Honor, Bravery, Innocence
A calm, serene beach, waves lapping against it‘s yellow-sanded shores. With a mighty roar of anger, the serenity was destroyed by a rising pillar of writhing darkness, it’s form and matter inconsistent. A hand, human, but dark blue in color, with showing purple veins, reached out of it, grasping at the air as if it was an invisible throat.
With another roar of anger and madness, the rest of the creature, human in appearance, burst through the darkness, landing with one knee in the sand. At the creature’s touch, the sand exploded, landing yards away. The pillar vanished, and the beach was calm once more.
Stretching, the creature growled, displaying a disturbing voice, sounding like multiple beings were speaking (or, in this case, growling) at once. It flexed its hand, it curled and then uncurled it’s fingers experimentally, and then closed them into a fist with astounding speed. Cracking it’s neck, the abomination stared into the forest ahead of it, it’s lips parting into a smile, revealing sharp, long, yellowed fangs. With the silence of a feline, it pounced into the forested area, it’s humanoid form moving in completely unhumanoid ways.
Among the villagers of Centarous, a small town on the large peninsula of Thethint, one of the three great Nations, there was a small pair of children. Many had correctly guessed them to be orphans, though no one correctly guessed how they met, or exactly why they stayed together. The small boy, barely more than a toddler, Hinath, and the girl, around seven or eight, Krisim, were orphans thanks to the Great Shadow War, in which the villagers were sent to battle the dark forces of Yonothia, the Nation of Exiled Ones, beings who, through the most despicable acts of sorcery, bonded themselves with The Other, the terrible sentient force which lays deep in The Outer Planes, seeking death and destruction to gorge itself upon. The war was terrible and costly, and many lost their lives.
Hinath’s mother tragically took her own life when his father didn’t return from the war, and he was thrown upon the streets. Krisim’s parents had both been killed in one of the attacks upon a hospital ,where her wounded father, and visiting mother were. As Hinath was cast upon the streets, Krisim took him in hand, promising the child, barely a toddler, that everything was fine. Even though she herself was only a few years older then him, she acted as a mother figure.
She was always the one who bought food with money they collected, always the one to decide where they were going, and how they were getting there. Today, however, neither of them felt as if they had any power over their current situation. They had been herded into a building with dozens of other villagers, all of them confused and afraid. As Hinath stared wide-eyed at all going on around him, Krisim stared at the corner of the building, not even so much as whispering a word.
The Village of Centarous had a small group of protectors, the Guardians, who defended the town, and it’s residents from whatever threats occurred. The Guardians believed that they were only as strong as their weakest link.
That link happened to be Sagitar, the youngest son of the village’s most prominent merchant. Sagitar’s father had his two older sons to fawn other, with their big muscules, and cruel and crude manners. Sagitar had always been on the quieter side, speaking rarely, spending most of his time with books and the ancient scrolls of his ancestors.
When he was eighteen, Sagitar was a bony, awkward lad, with arms barely thicker than his wrists. Even so, he was of age to join the Guardians, and did so with much glee and happiness. However, much to his disappointment, he quickly became the object of all the other Guardians’ scorn. He was hated, subjugated, and abused. Still, he lost none of his zealot spirit for his country, and stayed diligent in the defense of Centarous.
However, today was much different than most for Sagitar. A pillar of shadow, much like the ones used by the Exiled Ones to travel wide distances, had been spotted on the west beach, only a few miles from Centarous. The others forgot his very presence as they rushed to and forth, grabbing weapons, and donning armor. Frowning at all the others’ choices of melee weapons, Sagitar grabbed a hunting bow, small, but with decent range and power, and a quiver of arrows. He also donned armor, but it looked outlandish and huge on him, with his helm falling over his eyes, and everything else almost falling off his bony frame.
Taking a deep breath, he followed after the others, trying to remember all that he had read about the Exiled Ones.
Ayana was one of the few women in Centarous who were above the age of eighteen and not married, or taking part in some fashion of relationship. She, at the risk of sounding cliché, followed her dreams. That dream happened to be opening a smith.
A woman blacksmith was a bit of an oddity, especially a comely one. Ayana, perhaps one of the most beautiful women in the village, detested the idea of marrying, infuriating her would-be suitors. She spent her day in front of a fire, and her night curled up with a book and her pet cat, Mamoa.
