[Vfw-times] MK Pennance and retribution 3/?
bevary at atcjet.net
Fri Nov 12 01:35:39 CST 1999
Chapter 3: Evil Opposed
Horses have to sleep sometime. This was a fact which Oren totally
loathed. He wanted to get to Hipocc, and he wanted to do it NOW, but their
only means of locomotion had other ideas. Pacing back and forth across the
campsite which had been pitched, the otter seemed like he was going to wear
holes in his flippers.
Desuka ladled out a bowl of ramen and handed it to Oren the next time he
"Thanks, Desuka, but..."
"No but. You sit, eat. Besides, I have news of your sick friend, I
The panda bade Oren sit, then was seated himself. A second later, the
image of a color- shifting fox in golden robes seemed to replace him.
"Emperor Ku!" declared Oren as he bowed as deeply as his seated position
"The childlike warrior. Greetings, noble one." said the emperor,
returning the bow. "I have good news from Ye and Mong-Ho."
Oren waited politely.
"Mong-Ho tells me that your lady friend is doing very well. The curse of
the Keep, she says, may actually be slowing the magic poisoning in her
system. She reports that Sawana is comfortable and busying herself with
"Well that's good news, at least."
"Ye wishes you to know that Vitra has been speaking for countless hours
with the Duke concerning the coming attack. She is very tired, but doing
well, and she sends you her love."
Oren blushed visibly.
"Ah." said Ku with a smile. "I have stumbled across that wonderful
dilemma of youth. Too many ladies and not enough young man to go around."
"I apologize" said the fox, holding up a paw. "I shall not tease you
further. Forgive an old man his odd sense of humor."
"There is another matter, but it is for Desuka to hear. Would you excuse
Oren made a show of disappearing into the one of the wagons, only to
emerge unseen a moment later in the form of an otter kit. The young
mustelid put her ear out and listened as the image of Ku addressed Wasoko
"You should know that things are going badly for our kingdom. The entire
eastern side of Khumar now belongs to Aqualo. Fortunately, we have gained
a small respite with the slaying of one of his captains, but we are certain
that he is planning to attack again with renewed vigor."
"What of Arik and Chinso and their quest to find allies?"
Ku sighed sadly. "We have not seen nor heard from the beaver nor the
dragon in many days. I choose to believe that fate is leading them to some
place far away where they are needed, but others fear that the worst has
"Do you have anything for a headache?" someone said. Oren jumped and
whirled around. Barnaeus stood there, rubbing his temple with one of his
squid tendrils. "Oh." said the aged guard. "Sorry, I thought you were
Without missing a beat, Oren stood on her hind legs and put a paw on her
stomach, saying "Yes, I know, I need to lose a little more baby fat, don't I?"
The squid-man laughed heartily, getting a slightly sharper pain in his
noggin as he did.
Oren didn't see Charles standing nearby, scribbling hastily on a sheet of
parchment with a graphite rod.
* * *
Duke Thomas was not the sort of man to surround himself with bodyguards,
but right now, he was making an exception. He remembered the terror which
he had felt when the first Darkman had entered his private chambers months
ago. It had taken an enraged red panda who ignored pain to take the
creature down. Desuka was away, now, but Thomas had made sure that extra
torches burned everywhere in the Keep, especially in the palace. Jars of
Chemicals designed to extinguish darkfire stood ready on every available
shelf. Guards in heavy leather armor stood at the ready to battle the
An eerie quiet descended over everything. Thomas, together with Thalberg
and Ye, went slowly to the window to see why it had become so quiet.
Everyone who happened to be outdoors paused and stood stock still.
Something truly evil was coming, and it was tangible.
With a thousand soul-piercing shrieks, The ground erupted into dozens upon
dozens of horrifying black shapes pouring out into the night. Humanoid
darkmen, flaming darkfires, terrifying night hounds, parasitic black
shells. The invasion had begun!
