus. Jennifer’s body jostled lightly as she rode calmly down the dirt highway. Second. who was staring off into the country side. At the front. “Kornin attacked your village. forefinger and middle finger of all of their right gauntlets seemed to be plated with some sort of dark stone and light colored metal.” Jennifer felt a twinge in her stomach. daydreaming. she had two thoughts constantly running through her mind. unnoticed until now. The Captain narrowed his eyes for a moment.
The Captain un-slung his crossbow and started walking towards the swamp. They immediately turned back up the road and began running. Without looking back he said. Running parallel to it was a polished black leather quiver which was full of arrows.” Brennus snorted. Without taking his eyes from his surroundings.” “Have you tried it out yet?” Brennus’s expression became one of excitement. frog. or even a cricket made a noise within. the distance is superb. Jennifer’s instincts were screaming at her.planning a peace treaty. into the swamp. They came to the edge of the swamp and the group stopped. “Johns. running over and gathering four tightly packed messenger bags off of some of the horses and returning to his post laden with them. The Captain brought the horses’ heads close together and looked them all in the eye. so she filed it away for future review. the soldier replied. had his head in the clouds. again. “Why are we dismounting?” Brennus asked. Jennifer and Brennus obeyed. She couldn’t figure herself out. polished ebony bow that clung to his back. cautiously. but now she felt obligated to complete the task. and the wood doesn’t even creak! It’s amazing. Not a bird.” “Yes sir. Finding that she and Brennus were close to a soldier.” Jennifer instantly felt alert. Her confusion was not a very strong feeling however. She still felt that she had no debt to repay to Thennox. One side of the road was flanked with massive stone’s that would be too arduous to navigate.” Jennifer giggled at Brennus’s enthusiasm. grab the supplies. Jennifer and Brennus looked forward curiously. and why the swamp was titled as it was. “Yes! The tension is perfect.” Johns replied.” Brennus looked over his shoulder at the smooth. and the other side bore no end to the swamp in sight. “This is Silent Swamp. walking towards the Captain as the other soldier’s un-slung their crossbows and scanned their surroundings. The nine of them followed the road. the road disappeared a few yards in. The Captain smirked exasperatedly and rode ahead to speak with the point man. . Jennifer looked after them. “Why thank you. Jennifer could immediately tell why the horses wouldn’t enter. Their footfalls even seemed muffled with the soft dirt. Silent Swamp was dead quiet.” the Captain replied as he gathered up the reigns of the horses into his left hand. to see a hill sloping down into what appeared to be a swampy forest. The Captain signaled to one of the archers. absentmindedly fingering the hilt of her survival knife underneath her traveling cloak. I’d like to get through her as quickly as possible. “They’ll run right back home. “Yes. something was up. Now if you’ll come with us. The Captain ordered everyone to dismount.” His last sentence lowered to that of a murmur. “The horses won’t enter. “Hey Ranger. Brennus looked back cheerfully. Instead she looked to Brennus. aghast. “FORSNIP. she leaned into him and asked why the horses wouldn’t enter. who.” she teased. Soul Slayer?” “That’s a nice bow you got there.” he said sternly and then let them go. One of the soldier’s called out something from the front. The water and the flora were stone still. Jennifer felt weakly relieved.
Its muscular body was pitch black. and broken. Of course if you’re superstitious. Its eyes are a whitish blue that can damn near hypnotize all but the most stalwart of mind. looming figure crouched beside the tree.” Jennifer had been looking about. although the sun shone right upon it. although its purpose is a mystery. simulating the warmth of her Soul Energy. tree. his eyes rapidly darting over every branch.“Well. clawed hand resting around the trunk. “that’s why it’s so bleeding quiet. She scanned her surroundings. she was conscience of her breathing. an instinctive response to calm her nerves. “It’s just a story though no one’s ever witnessed it. Jennifer blinked and it was gone. but would lower it again casually. a mouth and nose. As her gaze took her from the mossy trunk of a particularly tall tree. you let the legend explain everything. The group continued on in silence. A creation from the old rulers. “The legend of the creature of Silent Swamp.” The soldier nodded and hustled out into the bush. Its fingers are tipped with needle sharp claws and its eyes…” the soldier let out a low whistle. “It’s some sort of beast.” Jennifer glanced at Brennus.” he gestured with his right hand as he struggled to explain. rock. But even still. but it bore a set of white. “Captain!” The Captain turned. and its face drew down into a defined and pointed chin.” he whispered. thoroughly examining each and every rock. “Fine. almost glowing. bush. Seeing that he had disturbed her. If it wasn’t so dangerous. he smirked in wry reassurance. it was real enough to put her on edge. illuminating in varying shades of black the hairless grooves of skin made by the taught fibers of its insides. No one is really sure why. lithe. who had taken his bow from his back and held it. Her heart thundered in her chest. Jennifer gazed about. the rear most soldier called to the front. she saw it. He looked about with a serious expression. light blue orbs. that she merely chalked it off to an overactive imagination. but the image was so brief. Well. scanning her surroundings since he had said “tail. It lacked ears. every now and then a soldier would bring the crossbow to bear. no wildlife ever enters Silent Swamp. As they climbed a small incline. no one has ever said that they’ve witnessed it. dark thing that sort of looks like a man. albeit relaxed. rotted out stump that she could see. one slender. “those are the most dangerous part. A dark. people would say it was handsome. kind of like a scorpion. But it’s not a man. The face was disturbingly beautiful. in his left hand. His nostrils flared. she calmed a little. . It’s a great. and leaf in sight. She rubbed her palms together. Jennifer noticed that they had come to a bulge in the road that was bordered on one side by some large trees. we’ll rest here.” but again returned her gaze to the soldier. “Yes Micks?” “I must piss!” The Captain twitched the corners of his mouth impatiently. The soldier’s around her did the same. “It’s three times as long as a man and it has a long. She nearly called out to the Captain. spiked.” “What legend?” The soldier quickly glanced at her in disbelief. to a bramble thicket. muscular tail. although they seemed much more at ease than she. lithe. twig.” “Yes sir. her fingers twitching and twiddling. warming them. Be back in three. The head was perfectly round on top.” The soldier’s eyes rested upon a particular tree for a moment longer than they had on the rest.
The soldier’s each loaded one of the strange looking bolts and loaded it into their respective crossbows. gripped the small cord that wrapped about the bolt. relaxing their postures but never stopping their ever vigilant scanning of their surroundings.” After a heart beat of silence. ‘Oh shit. The Captain gave only one further order. glowing blades. Jennifer was wishing that they had never come down this road. Turning about. Jennifer held her hands outside of her cloak. It stared down at her. mouth open as if he were to say something. but not by much. Jennifer now noticed that there were only seven of them. Jennifer suddenly heard the faintest noise. They surprised themselves by how well they did and walked along comfortably in the middle of the loose column. ‘Kendowei. Brennus hunched over a bit. dark. All but one missed. Before it. he looked about for other prints. His armor clattering as he stomped back the way they came.” Jennifer and Brennus filed into the center of the group. They followed the footprints of Micks in the grass until they had come to the spot where Micks had stood last. knocking an arrow onto his bowstring. like a drop of water landing on a cold. The one’s who missed their mark either dissipated into nothingness .’ Jennifer’s hands were suddenly and noisily alight with several orange. with their thumb. which clicked loudly. Jennifer checked and rechecked everything within her field of view. Brennus joined her but did not sit down. he barked out orders. “Where’s Micks?” The Captain looked about a moment longer then called out. unaware of their formations. immediately entering into his most alert state. emotionless. but then snapped his crossbow up to his shoulder. We’re not alone and we’re not welcome. “CLOSE FORMATION!” The soldier who had spun the tale of the creature grasped Jennifer roughly by the arm and pulled her into a circle that the remaining five soldiers were making with themselves. expecting to see him. They cocked back the strings. “Micks where are you?” He listened again. “If anything moves. A perfect orb of crimson lay near the tip of the leaf. we’re going looking for him. Rubbing his forehand in contemplation. at her side as if she were about to draw weapons from thin air. curiously. The Captain began to grow restless. There were none. dry stone floor. He growled. and off slightly to the side. surrounding formation about them. The Captain crouched down and examined the parallel footprints marking the spot where Micks had stood to relieve himself. Jennifer felt her neck creak as she followed the moss covered tree up to its upper branches. but immediately stopped himself. Out of the corner of her eye. was the limp body of one of the soldiers. trying to relax a little more. “Where’s Guitel?” The soldier’s all turned and looked back past Brennus and Jennifer to the soldier who stood at the back. His face paled a few degrees. middle and forefingers. but tried their best to fit in. the dark green and fleshed colored blur that was Brennus saw her and followed her gaze. which she was. Jennifer followed the noise to an elephant ear leaf right in front of her. shoot it.’ Jennifer thought. “Micks?” Another moment of silence. and. which she threw violently at the creature. impaled on its smooth. Swallowing stiffly she looked up. Minutes of silence passed. his glances becoming more rapid and violent. “Column formation sigma.She took a seat against one of the trees and sighed heavily. He looked up. The other soldier’s moved into a loose. was the creature. like a fiendish ape. Perched on a large branch. pointed tale.
closing in on the bulbous mass behind the head. the beast punched the soldier fiercely with his left hand. She no longer cared about anything else. “Fuck you. but the explosion threw off his concentration. “COME ON BRENNUS!” The two of them sprinted desperately down the road. Without even looking in her direction. loudest. or impacted the tree. who had by now realized that he was going to die. He fired at the monstrosity but missed. The seven of them had all backed out of immediate swing range of the creature. against a tree. chalking it black with a speed burn. crushing him utterly. Crying out in pain. a blur of ebony and a fierce screeching of metal stopped the fleeing group in their tracks. She prayed that it had hit the creature and killed it. down into the middle of the group of soldier’s. By then Brennus had already drawn back his arrow. Brennus let the arrow fly. the tree came collapsing down onto the beast. that he was impaled upon. summoning two fiery Kamas. a small group of sparks eating up the cord. Making no visible mark. Groaning and snapping. and lit one of the strange bolts. Jennifer and Brennus followed suit. A soldier directly across from her snapped his fingers on the dark cord of his bolt. The tree exploded. and gripping the barb of his tail. Behind the black cloud came the deepest. Her prayers were rebuked. He moved the Captain to his gaze. dissipating it with a loud sizzling noise. faded into oblivion.” The Captain pulled the trigger. was the Captain. the thing’s tail smacked the javelin in the center of its shaft. but also by then the creature itself had stood up. He slowly reached up to grasp the bolt when suddenly it exploded. like the others. The creature grasped a flailing soldier in one hand. where he fill limp at the base. “GET BACK ON THE ROAD AND JUST KEEP GOIN!” The soldier’s broke rank and fled rapidly back towards the road. right in the center of the bulge in the path. So focused on her path. curling. This outburst had garnered the attention of the others. “RETREAT!” the Captain yelled out. the arrow sticking into a tree. She seized her chance and ran. she noticed that the creature was gone again. Glancing expressionlessly at the falling tree top. The sound made her lose her concentration and the Kamas faded. piercing the thing’s left shoulder. but she could hear the thunderous boom of the explosion. As soon as they got back to the road. as if out of curiosity. Jennifer didn’t bother to look back. that she never noticed the occasional . and then tossing him aside. It stuck into the middle of its chiseled stomach and. Brennus drew another arrow and pulled it back. throwing the shot wild. a soldier turned and fired a bolt back at the thing. He aimed the crossbow right in the center of the thing’s face. Her expression fell a little when she realized what had happened. The cord sparked and hissed. However the one that flew true seemed to have no effect on the thing at all. although Jennifer guessed that it could move quickly enough to silence any one of them. or rather where it stood. trailing small streams of blood with every draw and stab of his dagger. Brennus let loose his arrow. observing him as he stabbed wildly into its arm. the creature flung the captain off to the side. When she blinked. Jennifer leapt back and summoned a javelin into her grasp and flung it at the monster.shortly thereafter. the other soldiers in tow. and most soul shaking cry that Jennifer had ever heard. this time aloud. Jennifer repeated her mantra. except getting herself out of the swamp. tossing the corpse and ripping the arrow from his shoulder as it gracefully descended. Losing patience for the struggling soldier. The beast leapt from the tree. it moved gracefully to one side and stared down at it. Surprised.
Her shoulder’s drooping she flopped back down. “Where…are…the…others?” Brennus paused. Finally. and running. After several minutes Jennifer finally spoke. brush. startling some field mice that scurried away in fear. they collapsed at the base of a grassy hill. breathing heavily. she and Brennus broke out into the highway out of the swamp. She turned herself as she looked in all directions. looking around. her eyes closed and her hand on her forehead as she tried to catch her breath. their chests ablaze and their hearts pounding desperately within their chests. The two of them lay. “Shit. but they didn’t stop running. all went whipping by as she tore at the ground with her feet. “Where’s…the road?” Jennifer opened her eyes in disbelief and sat up.” . They kept running. rocks. painful scream as another soldier was taken away into the tree tops. Trees. Finally.explosion and the shouts of the soldiers as they communicated amongst themselves about the creature’s pursuit. The rolling grass hills were subject to a few stray trees but no road. She also never noticed the occasional. panting heavily as they slowly became exhausted. They didn’t notice that they exited the swamp alone.
cool dirt made for a comfortable seat. I’ll shoot something if we get hungry. and covered mostly in creeping vines and moss. The tower itself was essentially now one giant room. Atop the grassy rise. The stone was old and weathered. but gave up. “Meh. because little trace remained. try to picture one. The many floors of the tower had long ago fallen and supposedly rotted away.” “We’re definitely in the Buffalo Plains. their pace swift at first.” The pair walked with heavy strides towards the tower. as Brennus was doing. looking at Brennus. Sighing tiredly. half sunken watchtower. as if one side were sinking down into the earth. relaxed again. He pulled it open a little ways. The tower’s tilt also made for a very comfortable. just thinking ahead.” he said unenthusiastically.” Jennifer breathed. Brennus looked back at her.” Brennus slid in sideways. Grunting with effort. “Are you hungry. Jennifer was greeted by the soothing cool of the shade of a large tree. she let her head fall back and she sighed. she leaned against the tree and looked out over the horizon. Jennifer bowed her head in effort to trudge up the hill. and it leaned over. the corner of which was partially underground. Jennifer felt immediately at ease when she finally sat down and leaned back. removing his bow and quiver. reclined lean when sitting. . “Let’s head over there. we’ll fit in. Brennus mimicked her. “Yes. The old wood floor had rotted away.” “Ok. and setting them to his immediate side. The tower was not a large one. but then slowing again at the base. and lost our way somewhere along it. the hill’s gradient getting the better of them. Brennus and she had been walking for hours.” Brennus interrupted. he tried to pull it the rest of the way.7. “So do you have any inkling at exactly where we are?” “You’re the ranger. The inside was surprisingly well lit. not half a mile from their position. and the many observation windows filtered in vast amounts of light. What appeared to be an old.” Brennus inquired. Closing her eyes. and then pointed out a large object over to their right. Brennus reached the door first. With a sigh and a grimace of effort she yanked off her boots and let her bare feet fumigate. as the sun was just passing noon. “Well.” she said to him.” Jennifer stated without opening her eyes.” “Mm. “No. and in its stead soft. followed by Jennifer. but then a resistance forced him to stop. The last inhabitants had obviously left it long ago. let’s. We followed it out. “Wish I took one of the supply bags. “My feet are killing me.” Jennifer opened her eyes and nodded her head forward.” Jennifer replied with a minor hint of whine. leaving few shadows in their wake. loomed at the base of a gentle hill. “We were on the highway that went through silent swamp. Shrugging he looked at the gap.” “Without a map.
so I think we should head South.“Ok. he carefully peeked outside. He returned her gaze. a deafening silence that pressed against Jennifer’s ears. Jennifer looked to Brennus in terror derived from ignorance. A minute or so passed in silence. Jennifer nodded in approval. and then over to Brennus. with one of terror derived from knowledge. Brennus looked down at her hands and shook his head nervously. the next thump to greet their ears was significantly louder than the rest. South East. bits of wood. each time the ground shaking more violently. his breathing heavy with fear. but Brennus was still focused on the sound. With a quick succession of two loud thumps. The silence was broken by a deep. Jennifer looked up listening for a few moments. Just as his head crossed the threshold. He mouthed.” Brennus looked up to Jennifer. only slightly louder this time. Brennus scrambled to scoop up his quiver and bow. “Did you hear that?” Jennifer stopped rubbing her eyes and looked up in inquiry. muffled. so he reached over to bring his quiver and bow closer. Brennus shushed her firmly. Jennifer was unsure of which. Brennus yanked his head back in pressed himself against the wall. “He’s on the hunt for something to eat. With one thump. eyes narrowed in question. The sound startled Jennifer when it boomed for a second time. He looked over to Jennifer. He prostrated himself slowly. The thumps continued to grow louder and louder. stone and dust rained down from above. or anticipation.” Although the entire time. “so in relation to the Buffalo Plains. as he focused hard on trying to hear what he had just heard.” Jennifer nodded. and then cautiously crawled to the door without making a sound. “But we can’t have gone so far east. then steadied his gaze upon the Soul Slayer. old bits of stone and block came raining down from the upper parts of the tower. but stopped suddenly. “It’s a giant. The tower shook with a loud crack. so as to pass it. He glanced at her. quiet. Jennifer and Brennus threw themselves to the . who was looking up and around the inside of the tower. Brennus sensed it too. the thumps had never gone away. “The Buffalo Plains wrap around the Stony Bank valley. Bracing a hand against the door and its stone frame. she knew that they would be heading out pretty soon. “He’s outside. I can tell by the way he’s looking around. Eyes wide. thoughtful moan from outside. Jennifer slid her boots back on and rubbed her eyes. but earth shaking thump. where is the residence of Gregor Katchil?” “Well…” Brennus put his forefinger to his chin in contemplation. He tilted his head as if he were listening. then Jennifer suddenly heard it. it seemed logical enough to her. Brennus’s eyes were turned upwards. a low. “Won’t do you any good just stay quiet and he won’t notice us. “What is it?” she hissed a whisper. and then scrambled back to the wall flanking the door. Jennifer shifted herself soundlessly to the other side of the door and pressed herself up against the wall. drawing in her knees so as to remain as much out of sight as possible. all was silent. Jennifer looked at Brennus. trying to ask him what it was without verbally uttering a sound.” he illustrated the picture with his left fore and middle fingers.” Jennifer absentmindedly felt for her survival knife. showering the floor and its occupants with dust and small debris. his eyes urgent. another thump shook the ground.” The muscles in Jennifer’s neck became tense.” he whispered. A moment of silence passed. Brennus did the same.
which without warning subsided into chaos when the pair flew about the inside of the tower like marbles in a box. listening to the last fleeting. came with a soft gust of malodorous wind from what had once served as the ceiling of the tower. and her breathing was labored with pain. with a grunt of pain and then slowly flipped past Jennifer. she called out to her lost traveling companion. “Canned food my ass!” The ranger came down forcefully on the finger. Jennifer stood. which had originally served as a floor. avoiding the debris. and in response the two of them scrambled to hide behind sections of old levels. spilling buckets of dark red blood onto the tower “walls” and him. The tower’s great weight was the only saving grace.ground when suddenly everything shifted. “Brennus are you here?” This time she was greeted with a cloak and leaf covered body falling painfully out of a tree. Their weight suddenly shifted again. Brennus drew his sword with flash of fury upon his face. in a sore damaged way. They had been picked up. A brief moment of calm where the tower wobbled slightly. She took in her surroundings in sudden bursts of realization which pock-marked a general haze of confusion. what was once a wall became a floor. Brennus coughed and moaned in pain. and the thunderous sound of cracking wood as the tower came to a brutal landing in the middle of what Jennifer guessed was a forest. Jennifer tried to call out his name. left contact with the ground. Jennifer staggered out of the tower. their weight being thrown in every direction without warning. “Brennus?” Silence was her initial response. over to kneel by the ranger. Jennifer lay still on what was now the floor of the tower. Bruised and battered. Jennifer rushed. He bounced off of the dark earth. “Brennus. When she was absolutely sure that she was in a forest somewhere. and a huge. “OH SHIIII-” his cry faded as he flew out of the top of the tower. A loud crash echoed from above. on a dirt road. disturbed calls of a flock of songbirds as they flew from their now likely destroyed trees. a little dizzy from her ordeal. but fine. Jennifer and Brennus threw themselves against the walls under what was left of the upper levels. testing each joint cautiously as she examined herself for any injuries. Besides the slight hemorrhaging of most of her exposed skin and the immense damage to her sense of security. slicing it open cleanly. once prostrate. hissing sound. the ceiling of the tower rained down to the bottom in chunks of wood and stone. She lost her place and was thrown forward into the stone wall. but her scream was cut short by a violent crash. At one point Jennifer’s body. The soft flesh and fabric of her face and clothes met the decrepit. as the rolling only lasted for a moment longer. The pair could barely find their balance. A soft. Another thoughtful moan. Jennifer braced herself against the wall and part of an old piece of wood flooring while Brennus cart wheeled and cascaded about the inside of the thrown watchtower with an almost beautiful lack of control. the sound of dry flesh sliding along rough stone filled the tower. Slowly and with much strain. A garbled cry of pain thundered from the gaping hole in the top of the tower. which she watched in disbelief as it scrolled past her as the tower rolled. hewn stone which gripped her like sandpaper. dirty finger with a ragged nail snaked forward between the two frightened travelers. are you ok?” . this one closer to a grunt. she was just fine. far down the road from her. Everything was sore. tower and all.
although when it was in use.” Brennus shook his head in pleading comfort. hoping for some sort of clue. Inhaling. not literally by some beast. “This way. “I’m never letting go of this thing. to continue on our endeavor. but I do know that we are on the road that leads to the alchemist’s home. thus the lack of foliage in the soil. then looked up one direction. “Come on. “Oh. “Don’t be so paranoid. “You managed to hold onto it?” Brennus looked down at the bow and then back up at her in amazement. He kept the left thumb trained over his left eye. but at the same time felt justified.” .” Jennifer chuckled. and also the lack of foliage. He stared down at his feet. Jennifer heaved a sigh of initiation. He dispersed the soil into the air with a flick of the wrist and stared up at the sky. Thus the odd smell. she was not expecting that. its string gripping itself tight against his chest. get up and tell me where we are. which caused him to howl in pain. Brennus began to explain what he knew. As he stood.” Jennifer ungracefully helped Brennus rise to his feet. “Well I don’t know exactly where we are. and then looked back down the other direction. and then gripped her ribs in discomfort. “The soil is also stained with the noxious scent of strong chemicals that have been inadvertently spilled. she playfully slapped his chest. but I do know enough to get us by. After a minute of mental strain.” The two started walking. and seemed to be tracing shapes in the air with his right index finger.” he hesitated. I don’t know exactly where we are. There was a jagged forest canopy that allowed only a small gap to see the sky directly over the road.Brennus drew in a heavy breath and then let it out. “So which way?” she inquired looking about with a non-enthusiastic expression.” “By what?” Jennifer blurted out instinctively. enough to get us by as in. Brennus held up his two hands. “Like I said before. it finally hit him. he rotated his arm gingerly. and then pointed down the road. This made Jennifer noticed that he still gripped his bow with his left hand. past Jennifer and the tower. resting the thumb of his right hand at the tip of his left index finger. Bracing it with his right hand. “Let’s do it again. but when he found none he turned his attention to the road. “Ah…um….” Jennifer laughed once. She nodded to it and said. Brennus blinked. Brennus glanced up at the sky for a fraction of a second. nothing! I-I meant. he slung his bow over his shoulder. he dropped his hands and looked to Jennifer. or have fumed their odor onto the dirt. The ranger knelt down and scraped off a small handful of the light colored soil. it was in heavy use. After muttering to himself for a few seconds. away from the tower. he winced and hissed at a twinge of pain in his shoulder. forming two “L” shapes with his thumb and forefingers.” Jennifer raised her eyebrows a little. struggling to see what Jennifer meant. Slowly. his eyes darted back and forth as he examined the scent. his rotations slowing as his mind worked to pinpoint their location. “This road has not been used in a long time. Brennus scrutinized his surroundings. At first he examined the trees.” Jennifer nodded in agreement.” Brennus gestured to the ground. not bothering to use his hands this time. confused. A little annoyed at Brennus for making her laugh and then hurt. out of defense against the pain.