Currently, she was sweating in the blistering heat of the forge, her rather short hair pulled back into a tight pigtail, keeping it away from the fire as best as she could. In one hand, she had a smithing hammer, the other, a pair of tongs, holding the metal in the flames. Drawing it out, she beat it into a recognizable shape on the anvil, and then when satisfied, cooled it in the barrel of water. She was working on a rather complex request, a pendant. It had taken her awhile, but she had convinced the man who ordered it that her interesting and workable design was better than his idea, which would have taken weeks of day-filling work.
Sighing, she placed the finished piece of metal in a wooden box, wiping the sweat off her brow with her other hand. Taking a break, she walked to the back of the smith, sitting down on a large wooden chair which she had designed, and then convinced the carpenter to make for her (The carpenter didn‘t allow himself to be convinced on anything when it came to price, however). It was throne like, with a tall, pointed back, and long, regally shaped arm-rests.
Before the minute was up, the door to the shop slammed open. Standing up with another sigh, Ayana spoke. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be right there.”
The response startled her. “Ma’am, this is an emergency. You’ll have to come with me.” A male, deep voice said. Undoing her smithing apron, Ayana walked faster.
The speaker was a tall, stocky youth, who looked about nervously. As Ayana opened her mouth to ask what was going on, he spoke quickly. “They’ll explain at the hall, ma’am. We need to get moving.” That said, he already walking towards the door, glancing back a few times to see if she following.
Ayana blinked once. The hall was the largest building in Centarous, a homage to their ancestors, filled with artifacts. It must be serious if they were to all go there. Noticing the youth was already at the door, she blinked once more, and then ran to catch up with him, still wondering what had happened, or what was happening.
The silence that followed the Guardian’s speaking was uninterrupted. Breathing silently, sweat dripped down his brow as he stared at the silent Duke of Centarous.
The Duke was a tall, unkempt man, with disheveled, unctuous hair reaching past his shoulders, and only the barest hint of facial hair anywhere except for his chin, which was hidden by a monstrous goatee, equally disgusting. He was clothed in robes of black and brown fur, and silver crown sat crooked on his head. His light blue eyes were bloodshot, a result of the goblet of wine he always had in his hand. Those terrible, half-sober, unsatisfied and infuriated eyes, watched the Guardian with dissatisfaction.
“Do you enjoy keeping happiness away from me?” He asked, stretching out the word ‘enjoy’ to maximum length, as if the word was not satisfactory when used on anyone except himself.
“N-no, sir.” The Guardian stammered, his eyes growing wider, and the sweat drops becoming more frequent. He had heard the stories of the Duke sending unsatisfactory news-bearers to the whipping post.
“Then why do you barrage me with these terrible pieces of hearsay? I am allowed no euphoria, only agony, brought on by my verbally abusing subjects.” He drawled, taking a another sip of wine in between sentences. As he finished speaking, fermented juice, resembling blood, dripped down his chin, becoming one with his goatee.
“All you say is true, sire…” A new voice said, drawling much like the Duke. The voice belonged to the Duke’s soothsayer, a small, hunched man with a voice that acted in contrast to his appearance, soothing and calming. “But I think you, an intelligent and wise man, will agree that something must be done to whatever dares to invade your lands. Your beautiful, far-reaching lands, with their lush grounds, and fertile soils…”
The soothsayer’s words had their desired effects. The Duke stroked his chin as he listened, wetting his fingers on his goatee. “Very well,” He said with a sigh, turning back to the Guardian before him. “You have full permission, granted by me, the Duke, to tear through whatever is in your way to kill this invader.”
With a hurried bow, the Guardian gave his thanks, and then literally ran out of the Duke‘s presence, relieved beyond measure to leave the hall of his ruler.
Sagitar stared at the thing before him. It was like nothing he had ever seen, heard of, or read about. It was humanoid, but completely made of swirling shadows, which only solidified into something tangible when it attacked.
Sagitar’s group of guard was down to three now, thanks to the creature’s ferocious attacks. Suddenly, a scream pierced the air, then was abruptly silenced with a sickening crunch.
Correction, two. Sagitar thought, sweat dripping down his face, stinging his eyes. Drawing an arrow, he pulled it back as quietly as possible, aiming it into the shadows ahead of him. Pausing, he reached into his pouch. He drew out a flint stone, hoping and praying that his idea would work. Drawing a his tiny knife, he laid the arrow on the ground, and scrapped the flint stone until a spark met the arrow’s wooden shaft, setting it afire. With no oil, the shaft would soon turn into ash.
Drawing the arrow back, he hastily fired it in the direction from where he heard footsteps.