* * *
Oren had been dozing among the food supplies in an attempt to make up for
several sleepless nights. She was startled awake by the sound of her name
being called out by her sister. Growing quickly to his full morphic form,
Oren scurried to the front seat.
"There are a couple of dangerous looking characters standing in the road
up ahead." said Felice. "What should we do?"
Oren rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and peered down the road. He could
see two people there, both tough looking and armed. "Offer them a ride."
"Do you realize who that is?"
As they drew closer, Felice found out that she could make out a little
more detail. The shorter of the two men wasn't a man at all. It was
actually a large rat. The larger one wasn't a man either, but a woman with
a false mustache. "Are they ours?" asked Felice.
"Oh, that's right." said Oren. "You wouldn't know them. That's Sir
Samantha and Sir Saulius, two of the bravest knights of Metamor Keep."
A snort came from somewhere behind him. Apparently, one of the guards
didn't agree with his assessment. The otter called the guard up to the
front wagon. The one who had vocalized his doubts was a boy-man by the
name of Kaj.
"What part precisely are you Harrumphing?" Oren asked.
"Those two? Brave?" replied Kaj. "Samantha ran off and became a hermit
after the battle of the three gates. Saulius hid himself away in the
dungeons and had spells during which he lost his mind completely."
Oren hopped down from the wagon and walked beside Kaj. "It's easy to
think that, but consider for a moment who these people were. Knights. The
warrior's warrior, the fighting nobleman. These people were used to going
where they wished and always being in control of their situation.
Suddenly, in a few seconds' time, they find that they are no longer in
control. Their very bodies have been altered against their will, and the
lives they knew completely lost. You, Kaj, could at least pass for a man
if you so chose, albeit a very young and small one. Samantha has become a
woman and Saulius a rat. They'll never again know true respect outside of
the Metamor Valley. Personally, I think that they've done very well to
adjust as they have at this point. Any lesser man would still be locked
away, crying in self pity."
Kaj nodded, thoughtfully. "I suppose it helps that the recent bout of
small crises has given them something to turn their attention to."
"Exactly." said Oren, thrusting a finger in an almost accusatory way.
"The courage was inside them all the time. It just needed an opportunity
to come out and do its thing."
"HO, CARAVAN!" called Samantha from up ahead.
Gornul instantly glided forward to meet the female knight, as Charles
leaned to the side to peer around the front wagon and wave to his fellow rat.
"Ahoy, you two rapscallions!" called Oren, playfully. "What brings you
out this far to harass innocent travelers?"
Samantha grasped Oren's hand as they met. "Lutins." she explained. "We
were tracking a band of them who managed to get through the valley."
"Varlots, all!" exclaimed Saulius. "And sooth, we would have smitten yon
verdant adversary, but for the fiends' elusive nature."
"In other words, we haven't caught them, yet."
"It isn't hard to put two and two together." said Felice. "Those lutins
are on their way to Devil's Strand."
"How long have you been following them?" asked Oren.
"Our venture hath been nigh half a fortnight." replied Saulius.
"A week? You must have left right before we did. Kaj noted.
"Hop on." Oren instructed. "Our goals, it would seem, are the same."
Samantha and Saulius exchanged a nod and mounted the transport.
* * *
The first night of the darkling invasion had been chaos. Vitra's advance
warning had saved many lives, but many had still been lost. It was not
possible to walk about the keep without finding a body which had been
frozen or maimed. One poor woman had gone insane when she had awakened to
the scintilating aroma of frying chicken, only to discover her husband's
formerly feathered body lying on the doorstep, still ablaze in pitch black
The bells of the Follower's sanctuary tolled a long and sad requiem for
For Misha, however, it was not time for grief, but for action. The
darklings could not bear the light, it was said. They had retreated from
the sun by fleeing into the cellars, and from there, into the catacombs.
The long scouts followed, seeking to diminish or even exterminate the enemy
in their weakened state.
* * *
Kayrok was uneasy. He had been uneasy since he had been assigned to
Devil's Strand, but this was different. It was almost as if he could feel
the presence of some semi-sentient force which sought to consume him and
his men. Putting a leathery green hand to his ear, he listened. In the
predawn stillness, there was nothing out of place. The unease, however,
would not abate.