I knew it!” He grinned. sturdy. The top of his head only just reached Jennifer’s shoulder. but she knew that it belonged to no dirt. which would have proven to be a threat.” ‘What creature could be a threat that leaves tracks resembling rabbit prints?’ Jennifer mused on this for a moment. Although she was inclined to go along with what Brennus was saying.” Jennifer protested. The house itself was a log cabin of sorts. His dark arms were sleeveless. The roof was shingled poorly. The two approached the front door. because I’m getting sick of this. but definitely only cared for by someone who did the absolute minimum. The door opened. only half interested. Most of the house was made of logs stacked on each other. He was garbed head to toe in a stained smock that gave the impression that the alchemist either had never washed it or was very sloppy in his work. Gregor was much shorter than the two of them. all she wanted was just to get somewhere without incident. Brennus extended his arm to knock but hesitated. Jennifer took it and tentatively smelled it. . Brennus scooped up a dirt clot and held it out for her to take. Jennifer followed his gaze to a tan stone that had the word “WELCOME” painted in black across it. there was a very strange sent to the dirt. “We are Jennifer D’Alessio and Brennus Zelten. “Well I thought they might have belonged to some other creature. but they just turned out to be rabbit tracks. Their path began to slope uphill.” A quiet clicking and sliding of locks and bolts could be heard from the other side of the door. failure. and they all discharged different colored gases. Brennus slapped his knee. The pair continued along their journey. but he quickly stood and continued on.” Brennus reassured as she sniffed. or at the very least. after their encounter with the giant. Shrugging. Once Brennus abruptly stopped to examine a trail of foot prints in the road. but here and there. but well enough to prevent any leaks. The two looked at each other.” Jennifer replied. but her pain and creeping fatigue pushed the thoughts out of her head. Jennifer was unfamiliar with the scent. and then a voice inquired from within.“I don’t smell anything. The metal pipes all looked as if they were made of scrap metal that happened to be lying around. looking down. he knocked. and the two travelers beheld an unexpected site. He was right. “What was that?” Jennifer asked. “Who ees eet?” The voice was one of accented intelligence. “It’s faint. The inside was dark.” It was only about two more minutes of walking when a one-story. there were patches boards and planks and the nearest corner stone was peeking out over the grass. The windows were not open. limited only to the bare necessities or what Brennus thought bore significant importance. but the curtains were not drawn.” “Good. Brennus cocking a curious eyebrow. It was the sort of house that Jennifer was expecting the alchemist to live in. bent and roughly built chimneys jutted out of the top. Jennifer wondered if the alchemist was truly inside. surprise. “We’re almost there. “Aha. and many curved. their conversation sparse.” Brennus was dead on with his usage of “almost. When they finally arrived. Inside a quiet shuffling approached the door. but it’s there. brown building came into view. brushing them off as unnecessary. leading to no suggestion as to what he was wearing underneath his smock. “We’ve come to enlist your aid.
The shelves were quite colorful. similar to topaz. he tapped his foot and drummed his finger tips on the door frame. Excitedly or impatiently. “We’ve come to ask your help in an endeavor that…we…” he became distracted as he watched the alchemist continue his work. and at the very back.” Jennifer raised an eyebrow. “In order to kill him. uh. . Immediately Gregor turned. and though the small room did have a few comfortable looking chairs and couches in the center. for sure. where are me manners? Cohm in cohm in!” Gregor beckoned them in and shuffled over to a nearby workbench. He stepped excitedly over to Brennus. “Oh…kay…well. All along the right wall were benches of various shapes and sizes.” Jennifer and Brennus looked about. “Please seet down anywhere. and flasks. his fortress is nearly impenetrable.” The alchemist continued working. Brennus blinked rapidly. does dis hurt?” Gregor tapped the ranger with his right foreknuckle. His long.” The alchemist took a heavy whiff of a steaming liquid and nodded in approval. Between the two rooms. At the far end. “Wait a minute. blow right through eet. a small hallway ran to the left and out of sight. his head cocked at an angle as he looked at the pair. tapping things. “Uh…are you listening?” “Tya man. Jennifer guessed that they stood now at the front of what would normally be a sitting room. and professionally examined the shoulder.” the alchemist replied without turning to look at Brennus. With this wall. which was crowded with sophisticated looking glass apparati. we need to get past a great wall that surrounds his tower. “We are on a quest to kill Thennox Dantus. Above the benches. which projected a slightly comical relief onto his dark colored skin. Brennus also seemed a little taken-aback. “So…you…want to-ow!” Brennus’s question was cut short by a sharp pain in his shoulder. crammed into the corner. un-phased. he didn’t seem at all like he was hesitant about joining. stretching from corner to corner. He grasped it instinctively and rotated it gingerly. now converted into a laboratory. The room was really two rooms that simply weren’t separated by a wall. mixing things. Jennifer mused that every color possible was represented on the wall. jars. “Tell me man. With trained hands he gently massaged and poked at the joint. they were packed with books. his interest piqued. intimidated by the vast array of potions and brews on the wall.” Brennus hesitated. some empty. it was difficult to tell. but we were told that you could do something about that. she could see what could serve as a kitchen. all filled to the last square inch with delicate and strange looking glass instruments. clothes and various knick-knacks and instruments. some filled with different substances. and looked as if the tips of it often dunked into the alchemist’s concoctions. we need your help. jet black hair stretched in dread locks down past his shoulders. for sure. “Feel…is quite…important. “So waht kind of aid do ya require?” The alchemist’s accent was thick and tropical. a long row of shelves were chock full of bottles.” The alchemist bobbed his head in agreement. a door stood closed partway shut. stirring things.” Jennifer stepped back and leaned against the door. removed the right side of his cloak. “Ya-I’ll make a something real strong. writing down notes.His eyes were of a light yellow color. a massive wooden table dominating one side of the wall and a heavy looking black metal cauldron in the center. “So.
pulling the glass stopper out as he went. yawned and stretched and scampered down the shelves. Brennus looked nervously to Jennifer.” he declared. “Here ya go man. Gregor cringed and pulled his head down into his shoulders. shaking his head and pulled a small bottle containing a neon green liquid from the shelf and returned to Brennus. cast iron cauldron. ramshackle looking building with a single. From under the bench he grabbed a bucket of water and poured it too. hand me da light bloo bottle!” Brennus obeyed. a tan powder. holding it out in front of him. large chimney. Brennus and Jennifer exchanged exasperated looks during the frantic ordeal. The ferret blinked his understanding. “Not too much!” Brennus yanked the bottle away from his mouth and corked it quickly. still reading the bottle. bruised bone. stood.” he told the ferret. as if reassuring it. but was interrupted by a sudden shattering explosion at the far end of the room. silently reading their labels to himself. He stood silently holding the smoky-purple bottled liquid. He snatched the bottle and recapped it. “Don’ worry man. ya took just da right amount. not Bubbly!” Jennifer pushed herself off the wall and followed Brennus as he chased after the alchemist. into the massive mixing pot. “Dis should fix ya right uh-NO NOT DIS ONE!” Gregor yanked the bottle back just as Brennus started to reach out. and continued adding and mixing things into the batch. into the cauldron. Gregor took the bottle back and put it on the shelf. Brennus gave the alchemist a very angry look. The enthusiastic alchemist clapped it into the ranger’s hands and took a step back. “I didn’t say ta open eet!” Gregor gently stroked the bottle and spoke softly to it. and bounded out the back door and down the hill towards a small. I got just da ting!” Gregor hustled back over to the shelves and began running his fingers over all the bottles. Gregor simply smiled back. Gregor sprinted to the middle bench and grabbed an unseen. Brennus looked up at him with serious resignation. chirping screech pierced the din and sent the alchemist into a mild panic. tearing scream. Gregor replaced the bottle. He removed one to examine it more thoroughly and the dark brown head of a sleepy ferret poked out and looked from Gregor to his two guests. he uncorked the bottle and brought it up to his lips. searching for a specific one. A painful. He hesitated a moment more and then took a sip. “Lookin’ for da soodin’ potion.” Brennus firmly opened his mouth to speak. Bubbly. Brennus. turning himself wildly to bring the potion back to the shelf. which was smoldering lightly.” the alchemist said. He was greeted by a strident. “Oh no. bruised and pulled muscle.“Son of a bitch!” “Just as I thought. Three long benches surrounded a large. He gingerly opened it. out of sight. ya’ll be right as rain in da mornin’. dark. Gregor kicked the door in and rushed over to the only empty workbench on the far left side of the dimly lit room. worn pouch from behind a locked chest and emptied its contents. his eyes boring a whole through Gregor. two of the benches were chock full of miscellaneous tools. “Dat one should do eet. reassuring it some more then opening it again. who was also at a loss for words. letting a significantly smaller yelp escape before recapping. Here and there he would remove one to look behind it. he poured a little into the cauldron. apparati and mismatched potions. Silent and satisfied. which was partially sunken down into the ground. . “Yoo dere. Sighing. strained tendone. Gregor scooped up his ferret. Replacing the bottle he quickly picked up another one and brought it back over to Brennus.
’ Jennifer thought to herself. “You want to come?” “Yes. emphasizing the dark man’s power. Brennus let out a sigh of astonishment.” he gestured towards the hallway.Pausing only to vigorously stir the vat for a few seconds.” Gregor said as the three of them entered his house.” Brennus gestured with his good arm. . in spite of herself. but not tonight. “Sure. “So. Bubbly chirped calmly and Gregor slowly raised him out of the now dry depths of the cauldron. The evening sun cast an orange glow upon everything it touched.” ‘Well that was easy.” Gregor started back up towards his house nonchalantly. “Sure. the water hissed menacingly and disappeared in a thick fog of steam. ya want me ta come along ta help you two?” Jennifer and Brennus nodded slowly. “Stay here da night. It’s late. stroking him slowly. Jennifer was simply at a loss for words. was piled high with coal. “Tya. which rose quickly out of the chimney. Gregor shoveled two or three shovelfuls into a small nook under the cauldron. Gregor reinstated the conversation that he had interrupted earlier. The dark liquid within the cauldron began to churn and stir as it boiled. pleased.” Jennifer laughed.” “He’s the most powerful warlock in all of Thoracia. right?” “Ya. and then lit them on fire by striking them firmly with the tip of the shovel’s blade. the mixture rocked and thrashed like the middle of a deep sea during a vicious storm. Jennifer had just noticed.” “That doesn’t scare you?” Gregor looked back at Brennus with a thoughtful smile. I’ll come.” “You know that we are trying to assassinate Thennox Dantus. staring open mouthed at the perfectly healed ferret. “let me show you your rooms. Gregor picked up Bubbly and swiftly dipped the ferret in the water. but eets a boring life. he moved to a corner which. Instead of bubbling. The embers burned a mesmerizing bright purple. still looking down at Bubbly. and we’ll take off in da mornin’. man. Being an alchemist makes me hoppy. but not like a typical liquid. Looking up at them. and extended their shadows to several times their own natural height. “Ya man. Gregor smiled warmly down at Bubbly. but Brennus interrogated the alchemist with renewed vigor. Here. “So you’ll come with us?” Brennus begged. letting Bubbly claw his way up to his shoulder. sure it makes me a leetle nervous. but I could use some adventure. sure. absolutely. As if in severe protest. man.
laden with slumber. “Sorry.8. however.” he said. which Jennifer entertained herself with toying pokes and prods. The notes were entirely unintelligible.” he paused to inhale generously. ranger?” Brennus grinned. he smiled over to her. which was bright with the morning sun. a certain piece of paper would stand out. that she had smelled out on the road before reaching the alchemist’s residence. Did she? Another scent hit her. because there were more mistake scratch-outs on it then most. if one stared long enough. “My my. She inhaled even deeper. The room itself. Eyes. His greasy hair was askew and clumps jutted out at odd angles. among others. Then it hit her again. she would have to put them away for now. heavy at first with hesitation towards the morning. the notes were so basic that the information gathered gave one no clue as to what they meant. simply by how it felt under their feet. filtered in a more burned gold through the pinned and stretched cheesecloth which served as a window. was that a flirt. Why was this all so easy? Why did she seem to go along with it so well? Why didn’t she fight back more? She didn’t want this after all. a sudden whiff of something wandered into her nose. but still distinctive. simply two beds flanking the doorway to the small wood-floored room. Their sleeping quarters were quite spartan. the familiar smell of well cooked eggs. When the burning subsided into a playful tingling. She sat up with a quiet groan and sighed when the burn of her own blood flowed back into the slumbering limb. was a cornucopia of stranded and mismatched thoughts. Jennifer agreed with her gut. Another wave of uncertainty. The morning sun. hunched over. That scent. thinking possibly that she was simply caught up in the sudden decision by the alchemist to join their party. I’m not into girls that can stab me without a knife. and found that she had fallen asleep. She wondered briefly to herself why she hadn’t noticed it before. for it was utterly covered in papers that had been strewn about. What was written on them was written so messily that reading them was nearly impossible. Jennifer followed him. her right arm-which was still in its own sound slumber. “and a nose of its own. yellow already. Jennifer’s eyes eased open. It was that scent. Jennifer and Brennus could tell that the floor was wood. Gregor stood in front of one of the couches. but otherwise they would not have been able to tell.” He rose and left the room.” “Good thinking. “G’Morning sunshine. of questioning. sitting up awkwardly in his bed.” “Especially good thinking when your stomach has a mind. Her stomach urged her to put her grand thoughts of being away. half closed. and still lay on. and even when one was lucky enough to find a sample that was readable. Jennifer rubbed her eyes with her left arm. she had no time or energy to spare to think about them during her endeavor. so many other things were simply far too important. Here and there. Brennus yawned and stretched himself out. lowering something into a . Jennifer laughed. but then light as the refreshed feeling of a goodnight’s sleep came to her. The two of them entered into the main room.
” they both replied.” “You don’t get out much.” Jennifer ruffled her fingers in her hair. with over-enthusiasm. I guess. bringing with him Jennifer’s knife and traveling cloak. cahn’t wait ta get out. Dis is like a big treat for me. “Are you?” “Mm. Brennus poured the bucket out the back door and replaced it on the bench. throwing on his backpack. but then went back to his packing. man. sending little ripples through it as she shook her head back and forth. Gregor started for the door.” Jennifer stacked her plate on top of Brennus’s under the bench. “Na man. for sure. She threw her hair forward. closing it. notebooks. and pulled a knot snug to keep it closed. “We ready?” Jennifer and Brennus looked to each other. eager to get going. just as she was flipping her hair back. stirring up a titanic plume of dust. On the kitchen table were two plates that were each decked with scrambled eggs and toasted bread.” the alchemist replied gutturally. light colored fur vest and a pair of chaps that looked newlymade yesterday. ya man. Gregor stood. do you?” Jennifer inquired bringing her own plate and fork over to the bucket. he no longer wore his smock. “So whereabouts are you from?” Brennus asked Gregor. “No where ta go. he flopped down into a lounge chair behind him. Brennus held out his hand. “It’s comfortable. She slid on the belt and shrugged on the cloak. His expression quickly changed to one of puzzlement. smiling. bending over. Listening. but instead garbed himself in a never-worn. “So. Gregor smiled a crooked smile and nodded. and bobbing their heads as Gregor sang and stuffed his pack full of various potions. Jennifer hadn’t noticed before. she had very little eggs left. When he finished he drew the hide chord at the top of the pack. trying to air out the parts that didn’t get any oxygen over night. “Yep. . Brennus emerged in record time. “Whatever works. instruments. “Den let’s go!” Jennifer strode at an even pace in line with the other two chatty travelers. and clothes. none too soon as Gregor was already. for sure.brown-leather backpack that was larger than even he. who had struck up a pleasant conversation as soon as they had left Gregor’s home. “Just let me get dressed. scrubbing the dish swiftly with his hands. ya almost ready ta leave?” Jennifer looked down at her plate.” Gregor nodded then looked at Jennifer. “Ya sleep wit your clothes on?” Jennifer shrugged. smirked and nodded.” Gregor shrugged.” he replied. “Nearly. tropical song that gave one the urge to slow one’s pace. singing a relaxing. it wasn’t the first time she had been asked that question. his grin growing wider. The alchemist turned his head and grinned a greeting to them. Brennus dropped his fork down onto his plate with a loud clatter and brought it over to a steaming bucket of soap and water sitting on a bench behind him. The two of them sat and ate in verbal silence. Turning about. were a few more stood. and did the same with her fork.
Unexpectedly. Jennifer had been in many forests before. The three of them trudged down the wide bank and started downstream when they came close to the creek. his head still did not reach the top of his massive backpack. “Not far. “We haf to get to da Stony Bank River.” Brennus mused. I can take you dere from here. Gregor turned and gave the two a look of “well duh.” Jennifer asked suspiciously.” Gregor replied. who even showed a minute amount of strain at the difficulty of their walk. After a moment’s hesitation. ya are goin’ after Thennox Dantus.” They came to the crest of a steep slope and in the distance they could see a faint stream of smoke emerging from within a clustering of trees. “dere’s a shortcut not far from here.” Brennus nodded in agreement.” Gregor said with a great amount of strain as he tried to maneuver his massive load under a branch.” “Have you ever been there before?” Jennifer inquired. plucking some stray leaves from her tunic and cloak. they reached a small creek. flexing her fingers. “Eet’s a tropical island. warming up for her Soul Energy.” Gregor turned to face the woods.” “I’ve heard that it’s quite lovely. man. Gunnar would be of great use to ya. “How did you know we were going to visit Gunnar Cartel. but managed to stumble and keep her posture. Gunnar’s house should be on dis side. “Please lead the way. “Ok. It seemed as if the trees. She marked Gregor with some suspicion. and a few startled rabbits later. sure.” “Dere aint no one else who lives in Stony Bank.” Gregor smiled with pride and stood up a little straighter. but none so difficult to traverse as this one. Some more hiking. “How much farther?” Brennus’s voice had a hint of annoyance in it. “Dis is Stony Bank River. “Damn!” Gregor exclaimed. the moss had all grown in the perfect way to impede her. Even the rocks seemed to have placed themselves with her journey in mind. da Stony Bank Vallee. real nice weader dere year ‘round.” Jennifer retorted.” Brennus began. aiming his hands at the sky again trying to align himself. so we need to head south and find the Stony Bank Valley. Huffing in frustration she glanced at Brennus. Gregor signaled up and downstream with his left arm.“I’m from de Isle of Thora. He gestured with his hands. only passed by eet once on a herb hunt. Afterall. and the two of them started forward again. the brambles. “so dats what made all dat racket!” “It was even louder in person. “Oh. den we can just follow it to Gunnar’s house. laden heavy with grey pebbles and stones. Jennifer started forward as well. Beyond the smoke they could see that forest began to thin . The three of them rounded the gentle curve in the road and came to the remnants of the tower they had been so violently involved with. ya man.” The three of them started off into the woods. Brennus looked to him. just follow me. eyebrows raised in pleasant surprised. When ya mentioned Stony Bank I automatically assumed dats who we were visitin’.” “Sure. “Na man. Jennifer tripped on a rock.” Jennifer and Brennus stopped.