What he saw was enough to drive a man to madness. The flickering flames briefly illuminated a hideous scene, for the creature, a unformed writhing mass of shadows, tentacled, limbed, vertebrate and invertebrate at the same time. That is, if it was made out of matter. It seemed intangible, but from the way it was ripping apart the man he had once called a comrade, it was obvious that was not the case.
However, luckily for Sagitar, the creature shrieked an inhuman shriek, sounding like thousands of things, ranging from a woman crying to sea serpent roaring, at the fire, and recoiled, making more terrible noises.
Sagitar took the opportunity that life had presented him, and ran. In fact, he ran like had never before, sprinting through the woods heedlessly, hearing no sounds of pursuit, but running all the same.
In a few minutes, he crashed through the door to The Hall, hoping that the Guardians’ leader was there. He was not, but someone else, someone infinitely more useful (Though Sagitar didn’t know it at the time), was there. Ayana, eyes wide with curiosity, ran through the crowd.
“What did you see?” She asked, intensely staring at him.
“The creature’s advancing. I don’t what it is, but it’s vulnerable to fire.” He said quickly, looking past her into the crowd, hoping to see another Guardian.
“Fire?” Ayana asked, pausing for a minute. “We have to get to my forge.” She finished, already pushing past him to get to the open door.
“B-but, we can’t just-” Sagitar began to say, but Ayana ignored him as she pushed past. Eyes wide with terror, Sagitar followed. “What are we going to do?” He fiercely whispered as they ran to her forge.
“Fight it.” Ayana said, and then paused. “Go get all the oil for fire arrows the Guardians have. Bring it to my smithy.” And with that said, she took off again.
Sagitar opened his mouth to protest, but the words died in his throat. Still wondering how he could have possibly hurt that abomination with mere fire, he ran to the Guardians headquarters.
Hinath watched Ayana and Sagitar leave, amazed that someone was going to fight what ever it was that people were terrified off. Poking Krisim, he spoke. “Hey, someone’s goin’ to go fight the monster.” He said, mispronouncing words in the way only a four year old could.
“What?” Krisim asked, turning her head, interest in her eyes.
“Someone’s goin’ to-” Hinath began again, frustration growing evident on his face.
“Yes, you said that.” Krisim said as she stood up. “But who?”
“The smith-lady. And a Guardia… Guardiu…” Hinath said, trying to say Guardian without much success.
“Smith-lady? Hmmm…” Krisim murmured, already making her way to the door, dragging Hinath behind her.
Sagitar watched with interest as Ayana started arranging the barrels of oil he had brought. Pausing, she looked at him. He smiled a lopsided grin.
“Go get as many arrows as you can possible carry.” She said, her voice serious, and then turned back to the barrels of oil.
Sagitar nodded and then took off again, heading back to the Guardian’s headquarters for what must have been the sixth time.
Sitting on top of Ayana‘s shop, which was the tallest building in the town, thanks to the fact that Ayana built rooms above the smithy, Sagitar gazed towards the woods, a large pile of arrows at his left, a small fire (in a brazier, or course) at his right, with a large pot of oil in front of him. An arrow was already stringed, ready to be fired.
Below, Ayana was ready as well, a long-sword in one hand, a unlit-torch in the other. An entire barrel of oil was next to her, and she stood confident, occasionally glancing at her brazier, which was much larger, with a larger flame flickering in it.
Squinting, Sagitar noticed some trees swaying, as if a lumbering beast was moving through them. Both fortunately and unfortunately, Ayana’s smithy was the closest building to the forest. The only thing that stood between the forest and the town was a gate, used only for looks. A child with a good-sized pebble could probably inflict damage to it, if not outright destroy it. Glancing down at Ayana, he yelled a warning, receiving only a nod in response.
Dipping his arrow in oil, Sagitar waited till the swaying reached the gates. A moment of silence, and then the gates crashed inwards, the wooden doors blown from their hinges. The lumbering shadows surged through, and Sagitar made no move, shocked by the monstrosity. Numerable views did not decrease the maddening pain.
The only thing that could have possible jolted Sagitar into reality was the war-cry of Ayana as she charged forward, he sword and torch aflame. Sagitar set fire to his arrow, and fired it into the creature, already reaching for another before the arrow met it’s mark.
When it did meet it’s mark, he stopped mid-grab. The creature, it’s maddening, eldritch form, lurching and swaying calmly, erupted in writhing convulsions, the flaming arrow stuck in it’s fathomless, shadowy, and now apparently tangible form.
As Ayana approached the horror, she thrust her torch forward, infuriating the creature, causing it to writhe in fresh pain as it raked the ground around it with limbs and appendages which sprouted randomly from it’s unstable body. Ducking beneath a spiked tentacle, Ayana slashed in a crescent above her, severing the appendage.