” Gregor pointed to the smoke. The three of them reached the door and took a moment before knocking. the clearing was devoid of any grass. Within the trio found that the canopy of the trees had fooled them into thinking that many trees made up the dense cluster. “Dere. reached out with her hand. As they drew closer. A worn footpath bled out from between two particularly green pine trees and disappeared into the shadow of the trees’ canopy. angry that their rest be disturbed so rudely by a sliding foot. although the need for it was abolished when they passed the pine trees. The door swung curtly open almost immediately. half reluctance. Jennifer began to garner an aura of respect from him. Jennifer looked at Gregor and Brennus. The stones at their feet growled and hissed viciously. “Can I be of some assistance?” His voice was very disciplined and level. Though well lit. After a profound silence. pine cones. Brennus stared slack jawed out of amazement at the cavernous inside of the clearing. widening in amazement as they traced the holey. His eyes darted all about and then shot skyward. Every single shingle on the roof was straight and in perfect order. As a cloud moved in the distance. and the travelers had to enter it single file. but no one said a word. but this one looked perfectly taken care of. ray of golden light over them and the creek. and the odd acorn. Jennifer could also make out the ominous. In the far distance they could see the pale tan bases of the Thoran Mountains. and rapped her knuckles three times on the door. She pinned her ears back. her feelings burned her gut…half anticipation. . but found the decline too steep. ebony outline of Mount Antagonist. He pivoted his head smoothly. The path was thin. but otherwise stayed silent. auburn hair eyed them with polite indifference. which was flanked on one side by a window. only here and there did a massive trunk rise up from the ground towards the heavens. the house was a small log cabin. The three of them tried to step down the slope. The only sign of any sort of age was a mild fading of the bark. Jennifer and Gregor’s attention had been locked onto the quaint cabin from the very beginning. but brief. Sliding to a halt the three of them sprung a little with their step and kept walking. the trees spaced farther and farther apart. Jennifer could just see a small woodshed and a thick stump with an ax stuck into the top of it. Off to the side and behind the cabin. Somewhere behind the cabin some leaves stirred. pine needles. The terrible din they made scared a lone doe drinking at the base of the hill. who looked from her to each other. and none of the logs exhibited any sort of decay or wearing. looking each one of them in the eye with his steely blue eyes. so they slid the rest of the way. a cloud moved overhead. a half naked man with short. glowing branches of the massive trees. In truth. turned and galloped away into the brush. he carried himself well. casting a brilliant. as if a small animal were moving about. Jennifer cleared her throat. The path curved ever so gently towards the door of the cabin. Jennifer’s stomach churned.out. They stood in silence for half a moment before he blinked and spoke. not a single one missing. Brennus muttered something under his breath about impressive pruning skills. instead the ground was blanketed in a layer of dried leaves. Standing statuesquely. following the bank as it curved towards the clustering of trees. Each one of them looked as if they had something to say. Like Gregor’s.
and now I do not deserve to continue to live as I did. awkward silence. Gregor. “OK.” Gunnar looked up to something unseen in the corner and stared at it for a long time. Now please leave.” Jennifer replied softly. His eyes burned with barely repressed rage and clear sadness. and help us. fists balled. Gunnar stood in the door way. shaking her head at the ground. “Please. You could not have honestly predicted that.” Jennifer said the statement with an even tone. but your life to protect theirs? Do you know what it’s like to FAIL that pledge?” Gunnar stared down Brennus. I wait out my existence here. “I failed my mission long ago. What can I do for you?” “We are in need of your assistance. “I failed. in solitude. towards the mountains. On the other side. you turn your back on it. her nose an inch from it.” The bolt slid away and the door flew open. “With any luck we’ll reach them by noon. Your skill as a warrior is unmatched.“My name is Jennifer D’ Alessio.” “Is this what the Great One would want you to do?” Jennifer said quickly as Gunnar turned. but her dark eyes cast across a mild sense of plea. and we would greatly appreciate it if you would help us.” “Yeah. He looked at the three of them as he spoke. I am a Soul Slayer of the Form Village. Gunnar looked to her with unblinking severity.” Jennifer gestured to Brennus and Gregor. not willing to give up this opportunity.” Brennus replied. Jennifer never took her gaze from the weathered warrior. I gave up my life as a warrior. Brennus looking solemn.” Gunnar’s defined muscles flinched ever so slightly as he stiffened in his posture. a lock bolt slid home. “good sir. These are my traveling companions. but did not keep it. Jennifer pounded on the door. Honor your pledge. “Wallow in self pity and eek out an existence in self confined solitude? Just when this world that the Great One was trying to save needs you the most. The two stood in silence. “I am Gunnar Cartel. “No.” he consoled. man.” “Your mission?” Gunnar sounded as if he were on the edge of explosion.” Gunnar suddenly closed the door. Brennus put his hand on her shoulder.” “Shut up. Gunnar lowered his head and gently closed the door. please help us with our mission Gunnar. your sword guarantees our victory. jaw clenched.” “Sheet. Gunnar froze just as his hand touched the door. “Brennus Zelten and Gregor Katchil. . Dat’s a run a bad luck. “We should start south. “What assistance may I provide?” “We have been tasked with the assassination of Thennox Dantus. Brennus and Gregor exchanged wide-eyed glances over the menacing scar down his back. muscles tense. as punishment for my failure. Gregor sighed. then heaved a regretful sigh. After a pressing. “Do you know what it’s like to pledge not only your unending allegiance to your closest friend. Jennifer stared at the door.” The man nodded at the two of them and laid a gesturing hand upon his well toned chest. just as you did. “He swore an oath.” “How can you have possibly expected Matthias’s betrayal?” Brennus shouted into the door.” Jennifer whispered glumly. Slowly his lips turned white from pressure.
Reaching down. A small glowing orb of green energy formed in the palm of the figure’s hand and disappeared as he closed it over the end of a long staff braced against the giant’s chest. leaving gaping. the giant turned to look at the ranger. the giant collapsed to the ground and lay still. Just like his gi. causing it to scream in pain. now fully clothed in a magnificent blue and green gi. flaming javelin materialized and zoomed towards the giant as she hurled it. The shockwave knocked Gregor onto his back. The giant grimaced in pain. As Jennifer drew close. Wailing in pain. a look of anger on the reeking things ugly. Another explosion of blue flame knocked at the giant’s cranium. gripped loosely in his right hand. the giant fell backwards. who stood with Gunnar. the arrow stuck into the giant’s lower. a long. The two of them made their way over to Brennus. decorated with glittering runes of deep green. the unintelligent beast turned dramatically to face Brennus. Jennifer and Gregor looked to Gunnar with hope. ‘Kendowei. as he tried to rummage through his backpack. At his side. The fiery-orange blur stuck into just under the giant’s buttocks. was a brilliantly designed staff. The giant grunted and plucked the arrow out with ease. Brennus skidded to a halt and dropped to a knee. The alchemist’s shortness saved him. With an earth shaking thump. deep sigh. the giant stomped its way over to the Soul Slayer. He knocked an arrow onto his bow and drew a bead on the giant. Muttering a single word under his breath. Jennifer threw herself to her side just as the giant’s fist came crashing down into the soil where she was standing. its eyes eased closed. bending the field grass almost completely over with the draft. right eyelid. tying his pack shut. she could see that the runes were composed of thousands of fine emeralds. “TAKE SOME O’ DIS!” Gregor sprinted towards the giant. Jennifer jogged around the giant and caught up with Gregor who was stumbling along. A fierce bright green cone erupted from the spook and disintegrated a massive hole in the giant’s chest and shoulder.“JEN. dumb face. which erupted in a brilliant blue flame mid-flight. DODGE!” Brennus screamed.’ into Jennifer’s right hand. Throwing himself to the ground. and held it aloft like a great club. Upon impact the arrow exploded in a tiny explosion of blue flame. knocking the brute forward a few stumbling steps. He looked back at Brennus. who was still down on his knee. he uprooted the only nearby tree. then screamed it’s wrath at Brennus. futilely hugging his left arm to close the meaty gap. he released the arrow. giant in pursuit. Turning about. violently splashing it’s foot with a clear liquid. The giant’s flesh sizzled and smoked as the acid ate its way into his foot. who smiled . It’s head eased to the side and with a pathetic. Looking down at the shadow with curiosity and surprise. Slowing to a halt. the rod was blue. Brennus drew an arrow and drew a bead on the giants head. a blurred figure launched itself to the level of the brute’s grubby chest. As if rehearsed. Brennus turned and ran. brown holes in the ground. Teeth clenched and eyes wide with fear. the hand whooshed over him. the giant reached for it. With a deafening boom. The warrior turned to the two of them and smiled warmly. Letting the arrow fly. “GRAH!” Now clearly angry. With a squishy thump. The giant roared and swung a dirty hand at Gregor.
“but only on one condition. Gunnar returned his gaze to the other two and turned to face them.” Jennifer agreed earnestly with a fervent nod.” “Of course. With the display shown today.satisfyingly at him. She didn’t know what he meant by his revenge. . “You must promise me to let me have my revenge. planting his staff with a light thump. Jennifer knew that she couldn’t give up a man of such power.” “Anyting!” Gregor ejaculated.” he paused for a second. he announced with a voice rife with vigor. but she didn’t care. “I’ve come to join you.
“we came so close. “You know that I once traveled with The Great One on his campaign against the demons. The mountains themselves. Jennifer made her way up the path behind Gunnar. “Just before he ordered the charge…Matthias drove a spear through the back of The Great One’s helmet. Gunnar sighed stepped forward. grey. but avoided talking about his past.” Gunnar said the name with almost visible venom dripping from his lips.” Gunnar looked to the stony ground. Sparse gravel crunched beneath the four travelers’ boots as they trudged their way up the steep mountain path. with a refreshing breeze that made one immediately feel at peace. with The Great One. Sitting for a moment in contemplation. than on their conversations. menacingly sharp peaks that gave one a profound sense of paranoia. He joined and then fit in so easily. his voice husky. affected them enough to focus more on their way and on their gazes sweeping over the landscape every few moments. There was also something about the steep. “It was as if . They met his gaze with unchanging expressions. Brennus and Gregor turned and looked at Gunnar with grim interest. like a pair of children. Before they reached the mountains. Although they had made it to the mountains in good time. He rested his bo at a lengthy angle on his left shoulder. Gunnar began solemnly. The plains at the base of the mountains seemed quaint and peaceful. however. glancing up at her ever so swiftly. None of them spoke. “Matthias Aclumadus.9. This only continuously goaded at Jennifer’s brewing suspicion of him. “Matthias?” Jennifer looked at Gunnar sideways. seemed dauntingly large and spacious yet confining at the same time. the mountains seemed incredibly inhospitable. the air was thinner. bombarded Gunnar with questions and hints at stories of his past adventures. She merely listened with mild interest as Gregor and Brennus. It would have ended right then and there. We were about to make the final push. when at first he objected to it so fervently. He was dead instantly. We…” Gunnar hesitated. “What is this revenge that you spoke of?” The other three stopped and turned. The pressing feeling of paranoia. The four of them were fairly spaced out. she stopped. Gunnar looked back to the ranger and the alchemist. however. that had been enough to unnerve some in the past. a light wind played gently with the cuffs of his pants. “You also know that the campaign came to a very abrupt and tragic halt at Epitropolis. it could have been all over…forever. the path being a bit thin and giving one an unconscious need for space. the sun had long passed its midday mark and now began its reddened descent behind the ferocious peaks off in the western distance. When at last she simply could not look past his ambiguity any longer. Jennifer’s suspicion leaked to Brennus. Gunnar answered their questions with casual indifference. something about it made the oxygen bite at the lungs. The Thoracian Union’s armies had completely surrounded the Demons. myself and…Matthias at the center. spun. who stealthily slid his hand to rest on the hilt of his sword.” Gunnar swallowed. and leaned against the sun-dried trunk of a long dead tree.” Gunnar repeated. and if one took in a sharp breath. Jennifer had not spoken at all. Not uninhabitable. Gunnar looked to Jennifer as if she had asked him to give an awkward confession. Although not from altitude.
Jennifer scanned her surroundings.” The group stopped short of the top. Gregor pursed his lips and nodded his head. Jennifer was the only one who spoke. The hair was matted here and there from obvious lack of washing. “I was standing right next to him. so I hid. and peered about for a second.” Gunnar hissed the last word. Jennifer knew what kind of burning desire revenge can sear into one’s gut. “It behaves. The only garbs on the corpse were a pair of roughed and dusted trousers. only this time the silence was not quite as awkward. “What?” Jennifer asked darkly. Bubbly poked his sleek face out of a side flap in the backpack. Brennus relaxed and stood. I have a chance to redeem myself. Coming over the top of the steep incline. forced myself into solitude. so I made sure he never would. No one moved. The goblin was about the size of an average human child. and was covered in wispy. Gunnar helped himself up the path with his bo.” Gunnar nodded approvingly. hoping that the war would end so I could just die someday. “I couldn’t bear to show my face anymore. Matthias’s life is mine. years without bathing Jennifer guessed. piercing sound. an arrow drawn back on his bowstring. wet. Jennifer heard a very faint. As Jennifer passed by the rancid cadaver. quick exchanging of nods. soot stained hair.” Gunnar opened his eyes and turned their burning.” Jennifer stared. his face the same color as the pack. By the time we snapped out of it. back at Gunnar. she caught glimpse of the dark crimson stream dripping over its painfully . which in the mind of a goblin was probably a role that required as little armor as possible. Brennus knelt down. “But now. searching for the corpse. Didn’t see us yet. she had no problem letting Gunnar have his. rickety. poorly constructed goblin armor. “So what exactly is your…talent?” and not quite as long-lived. I don’t even know what it is. despite his massive backpack.everything stopped. “Well. which was tanned to a wrinkly. so I’m told. After a moment of anticipating silence. Gunnar smiled warmly and stepped forward. Gregor crouched down. With a final. and now stared solemnly out over the yawning gorge at their side to a sun drenched mountain range. He was watching the path. “And it shall be. and a beaded necklace of semi-precious stones and animal teeth. At once Jennifer wondered why the thing was not garbed in more traditional. blue gaze onto Jennifer. Matthias had already rallied a massive wave of Demons out of their portal and tore down everything we had strived to build over those long months. even since I was a child. feebly trying to hide himself. the four of them continued forward.” Brennus had long ago eased his grip on his sword. but instead stooped and looked at each other inquiringly. offering his hand to Jennifer.” Gunnar closed his eyes and sat in profound silence for a moment.” The incline of the path suddenly steepened greatly. I’ve always been able to use it. and here and there was stretched tight against his skin. gripping each others’ wrists. It didn’t take her long to notice the pathetically strewn body hanging over the edge of an opening between two small peaks. toasted brown. but then remembered that he was a scout. then withdrew with a resigned snarl. Brennus. quite similarly to Mana. Gunnar chuckled under his breath. His blood splashed onto my face. Gunnar and Jennifer struggled to see around Gregor. drawing a bead on some distant target. unblinking. though. She obliged and they shook. and the four of them continued along the path. “Goblin scout. we were all too shocked. He let the arrow fly with a quiet thrum.
her reflexes kicked in and rolled her over her back. Written in white. “Are you alright.” he said as he looked at it upside down. “Need some hailp?” Gregor’s voice reverberated for a ridiculously short time around the hole. that vaguely resembled bridges. Jennifer returned her gaze to her surroundings and forgot about the fiend. The four of them continued on their path. lettering against a white-bordered-blue background. As they were passing by the opening of what Gregor called a “vent. Glancing at the three of them he nodded and pointed back at the ambiguous rectangle. accidentally kicking something. Brow furrowed out of curiosity. bug-like face from the diagonally embedded arrow. this is just a minor inconvenience. blue and white rectangle that her foot rested in front of. handed the “phone” to Gunnar. “definitely plastic. I don’t think that this is a phone though.” “Would a phone need a sign?” Brennus. seeking out more scouts. that material appears to be “plastic.” Gunnar corrected. but their vigilance was only awarded with simply a stiff wind.” a small cave opening that sloped immediately almost straight down. and there I studied some of their records of the ancient times. Once. “Yeah. which scraped and warped in a strange way. she bent down and picked up the corner of the strange.” The three heads turned from him and gaped at the ancient artifact. All three heads turned to him at once. she saw the vent sloping down into her sinkhole. Clicking her tongue and shaking her head she looked up at the three faces staring down at her. flicked the sign and it responded with the same strange thump as before. “Back then the letters “P” and “H” used in conjunction with one another sounded the same as the letter “F. I don’t remember anything about it from my teachings. I spent a few years at a monastery.contorted. “Yes. was a word that Jennifer was quite sure she had never seen or heard before. “Fone. “P-hone?” Jennifer tilted her head in puzzlement. “I think this might be a sign for a phone. sending gravel skittering noisily all around and causing their guards to instantly fly to high attention. “I don’t know.” Looking to her right. Jennifer slapped out with her hands to stall herself before flipping completely over and rolled back onto her feet.” Before I was an adventurer.” Jennifer stepped forward. the ground beneath Jennifer’s feet suddenly gave way and she tumbled down into a shallow sinkhole. They weren’t very far. As she held the light object in her hands. She blew the dust off it and held it out in the light for everyone else to see. eyes wide and mouth hanging open in this rush of knowledge. Just as her tailbone touched the ground.” Can I see it?” Jennifer. distributing the impact. “What the…” Brennus whispered. “That’s a relic from before 3389.” he flicked it. watching their surroundings. Waving it and twisting it slightly. a loose rock tumbled across the path. Jennifer?” Brennus called. he nodded. nearby actually.” “So. just a little dustier than I wanted to be. . oddly straight. “Naw. her curiosity grew ever-more so as she wondered at the strange material and the strange message. his curiosity getting the better of him. it responded with a strange sounding thump. what exactly is a phone?” Jennifer inquired. If my guess is right. Most curiously on either side of it were two symbols that she had also never seen before.
Gunnar glanced at Brennus and tilted his head in a thoughtful smirk. reached for a signal horn slung over his shoulder. startled. Gunnar reached down and clasped Jennifer’s hand as he hoisted her out of the hole. we could probably find more about it. while their path suddenly became less rough and more skillfully carved out of the mountainside. From their vantage point.” Gunnar smirked at the three of them.” The three of them rounded the corner and were surprised by another goblin scout. “I have good relations with the dwarfs. ya said it was nearby?” Gregor looked as if he were about to jump in after the phone sign. stirring up a cloud of dust at its landing. “when I was adventuring with the great one.” Gunnar pointed off to the direction they were heading.” Gunnar began. we ended up fighting alongside many a good dwarf. “So how are we getting in? I hear the dwarfs aren’t famous for warm hospitality. Only. politically and in other respects. Smoke rose lazily towards the sky from behind low. that no guards stood before the door. squatting in the middle of the path. “Out of respect for the dwarfs. he was more occupied with poking a dead bird with his knife. “If it was important enough. Brennus returned the arrow to its quiver. and faded into nothingness. “Besides. hanging at his side.” Jennifer murmured as she started off with the rest of them. but did not die. He handed the bo to Jennifer. Not enough dead things. Jennifer. By then Jennifer was already rushing forward as Brennus drew an arrow.” “Why not take eet. I would take it to the monastery. “If we weren’t short on time. Gunnar laid his bo ceremoniously on the ground.’ Bright orange flame crackled to life in the form of a nunchaku in her right hand.” he began. It all seemed just so easy. braced his arm with his other arm and then snapped them up suddenly and forcefully. Gregor muttered something unintelligible and simply followed them down. but it only took him a moment. He slipped an arm under the goblin’s throat. Jennifer thought. and then grasped the twitching goblin’s hair. I shall keep their highway clean. ‘Kendowei.” “Oh. Jennifer reached down for her survival knife. his enthusiasm crushed. He didn’t notice them at first. but I think we should just keep going. the road swept regally down to the base of what appeared to be just another peak in the mountains. “Nearby in these mountains is a day’s walk west. maybe. but stopped as a bright green blur snapped the goblin’s head back with a loud crack. some of whom are quite the powerful individual nowadays. jagged peaks. . By now the goblin had noticed her and. The goblin’s spine crackled as his vertebrae separated and his spinal cord tore. Brennus chuckled as he adjusted his quiver with a jerk and started forward again. It was curious. he had no time to draw any weapons. handed his astoundingly light combat staff back to him. “Excellent. this peak had a massive and ornately carved stone gate at the base where the road met it. Gregor cringed.” Gregor relaxed his pose. So long as they know that you’re with me. Gunnar pushed the corpse unceremoniously back onto the ground and picked his bo back up.” Jennifer’s enthusiasm waned. “We’re close. they’ll welcome you royally. an eyebrow cocked out of mild surprise and sneaking humor. fit the head in a locked position under his armpit. but just as quickly flickered.” He tossed the sign back down into the hole. who gingerly took it and watched as he hefted the corpse over the side of a rocky shelf and into a yawning ravine below.
The only sign of any kind of life lie in their dark burgundy beards. Earlier. wooden door. and Jennifer truly gained an appreciation for just how far down into the mountains they were. and speak your request for entrance. Smoke seeped out of an unknown chimney. Two fully armored and bristling metal porcupines came stepping out of the darkness. Although short. “it is good to see you again. and I can’t read that much dwarf.” Gunnar admitted. hollow.” “Axel?” Gunnar attempted to peer into the shadowy eye holes.“They keep to themselves.” Gregor could not contain the sudden burst of laughter that ensued for a few seconds before he calmed himself. Jennifer turned and observed their surroundings. only came up to Jennifer’s waist.” Gregor looked back up at the door and smiled to himself as he read the rest. how much do ya know?” Gunnar searched the door and then pointed to a rune that lay in the middle of the top row. who squinted and muttered as he read the runes. Gregor?” Gunnar inquired. This is a new door. with new instructions. but also answering Jennifer’s question at the same time. when the two of them laid eyes on Gunnar. unseen on the other side of the peak. the tip of this gargantuan peak/dwarf city just seemed another tiny crag that poked up from the rock. The sound of rock grinding against rock echoed from some unknown source. yet ornate runes that were the dwarf’s writing system. It seemed as if in unison. “Knock tree times. the armor bulged at every space where muscle should be present.” “Good thing you are here. which to Jennifer and Brennus’s startled surprise echoed like an ancient. simply because the door had almost immediately lost her interest. the two massive ostentatious doors began to slide apart. Before they used to have a pair of guards that you could talk to. covered so efficiently with armor. “Well dats a problem man. “Sorry?” Gregor took his attention from the door reluctantly and looked up to Gunnar. “This is a new door. With a sudden shake and a small shower of dust. The two dwarfs. was not. they were most definitely built for damage. the door was ordained with the mathematically sound. good ting I’m heyuh. but with a door that had entrance request instructions if they weren’t there. which draped in smooth braids down the front of their chest. out from under their majestic helmets.” Brennus said to himself. Gregor. the doors stopped half way of fully opening. Gunnar approached the door and slammed his fist against the stone. they both immediately relaxed their stances and stayed their halberds. Although beautifully and obviously skillfully carved. “That one mean’s entrance. He pounded two more times then stepped back. “So how do we do this. KUUNNEN VEER INE GAYHUN?” Gregor bellowed with a slight dwarf accent. A few seconds passed in silence.” one dwarf began. “BITTUH. Gregor cupped his hands over his mouth. Jennifer was illiterate to their language.” “In dwarf?” “Chya. Thud. Soft footfalls could be heard within. half-sized halberds trained on the four travelers.” “Well. that no patch of skin was visible anywhere. “Gunnar. “Is that you?” . The four of them reached the door.
emulating Jennifer’s thoughts at the time. Axel turned and began to walk back.” Gunnar emphasized. but the dwarfs had so expertly carved and decorated the hallways. but shot him a sideways look that suggested the conversation was not over.” Axel beckoned. some in armor or military uniform. “Yes. who were far more heavily armed than Axel and his companion were. the chamber ceiling barely extended over ten feet high. “Very well. passed the guards. swaying their way from one hallway to another. albeit a bit chubbier. silent minutes of walking. “What brings you here. The chamber was dominated by a thick wooden table. Jennifer was too far back to see. Naturally large enough to hold the king and his men during meetings. but this one was quite humble. several times did they cross paths with a dwarf or groups of dwarfs. Jennifer had fully expected the inside of a mountain to be like a great labyrinth of tunnels. or even cave-like. The muffled voices of his exchange with the guard floated around the corner. “Oh. “Wait here. but she guessed that the king’s chamber was just around the corner. The inside of the dwarf city was quiet. some covered in dust from the mines in the belly of the mountain. their way was gloriously lit by massive chandeliers and braziers that were easily larger than any that Jennifer had seen before. Although the sunlight did not intrude into the innards of the mountain for very far. After several. or by a grim reaction to what was happening in the outside world.” Brennus said out of surprise. indeed it is. The four of them followed the two dwarfs in. Jennifer realized that requesting an audience with the king in the dwarf world must be far more serious than in the human world.” “Aha! Axel!” Gunnar strode forward and clasped his hand with Axel’s. and into the chamber. others in civilian clothes. indiscernible to Jennifer’s ears. “We’ve come to speak with the king. The dwarf’s face appeared as that of a human’s. the procession finally came to a halt at the corner of a hallway. It seemed as if the dwarf king lived quite modestly. never better. None of these were true. Gunnar?” Gunnar straightened and abandoned all humor or good cheer in his expression. they even happened across a group of drunk dwarfs. or even out of lack of existence of life. The halls and royal chambers of humans were notoriously ornate and massive. It was not quiet out of a sudden hushed excitement over the new visitors. The dwarf smiled. stretching fifty feet down the chamber .” the dwarf added grudgingly. a series of metallic clicks suggested that the door was being unlocked. that anyone could have easily mistaken the hallways for those of a castle.” Axel said.” Axel slid the faceplate back down and signaled to his comrade as he turned. Axel’s smile faded into a look of grim understanding. Gunnar had to stoop to reach the dwarf. “How have you been?” “As of late. and could not have been more than twenty feet wide. follow me. His armor gently rattled as he rounded the corner and came to a halt. Jennifer followed Gunnar about the corner. “How have you been?” “As well as an old battle axe like myself could be…when he’s put on guard duty. “Come. but not eerily so. the sense of the quiet was for the lack of a need for noise. but it didn’t bother him at all. my old friend. A strong odor of beer mixed with worn iron pervaded the air. Rather.The dwarf reached up a chain-gauntleted hand and flipped up his face plate.” he said ominously.
and then began again. in a chair only slightly larger and more ornate than the rest. “Gunnar. “To be quite frank.” “Aye. More food than any human could ever eat. a loaf of freshly baked bread. please. a hearty sound that shook the table with slight tremors. The King chuckled. “To what do I owe my dinner company this evening?” Jennifer opened her mouth to speak. how wonderful to see you again my good friend. Something told her that he should handle it. Adrian. To that day. several plates of fruits and vegetables. she identified Kaiserfaust. the dwarf royal hammer. his silken royal robe flapping with the motion of his hand. Kaiserfaust was everything a dwarf king was and could be: powerful. reaching down he dabbed his face with a royal blue napkin that had lain hidden on his robed lap. candlelit feast before him which included the turkey. acknowledgement. Adrian leaned over the turkey and grasped a cask of wine. he generously filled his goblet with the dark crimson liquid and then returned the cask to its resting place. “I see the years have been kind to you. but just the right size for the king. The dwarf king was everything that a stereotypical dwarf could be. we require your assistance.” he began again. but modest. flexing his back out of relief from the weight.” Gunnar paused as Brennus took the first. I wasn’t King before we met. “Oh you know us dwarfs. and used it to execute every traitor condemned in dwarf society.” The King’s light blue eyes gleamed with a fond remembrance of the far gone past. Gunnar. “This is true…” the King agreed.” “Please. noisy bite of his apple. Without saying a word. Three of them refused politely. and an entire upside down cake. the king beckoned them forward. thanking the King. Gunnar stared at him for a moment.” the King reached out his meaty hand and firmly shook Gunnar’s. “Well. received an odd look. Brennus reached out and took a golden apple.to where the king sat. “So. Upon almost every finger were decorative and not-so-decorative rings. a few casks of wine.” Gunnar pointed out.” “Or responsibility. the hair of his head trailing into one braid down to nearly the floor. Gregor silently slid off his pack as the King spoke. cooked turkey. distinguished. One leg in massive hand he chewed at a piece of meat previously torn from the thigh before their entrance. His serious face stared them down over a beautiful bronze. but she locked eyes with Gunnar and immediately closed it. Holding it by its wooden handle. “Can I offer you anything to eat or drink?” The King gestured to the bountiful. we turn grey at the slightest sign of age. each ring giving a specific designation of honor. Every king brandished it in combat. “you can just call me Adrian. “Sit. As Jennifer drew closer. removing some grapes from their vine on the plate he had just before him and to the left.” the king waved off Gunnar’s formality. and finally kinghood.” the King’s voice was surprisingly smooth in comparison to his kin. “It is good to see you again. there had been only three. The king swallowed and cleared his throat. His light grey hair and beard were both long and braided.” the King listened politely. butter.” “Mmhmm. . Lord Adrian. and not to you!” Gunnar bantered. He brought the goblet to his lips and took several gulps before setting it back down and scanning the four of them.