With another roar, the creature began to change shape, warping and collapsing into itself. As both Ayana and Sagitar watched in horror, the creature changed into a new form, writhing and convulsing as it did so, forced into the process by the burning flames.
With a final cry of pain, the creature stood upright. As it did so, a wave of pure force flew from it, flattening everything, and everyone to the ground. Tree bent and houses strained at the release of the power. Turning it’s head, the entity, now in the form it had taken at the beach, smiled a ferocious smile at the stunned Ayana.
“It’s an Exiled One…” Sagitar said, whispering out of pure shock. As he stared at the creature, he realized that it wasn’t a fully human Exiled One. It was the The Other, fully bonded with a human host, instead of just giving it extra power.
Before either Ayana or Sagitar could do anything, The Other shot forward, slamming into the still stunned Ayana, smashing her into the ground, causing her weapons to go flying out of her hands. Ayana gasped in surprise. It’s touch was cold, and she could almost feel the darkness like something tangible. Fire, bright and blazing, was a direct opposite of the cold and dark creature. Raising its hand back to strike, The Other created a ball of shadow that covered its hand, energy ready to be fired for fatal damage.
However, just before it brought the energy crashing down on Ayana, a rock slammed into the side of it’s head. It made a sound like slamming a stone against another, and the creature whipped around, momentarily forgetting Ayana, who crawled towards her sword.
Krisim and Hinath, terrified and shaking as they tossed handfuls of stones at the creature, stood in front of the smithy, eyes wide as the abomination stared at them. Raising its hand, it began to launch the energy, and then was interrupted.
Interrupted by a flaming arrow through the head, courtesy of Sagitar, who was already loading another. With a hideous, eldritch roar, the creature pointed it’s hand at the smith roof, and released the energy, causing the entire roof to explode. Sagitar was sent soaring backwards, landing on the hard stone.
With a cry of anger, rage, and a good bit of pride, Ayana swung her flaming sword, beheading the creature in a single stroke. Soundlessly, the now lifeless body slumped to the ground, The Other escaping back to The Outer Planes.
Dropping her sword, Ayana ran to where Sagitar had been sent flying, a shocked Krisim in tow. Hinath poked the dead body once, and then followed.
Sagitar laid coughing on the stone, his shirt red with blood. The red, life giving liquid flowed from the side of his mouth as well. Seeing Ayana, he reached up with both hands, trying to grab her. “I-it…” He whispered, barely audible. “Was… an honor… to serve…”
With that, he slowly collapsed, eyes glazing over, ignoring the pleas of life screamed by Ayana.
Ayana stood before the Duke, still dressed in her smithing clothes, soot and bruises covering her. A scar, still bleeding, ran down her cheek. And she still managed to look more refined than the Duke.
“The creature, what it was, has been defeated.” She said solemnly, giving the Duke a report of the events. “The orphans Krisim and Hinath played a large part in our success, but Sagitar was undoubtedly the only reason we survived. He has died for his country, my lord.”
After she finished speaking, she lowered her head in silence, waiting an answer. “I’ve lost another Guardian?” Asked the Duke, disbelief in his voice. “This is infuriating! We have almost no more young men in the village! Unbelievable!” He continued to rant, showing no care over the victory.
“Now, Duke, you seem to be missing the point.” A third voice said, emanating from the doorway behind Ayana. As Ayana whipped around, and the Duke looked up, both of their mouths opened in shock. However, only the Duke’s chin was covered with the wine he had yet to swallow.
In the doorway, dressed in simple, humble clothes, stood the Lord of Thethint, a man responsible for all important decision of the Nation. “Rest assured, miss,” He said, patting Ayana’s shoulder as he walked past her. “Sagitar will be remembered as a hero, as will you three.”
Nodding, Ayana silently walked out of the room, leaving the Duke and the Lord to argue in private.
Outside, happily playing with some trinket vendor’s wares that Ayana had purchased for them before she went inside, sat Hinath and Krisim. When Ayana sat down as well, Krisim looked up in surprise. “How did it go?”
“Sagitar will be remembered for what he has done.” Ayana said, faking a smile. Leaning back, she looked up into the skies, where the clouds rolled and the sun shined. Even though death was commonplace in the land of Thethint, the land was a beautiful one, and there would always be men and women like Sagitar and Ayana to defend it, and what it stands for, Honor, Bravery, and Innocence.
Edited by D.A.V.E., Jun 27 2012 - 01:48 PM.