” In truth Jennifer was a little tired. scare away trade. “Oh. and Gregor Katchil. “I kan make eet. but then nodded her understanding.” “I’ll have one of my engineers meet with you personally. we should be ready to attack by morning. hunt out every source of food in the mountains. The king smirked. The King followed his gesture and looked back at Gunnar confusedly. but after that we do require your army for some muscle to get to the tower. chewed and swallowed. frowning in approval. but I do need a capsyule of some sort.” Jennifer hesitated. and an alchemist.” Adrian remarked while cutting up his turkey breast. It was the fact that the battle was indeed tomorrow. “Those rotten bastards have broken every rule of that treaty except the most important one: no war! They terrorize our highways. we will strike swiftly and without mercy. Adrian looked at her slyly. “However. finished it and replaced the core on the plate of fruit.” he explained. Brennus. “We have the means to infiltrate his fortress. but otherwise did not react to his statement. A Soul Slayer.” Gregor interjected. “How do you plan on getting past the wall?” “That’s where he comes in. had you come later.” Adrian emphasized with a slam of his fist on the table.” Adrian took in a forkful of turkey breast. Brennus Zelten. who had all the while been quietly eating his apple. but not so tired as to make her think twice about the battle tomorrow.” “So soon?” Jennifer questioned. “But no more! Gunnar. and that the king’s aid was so readily available that made her think twice. and even mine under OUR designated peaks!” Adrian shoveled a mountainous handful of grapes into his mouth. we’ll have something built by morning. are you tired?” Jennifer stared at the king for a few moments.” “You do require an army to get past all those goblins” the King remarked as if he were discussing this with Gunnar in the study halls of a university. and then replied. “While we have the element of surprise. “I will provide you with lodging tonight. Be ready for the assault tomorrow. “The alchemist can fashion an explosive that can blow the wall all to hell. chewed twice and gulped the mass down with an audible squelch. “You seem hesitant.” The King stopped picking grapes. “Yes.” he mused as he began to carve a large portion of turkey breast off of the still steaming bird.” “Impressive. She had not expected the tower to be located so closely to the dwarf city. you may have found me preparing for war anyways. then placed his hand on Jennifer’s knee giving it a reassuring shake. but we want to solicit your aid in the assault. respectively.” Gunnar pointed to Gregor who smiled proudly. “Yes. but after remembering that the tower .” Gunnar realized with a start.” Adrian listened and nodded. “Very well then. “Actually. Jennifer rested her head on her knees looking over the vast circle of black stone wall which surrounded the malevolent ebony tower in the distance. a ranger. now we know that you have a treaty with the goblins-” “Treaty? HAH!” Adrian exclaimed. forgive me. I think it would be wise. This just gives me an excuse.“We have been tasked with assassinating Thennox Dantus. “As a matter of fact. “this is Jennifer D’ Alessio.” the king replied.
” Jennifer burst out silently as if she had wanted to admit that to someone for a long time. “I know it is…there’s a reason for it…” He retracted his hands.” Jennifer said handing it back to him.” “That’s terrible!” Jennifer exclaimed gaily. “I never said my god was nice.” “Go ahead. leaving behind his silver crucifix lying in the palm of her hand. “You kind of look funny without it.” Although Jennifer really didn’t believe. I like to take it off to help me relax…same with my cloak. I’m gonna stay out here awhile. and then set her own on it. “How so?” Jennifer teased back.constituted as both the home and base of operations for Thennox Dantus as well as the goblin nation. Jennifer stood turned and started towards the mountain. “I’m not. never turning. her eyes locked on their morning’s mission. “Who knows.” she added. In the distance a hawk cried out. A soft breeze kicked up Jennifer’s hair playfully. “So I guess this means there’s no chance of any of us dying then?” “All except Gregor.” he noted. thinking to herself. “Look. Jennifer watched him re-enter the mountain. “Mind if I join?” Jennifer looked behind her towards the cave door of the mountain and saw Brennus standing there. he’s served his purpose. “Yeah. she had let it down to help her relax. patting her on the shoulder.” “It’s all just happening so fast.” Brennus adjusted himself so he halfway faced Jennifer. smacking him on the arm. lightning bugs.” she said before returning to the mountain. Jennifer joined him in spite of herself.” he sighed. “After the walls down. She stole one final glance at the fortress. “it is. Jennifer smiled and patted the hard rock next to her. come on. Jennifer looked at it. He grasped it with both of his.” “Your right. she immediately understood why the dwarfs were having border issues. “Suit yourself.” Jennifer smiled and nodded. Brennus strode over and sat down.” Brennus chuckled. then looked back down at Thennox’s fortress. Tiny dots of dim gold light. A warm. “You don’t have your knife with you.” Brennus had already started away. “Well. faded in and out along the wall and in the tower in the dim. “I know that you aren’t feeling right about all this.” Brennus remarked with a smile.” he said with a smile. “All of it…so much…so fast…so easily. “I thought you said you weren’t devout.” Brennus teased. thumbs shoved into his trousers in a relaxed posture. sun-set evening.” Brennus held out his hand. cloak-less and weaponless.” Jennifer admitted. “So you think your god is making all of this happen?” “It’s a possibility. . it’s just a convenient excuse. “I’m going to bed and so should you. it at least fooled her hesitance away from her consciousness. Jennifer stared for a few more minutes. understanding smile stretched across his stubble ridden face.
the main pushing force. They had positioned themselves in a small mountain pass that was bordered on both sides by cliff faces. The captain of the company. Jennifer included. leaned covertly around the corner with his Lieutenant.10. garnering her attention.” Down the length of the wedge-like structures was a spoked wooden beam. As the shade of the sun was eclipsed by the dark grey of the protective metal.’ Jennifer laughed internally. not all would be lost. identifiable by the green hammer painted on the back of his dome-like helmet. “Dwarfs. “Why is she put in the smallest unit? Gunnar is the clearly the most skilled of all of us. The dwarfs to the left of Jennifer and two troops ahead of her hefted the thickarmored elongated pyramids that were the Dwarf “Chargers.” He grunted. Most of the other groups were full blown battalions of 500 strong. replied in the same manner.” The King smiled and reasoned that she needed to be a part of the most mobile group. which the contained dwarfs held with one hand. Normally eight dwarfs could fit under such an ingeniously simple war machine. ‘Chore. . Jennifer leaned against the hard granite of the mountainside. however under these circumstances Jennifer took up two of the back spots. In front of her and behind her was a full company of armored dwarfs. Jennifer looked around to find that most of the other dwarves in her company were equipped with these canteens. However.” The entire company. amplified beams of sunlight filtered in through the small eye holes at the slanted front of the Charger. Jennifer was a part of the smallest group. He reasoned that if “One were lost. as only she was tasked with difficult chore of assassinating Thennox Dantus.000. Jennifer nodded once.” Jennifer wondered if his strange wording was meant to reassure them of any possible deaths. and brandished their cudgels in the other. The short. “Jus’ try to keep hup. Raising an eyebrow. identifiable by the red hammer painted on the back of his dome-like helmet. the group first to push through dust and haze of Gregor’s manufactured explosion. he nodded once in satisfaction and then held his ornate war hammer high in the air. ‘that’s a laugh. Brennus had vocalized Jennifer’s thoughts. however. the Soul Slayer stooped to accommodate the height of the other dwarfs. so it glinted off of the bright morning sun. creating a constant hum of swishing noises. numbered 1. hailing his troops with a single “HAH.” she whispered to herself dismissively.’ The captain took a swig of a strong smelling alcohol that resembled murky water. which brushed softly against their breastplates as they looked about. Thin. King Adrian had dispersed the four of them into different companies of the main assault force. During their tactical briefing earlier that morning. metallic beings betrayed no flesh or sign of any kind of organic life besides their beards. She had not needed any reassuring. The captain turned and flashed a series of hand signals with his free hand. The dwarf to her left poked her gently with the spearpoint handle of his war hammer. She had been impressed by how absolutely covered the dwarfs became when fully armored. forming a corridor. whispering with him about the charge soon to take place. and stowed it in an armored holster at his hip. a company of 250 troops. as the good king had amassed a sizeable force.
“HALT!” The charger team slid to a dusty halt. who clanked softly downhill towards a chaotic din that had not yet ensued. bidding them farewell kisses of pointed. They had formed a wall. The Charger started to move forward. Jennifer breathed stiffly through her nose as she kept pace with the armored dwarfs. those deep. . The ground suddenly shook. The low wall of chargers formed a ring about Thennox’s tower.“HO!” the two front dwarfs yelled in unison. The masterfully crafted armor of the dwarfs in her charger grazed and rattled softly. Jennifer reached sensory overload. almost innocent looking black. glass box that Gregor had claimed was his powerful bomb. and then suddenly dashed right. and ended up scorching more earth than gutting goblins. The beveled head slammed against the fearsome metal gates. never slowing never speeding. The Charger trampled over a stunned goblin. “IMPACT!” Rather than running over the next goblin. The intense beams of sunlight veered to the left. Their pace remained even. the dwarf just ahead of Jennifer plunged the spear point of his hammer’s handle between two ramshackle plates of its armor. Jennifer’s knuckles nearly glowed white. grinding screeches of the goblins. The rear one and Jennifer stabilized the charger in the air. cut rock. but could not quite grasp the timing. black. Air surged into and out of her lungs. “THREE GOBLINS. “GOBLIN. and in unison. rushed forward. it would be enough to hold them back long enough. almost as if in tune. their spirit inspiring. a loud boom in the not-too-far distance reminded Jennifer of the small. forged metal. her back cried out in protest from the stooping. the forward two dwarf pairs hoisted their end up in the air with a thrust from their hands. throwing their entire weight and momentum into the ram’s charge. Screams. the charger team ambled over the stunned creatures. With a quickly fading yelp of pain and surprise. She pressed on. Like maneuvering a canoe over rapids.” the lead dwarf cried out again. Concealed under one of the chargers had been a solid stone battering ram which now harassed the main gate of Thennox’s tower. just before another charger ran him over to finish the job. her only sense of order in the growing chaos. coating her throat and mouth in a cottony layer of drought. before letting it slam down to the ground on its side. just between two other chargers. The clamor was overwhelming. the inexorability of the charger slammed into it. bellowing. and bone. causing an awful racket. as if in warning of a minor incoming threat. but with the combined factors of surprise and the readily made available fighting skill of Gunnar Cartel. and flesh. They shuffled back. just as he was passing over. sending it noisily flailing into the air just over the top. reaching the tower. The poor beast landed with a hard thump on the dry earth. headed by a force of thirty dwarfs strong. the goblin disappeared from under the back of the charger. It was not even remotely enough to hold back the legion of goblins surrounding them. and rushed forward again. The stubborn bearded metal men stepped back. They had crossed the wall. but little breakage. now the most difficult part. Jennifer attempted to join in with the spearing. and those lofty pitched. stiff bellows of the proud dwarfs. Their pace slowed as they navigated over the rubble of sturdy looking. their easy breathing her only tempo. and as they had rehearsed once before. Between choked sprint steps. Metal scraped upon metal.” the lead dwarf exclaimed. but their failure demoralizing.
she turned towards the battering ram. again breaking the din. she snapped her head to the left. As they rushed forward again. The dwarfs gathered in close. He backed up with the rest of them. as if this were the first time they had ever seen sunlight. the goblins scurried back and forth in a nervously shifting gaggle of troops. he slammed his muscular shoulder into the back of the ram. it’s glare frozen to its very dead face. readying to take a snap at the king with its massive jaws. Their eyes. this time with a very natural crack. her adrenaline charged tension reacting faster than her own thoughts. followed by the sweet sounding finality of the battering ram dropping with a shaking boom onto the ground. garbed in armor that was far less covering than his subjects rushed towards the ram. Flamboyant. nunchaku. Adrian leapt atop of the prostrate stone pillar that was the battering ram and charged towards the creature. knives. and as if the beast were not even there. Adrian landed gracefully. the beast moved forward to meet Adrian. poorly armored bodies of any goblin that seemed to draw itself a bit too close. spears. It wasn’t too long before the mob scene began to draw to some form of order. glowing orange sais. but with a chilling pale hue to them. King Adrian. Kaiserfaust gripped tightly in one hand. and the mysterious human . “HEAVE MY BROTHERS!” Just as the battering ram made contact with the gate. polished tile gap of only twenty feet. causing a noticeably larger dent than the last impact. forming a neat. concoctions of her adrenaline fueled anger. blood leaking out of its nostrils and the corners of its eyes. while across a dark. Her mantra came to both her mind and her mouth easier than second nature. Convinced that the effort was now necessary. raging din. With hellfire in his eyes and an agility unseen in any other dwarf the warring King threw himself into the air. his brilliant. tightly knit battle line. Before anyone could even begin to rush in. The King brought the ancient stone hammer crashing down onto the dead center of the creature’s head. scales dark. over a dropped charger. he pointed inside the tower. flit back and forth between the imposing force of sheer armor clad bundles of muscle. Odoriferous breath poured out of its maw. The creature toppled down onto the battering ram. escorting a primal roar that simply drowned all other noises out. white light. As she heard his command.“HEAVE!” Jennifer nervously stood idle. his hammer held high. “CHARGE!” Jennifer rushed in. Without a moment’s hesitation. clawed hands reached out of the upper split of the doors and threw them apart even further. but had rather just begun to mobilize. Rearing its nostrils down. Within she found herself thrown about in a glorious. tore into the screeching. his ornate helmet and brilliant. beady and glowing in the eerily dim. Her impression on such a feat was quickly underwhelmed as her eyes began to gather that the goblins on the wall were no longer dithering about confused. more inspirited war cry than order.” the King bellowed as they rushed forward again. A ferocious. almost songlike war cry rising above the monster’s roar. swords. The gates split open with a terrible scraping noise. They still had time. “HEAVE. and even a few that she had never seen before. She turned just in time to see Gunnar fling a struck goblin several feet into the air. deep green war cape high lighting his rank amongst the dull grey sea of dwarf soldiers. a strange noise caught Jennifer’s attention to her right. following in the overpowering current of the iron grey sea of dwarfs. Kaiserfaust bore across his chest. but not much. two dark scaled. obeying strict orders from Adrian to avoid any combat or any unnecessary effort. titanic reptilian head thrust itself out into the sun.
Galloping over the bodies of a few of his fallen comrade. Bubbly scampered out and disappeared.’ A cool voice whispered from inside her head. but it made her body ache too much to do little more than twitch. even in a tunic. she shifted her grip and brought it swiftly up and through the exposed neck of the fiend when he came too close. did she find that the ferret was smarter than she gave him credit for. Before Jennifer could even wonder what had happened. until she came to a very abrupt stop. Screaming painfully. a rather perturbed looking goblin came barreling towards her. Mercifully. his crudely made weapons clattering loudly away and disappearing into the surrounding chaos. Before she gathered that she was atop the tower she already knew that she had been bound to the floor. Jennifer decided that she would show them just how dangerous a Soul Slayer could be.who seemed to fit comfortably in with them. cherry red. jagged blade gripped tightly in each hand. Jennifer tried to move her head. she only assumed that that was only how much damage the little creature could do. Several glass bottles erupted into fierce fireballs just as they crashed onto the floor and armor of an unlucky goblin. Her left hand came alight with a bright orange flame. crying out in a dialect that Jennifer could not translate. His arms dropped as the last of his strength drained out of his neck. He clawed at his face. despite her distinct lack of armor. she was suddenly yanked into the air. slick covering his chest and arms and spattering the floor. biting the goblin in precarious areas. amazingly. just as his corpse smacked into the floor. he nearly threw himself to the floor. Jennifer called a great sword into existence and impaled the last remnants of the goblin’s life out of him. Slowly he wobbled to the ground. Futilely trying to close up the hemorrhaging wound. kicking and spasming at the immense pain. as she smashed it into the face of the one goblin nearby that seemed the least afraid. Skyrocketing up and. just soon enough to see a brown and white blur snake itself up and under the ragged leather pant leg of a flail wielding goblin. Bubbly skittered here and there. forcing her to her knees. the goblin pressed his wrists against his neck. his swords still gripped tightly in his tapering fingers. Straining to swivel her neck from right to left. Nearby she recognized Brennus’s moan of both surprise and pain. It wasn’t until she saw the goblin’s flail suddenly swing wide and embed one of its heavy metal spikes into the back of the dumb creature’s brain. tangling her hair and assailing her nostrils with the foul stench of blood and fire. his heart pumped out a single gush of blood. The dwarfs obliged themselves with a thunderous charge. At first as she watched the goblin heave and grab at the fleeting ferret. Her great sword vanished with her concentration. the goblins broke “rank” and scattered in all directions. A cold wind brushed at her face like an unfriendly hand. Jennifer looked instinctually over her shoulder. a terrifyingly powerful force crashed onto her from above. Jennifer obliging with them. . through the ceilings she was pulled up and up and up and up. Terrified and confused. ‘Well…that’s enough of that. she looked around to see that everyone else within the tower had dropped as well. no doubt to return to Gregor. “HOOMAN!” a nails-on-a-chalkboard voice screamed at her from her left. His thin metal helmet crunched pathetically as its faceplate caved in. The entire incident took place in a matter of a few seconds. Her great sword still humming full of life. a rusty. his skin seared at the heat of the Soul Energy angrily encasing Jennifer’s fist. and with a final. messy pump.
her head tearing from side to side as she gathered in her surroundings. but a face. holding them open as if waiting to receive something. but . The utter darkness contained within his eyes drained his skin of any sort of warmth. so suddenly that she nearly leapt to her feat. I had toyed with the fantasy that perhaps you would not make it through Silent Swamp. “Surely. her mission seemed to flow with a sort of purposed speed that was very clearly out of her control. “impressed. So very suddenly Jennifer felt released from her binds. They were indeed atop the tower. I congratulate you. this time from several feet from where Jennifer lay restrained to the floor. plummeting to his death far below. but only thin from a lack of bodily fat. For this. a bright orange. a dwarf soldier who happened to hitch a ride was thrust from the top of the tower. his hand glowed with an almost imperceptible blue aura.” Thennox’s boots clicked softly as he walked. Tall and thin.” he said as he turned to stroll thoughtfully. but they were there. passing my army. readying himself for whatever may come. her voice dripping with venom. breathing with only a minor labor. nonetheless. but Jennifer could tell that his curiosity would hold that fate at bay for some short amount of time. Brennus had been released to.” Jennifer replied. ornate sword suddenly came screaming into life. onto her back. as any wise man would do. “When I had gained word of your coming to assail me. I still have work to do for Vercingetorix and I do think that my death would greatly impede that work. His long. slightly away from the center. I thought. “Yes.’ Jennifer thought. “So. as could be dictated by the dark cotton clothes that seemed to fit a bit too tight.“We don’t need you…” the same cool voice said aloud. young Soul Slayer. “You must be Thennox. He gripped his drawn sword in one hand. bleach white hair swept down with a precision and flatness that made it look heavy to Jennifer. As usual. and he knelt. And when I heard that you had destroyed my giant. Thennox dropped his hands to his sides. and rising to confront me. “However. I am.” ‘This was it. I immediately put forth measures to stop you. spring loaded. you have succeeded in breeching my wall. empty disc of a floor sitting at the tip of the tower’s four prongs. yet as he stepped forward it swayed and bounced with an entrancing lightness. Instead she rolled. you are the Soul Slayer. A face that no one could deny was absent from imperfections. He looked almost comical. I am very afraid that this is the end of the line for you. “Your skills amaze me. Thennox had a terribly handsome face. An equally ornate.” Jennifer felt uneasy as his speech seemed to be beginning to take a turn. With a sudden gust of wind and violent rattling of armor. In his right hand. I presume?” the cool voice asked with both darkness and polite interest. glaring at who could only have been Thennox Dantus. but nonetheless. Brennus shifted uneasily. I kept in mind that through all this you had a fellowship to aid you. a giant could dispose of you. slaying my beast. Jennifer did not recall the wide. It was clear that Thennox’s intentions were to annihilate the two of them. making him appear pale in comparison to the deep blue that nearly dissolved into his pupils. Jennifer suddenly realized that the wind was no longer blowing. His gloved hands formed a splayed pyramid which he pressed lightly against his top lip.” “Indeed. no one could also deny was chilling to the very core.” he said with dramatic emphasis. Jennifer. I was most.” he replied softly. at the very top in fact. but when I heard that you had indeed made it through my assumptions gave way to my impression.
They stood at a standstill. The arrow became wreathed in bright blue flame and disappeared as the taught string snapped forward. Deciding that play time was over. Thennox returned the unoccupied blade to the conflict with Jennifer. Thennox gracefully shuffled back and parried each and every strike from Jennifer. trapping it between the prongs and blades of her sai. towards the handles. thin grin. forcing both of them. bringing forth a terrifying looking pair of Sais in either hand. The two opposing forces hissed and cracked. his retaliations disguised as parries. stringing out curses as he brought his sword down into the flurry. appearing almost to dance. bow at the ready and arrow knocked in place. Jennifer slid back but retained her stance. Brennus rolled. casting brief. terrible glowing flashes on Thennox’s visage. Grunting and straining. both tips of her sais pointing inwards. she devised a plan. fighting like a cornered animal. Slashing and stabbing wildly. “What?” Thennox smirked. Thennox laughed out of amusement and suddenly thrust them away with a cascade of wind. he kicked out to his rear flank. Though this is what she wanted. She knew it was only a matter of time before the hissing and sparking came to a halt. the flaming tip of one of its feathers singing his beard and a few hairs. Looking back and forth. Jennifer was surprised and caught in an awkward guard. his sword alight with blue. Jennifer gritted her teeth and glared. just as it seemed Thennox was about to pull a fast one on Jennifer with his freehand. With a gut wrenching grind she slid her sais down his swords. still holding the Soul Energy in place. parallel. With a flick of his wrist. the Soul Slayer and the ranger struggled against Thennox. flaming Mana. “Come get me. down towards Jennifer’s face.” In defiance. it brought with it greater difficulty at holding them back. sparking now and then as the warlock and the Soul Slayer struggled in a deadly contest of pure muscular strength. The air rushed out of him as he flew back and landed sprawled on the ground.incredibly different light blue blade slowly and quietly materialized itself in his right. Throwing his body back. Jennifer screamed her mantra internally. Thennox put a stop to his advance with a very curt flourish of his blade that also brought Brennus to into a struggling standstill. With a look of joy. more sparks flew into the air. surely amused with himself. and . Thennox seemingly reversed the arrow without tumbling it over and flung it back at Brennus. and thrusting with her second. As she struggled to hold back the warlock. Brennus barely dodged the arrow. You honestly didn’t think I wouldn’t have a few tricks up my sleeve. Coming from seemingly nowhere. Brennus charged in from behind. Thennox took this as her struggle failing. parrying and striking in front and behind. planting his boot firmly onto the center of Brennus’s torso. Thennox parried the thrust and countered with a graceful turn that brought his Mana sword a bit too close for Jennifer’s liking. With each hissing contact of blade on glowing blade. She caught the edge of the blade. In the heat of the moment. and struck back himself. He shuffled and turned gracefully. with both of his blades slipping down and into her. He laughed gaily.” Sprinting forward she slashed out with her off hand. Jennifer was already on him again. leaning back to buy herself more time at the wrists. Thennox grinned a crooked. parrying away his blade. “I am the agent for the Demon King. the points began to dip inwards. Brennus threw himself blade first at the warlock. Thennox simply began to spin. but came to his feet.
she struck them down into the fleshy pits between his collar bones. and brought her own hands up high. sword bore high in the air. Soul Slayer. succeeding with a wet sucking noise. whose arms promptly dropped to his sides. painful sounding grind she brought the sais all the way down to the hand guards of his swords and after a moment’s hesitation let go. As he dropped to his knees. the fiery sais burning their exit paths out of his body as he fell.’ she said within her head. plunging the flaming blades deep within. “It was I who directed the burning of your village.” That was all Jennifer needed. face twisted with anger. With a final. Jennifer released Thennox’s hands. mouth wide open with a bellowing cry. With another grind they slid closer. as right before Brennus again came from nowhere. Jennifer grabbed his wrists. to finally shocked as Jennifer straightened. Thennox rolled his eyes white and slumped to his side. She recalled the time that she aided in the construction of her home. She stared up at him. Thennox’s face changed from pleased. ‘Kendowei. those orders came straight from the top. Thennox leaned his face in close to hers and whispered. Brennus grit his teeth and struggled to wiggle the sword out. briefly meeting Brennus’s gaze. and in the lifting of one of the upper roof rafters. holding his swords harmlessly out of the way. . You should be proud. Jennifer let the blades fade away and stood up straight.laughed teasingly. Brennus’s blade cut deep into Thennox’s back. again calling forth her sais. The situation resembled her current one. Thennox must have noticed it. she sighed. The wet metal collision of blade and flesh signaled the disappearance of both of the warlock’s skillfully maintained blades. a rage so deep that she had never felt before burned within her. to confused. Glancing down at the smoking body. Thennox’s dark eyes paled with fear. lifting with the legs while extending the arms straight up.
At first nothing changed. nostalgic effect on Jennifer. a single hand on his hip. . Jennifer stood at the edge of the disc atop the warlock’s massive dark tower. Perhaps. but did as he was told. At first it had startled Jennifer. a stain of bare ground on the dark carpet of goblin soldiers. she had had it on so much for so long that she had just gotten that used to it. She could only see a small blank bulge. with the aid of Brennus. “Oh. Thennox’s robe snapped loudly as he plummeted to the ground. homey. She looked down. Jennifer. widening in some places. Jennifer turned back to her gaze over the battle field. Pointing this out caused Brennus to look around and take notice as well. her hands on her knees as she bent down over the edge. ‘Clothing in the wind…’ Jennifer suddenly got an idea. rather than a look of musing curiosity. The goblins were fleeing. carried Thennox to the edge of his tower. she mused. tiny blob around the point of impact of the warlock’s corpse. the sound fading until it disappeared a moment before impact. from the corpse. She abruptly turned and strode over to Brennus. It was evident that the dwarfs were holding valiantly and probably could continue to do so.11. but as a body moving as far away from the tower as possible. this time with a look of confused desperation. Brennus looked up to her. over the edge.” Jennifer noticed no physical exits off of the tower. before the gate where the dwarfs had formed a defensive line. Brennus. most were trampled or killed by a panicking neighbor. Another moment passed and the blob began to elongate. In a few. Staring down at the warlock’s corpse he tried to decide what best course of action to take with it. slightly downtrodden. The smell of blood and fire persisted. “Grab his hands.’ Jennifer thought to herself. rubbed his bearded chin thoughtfully. but perhaps not the length of time needed for their descent. “So what do you think we should do with it?” he inquired tiredly to Jennifer. “there doesn’t seem to be any. Lifting his feet. breaking the eerie quiet. but after a moment or two another stain of clear ground spread out in a sudden.” Brennus suggested. They fled frantically. she had forgotten until then that she had had it on. again. “Watch. tossed him over the edge. ‘Cowards.…Wait how did we get up here?” Jennifer turned her torso and pointed at the dead Thennox lying thirty feet from her. but that doesn’t help us at all. and with one heave. “I think we should find a way down first. Here and there the carpet was tarnished again with the light brown stain of clear soil.” she ordered. Brennus pushed his eyebrows together in curiosity. watching the soundless battle below. The sound of clothing in the wind had always had a strange. entertaining minutes. sprinting in all directions. A stiff breeze picked up the tail of her cloak and billowed it noisily. not a single living goblin remained in sight. Some escaped over or through the wall and into the mountains.” Jennifer said and nodded at the ground.” he said. Brennus quietly cursed under his breath. She found it quite odd that they were so far off the ground that the battle could not be heard. “Well that was nice.
” “He’s climbing up here?” Jennifer inquired. “no. “Wait a minute. who appeared blissfully at ease. But he’s coming. Jennifer turned. No stairs. and stepped off. Brennus. looking to take revenge out on the disc for mangling them into unbeautiful shapes. Smirking he turned to the two of them. the nine of them applauded loudly with gauntleted hands. polished. looking about for the source of the awful scraping noise. was as easy as if they had stepped off of a low platform.” he cautioned. nothing for them to use to get down. They looked about.” Before Jennifer had a chance to ponder this. which Jennifer took hold of firmly. the disc collided with the top of the tower and finally lay at rest. Gunnar’s poised form suddenly came flying over the edge and landed gracefully a short distance inside the disc. which barely stuck up above the disc. “Uh. terrifying scrape and an even greater unsettling boom. but their landing. “that helped. bending them terrifically out. Still staring up at one of the mangled prongs. Jennifer. With a final. must have been too much weight for the prongs to hold up. “Gunnar’s coming. The disc. There was nothing. Jennifer stood up straight and looked around. The ground came up fast. “Need help getting down?” “Sure. Jennifer let go and noticed that she had been gripping Gunnar quite tightly. bracing himself against one of the prongs. Brennus trotted over to the edge of the disc and peered down. “Hello. The free falling sensation made the pit of Jennifer’s stomach knot itself up in tight bundles. made out of what appeared to be solid. Their guts grew cold as the deep moan of massive metal bending crept in from each of the four corner prongs. Another jolt and the disc slid down again. tiled stone. but not a lot. But how do we get down?” Brennus asked again.“Funny. strange green wisps of energy. “Hold on. Brennus laughed a few quick. The tower’s prongs leaned over the disc like sickly vultures. . with a flourish of familiar. Cautiously. Jennifer opened her mouth to suggest that the only alternative was to climb down. their stiffness mildly painful. They landed amidst a group of dwarfs. her face faded. With another jolt the disc slid down along the prongs more. Jennifer paying particular attention to the four tower prongs bent menacingly over the disc. The two of them approached the edge. Upon landing.” Jennifer agreed. which was not far. She and Brennus collapsed to their knees. She glanced over at Gunnar. when suddenly the ground below her dropped. without the aid of Thennox’s powers. puzzled. and them. sounding both puzzled and excited.” he began. She had to ease her fingers open slowly. We’ve still got quite the bit of climbing to do. Jennifer and Brennus rose to their feet. who had been watching Gunnar’s ascent with helmeted interest. relieved. Jennifer grinned. Spaced evenly about the disc were the four corner prongs of the towers. The prongs bent in at frightening angles.” Brennus hesitated. bo in hand.” Brennus said. Gunnar approached her and offered his arm. They picked up speed at an alarming rate.” Jennifer didn’t turn to look at Brennus. the wind smacking fiercely at her tunic and cloak and Gunnar’s gi. breathy laughs.” he acknowledged them individually with a nod. “Well. no ladder.
” Brennus inquired seriously. Another inexorable step. Jennifer turned about at the sound of whipping clothing and a soft up-kick of dust. “that we go to Thora. who in turn flexed his arm. The two of them smiled at each other. Dwarfs were known for their bountiful celebrations. “So.” “What are you suggesting.” “No I do not. “He will seek to destroy us personally. “How deed you fair?” the alchemist asked with some enthusiasm. do you?” He met their gazes with as much seriousness as they put forth. he seemed very huggable. poking at half of a dead goblin sprawled out at his feet.” Jennifer declared proudly. “Vercingetorix is a vengeful ruler. Brennus shook Gunnar’s hand. then moved towards Gregor. the warlock agent of Vercingetorix. He will send assassins to seek us out.” Brennus began. an action which took minimal effort. you can’t. You don’t need us to help you to seek out Matthias. but it was our duty to only seek out and destroy Thennox Dantus. “Gunnar. drawing her attention away from Gunnar’s brilliant leaps. He offered his hand and the Soul Slayer took it. “I don’t suppose we can go home now. Brennus cocked his head. “our work is done. to a small ledge one-fourth of the way up the tower. with a flourish of that lime energy. but immediately recovered itself when she realized. He observed the perimeter wall in the distance with squinted eyes. pulling him into a friendly embrace. and lend our aid at Epitropolis.” Jennifer’s stomach began to sink. Bubbly? Tha warlock is dead!” A few of the dwarfs nearby stomped the ground in an informal dwarfen celebration.” Gunnar retrieved his staff and turned to them. pushing back his cloak with both hands. “What now?” Jennifer extended her arms upwards. But if we come close enough. speak with the King. Jennifer knew that dwarfs traditionally did not start the real celebration until they returned home safely. that this was simply another inexorable step in their quest. can we?” “No. “D’ ya hear dat.Gunnar smirked and took an easy step back. “Quite the ride. She wasn’t sure why she should hug him.” Gunnar impaled the goblin’s skull with his bo. stretching. then looked to Jennifer. shaking it firmly. “I am suggesting.” Gunnar agreed. “I figured not. With a sideways nod he took a great leap. she met him with a friendly embrace. Gunnar grinned to himself.” Gunnar replied. he set down his pack and opened it to peer inside. Jennifer sighed. Taking a quick stabilizing breath. “But you cannot expect the Demon King to let this assault against him go unavenged. . “I know you want your revenge.” he declared. Smiling. Gunnar looked back down at the goblin. working out a muscle kink.” Brennus began calmly.” Gregor’s grin grew even wider. Brennus released his tight grip on Gunnar. and stumbled a step before regaining his balance. placing them on his hips. towards her destiny. “Thennox is dead. “Jennee-fer!” Gregor called at her from her left side. Another inexorable step that she simply had no control over. still staring at Gunnar. before interlacing her fingers and bringing them behind her head to rest her skull upon.” Jennifer agreed solemnly.
gin. all cooked to absolute perfection. that was by far the most hardy of all.” he gestured at the body ridden battlefield which coincidentally contained the corpses of far more goblins than dwarfs. knocking them to the floor and spilling their full steins’ worth of beer. The dwarfs readily provided their own music. which was mostly drunken chants of old. that one could fall so hard asleep. “you have not changed a bit my friend. Instead of an orgy or a riot. although after the first few hours. but Gunnar had fallen hard asleep at one of the dark wooden tables. “And you can be sure that you will find us at your aid at Epitropolis. laughs. coupled with their hard-headedness would drive them to both of these incidents. No matter with how much gusto her and her companions feasted. oh. Out of all of the parties she had ever had had the pleasure to attend. the spirits! Wine. Brennus. so fast. “But I do insist that you stay the night and rest and cleanse yourselves of the battle. truly gave the party a comfortable feel. Halfway into the night. songs of victory. some of the well traveled dwarfs pitched in some human drinking songs that Jennifer. no one was sober enough to play them with any skill. brandy. Those dwarfs who had the privilege of knowing how to play musical instruments. You may take your leaves any time after that. She had been to parties before in which all of the patrons had become drunk and either began groping each other in inebriated ecstasy and/or fought each other in drunken rages. “you wish to drive a stake straight through the bristled and armored heart that lay at the core of all of this chaos. all hand crafted by the dwarfs deep in their caves. whiskey. The Soul Slayer brushed it off. The warm odor of the food. The closest incident to a fight was once when a dwarf stumbled over himself. Clapping a hand on his friend’s elbow he said. good Gunnar.“Your words are bold.” Adrian smiled through his beard and let loose a throaty laugh. Jennifer had noticed what King Adrian had truly meant about resting from the battle. all combined with the soft chandelier light. Jennifer was very pleased with herself that they had stayed to enjoy the celebration. She thought it strange that amidst the din and the merriment. Yes. Every cup runneth over. seemingly miles long were completely blanketed in all manner of food imaginable. All in all Jennifer was most surprised by the total mood of glee the entire night through. and slurred songs the entire time through. the dwarfs maintained their gleeful stupor of hiccups. And the spirits. and there was never a time where anyone’s was empty. Jennifer could not agree more. But Jennifer was wrong. beer. the table never seemed to clear out.” Adrian turned. along with the help of the hearty dwarfs. . a blood stained Kaiserfaust bore over his shoulder. Instead the two of them laughed to the point of labored breath. Gunnar and Gregor were able to join in with.” Smiling he turned again and met with his Lieutenants. Without turning he continued to speak. Not a single bad emotion passed between the two of them. barely an hour in. into another. “Even after a nearly suicidal assault such as this. She had figured from the start that the dwarfs stereotypical tendancies to indulge themselves completely in celebration. and it was logical to assume that her compatriots were as well.” Adrian turned and began to walk towards a gathering of his Lieutenants. Tables. especially after noticing. brought those out to the party too. Jennifer was tired from fighting.” Adrian strode towards them. all flowing like rivers from their taps. in the afternoon sun. dwarf drinking songs. that her clothes were stained almost completely crimson. coupled with the sweet smell of the spirits and the exotic fume of the many pipes.
All along the route. The ground was scorched in many violent and unsightly shapes. She laced her fingers together and leaned her head back against her hands. the ones he had heard. they had come to what was once a village. Gunnar smiled to himself. She could nearly smell the warm aroma of the village cooking. but I damn near collapse when the dust clears. and knew that they still had a long journey ahead of them. If she closed her eyes. Gunnar broke his day dreamers gaze to look at her. Brennus and Gregor had started an enthused conversation about the party. surveying the scene they incidentally beheld. she opened her eyes. anyways. assuming that Gunnar’s fighting style must tire him more than normal fighting would. Jennifer felt at ease with herself and her surroundings. deceivingly moist grass beneath her arms and hands. the beams seeming to happen to sit just right with each other in order to hold structure. “Mm. “My particular art of war can be very taxing on the body. Brennus had a hand on the hilt of his sword as he peered about. Most to her displeasure the smell mutated into the ferocious scent of scalded soil. Areas of soil that were mostly devoid of burn were either stained dark with blood. had entertained himself with humming some of the more memorable bar songs sung the night before. squirrels and other wildlife. and brought her arms into a more alert position at her side. I don’t show it during combat. Jennifer’s curiosity brought back the strange sight of his slumber to the forefront of her mind. as the crow flies. concerned hums of the alpacas as they nervously strode by. playful song birds followed them. “Were you very tired last night?” she asked. Feeling rested and refreshed from the evening’s gala and the night’s sleep. Jennifer released her head from her relaxed pose. The only remnants of the buildings were the scorched and crumbling remains of their frame-wood. King Adrian had advised them. Quite suddenly. She pleasantly recalled days of her life back in her village.” He took back to his humming and observing the trees that lazily scrolled by. For the first time in quite awhile. They had been walking for about an hour.however. just before they left to take this road.” Brennus had told them shortly after they shipped off. far to the left. They would easily be able to tell if an assailant were tailing them. she could just hear the soft. Jennifer now strode with ease north along an infrequently used highway. but that had quickly shifted into trees and which ones contained the most useful chemistry to the average alchemist. baby blue. now burned nearly to the ground. Most looked as if they could collapse at any second. yes. . She could feel the soft. as only the dwarfs typically used it. The sky was a glow with its friendly. now permeated the air with grim intensity. Wrinkling her nose in distaste.” Jennifer had not expected such a thorough response. The sight was an eerie one of some great magnitude. “Two days journey. totally clear of any cloud. rabbits. the highway passed directly through its center. It was a beautiful day. “Yes. twittering their colorful songs.” he admitted after a moment. or seemingly carved by many small blades. “Do you get asked that a lot?” she asked with a smile. Gunnar. The same stench that had shaken Jennifer from her daydreams. upturning her gaze by a few degrees. She allowed her mind to slip into unchecked slipstreams of thought. Their path was frequently crossed by deer.
” Gregor corrected. rising to his feet again. which was knotted and frizzed in wild ways. She could not discern the color of her clothes or her hair. “What’s your name?” The girl looked again at the other three. clearing away the black and crimson-black dirt on her cheeks in jagged. Brennus reached out a hand and smudged the tears off of her cheeks. he got her attention. and Gunnar gathering a more combatable grip on his bo. Mallory continued to point and stare towards the town square. Brennus looked back at Jennifer. “M-Mallory.Gunnar sighed with resignation.” “Monsters. As she spoke she wiggled her toes nervously. when she saw a soot and blood stained child clamber her way out of the wreckage of what must have been her home. “No. Come on out. Gregor exchanged a sad glance with Gunnar. he looked around. Popping his head in. manageable point. Jennifer’s blood ran cold. Gently grabbing her shoulders. but the girl could not be more than seven years old. Glistening tears crawled down her cheeks.” Brennus’s posture stiffened a bit. kneeling to examine a sharply carved area of soil. signaling towards the three of them with the other. Gunnar and Gregor. Jennifer had had a difficult time discerning her age. and then resumed at a reduced rate. collapsed. swift lines.” Gunnar whispered. “Mallory. everything’s going to be alright. Jennifer couldn’t help but notice how shaken the girl was. burned house. a bit better. Brennus stared at the ground for a moment before again looking at Mallory. The four of them turned. the sequential. and then returned her gaze to Brennus.” Jennifer declared. The whimper again drifted out of the cavernous.” he began as calmly as possible. aside from her cheeks. awkward slamming of dust and wood announced the collapse of another house. “Such is the destruction of demons. They stepped forward and peered into the whimpering wreckage from a distance. From out of the wreckage of a roadside home. they could see a massive pile of sootscorched skeletons. “the local defense must have just weakened over time to a certain. a small whimper announced itself to the four travelers. observing it like a footprint. “There. He traced the area with his fingers. Within. dried blood or a combination of the two. a hand on his sword. “Don’t be frightened. There was not a single clean spot.” Brennus attempted a comforting smile and only achieved it halfway. her feet badly calloused. that wasn’t covered in either soot. Brennus stepped farther forward. Gunnar shook his head. Brennus readying his sword. “Mallory. the child sobbed.” Brennus again attempting comfort.” Brennus challenged. “do you have any relatives who live nearby? Anyone we can take you to?” . but still not quite there. “I thought the demons were restricted from this area. On the far end of the village. Jennifer’s heart froze a beat. The highway took a slight curve around the town square. their open eye cavities staring out at nothing.” he soothed to some unknown character. “we mean you no harm.” Brennus pulled himself from the hole and glanced back at them with grim conclusion. He knelt down before what he assumed was the opening to the “cave” and searched the shadows. “Where are your parents Mallory?” The little girl pointed towards the town square. Looking at the four of them. “demons. there.” the little girl stuttered to get out. That’s a very pretty name. trying to discern its source.
Bracing a hand on her chest. Brennus. she collapsed face first into the ground. There was a pause where no one spoke. “Well. . exactly where her heart was. in a short. Jennifer leapt away instinctually. the direction the group was headed. his face unchanged as he stared down at the body of the child that grew a little more crimson in stain. “I’m sure. he carefully withdrew the dagger. “is the destruction of demons. arms up. staring down at Mallory who now held his previously hidden dagger. Soundlessly. saw the child. “well…we’ll figure things out from there when we get there. “Are you sure that the demon’s haven’t gone that far north Brennus?” Jennifer asked.” Mallory grabbed Brennus’s cloak and appeared to bury her face in it. Gregor slowly unburdened his pack from his back and began to massage his temples.” Brennus nodded as he spoke.” she pointed north along the highway. you’ll be safe there. almost visible from the city walls. but respectful procession. Brennus spun away. Gregor froze in place. staring at the child.” Brennus stood. collapsed to the ground. shaking his head slowly.” Brennus said again. “there’s only one village between here and Thora. “near the city. hallowed be thy name…” Jennifer opened her mouth to argue about burying her in the town square. Whispering a prayer that few have whispered in a long time. With neither a change in expression or a moment’s hesitation. From there. “We have to bury her. He gently rolled the child over and closed her eyes reverently. wiping the blade clean on his cloak.” Gunnar said with a sigh.” Mallory stealthily slipped a hand towards Brennus’s belt. “Our father.” “WATCH OUT!” Gunnar exclaimed suddenly. hands out ready to receive their fiery blades. the child plunged the pointed blade deep into her chest. Mallory.” Brennus whispered.” “We should go.” Jennifer said. you’re going to be visiting them now. “We have to bury her. “Such. he gathered up the child and began to walk towards the town square. and that village is very near to the city. the impact driving the blade a little bit farther in and pitching up her dirty clothing just left of the center of her back. The other three filed in behind him. “Don’t worry. clearly previously in a stupor from his surroundings. He put a hand on her head. “we’ll take her to her grandparents and then request an audience with the King.Mallory nodded. her heart frozen in mid beat. Jennifer gaped. Bubbly poked his head out.” Brennus smiled and gently patted her shoulders. who art in heaven. with a horrified look on his face. but thought the better of it. “My gramma and grampa live that way. and withdrew.” Brennus said.
“No you’re not.” King Samuel’s voice echoed in his nearly empty military intelligence center. “Excellent. come and speak with me. still garbed in his worn arming wear. that was very fertile land. Brennus immediately spoke up. that just doesn’t make sense. “But why retreat all forces? Some areas yes. King Samuel waved a dismissing hand at them. but I do .” the King circled these areas. Jennifer and Brennus drew closer. “I trust that your return means the death of Thennox Dantus?” He looked to the two of them with mild expectancy.” “We’re not done yet. I don’t know if this is his final push. Jennifer immediately noticed that these routes took care to avoid most major settlements. “The Crimson Abyss? The Forbidden Islands? There are no opposing forces there. “You will each receive farmland and estates of twenty hectares. as promised you will each be compensated handsomely. also rose. north east of Thora…” Jennifer raised an eyebrow.” she gestured to herself and Brennus. as a token of our appreciation. Jennifer and Brennus approached the throne and each took a knee. Jennifer and Brennus. come forward. shaking his head. the aged looking.” “We cannot know for certain his plans. “Thank you. folding his arms. “I believe he is concentrating his forces to prepare for another invasion. “Yes. most of which were in East Thoracia.” King Samuel sighed with a smile.” The King grabbed the charcoal and began making marks on the map with it. Gregor and Gunnar awaited their return in the previous room. he is sending forth his right and left hand. to no one in particular. “Please do not be so formal. “My scouts report that Vercingetorix is retreating his forces from all of his previously controlled areas. “Oh good.” Jennifer’s spirit lightened a bit as the King spoke her conclusion. now with the distinct lack of people that it had now. however. “Thennox Dantus has been slain at our hands. With the death of Thennox.” The King laid down the piece of charcoal and turned to them. but the mountains?” Brennus pointed out the locations he mentioned on the map. scanning the map.” King Samuel agreed.” Brennus said sarcastically.” The King leaned down upon the table. and drew arrows back to Epitropolis. “And you shall each receive two thousand Thoran doubloons.” the King theorized.” The King rose to his feet. “We are finally seeing that the infinite forces of demons are not quite so infinite. “Now. He beckoned them over to a table that had a map and a thin piece of artist’s charcoal lying next to it. and to do so he needs more troops.” The King returned his attention to the map. sire.” Brennus said. after a slight moment’s hesitation. The Demon King was sneaking his soldiers back to the portal. The room had seemed large the first time that Jennifer and Brennus had visited. the artist’s charcoal wrapped under his right forefinger. spectacled Edward had refused to grant them entrance. “Vercingetorix is running out of troops. carefully watching the King mark the map. and approached them. “The destruction of Thennox has rippled far deeper than I could have imagined.” Jennifer answered. “Please. The King cast him an amused look. bowing their heads to the king. once again.12. it seemed to have grown many times its original size.
but have not ordered nor requested your assistance with any of it. King Samuel sat down again in his throne. “I have given you detail on our current situation. You have fulfilled your duties and you are free to go.know that this will be our final push. “We know that our murder of Thennox Dantus makes us marked targets to the Demon King. It is wrong of me as a leader. Finally. or fail and perish. “Thank you. “Only thus far unfulfilled promises. Luckily. it should also take just as long for Vercingetorix’s forces to gather. “I’ve sent word to gather our own forces at Epitropolis.” “King Adrian has already promised his aid at Epitropolis. as much as we can offer. our choices are to return to our previous lives. stonewashed air.” The King dismissed them with . The King smiled and heaved a sigh of relief. and truly have given nothing in return. and live out until the day his assassins come for us. and stepped towards the center of the room. Her voice seemed to fill the room.” “You will die. “We will die either way.” Brennus began. “You highness.” The two stared at each other for a long time in complete silence. Its large candles emitted a warm.” The King sighed through his nose.” “What do you need us to do?” Jennifer begged the question that was prying on the mind of her and Brennus. “You have our assistance. if we are to prepare for this conflict. King Samuel glanced at the two of them before turning again towards his throne. Edward.” he mumbled softly. “I have already asked so much of you. it is wrong of me as a person.” Jennifer bowed her head. King Samuel spoke.” “Sire. riders have been dispatched to the dwarfs. then up at the grand chandelier chained to the high ceiling. it is wrong of me as a Thoran citizen.” It was evident to Jennifer how much of a struggle it was for the King to not ask for their assistance. “now my compatriots and I should be off.” Jennifer added.” Jennifer replied.” “You are welcome good King. King Adrian had made many friends in his day. the King’s servant. The demons on the move are too great in number for my forces there can hope to cope with.” He opened his eyes to stare straight ahead. they will remain intact. I doubt we can withstand another wave. subtle tone of authority. Apparently. who had sufficed himself with simply silently following the King back and forth across the room. to ask of you anything else. I’ve removed the troops I have stationed at Epitropolis. closing his eyes and resting his forehead upon his fingertips. the elfs. in order to save any incoming conflict. “It will take several days for reinforcements to arrive. with interestingly. Jennifer looked down at her feet. Currently. and the dragons. “Thank you. no echo. old friend.” The King lay the charcoal down on the table. or to meet this bastard head on. Brennus pressed his lips together and nodded knowingly.” the King stated unexpectedly. have been rewarded to you. With his forces concentrated. but I only expect aid from the dwarfs. “We will either suppress them and collapse the portal.” Jennifer’s voice took on a sudden. and his chief Lieutenants present. King Samuel opened his eyes to meet her gaze. steepling his fingers. then closed them again. She took in a great breath of cool. generous glow to the rest of the room and its inhabitants. stared intently at Jennifer. across his throne room. With good fortune.
” The four finally exited the castle antechamber and entered into the courtyard. Brennus bowed and joined Jennifer as Edward escorted them out of the throne room. He clicked his jaw in conclusion and asked another question. ‘Just another inevitable. He observed her carefully. “You slew Thennox Dantus?” “I did. just in time to see a titanic reptilian figure land heavily before them. its body covered in thick. now greatly nervous about this next step. Their heads all snapped up in reflexive unison. I certainly am famous. clawed toe.” Jennifer reassured him. folded in on themselves and rested against its ridged back. the world at hand was quite restful. and with a thunderous voice announced.” Gunnar said darkly. Just as they were passing the halfway mark of the courtyard. messenger of Yulgeras. “Don’t worry.a gentle wave of his hands.” Agalla angled his head in order to focus his attention on her. who each gave her looks of pleased resignation. “We either die at home. She turned and started for the dragon’s open paw. it stared intently at the female with a pair of piercing. “I was going to Epitropolis whatever you decided to do.. stopping all of them. or die in the field. It took in a stormy breath. Are you Jennifer D’ Alessio?” He delicately tossed his tail in anticipation.” Gregor said with a grin. a massive shadow shaded them for an instant. which was twice the height of the castle wall that he stood near. The others followed suit. “he’ll come to me. “what’s new?” Jennifer smiled as Edward left them and closed the door to the throne room. Lord of the Dragons.” “I’ll be sure to let you know if I spot him. the sort of eyes that bore thousands of years of wisdom through experience. “I have been entrusted with transporting ONLY Jennifer. uncontrollable step. as if observing some complex diagram. only to the point of assurance. “We’re going to Epitropolis. Few birds chirped. The figure stood regally on all four clawed feet. He opened his left forepaw and beckoned her forward with a single.” Brennus concluded as the four of them made their way out of the antechamber. stone brown scales that seemed to flex and shift as it moved. “I am. “Come. Brennus. “I am Agalla.” Jennifer confirmed. Gregor and Gunnar immediately backed off. “I have been entrusted with transporting you to Yulgeras.” Gunnar began. Agalla snorted and then stood up to his full height.” “I was hoping dat we weren’t jus’ going ta go home. Two membranous wings. “So. Lowering its sublimely horned head down level to the group of astonished humans below. and the city buzzed with less activity than it normally did. Gunnar.” Gunnar reminded them.” the dragon spoke with sudden stiffness.” Jennifer looked at the others. . “I still need to exact my revenge. but not to the point of leisure.’ Jennifer thought to herself as she stepped forward. Gregor and Gunnar were still waiting for them just outside of the door. Although an ideal day.’ Jennifer concluded. bright yellow eyes. ‘Well now. he wishes to speak with you. The sun was extraordinarily bright and each of them had to squint to see properly.” he thundered. Jennifer climbed into the dragon’s paw with great care. The peace was relaxing. Jennifer D’ Alessio.
smaller dragon stood next to the opening of the cave. Jennifer found herself taking turns that she would have otherwise had no idea to take. as per norm. She could only make out that they were flying. The current force felt obvious. Jennifer passed by another passageway and beheld a sleeping dragon. Its lip twitched and it shifted slightly in its slumber as the Soul Slayer passed. likely by dragon hands. Agalla’s wings fluttered open with a loud snapping of flesh and a great whoosh of air. Behind her. only that the light simply…was. the two enormous. Very soon. . He spoke of dragons as practitioners of “old Mana. but gathered no other knowledge.” Agalla turned to speak with the other dragon. she beheld an unfamiliar mountain face. Yulgeras knows you are here and will guide you. sending powerful columns of air down onto the unexpecting three earthbound travelers below. The flight was hasty to say the least. The dragon lay his paw down onto the cave floor and gently opened it. The previous force felt far more subtle. be old? She realized now that it was not the material that was old. Strangely. Jennifer nodded in return. Crouching down. Feeling a tinge of vertigo. almost as if someone were physically pulling her along like a mule being led. seemed different from the one that had been guiding her before. The force guiding her now. who looked down at her and nodded once. She remembered vaguely listening to an old storyteller when she was younger. Beside him. Jennifer felt vastly out of place in the giant cave. “But how will I know the way?” Jennifer asked. she looked back at the dragon. Jennifer could not turn her head to see if they had fallen. oddly empty. its deep breaths echoing softly in its enormous chamber. another. She mused to herself why all of her guidance must be done against her will. but otherwise made no recognition of her. she could barely open her eyes to make out anything short of Agalla’s paw. gave her an ominous sense of presence. in that there was no apparent light source. however. The passageways. but strangely alight. How can something such as Mana. and they were flying at stupendous speeds. Jennifer felt an unconscious pull guiding her through the cave. like the unseen hands of an expert that merely caressed and redirected her movements towards its goals.” The old man’s words had confused the young Jennifer. When she had felt the dragon’s flight slow slightly. Agalla gestured farther into the cave. In the space of a few seconds. maw-like opening of the lair. The other dragon eyed Jennifer suspiciously through one scarred eye. She strode down passages. Jennifer turned and started a slow pace into the cave. “You will find the way. carved dragon size.” Perplexed. utterly bewildered at where they even were in the first place. scaled beasts began a discussion in a dialect that Jennifer had never heard before. “Go and seek out Yulgeras. Agalla looked down at her.Jennifer looked up to the dragon. Jennifer stumbled between two of his fingers and finally gained her balance on the ground. he leapt into the air while simultaneously heaving himself higher with great beats of his wings. who’s frame now stood shadowed in the bright. and elegant. but the method. she forced herself to peak out at her surroundings.
One scar in particular drew her attention. stretched across the top of his muzzle. Jennifer felt an overwhelming sense of welcome and comfort within the home of this powerful creature. It sat pleasantly. curiously. Jennifer felt most insignificant. As she walked. It was soft as silk. However. as her body had refused to feel anything short of paralysis). the trail of smoke seeping from his nose immediately ceased. bore a veritable cyclone of both emotion and information. Yulgeras’s eyes. ‘This must be Yulgeras. running perpendicular to his crest. The two of them stared at each other for a moment. eyes shut as if pondering some mystic thoughts. and subconsciously regal dragon. which had yet to open. though originally of the same stone brown hue as the three dragons she had seen earlier. that cotton was the closest texture that Jennifer could relate it to. Yulgeras’s suggested experience before time had been suggested. or the physical sense. yet at the same time a sublime sense of the dragon’s power. if Agalla’s had suggested thousands of years of experience. under the watchful eyes of mother nature and fate. which at the moment seemed impossibly unmatchable to Jennifer. enter. with all of these emotions rushing through her (albeit concentrated in her head. though to Jennifer it felt closer to an eternity. but not in the emotional sense. “Please. although thunderous and carrying. like Agalla’s.’ Jennifer thought to herself. Jennifer recognized the smoke immediately as the source of the lovely scent. In the center of the rear of the chamber. similar to those scars found on a human following a burn. there was an overbearing sense of the dragon’s age. Yulgeras had brought to her an awareness that in the tide of time. However. Jennifer reached out and ran her fingers through it. It was different from the rest. Jennifer imagined it must be unbearably comfortable. huge. Jennifer just stopped short of the threshold of the room. Yulgeras’s eyes. The unknown white substance was soft and squishy. Here and there across his body and limbs. Jennifer rounded a final lazy corner and beheld a great room with a floor that appeared to be nearly covered with snow. ferocious streaks of white. As it caressed her pale fingers. as in.” His voice. More akin. Yulgeras opened his eyes. was seated in the presence of a demigod. Yulgeras smiled softly and spoke.Jennifer’s ponderings were interrupted by the delicate aroma of sweet wine. which nearly touched them. but in the natural sense. had faded with age. eerily straight lines. Casually the dragon turned his head to look at Jennifer. traveled elegantly. old battle scars. lounged an enormous. Her foot plunged into what she had thought was snow but felt more akin to cotton. The final line traced over the dragon’s eyes. like the graying of a wolf’s muzzle. four dark. cool and comforting. told tales of fights that had taken place many years ago. and Yulgeras had only spoken two words. floating upwards in slow. The Dragon Lord was easily twice the size of Agalla. of the warmest shade of gold that Jennifer ever imagined possible. a light trail of glittering purple smoke ascended delicately out of the upper corners of its nostrils. The two made eye contact and Jennifer’s entire body immediately stood fast with emotional paralysis. thin whisps of the substance escaped vertically. suggested wisdom through experience. Jennifer was utterly amazed. all beings of existence come and go. it seemed to soften her skin where it touched. Jennifer stepped into the room. acrobatic convulsions. every syllable pronounced with untold precision and grace. Jennifer. His scales. Warily. .
almost if not more than she had been with beholding Yulgeras. confused. Jennifer delicately reached a hand towards the armor. “Enter. Suddenly her eyes were drawn to the helmet. The armor culminated in ornate spaulders. Her fingers slid off easily. but perhaps a shade darker. the metal was so smooth. “may I offer you something to drink?” Yulgeras waved a single. When she had finally reached Yulgeras. scaled head into the chamber. even though no liquid had touched her lips. but otherwise held still in her stupor. as Yulgeras had taken merely three steps. and then stooped and leaned his huge. Jennifer’s eyes now refused to blink.‘Old Mana. is the armor of the Great One. which seemed to guide her as she followed Yulgeras. Jennifer D’ Alessio. Visually. Now captivated. seemed to stare . The helmet. he allowed her to approach a close proximity to the armor. Jennifer could barely take it all in. again. Soul Slayer. Jennifer had not noticed she was thirsty before. Follow was not a proper term. nor a reflex. its metal sweeping smoothly back at the cheeks to wrap closely about the back of the neck. What was once solid stone wall was now gone. yet not as cold as typical armor did.’ she thought to herself. she stood. what I wish to give you. the armor flowed with such a beautiful grace that it was impossible to tell where plate ended and chainmail began. they stood staring at the wall for a notable amount of time. then further confused blinked again. blinked. now noticing that her footprints were muted underneath the mysterious cloud of white silk. “Come with me. at length. ornately curled at the top and sides like the shoulders. They stopped before one side of his hewn stone chamber and. The mysterious armor. “Welcome. but now she instead felt the relief of having had a drink. similar to the hue of the explosive energy wielded by Gunnar. It was not a forced action. The room was obviously. “I am Yulgeras. The armor was of a beautiful hue of green.” “Uh huh.” Yulgeras spoke to her in that same amazing manner. whose footsteps were also muted underneath his comfortable flooring. Now. Jennifer continued forward. which stoutly curled like peaceful flames. mouth gaping. but perhaps not dragons of Yulgeras’s size. Jennifer entered the room. “I have summoned you here today. large claw in front of Jennifer. She touched the armor. almost comically. is through here. nearly startled at the sound of her own echoing footsteps. side chamber that bore a stand of shimmering armor in the very center.” Jennifer said stupidly. and Jennifer had to take closer to thirty to keep up.” Jennifer rose to her feet. the cloud of silk. “This.” Yulgeras said. she automatically sat down. Instead. Jennifer. bewildered. Lord of the Dragons. as he was too large to follow Jennifer in. head nodding. The metal felt cool to the touch.” Yulgeras proudly pronounced. Eyeing the armor.” he said randomly. The chainmail hung down perfectly from the chest plate. to both present you with something and request something of you. made for dragons. staring into a smaller. “You seem thirsty. seemed to have its own light source.” Jennifer swallowed. emanating dogmatically from within. barely touching the greaves. but simply an action that she had not realized until she found herself in the veritable palm of comfort. Yulgeras raised the dragon’s equivalent of an eyebrow. as the cloud of silk did not enter this smaller room. His neck was large enough to bring his head comfortably close to both Jennifer and the armor.
” Yulgeras closed his eyes tightly for a brief moment then continued.” Jennifer returned her gaze to Yulgeras. she was guided back to the entrance of the cave. the armor would have put itself on had she given it the chance. where Agalla and the other dragon awaited her.” Jennifer turned to look at Yulgeras. I was not able to participate in that fight…. The plates and the chainmail whispered elegantly as they glided over and past each other. . Again. our desire to aid in this fight burns hotter than the fire we breathe. she now noticed that the four burn marks also indented themselves several inches into his scales. “with haste. When she had finished. With a bow. “You’re just going to give it to me?” Yulgeras scrutinized her for a moment. “I am to bear you back. “End this war. “Yes.” he agreed. Jennifer confidently nestled herself within the strong grasp of the dragon. yet familiar at the same time. The other dragon eyed her again. “You are entirely different from him. Agalla. It felt as if she wasn’t wearing any armor at all. “Regrettably. “When this armor was delivered to me. Jennifer reached out to grasp it. Our numbers have decayed to shocking levels. The helm of the Great One is to remain her for rest of its existence. who now observed her with a look of what seemed to be reverence. she turned and looked to Yulgeras.” Agalla nodded and offered his paw. grabbing it as if she were to remove it from the stand. Jennifer exited the room. she had thought to herself as she flexed her fingers within the gauntlets. now noticing a menacing and jagged hole where the base of the bearers neck would be. It was mysterious.” Jennifer’s hands suddenly ceased out of the cause of the same force that had guided her to Yulgeras’s chamber.None of us were. This is the best we can do. that was replied with in kind by Yulgeras. the side room containing the armor rack hidden again behind its wall of stone. I had already known that the Great One had fallen. “There’s something about you. did not bat an eye at Jennifer’s armor.her down with such purpose. but we simply cannot. correct?” Agalla asked.” Yulgeras said to her as he escorted her from his chamber. “Yes. seemingly in the know. however that same powerful purpose resides behind both of your gazes. this time with a degree more of suspicion that before. “the same purpose. “Agalla will bear you back. Finally. “you may not have the helmet. It seemed new. “This armor is yours to have. Perhaps. Jennifer D’ Alessio. it was as if the owner were still inside.” Yulgeras commanded. Jennifer. knowing that she was finally riding to her destiny. she strapped her survival knife to her waist.” Jennifer replied. every facet. every corner of the armor seemed to conform effortlessly to her frame. marveling at the ease with which she could move.” Jennifer strode back into Yulgeras’s chamber. Every strap slid home with ease. Jennifer removed the armor from the stand and began to put it on. Soul Slayer.” Jennifer turned her glance back to the armor. every curve.” Jennifer replied. Yulgeras. Standing so close to him. “Thank you.” Jennifer looked to the helmet. however.
“Then I guess you’re it. “I guess so. She stretched and started to walk out of the courtyard. knowing that the ranger and the alchemist were wholly lost to her now. Jennifer. His nod was one of reservation. looked to Gunnar. which was blocked from view. The ferret enjoyed his attention as any ferret would.” Gunnar gestured out of the courtyard towards the carriage.” Jennifer nodded. Jennifer smiled knowingly. amazed. The sun had begun its afternoon descent. Jennifer. “do you think we can do it?” Brennus and Gregor quieted down. mostly to herself. Gregor reached into his vest and lovingly retrieved Bubbly.” Jennifer smiled coolly. its glowing rays played hell with Jennifer’s tired eyes. his head full of thought. I think that our chances are greater now than they have been in a very long time. that is certainly different. closely observing how it moved without sound. cracked his knuckles. Her three companions followed her. Bubbly poking his head out of the alchemist’s vest. “So. but he wasn’t so foolish to not see failure. Ingenious!” Gregor stepped forward. He leaned in and observed the plates’ folding and let out a soft whistle. Brennus’s attention was still dedicated to Jennifer’s armor. . Gunnar folded his arms and reserved himself to quiet thinking. “So when do we ship out?” Jennifer asked as they reached the gate of the courtyard.” Gunnar’s eyes brewed a storm for the flash of an instant then subsided. a guardsmen came up to us and told us that a carriage had been made available to us for transport.” Gunnar nodded conclusively. The back of her knee itched. seeming somewhat naked now that Jennifer noticed he was without his bo. Brennus stepped forward to get a closer look.” he beckoned to the alchemist without turning to look at him. Gunnar nodded in grim understanding. Jennifer made eye contact and spoke softly. All except for the helmet. Jennifer could see that Gunnar believed that the war could end and it could end now. “While you were gone. Gregor smiled and nodded approvingly. Gunnar stared at the armor. Gunnar sighed thoughtfully through his nose and smirked half-heartedly at her armor. causing Brennus and Gregor to remark at how amazingly silent the armor was.13. “Gregor come here. She squinted towards the western wall of the courtyard.” she began solemnly to Gunnar. “look at the way these plates fold over each other. so we went ahead and packed it. his tone barely that of a question.” Brennus surveyed the armored Jennifer standing before him as Agalla flew swiftly back to his mountains. “That’s his…isn’t it?” Gunnar asked. by pretending to be mildly displeased with it. the carriage now in plain sight. holding him in one hand and stroking him with the other. “We assumed that you might be gone for a considerable amount of time. Bubbly even flipped himself over to look at Gunnar properly. Brennus leaned in close to more expertly observe the spaulders. “Well now. “Yes it is. “Well. That trip had taken more out of her than she thought. “So. have any arrangements been made for our travel to Epitropolis?” Gunnar. she scratched it with her foot.” “Huh!” Brennus said.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Gunnar replied. “I’d like to leave now if possible,” Jennifer insisted. “I figured you would,” Gunnar said, “so I kept the driver on standby. I’ll go let him know we’re ready.” Gunnar trotted off in the direction of a very nearby pub where the driver must have been having a drink. As the other three approached the carriage, the horses, faces mostly covered in oat bags, turned their ears in the direction of the three newcomers. Brennus sped ahead and grabbed the carriage door, holding it open for Jennifer. “My lady,” he offered his hand ostentatiously. “Why thank you, sir,” she replied in a comic royal voice. Brennus bowed his head unnecessarily. Jennifer laughed as she stepped into the carriage. Gregor stepped up to the carriage. “What? No hand for me?” Gregor complained. “But of course, Gregor!” Brennus replied, extending his hand again. Gregor took it with barely contained laughter and stepped up into the carriage. Within, Jennifer observed the shadowed table of food and drink that had awaited them. Someone had had the forethought of providing them with a snack. Gregor immediately grabbed a personalsized loaf of spice bread and broke off a crumb for Bubbly. The ferret took the piece and started munching at it voraciously. Brennus leaned over Gregor and started to pour himself a glass of sweet smelling red wine. Just as Jennifer picked up an odd-looking green fruit, Gunnar suddenly stepped up into the carriage, closing the door behind him. “Are we ready?” he asked the three of them. Just outside, they could hear the driver stepping up onto his seat and grabbing hold of the reins. Gregor nodded, his mouth full of spice bread. “I am,” Brennus replied between sips of wine. Jennifer shrugged as she looked over the fruit, then looked to Gunnar. “I’m ready.” With that, Gunnar nodded and knocked on the ornate metal grate separating them and the driver. “We’re ready,” Gunnar called. The driver snapped the reins and the carriage started forward, Jennifer and Gunnar leaning forward from the sudden acceleration, Brennus, Gregor and Bubbly leaning back. As they passed out of the city and into the countryside, sporadic, short lived conversations passed between them. Although they betrayed no negative emotion, deep within they all felt nervous. Nervous for different reasons, but still nervous. Jennifer stepped out into the more deeply afternoon sun and looked about her. They’re carriage had arrived on the outskirts of a camp, a sea of tents that lay secluded several miles from the city walls of Epitropolis. Some of the camp’s outermost inhabitants, who sat idle in front of their tents, had watched them come in and now stared a hole through Jennifer, paying particular attention to her armor. Gregor climbed up the back of the carriage, tossing Gunnar down his bo and grabbing his oversized pack, which had been the only piece of luggage atop the carriage. Brennus thanked the driver and tipped him whatever coin was in his pocket. As the carriage drove off, Brennus stood next to Jennifer, the two of them staring into the camp as Gunnar and Gregor did an inventory check.
“Well, I’m broke,” Brennus stated. Jennifer smiled, but otherwise made no comment. She appreciated that Brennus could maintain his spirits in situations such as these, but Jennifer lacked such an ability. An armed and armored Thoran soldier suddenly turned out from behind a tent and strode towards the pair with great purpose. His armor was polished silver with dark purple trim, a member of the royal guard. “Who’s that, eh?” Brennus mumbled. The soldier approached them, holding up his hand in greeting. His helmet was off; he had a round face with short black hair that clung to the top of his head. “You are Jennifer D’ Alessio?” he asked authoritatively. “I am,” Jennifer replied. “Brennus Zelten, Gunnar Cartel and Gregor Katchil?” he pointed to each of them individually. Brennus nodded, Gunnar and Gregor looked over from their inventory check when their names were spoken. “I am Sergeant Michael, I am here to escort you to General Malachi’s tent.” Gunnar and Gregor, pack on back, went to stand next to Jennifer and Brennus. “He wishes to speak with you right away. If you’ll just come with me.” The soldier turned and began off into the camp at a brisk pace. The four of them followed suit, struggling a bit to match his pace. Michael took turns without warning, snaking them through the camp in unknown directions. He spoke not a word and never turned to glance at them. Jennifer mused to herself if he would notice if they decided to suddenly just stop following him. As they walked through the camp, they passed by a multitude of people, of all manners of age and descent. Most of them busied themselves with war-related preparation: weapon sharpening, armor polishing, wound cauterizing, horse shoeing. However, every now and again they would pass by a soldier, or a group of soldiers who were idle, and they would stare at them as they passed. On every occasion, without fail, they would always stare the longest, and most curiously at Jennifer. ‘These men must recognize the armor,’ Jennifer thought to herself. One soldier in particular beheld Jennifer with a look of shock and awe. Not once did he lay his eyes upon her face, so captivated was he with the sight of her armor. After a long, gander filled journey, they finally reached the General’s tent. The tent appeared as any other, its only defining feature stemming from the open gauntleted hand of the Thoran flag draped over the entrance flap. Michael turned and held up a halting hand. “Wait here,” he commanded. He turned and lifted the flag to one side to enter. The four of them waited in silence, glancing about them at the other tents. On the outside of one tent, a foul smelling, grizzled man dressed half in chain mail sat hunched over on a stump, a near empty bottle of dark liquid clutched in one hand. He observed each of them once, looking Jennifer up and down when he came to observe here. In this particular instant, Jennifer had a suspicion that the observer wasn’t admiring the armor. The man coughed a single, throaty cough, spit out a small dark mass and took another swig of his liquid. Michael pushed the flag to one side from within the tent and looked out. The four all snapped their attention to him, meeting his gaze. Without a word he beckoned them in with his free hand. When they had entered the tent, a man with decorative armor thanked and dismissed him. Sergeant Michael nodded once and immediately left. “Forgive Sergeant Michael,” the man said as he gestured for them to be seated at the table he was leaning upon. “He’s been stationed at Epitropolis for too long, and only
knows fighting rather than manners.” The inside of the tent, though devoid of any furniture save the wood table bearing a map of what Jennifer assumed to be the city of Epitropolis, seemed cramped with all of the people it now sheltered. In addition to the tent’s latest guests, three others sat and stood at the map table. The man with the decorative armor had been the first one to both acknowledge the guests and the first to be noticed by them. The man was slightly shorter than the average Thoran soldier, but was handsome in a rough way. Although his full head of dark hair gave no indication of age, his short beard had gone completely grey and his eyes seemed weary with age. Perhaps his years of military service were longer than what was normally demanded. As the four guests looked to the other two figures in the room, they concluded that the age confused man must be General Malachi, as no other human was present in the room. To his right, towering over everyone else in the room stood what appeared to at first be another human. But as those dazzlingly piercing blue eyes snapped his head from person to person, Jennifer noticed a dramatic point to the top of his ears. Whoever he was, he was a pure-bred elf, an uncommon sight in this day and age. To his right, barely able to see over the table, dressed fully in his royal armor, puffing leisurely at his pipe, sat King Adrian. A warm smile stretched across his face as he looked at the four of them. Kaiserfaust leaned against the table to the left of him. “Adrian,” Gunnar greeted him warmly, extending a hand which the King took firmly in greeting. “It is good to see the four of you here,” the King muttered, his pipe barely leaving his mouth. “You’ve met?” General Malachi asked half heartedly. “Yes,” Gunnar said, “we recently fought with King Adrian to slay Thennox Dantus.” “So eet ees true, ees eet?” the elf interjected, his tone wary and accent thick. “You slew Thennox Dantus?” He looked to Jennifer with expectation. Jennifer took a moment to more properly observe him. The elf was garbed in what humans would consider unnecessarily ostentatious armor. The exaggerated corners and joints, as well as the decorative etchings and trimmings made it seem as if he were dressed for show rather than combat. However, Jennifer remembered hearing of a rumor once that the elfs manufactured their armor as such to structurally hide weapons designed into the armor. It was said that the standard issue elf marches into battle with more weapons than any other soldier could ever hope to carry, it just didn’t appear as such. “Yes, it is true,” Jennifer told him. “With the aid of King Adrian, and my compatriots,” Jennifer gestured to them as she spoke, “I slew the warlock Thennox.” The elf blinked. “Impressive,” he replied. “I am General Firstar, right hand of King Thulerian, and Commander in Chief of zee Elf Army.” He extended his hand in greeting to Jennifer, palm to the sky. Jennifer lay her hand, palm to the ground, on top of his. They curled their fingers in, cupping each other’s hands into linked fists. This was the elf equivalent of shaking hands. General Firstar greeted Gunnar, Brennus and Gregor each in kind, but without any verbal recognition of them. “I am General Malachi, as you may have guessed,” the human general said with minimal enthusiasm. He extended his hand in greeting to his four guests, which they each shook politely. With the formalities over, Jennifer spoke. “You sent for us, my liege?”
Once his two Lieutenants are dead. Try to avoid fighting if you can and preserve your energy. “The problem will be isolating the two of them. “Our goal is not to retake the city. so she did both.” Malachi tapped a gauntleted finger on Jennifer’s armor. “Um. If we draw him to the north shore.” General Malachi looked back down at the map.” Malachi took another sip of wine. Getting them out won’t be a problem.” King Adrian pointed out. and that he is a pure-blood demon. have you?” Malachi argued. “but it doesn’t matter they aren’t going to help us. She looked at General Malachi who smiled with relief back at her.” Jennifer wondered how he was able to pronounce his king’s name without any accent. “He’ll know something’s up. but to draw out Vercingetorix. but vee vont stand by visout a fight. “Now.” Gunnar said immediately. Jennifer and Gunnar. a race of people who live underwater. “Agreed.” Jennifer said.” “You don’t sound confident.” “Indra?” Jennifer asked. “I had been given word that your presence was the greatest chance I had at drawing him out once his Lieutenants were dead. Matthias-” “Matthias is mine. King Samuel has sent word to the Indra. The only way that is going to happen is if we slay both of his Lieutenants. but I have serious doubts that they will lend aid.” Gunnar fidgeted.” . “I will take care of Matthias Acclumadus. aside from the fact that his name is Belial. smiling.” Jennifer felt unsure if she should laugh or worry. “should come out. Now. We know little of his right hand. Gunnar met both of their gazes.” he gestured to Brennus.” Malachi said with an air of annoyed impatience. you’re going to need it.” Firstar interjected. Especially with that armor. almost to himself. it will be easy for us to reinforce our troops and overwhelm him. “vee may ‘ave been driven to zee brink of extinshun.The General looked back down at the map. the Demon King…” General Malachi paused. “for as long as possible. I want the three of you to stick together.” General Malachi explained quickly. that just makes my job easier. I have a score to settle. so he’ll be confident in sending them forth. so you all need to be informed. so he continued pointing to the center of the map. “Now as you may already know. All the streets are interconnected to maximize infrastructure and there are a multitude of ports. We may be able to isolate him if we attack his pride. “Specifically. “I don’t know whether he is a coward or is prone to rages.” the General looked to each of them as if challenging them to dissent. The four of you are integral to our battle plan. but no one did. where the portal lay. “I’ve never met the fiend.” “Zhat is vhy zee elfs ‘ave offered our support. “Epitropolis was built from the ground up to be a trade city. unaware. “I would have felt awful putting you on the front lines knowing that you didn’t want to be there.” The General lifted a cup of wine at his side to his lips and sipped at it. “I was hoping you would say that.” General Malachi cleared his throat. I’ve found that demons can be very proud creatures. “Yes. this is our last chance at anything. we know that he is gathering his forces in preparation of bearing them into our world. “Suit yourself. He drew his finger along a street that ran against several of Epitropolis’s ports.” he concluded. Firstar and Malachi both looked up at him.” “I can draw him out.
“I was hopping dat ya would say dat. “Well you don’t have to be able to touch it. Jennifer was blessed with a deep. “The portal isn’t very large. Jennifer lay in her tent. I have several teams of men secretly tunneling under the city as we speak. “are to advance in with the third infantry division. so sight range is close enough.” General Malachi laughed as if he were mildly offended.” Malachi reasoned. after having met the Captain of the third infantry division.” General Firstar smiled. sighing thoughtfully. “As we advance upon the city. “I do have an ace in the hole for when Vercingetorix emerges.” Jennifer nodded and looked at the map. I would have felt awful telling ya dat I couldn’t fight. alchemist. and those elfs will fall on him like a bad cold.” Malachi asserted.Brennus looked back and forth between Gregor and the general. He met the gaze of King Adrian and the two nodded. just over two stories. staring off into space. we’ll be bombarding them with siege weapon fire. dreamless sleep. “an hour after first light. .” Malachi mumbled. “We’ll be advancing in through both sides. “Alright.” Malachi said. I want you to mix up something special for our demon friends. He met the gaze of General Firstar and nodded again in the same manner. Gunnar and Brennus. The three of you. silent and alone staring into the darkness.” Brennus said. “No offense. “The trick is to get Jennifer close enough to the portal without getting killed. “sounds like we got a plan. I’ve made arrangements with General Firstar.” Later that night. and all six gates. They should be nearly at the portal now. “I have another duty for you anyways. “You should probably all get some sleep.” Gregor smiled. I’ll introduce you to your respective Captain later tonight. When do we strike?” “Tomorrow. She tried to think but could not. but the battlefield is no place for an alchemist. “Hey. here to pack the tunnels full of the last remaining battalion of elf shield men. and it’s kind of surrounded by rubble.” Gregor gave him a thumbs up and nodded.” Malachi pointed to Jennifer. but for rest. General Malachi looked down at the map again. feeling confused. “I’ll have one of my men show you to your tents.” General Malachi picked up his glass of wine and leaned back. Her mind knew that this was not a time for thought. acknowledging an unspoken question. When Vercingetorix steps his sorry ass out of the portal to meet Jennifer.” Brennus grimaced for an instant then cleared his face.” “How close do I have to be?” Jennifer asked. what about Gregor?” The General tipped his head. we’ll collapse the ground under him.
He had not spoken a word all morning. Another volley of rocks and payloads. most notably the north western bell tower. They coughed and fidgeted. its shadow greatly elongated from the pale light of the morning sun. ‘Wake up juice. impacted with deafening bangs and fantastic streaks of bright light. From her vantage point she could nearly see it all. Some buildings. Jennifer stood in the shade of a sizeable tree. had been handed down from generation to generation. Of those with armor. unfinished. written in a language that the Soul Slayer did not recognize. behind them they heard the faint groan and smack of wood on wood as massive rocks and the payloads of what Gregor had called “wake up juice” soared over their heads towards the city. where fires still burned. It was a disaster area of marble and light-beige bridging the gap between east and west continents as well as north and south seas. Some appeared to be fighters. following the slope to the crumbling outer wall of Epitropolis. Jennifer had guessed. over the main east gate stood cut in half. Her contingent was comprised of only what she could describe as militia. Jennifer squinted up at the sun. Fully taller than anyone she had ever met. stood proud. eh?’ her inner voice cooed.14. quietly mouthing the words to a song which undoubtedly played in his head. still stood. The payloads. columns of smoke trailed upwards and slightly to the right. very few had anything that was in very good condition. seemed to fit into the situation too well. although they bore gaping wounds suffered from their stands. Directly to her sides stood Brennus and Gunnar. Jennifer had been impressed in how uniformly shaped the militia lines were kept as they moved. and bursting at the seams with muscle. to great swords. down at her shimmering green armor. “ADVANCE!” The group started forward. Here and there. as he stood at her side and looked about. She stared straight ahead down the slight incline they perched upon. Most seemed to have been seized with an awesome flair of patriotism and were now charged with the duty of defending their future. The only formal soldiers present. seemed his normal self. Their equipment was certainly not uniform. most did not. its message. . were their officers. Most. They didn’t move with the discipline of true soldiers. and the Captain called down the line. Just down the line from Jennifer stood a monster of a man. at her stained and worn belt that bore her survival knife. Still others. She glanced up and down the line of haphazard soldiers on either side of her. Some had armor. Jennifer smirked. to hand axes. Then. It seemed to move particularly slowly across the sky. Some of the ones in better spirits chatted. as there was a slight breeze that day.’ Jennifer quietly thought. A great archway. Brennus on the other hand. Gunnar’s eyes burned with hatred and anticipation as he stared across the field at the general area of the city where the portal lay open. Jennifer had seen everything from pikes to halberds. She looked down at herself. which she had spent the evening bringing to a razor’s edge. The rocks landed first. he had introduced himself as Meras the Unmerciful. ‘The powers that be. some had no armor. crashing into buildings and impacting the cobblestone streets with distant bangs and crackles. to simply just a knife. and marched in uneven beats. close behind.
Jennifer looked up at it. A strange scrambling sound. each impact of the rock becoming slightly louder. coarse and malevolent howls of pain and surprise. The scent clawed at her olfactory canals. Their immediate right flank had the privilege of being accompanied by King Adrian and his contingent of dwarf chargers. Then.“The same Meras who fought in the Thoran gladiatorial arenas?” Jennifer had asked.” Brennus concluded from behind Jennifer. A militiaman who had a bandage over one eye spoke up. weapons up to bear. The last of the rocks and the payloads landed ungracefully within the city. ripe for the bearing. He may have had something to do with it. The figures around her charged in with her. a building collapsed across the road without warning. They reached the gates and the Captain gave the order to hold.” he had replied. some of formal soldiers. Their orders were to simply march to the gates. Instead. Jennifer suddenly noticed the smell. Meras marched alongside his fellow countrymen.” Jennifer’s lips pealed back over her teeth. It looked down at them. caught somewhere between seared flesh and ancient brimstone. The morning sun was blocked on all sides by ruined buildings. Jennifer looked to the top of the wall. an army of banshees. as she had charged with the others. pushing her to run faster and cry out more fiercely. she heard an authoritative and encouraging voice whisper “Go. The militiamen around her stood and looked about. It was a god-awful smell. On their flanks were the other contingents. It appeared to be human. however its eyes were far too large and crazed to be human. It felt good to have him on their side. In each hand he brandished two very solid looking battle axes. The rocks and payloads continued to sail over their heads and into the city. From within. Jennifer gritted her teeth. pushing forward and to the sides. she could hear the war cries of the other charging contingents die down. a curious sound arose from the other side of the wall. It was at least forty feet high. but Jennifer did not hear his order. like many small animals moving up the side of the wall. breathing heavy with anticipation. They were just twenty yards from the city gates now. giving the innards of the city an ominous sense of false night. huh?” “They’re digging in. “Aye. It was not the Captain who had told her to charge. The charge slowed and eventually stopped as they approached the wall of rubble. the top of it nearly pitch black against the bright morning sky. others still militia. Jennifer knew not what to make of it. Today. in little more than a helmet and studded leather chaps. blood thirsty and eager. followed by their distant wails of hopefully now dead demons. Jennifer soon gained tunnel vision and only knew one direction: forward. a figure appeared. the din of cacophonous clanks. filling the streets. swishes and plods of the armored menagerie of soldiers enveloped her. “What the fuck is this shit. Their battle weary group marched onwards down the slope towards the city. Just as the sound faded to almost nothing. Glancing to her left and right. Around her. each impact of the payload becoming exponentially louder. she could just make out that the other contingents were encountering similar obstacles. It’s clothes were . the loudest of the demons’ screams could faintly be heard. and only charge once within. as her legs propelled her forward. A block ahead of her. They all poured in.
killing it instantly. The militiamen again let out their war cries and joined Jennifer’s charge up the side of the rubble wall. Jennifer galloped into a firm stance and slashed the pike across the front of the thing’s face. hunched over but head up and grinning.” Gunnar whispered to Jennifer. crawling. nearly cutting off its other arm in the process. in what Jennifer guessed was the rabid one equivalent of a grin. In the other hand. Its feet bare. nearly in two. and all manner of terrible looking extremities. The noise around her was outstanding. up the hill. She turned to catch sight of Brennus impaling a rabid one upwards on a Mana soaked sword and hurling it forward with a growl. As she struck. “The shock troopers of the demons. A bright blue flash to her right suddenly caught her attention. effortless movements. carved a diagonal chunk out of the top of its head and plunged the fiery tip deep down into its spine. however. She felt almost graceful as she skewered. unnaturally sharp looking fangs. conjuring a single blade in her left hand that curled back to her elbow. ‘Kendowei. pulling the kama through its shoulder with a fierce hiss. however each hand was tightly gloved in gauntlets that appeared many sizes too small for the hands. The terrible gauntlets.tattered and torn. all running. the rabid one atop the rubble wall opened its mouth and let out a strident cry that seemed to grind against one’s eardrum. Instead. she pushed hard. It’s cries of pain were short lived as it collapsed. the thick blade cutting through to the other side as she stood in her stance. Bracing her foot against its chest. These gauntlets were crudely fitted with what looked like spikes. As the thing breathed. falling down the wall. metal teeth. A rabid one singled her out and ran towards her.’ A flaming pike screamed into existence in her hands. could not find purchase on her greaves. she amputated its right arm. it hunched over with terrible posture. It bore no weapons. Jennifer decided that she wasn’t going to let them come to her. or chest. another one used its fallen comrade as a spring board to hurl itself at the Soul Slayer. the glow from the Soul Energy crested and faded at certain points in her surroundings. She only noticed the top of the rubble wall as she drew closer to it. gripping the rubble seemingly with its toes. and it’s head was scarred and balding. jumping. its backbones protruding menacingly from its flesh.” As if on cue. the metal scraped and slipped off. but she barely noticed it. Over the crest poured a shadowy battalion of the things. onto the ground behind her. stabbed and slashed madly at the chaotic bunch before her. head. it hissed behind a row of scraggly. It brought its hands up to its sides and started sprinting madly down the hill. . sprung forth and grabbed at her leg. When she was finally on it. The blade disappeared and Jennifer returned again to the pike. “Rabid ones. Shifting her weight. fragments of blades. searing open a terrible gash of burned flesh. so she could hold it in place. with deft. lighting up her surroundings with a fierce orange glow that seemed to give spirit to those around her. Her momentum propelled her forward. better illustrating the demon’s mistake by driving a searing hot blade of energy through its throat. nails. a sneaky rabid one who had been hiding under a large piece of rubble at the top. Jennifer let the pike disappear. Jennifer’s skin broke out in gooseflesh. Jennifer summoned a kama in one hand. As he watched it fall his eyes caught sight of something else. The creature stared down at them as if excited. she conjured up a sai. Now and again a rabid one would sneak in under her pole arm and she would fall back to a closer range weapon. she slid passed the rabid one’s grasping hands and carved into its torso. and plunged the blade into the demon’s shoulder. As it fell.
terrifying fell swoop. Seemingly out of nowhere. not content . A young Thoran militiaman plunged his sword down into the gap between a demon’s helmet and breast plate. Gunnar shakily brought his bo up horizontally at his side.causing his expression to darken. the demon foot soldiers immediately compressed together. extending towards the militiamen with yearning. bringing their shields in front of them. Jennifer guessed that their shield completely protected them from any frontal assault.” he said. who still huffed through gritted teeth. Worst of all were the helmets. nothing. “Ok. ebony. The helm faces were completely devoid of any holes whatsoever. No eyelets. gaping at the magnificent show of power before them. his stance deep and low. a small porthole allowed the user to look through without sacrificing the shield’s protection. but not completely. A flash of bright green energy erupted where Gunnar once stood. claw-like spears protruded out of the mass of shields and armor. but mostly they moved unhindered. Jennifer and Brennus slid mostly down the rubble hill and approached Gunnar. their numbers deceivingly doubled by their tower shields which they held just adjacent to themselves. With gritted teeth and a look of sheer ferocity. eliminating the false night. A shield-less demon stood over a downed Thoran soldier and thrust his sharpened blade through the soldier’s armor. as if he were to thrust it upon someone. It had begun as a concentrated line with the rabid ones. blank. They raced down the hill. Gunnar. weapons aloft. Gunnar stopped her with by holding his bo across the front of her. Brennus. Simply a smooth. terrible. Their shields appeared heavy and were wider than their carriers. His breathing was heavily labored. Their armor was pitch black and eerily perfect in geometry. Green lightning sparked and crackled all up and down his arms and staff. with renewed vigor. some of the foremost of which turned their eye-less faces to “look” at him. “You gonna make it?” Brennus asked.” Gunnar said. unhindered by what their three super-soldiers were idling about. Half shadowed in darkness. Jennifer again looked down the rubble wall. yelling madly. a sudden stiff breeze yanked Jennifer’s hair forward. Gunnar suddenly appeared out of a secondary mass of green energy in the gap between the militiamen and the demon foot soldiers. no breathing holes. A moment of silence and the militiamen renewed their noise and charged forward and into the side streets to aid their kin. rewarding the demon with a well of blood and a hammer to the head from an unseen dwarf. The fighting spread itself out now. demons cut down Thorans. but with Gunnar’s sudden unleashing. their contingent was able to lend their aid to other conflicts waging elsewhere along the line. The sun was higher in the sky now. Near the top of the top of the shield. When they reached the base of the wall. In an instant the energy disappeared and Gunnar stood tall. “Wait. All around them Thorans cut down demons. chest pushed out eyes lying fiercely on the street ahead. Jennifer flexed her hands and started forward. instead starting forward again. stood a contingent of foot soldiers. Standing behind them. A solid cone of bright green energy erupted forth completely enveloping the contingent of foot soldiers and some of the nearby buildings. Gunnar made no reply. Here and there they would have to throw themselves into a fray that had grown the width of the street. The militiamen came to a halt. The demon’s nearby comrade cut the boy in half with one. Brennus and Jennifer charged forward through pockets of fighting and lulls. he thrust the staff forward. Jennifer and Brennus followed suit.” Around the three of them. metal face. “let them see us. the militia poured forward.
producing a piñata like explosion of blood and bone. Circled about it in a wide. bulbous creatures with one massive clawed left hand and what appeared to be a tube instead of a right forearm. their eyes . Jennifer was a tad bit disappointed in the lack of blood. probably the stupidest thing it’s ever done. The building collapsed onto all but one of the demon’s. the body collapsing to the side. defensive arc. the blade did not sing. that at times it was difficult to differentiate. looking like the demon equivalent of Meras. barely recognizable red. In one particular fight. running. sometimes a body would plummet from the roof of a building. and proceeded on a similarly successful course through its neck. the dark center was solidly ovular. but Jennifer could tell that she was wearing it down. neater than a rabid one’s. however remained. his bright red eyes appeared to actually burn with hellfire. were several lines of demon foot soldiers. Behind them. caught with amazement. his teeth. Curiously. but rather hissed menacingly as it was retrieved from its scabbard. until they finally came to the center of Epitropolis and beheld the portal. but on occasion his sword would make its way into a vulnerable spot such as a joint. the metal would not give as normal metal would under pressure from the sword. Jennifer witnessed Meras strike aside a demon’s shield as if it were nothing. whose legs were broken in the collapse. as its brightly colored. causing the helmet to hurl itself from the demon’s shoulders. thin strand of black lightning would arc out from the center and strike harmlessly somewhere nearby on the ground or in the air. unarmored demons struggled to hold onto chain-leashes of what Brennus immediately identified as “Andremonths. It was not too long before they began to treat him like a large. Several more lateral strikes and it finally gave. the smartest thing it’s probably ever done. The visage was terrible. The demon held up his sword to block it. followed the loose piece of darkened steel that clattered to the ground. The fighting did not contain itself to the streets. Jennifer swung with all her might at the demon’s head. As he drew his sword. or a thinly armored area. Jennifer’s great sword burned through the blade as if it weren’t even there. Strangely. shields and spears facing inwards. The cries of men and demon mixed themselves so thoroughly. dodging. General Malachi had spoken the truth. Meras took the opportunity to hurl a boulder at what he thought appeared to be a precarious support beam at a nearby building. As he turned to glare at Jennifer.with simply moving forward. Human based. massive. but focused more on keeping its shield between it and the enraged Soul Slayer. They continued forward. Although the overall shape seemed unclear. as the cauterized head rolled off of the cauterized neck. and it was only a matter of time before it eventually gave. wild animal. forming a loose circle about him. but reptilian and flesh of a dark. Most of his strikes would serve only to distract the fiend for a passing moment. a spindly. Meras collapsed the demon’s helmet with a firm stomp of his foot. would slash out at nearby demons that didn’t see them coming. it barely stood two stories. outermost border heaved and faded unevenly. grab the demon by the leg and swing him like a club into a group of its comrades. Jennifer recovered from her stupor and swung the sword back across the same lateral line it had come on just prior. The blank face. and moved forward.” Huge. fighting. Now and again. Jennifer conjured up a great sword with a fierce scream of energy and struck wildly at the demon before her that had lost its spear. It tried to gain footing so it could draw its sword. or fall out of a window to an untimely death below. it made no noise. but to no avail. It’s head. but still just a row of fangs. screaming.
Then. No order had been given. by overenthusiastic militiamen and Thoran soldiers who could not see that it was just trying to escape. staring at the portal. In another minute. the Thoracians were dying slightly more quickly than the demons. his battle cry rising slightly above the din. The figure on the left was. One of the Andremonths. Jennifer was nervous. trying desperately to reach an exit. Once. The demon struggled against the Thoran. only one of them had fired. without warning. by example. Sadly. Its eyes were literally alight with bright blue flame. the Thoracian line charged. the demon finally lay still. As the seconds ticked by. The three of them knew that this was the point at which they needed to wait and conserve themselves for the fight ahead. however. one struggled to free itself from its master. This demon was every bit reptilian and terrifying as human imagination could conjure up. toothy maw. . The charging lines slowed to a halt just ten yards from the faceless. simply put. leading out in front. staring each other down. but then immediately knew their purpose when one swallowed a handful of the black sand and propelled a large piece of rubble into a nearby charging line of Thoran soldiers with a loud bang. The soldier abandoned his pike. but after spilling a river of blood. Jennifer. More and more Thorans were dying. It’s failed attempt. Jennifer noticed the dwarfs. left a gaping hole in the demon line. staring at the portal. Brennus and Gunnar held their ground however. Jennifer didn’t know what to make of them at first. drew his sword and rushed off to another area of combat.were shaded from view by a fleshy protrusion out of the top of their heads. the two lines held still. the battle began to thin. the most stalwart of them all. Although they still had the strength in numbers. along with the demons that they fought. this was out of instinct. which the Thoracian deluge was more than happy to fill. who kept him pinned against the ground. On their backs they carried massive leather packs filled with what looked like black sand. the demons were far better equipped. the nervous one. watching as their comrades charged around them and towards the demonic line. no other one would fire. Soon the line faltered and the ranks became messy and uneven. The Andremonths were nervous. believing it un-needed for this battle. The fighting suddenly slowed. finally freed himself from his master and charged over the demonic line and into the Thoracian deluge. A well armored Thoran pike man swept his feet out from under him and thrust his pike deep into the gap between where the demon’s hip and leg was. For a silent moment. growling loudly out of its wide. On the far left. a demon noticed the three standing idle and tried his luck at charging them. but Gunnar was obviously out of his mind. however. He paced back and forth furiously. demonic line. Brennus watched it at as well. the city’s center was a hodgepodge of demons and Thoracians. her heart stuttering in beat as two figures stepped forward from the portal. Jennifer followed his gaze. She decided it best to not watch him and instead stare forward at the conflict before her. not blinking. a monstrosity. their bold king. and although their masters goaded them violently. Andremonths were native to Thoracia. It was cut down. not breathing. jerking his arm as if to reach for his bow. which he had left back at the camp. and Gunnar stopped dead in his tracks. Their compatriots threw themselves at the demons. many on the front most lines impaling themselves on the demon’s spears. and took more effort to kill than the Thoracians. still fighting and advancing in neat formations.
but the touch of demons showed in his skin. garbed in the armor of a demon foot soldier.” he called tauntingly. his tone darkly flat. His bright blonde hair was singed short and appeared vastly unhealthy. slow at first.” Gunnar gritted his teeth and the knuckles on his bo-holding hand whitened. who said something to him. was easily twice the size of Meras. Great dents suddenly appeared all over where smooth metal once resided. The battlefield lay still a moment longer. Astounded. “Gunnar. everyone turned again to their foe and struck out. a great. With a furious growl from behind gritted teeth. At that exact moment. Jennifer summoned a spear and brandished it before her. He was obviously a man. a demon who had been hiding up until then suddenly charged forward. Brennus dodged the blows that Belial threw . flaming sword. it’s incredibly long strides propelling it forward at frightening speeds. He bore over his shoulders. just inside his peripheral vision.its maw hanging slightly open as it tasted the air with a long. “it’s good to see you. and consequently Jennifer. The figure on the right. Without looking to acknowledge the charger. blue. the floating demon was suddenly covered in the same crackling energy. to the side and immediately struck out at Brennus. Gunnar stomped his foot and widened his stance. Gunnar met Matthias’s gaze with unchanged ferocity and hunkered forward as if readying for a pounce. Matthias shrugged the sword off of his shoulder and let it hit the ground. In one hand it held a bright. his free hand contorted menacingly towards his victim. The demon contorted with pain. Gunnar’s hand became alight with familiar bright green electricity. With a flash of green and orange flames the two figures shot forward. He looked about with a pair of devilish eyes that sought to find a kill point in everything. now looking at the demon. as it simply must have been. Belial. When the moment expired. and his volume much less than that of Gunnar’s. It started forward. a shimmering. vicious looking sword that did not appear black. silver axe. who stared daggers at the man just to Belial’s left. which appeared to be made of flesh. collided in mid air.” Brennus said. shot out to the side. but then picked up speed. blade aloft. but appeared to steal the light around it. unintelligible at their distance. Matthias bent his head forward. In another instant the sickening snapping of bones could be heard and the demon lay still. but in no way desirable. “COME ON!” he screamed. minus the helmet. He glanced up at Belial. blood boiling for Gunnar. my friend. the bright green energy now gone from both the body and his hand. but also at the same time scale. bringing his sword to bear. and with a bang. crying out stridently. Gunnar tapped his bo on the ground. From the building behind them. Gunnar relaxed and the demon dropped. He was terrific looking. All of those who were fighting seemed to stop and look back at Gunnar. the demon dropped his sword. “Brace yourself. forked tongue. The charger suddenly lifted into the air and floated about Gunnar’s side to hover near Gunnar. appeared to be a normal man. Belial stared out across the battlefield at Jennifer and Brennus and grinned menacingly. “MATTHIAS!” Gunnar’s cry rang out clearer than any sound heard that day. Gunnar turned his hand a few degrees to the side and the demon’s armor crumpled loudly. He was handsome. watching after the structural gap in which the two had disappeared into. hovering in mid air. Belial knocked it. In the other.
pinning them to the ground for a moment. then she followed suit. cutting his roar short. is it was not as disciplined as her other techniques. and she was quickly growing tired. Jennifer let the energy flow cease. Belial turned on Jennifer. claw-like. And she was succeeding. but now seemed to be a good situation for it. she poured pure. She released her hold on the halberd. coughing furiously. that the demon would barely feel it. in agony as the salt in the water stung ferociously at his wounds. Tearing himself away he charged off towards the docks. as the sensation was that of powerful burning. and the cloud to dissipate. As she drew closer and closer to the docks. Jennifer leapt to her feet and charged the demon. but rather. Belial cried out in agony as his flesh seared against the concentrated wave of energy. Jennifer gripped her halberd and charged forward. Belial cried out again. She summoned a halberd and swung it down at Belial. She assumed that it was perfectly useless. They were rudely shaken from their stupor by what sounded like shattering glass. her advance was slow. She swung it as fast as she could. An old technique that she had been taught once. glanced at him to insure that he wasn’t seriously injured. Brennus desperately parried a blow that he couldn’t dodge. their expressions ones of utter surprise. Belial looked down at the arrow and heaved a sigh before being yanked into the depths of the ocean behind him. With a painful scream. Fascinated at first. Brennus now rose. Jennifer’s blinding speed kept the demon at bay. unformed Soul Energy at the demon. His eyes burned from a bright blue. She knew that if she found purchase on him somewhere. and caught the fiery halberd with his sword. allowed the cloud of fiery orange glow to touch him. wrought-iron chain that disappeared into the ocean. Attached to the butt of the arrow was a heavy. To all of their surprise a giant. They turned to look into the city’s center. Two . throwing himself into the water to relieve the pain. soaking wet and bleeding profusely stood breathing heavy at what was now the end of a dock.at him. The demon suddenly pinned Brennus’s sword under his axe. the balance of his end of the conflict was defending against Jennifer’s advance. Pushing her palms towards Belial she muttered her mantra and focused the energy flow across the entire surface area of her hands. He tried to climb up on the docks. The demon laughed maniacally for a second before pushing Jennifer back and punting Brennus out of the city center and into the street adjacent the docks. a thought occurred to her. Jennifer struck out at both of the demons weapons. Jennifer and Brennus watched the area of water where the demon disappeared into resolve itself to its previous calm. although they came dangerously close at times. triangular arrow impaled the demon. but it was all he could do to preserve himself. The demon. hissing blue flame threateningly out of his teeth. and never used it again. Belial didn’t move. The battlefield had thinned down to a handful of troops on each side. which reluctantly faded. to his feet. to a deep crimson as he roared a challenge to Jennifer. but tried too desperately and ended up destroying the areas of dock that he tried to rise up upon. bouncing from blow to blow without much heed towards damage. all of whom were backing swiftly away from the portal. Now and again. but she was just trying to push him back. Jennifer hustled up next to Brennus. However. Although he struck out once in a while. then faced Belial.
A rage more powerful than any she had known prior suddenly filled her. sword in hand. When they had been covered the soil folded back over the mass of rock and elf. towering over what he intended to make his new world. Staring into his flesh felt like staring into a very deep sea. then looked down at the ground beneath him. ‘What do I do?’ A loud bang resounded from the area around Vercingetorix’s feet. She simply…moved. observing her again. He took up the entire height of the portal. He turned his expressionless gaze down to his feet and Jennifer followed his gaze. rather than hair swept back out of the top of his skull. Out of his temples. the elfs braced their shields to the sky. just past his jaw. a forest of short horns. exposing the three-hundred some elf shieldmen below. She could feel his grip tighten dangerously around her. hidden flame. Jennifer then “flew” down to the ground and held very still. admirably disciplined. which flowed like water down into the channel of elfs. She felt none of the usual sensations of flying. a flash burn on his leg . titanic muscle writhed and snaked underneath his crimson flesh such that it gave the illusion that he shifted the world about him to suit his needs. The figure that emerged. but she felt no pressure from his hand. He wore no armor. Suddenly the soil peeled away like it was paper and rolled up to either side. making no discernable mark. Vercingetorix scooped her up with one hand and brought her very close to his face. but nothing changed. Jennifer felt herself moving. two horns curled back over his ears and jutted forward. Two enormous skulls housed his shoulders. His face was one of bold definition. and the boulders. unmoving. dark crimson that was eerily uniform over his figure. never uniform over the enter figure. Jennifer. still holding onto her sais. brought them down onto his massive hand as hard as she could. rather than step forward. Suddenly the buildings crumbled into boulders. flying swiftly across the battlefield to hover head height before Vercingetorix. She summoned a sai into each hand and charged forward. his expression never changing. dark crimson hands reached their way out of either side of the portal. but she was gone before his attempt could make any good. and his knuckles lightened in shade of crimson. as if pulling the body through. His skin. Brennus reach out to grab her. Upon each shoulder. She shifted her feet uncomfortably. Standing out brashly against the dark earth in their gilded armor. ‘How?’ she wondered. pure ebony orbs of eyes scanned the battlefield in one sweep. glaring coldly up at Vercingetorix. their empty eye sockets filtering out smoke from some unknown. She felt no different than if she were standing in an open field. the hue of which shifted constantly from pitch to scarlet. His fingers flexed. but seamless in transition. holding the cloth aloft. Vercingetorix now stood before the portal.clawed. Vercingetorix looked to the buildings at either side of him. blood stained and fiery eyed. screaming fiercely. Vercingetorix observed her for a moment longer. Jennifer’s heart turned to ice. His eyes took her in. was a mantle composed bone. although she could detect no movement. As he moved. due to his lack of visible pupils. but rather obliged himself with cloth that appeared to shimmer and crackle with barely contained energy. The ground felt quite solid. Suddenly. was of a deep. The sais dissipated on impact. made Jennifer’s blood run cold. then landed on Jennifer. no pull or push or anything. The tips of his chin and cheek bones just stuck out of his flesh. There was Gunnar. His dark. The flight was strange. The Demon King’s eyes washed over the armor. then back down at the elfs.
and pulled it back. She pulled herself strenuously up to the next rib bone. She finally came head level with the heart. giving her just enough thrust to reach the bottom of the gap. Instead. to Jennifer. Just before he dashed. Before giving him a chance to react. Her progress was painfully slow. He tilted his head to one side and then slowly released his grip on Jennifer. She listened closely for the beating of his heart. He dug in his sword at the top of his chest. She felt herself become light headed from the stench. Upon landing. she was awake long enough to see it finally implode in on itself with terrifying force and. three ribs down. The Demon King looked as if he were to scoop up Gunnar but. The cut went deep. using her momentum as an aid. The Demon King was simply gone. The knife slid out easy enough. so instead obliged himself. “INSIDE! GUNNAR SAYS YOU’VE GOT TO PIERCE HIS HEART FROM THE INSIDE!” With that. Deep red liquid oozed from the wound. she grabbed the sides of the flesh gap and pulled herself through. From brief glimpses. This caused the Demon King to pause. between a giant rib bone and Vercingetorix’s lung. a muffled pop. She couldn’t discern what it exactly was he said. and free falling. Sounds muffled around her and the world kicked and spun violently. Gripping her knife in her teeth. She was barely conscious. . she could begin to hear the deep. lub dub of Vercingetorix’s heart. Vercingetorix suddenly disappeared from around her. however. Out of nowhere. he looked at Jennifer and shouted something at her. but couldn’t find him. readying to smash it into Jennifer. laid her down on the ground. she climbed furiously down his rib cage. Brennus clung to his sword and braced himself against one of his horns. though her vision was cloudy. opening another wound.from where he had attacked. Jennifer felt a pair of arms come about her and her view abruptly stabilized. Vercingetorix noticed this. When she felt as if she was going pass out. Jennifer slashed again. she finally bore sight of it. and started to pull herself towards his sternum. Brennus withdrew his sword leapt off of the horn and plummeted down the front of the massive demon. creating a gap just large enough in the flesh for Jennifer to dive into. Looking over his shoulder. She kept slashing. he called out to Jennifer. opening new wounds and carving existing ones deeper. After another few moments of fluid soaked climbing. and as she drew closer. although he made no acknowledgement of the wound. its beating nearly knocking her off kilter. he dashed out of sight before that could happen. and pushed off of his huge hand as hard as she could. Instinctually she drew her survival knife and stuck it into his palm. which she discovered belonged to Gunnar. he balled his other hand into a fist. Thinking midflight. face mostly obscure with hair. flashing in strange colors. the pair of arms. To her relief and surprise the knife plunged itself up to the hilt into the great demon. convinced that Soul Energy was useless. followed by a dizzyingly potent aroma of blood. The portal was in full view as she swiftly descended. Jennifer gripped her knife. Now she stood…or laid…or sprawled…Jennifer wasn’t entirely sure. to observe Jennifer again. The Demon King looked about for Gunnar. far deeper than she expected. she could see the portal flexing and contorting. sword imbedded deep within his cheek. paced. She plucked her knife from her teeth and slashed at the heart. Brennus was suddenly on Vercingetorix’s face.
causing her to close her eyes. The sun peeked out from behind what she guessed was Brennus’s head.Jennifer’s gaze remained skyward for a few moments. Sleep took her then. but her mind had unwittingly taken a snapshot in that instant. That image substituted for a dream. as shadowed faces clouded her vision. but no sound reaching her ears. their mouths moving and shouting. . A snapshot of the heavens. until she woke several hours later.
we all knew that a grand rest was ahead of us. There it stands now. not so secluded. Brennus. Gunnar. stating simply that he instead wanted only to find a new home. to find it completely rebuilt and guarded by the guardsmen of the faithful King Harold. He took me back to the cave where Yulgeras had given me the Great One’s armor. elsewhere. Somewhere. bearing a holstered survival knife. a memorial to the brave men. The city’s center would serve as hallowed ground. I was just glad to be home.Epilogue To my dismay. returned to my village. where I was bid to tell the tale of my trials and tribulations. After the death of Vercingetorix. . telling me over and over again that from that point on I was a village legend. King Samuel worked with King Adrian and King Thulerian to rebuild Epitropolis. Gregor returned to his workshop in the countryside with Bubbly. From what little I recall. had refused. Upon my return. I didn’t really care. It was Agalla. I of course. the post-battle affair is a hazy memory at best. which had served me so well. Brennus returned to his woods. although he mentioned something about trying to find his brother. None of them escaped the city. We had all wished each other well and bids of promise to visit in the future. but for now. some of his foot soldier still remained scattered about the city. Gregor and I each received our promised rewards from King Samuel. with a small worn leather belt about its waist. throughout the course of that day. a great feast was put on. The villagers came up to me after the feast continuously. dwarfs and elfs that had served and died there. Several days after returning home a dragon appeared in the village. hopefully unused for eternity. They were hunted down individually.