The commander called to one of his men. "Sujan!" he called.
"My leader?" replied an especially small lutin who stepped forward,
seemingly without fear.
"Sujan, I heard that you have been studying the magic of our allies."
"Aye, Sir." responded the small one as he puffed out his chest with pride.
"I need someone who is capable of flight, Sunaj. Have you mastered the
self transformation spells?"
Sujan dipped his head. "I could turn myself into a bird, my captain, but
I believe that Sytet would be of greater service to you. He is of rare
werebeast stock, and able to change himself into a bat."
"Is he really, now?"
Sujan dipped his head even further, only to have Kayrok lift his chin.
"You seek to share your glory with others, and not to glorify yourself.
You prove yourself to be of great value to me when you do this." said the
lutin commander. "I do not forget the unselfish deeds of men under my
command, no matter how small. You make me proud, Sunaj."
The little magician beamed as he went off to fetch the werebat.
Kayrok smiled to himself despite his unease. He knew that he had been
given this assignment because his superiors in the north sought to be rid
of him and his strange ways. They sent him every reject they could find.
The intellectuals, the freaks, and so on. And yet it was this very
assortment which served him best. He knew how to bring out the hidden
power and potential of these misfit lutins, and it was this which would
give him victory over the unseen menace which presently so darkened his mood.
* * *
The caravan had recently passed the shore of the lake where Oren had once
spent his first night in exile. Hipocc would not be far.
Rupert pulled his wagon up next to the lead. After catching Oren's
attention, He pointed skyward with a thick index finger.
"I can see something, but what is it?" asked the otter as he followed
Rupert's gaze upward.
"It's a bat." Felice declared.
"A bat in flight this time of morning?" Samantha commented. "Highly
"Methinks yon fluttermouse portendeth the evil which doth surely lie
ahead." Saulius added.
Oren handed the reigns to his sister and jumped down from the cart, moving
backward until he was beside Jesse-Roo. "Jess, can you see that little
black spot up there?" he asked.
The kangaroo craned his neck. "Sure can." he replied. "Looks like a bat
or a wyvern."
"I think we have a spy. Notice the way it keeps circling back over head?"
Jesse cocked his arm like a crossbow. "Want me to..."
"If you wouldn't mind."
Jesse-Roo said his incantation softly, whispering the final syllable. A
jot of silvery light shot from his claw into the morning sky. The roo's
aim was impeccable, and the missile produced a loud popping noise when it
connected with the bat's wing. Oren grimaced, knowing that the sound would
be that of the bat's wing bones exploding.
Even as he watched the beast fall from the air, someone at the front of
the convoy began calling his name. Rupert had brought his wagon to a halt,
impeding the rest of the caravan as a large, savage beast stood in the road
as if to challenge them. Seeming to be a large reptile without hind legs,
it bared a maw full of sharp teeth and licked its scaly lips with a
snaking, forked tongue. Phil sat beside his bodyguard and trembled at the
sight, even as Charles took up a position beside Rupert to protect his
smaller friend. There was no doubt at all that the strange creature was
hungry and ready to attack.
Oren strode out in front of the others, with Felice right behind him.
"Easy, girl." he cooed, soothingly. "I won't bite you if you don't bite me."
Felice strode ahead, apparently much bolder than her brother. She
scritched the creature's head and said "Hey, there, Sandy. How ya doing?"
Rupert gave an inquisitive grunt.
"Sandy, do you remember my brother, Oren?" asked the woman.
The reptile seemed to smile. "Storyteller!" it cried, happily.
The otter seemed dumbfounded that the creature spoke.
"This is Sandy." Felice explained. "She was one of the local children
until some Stranders turned her into a thirdak."
"They wanted to cut me up for a magic spell!" added Sandy, indignantly.
"I have a question." called Light from the rear wagon with her paw raised
like a child in class. "What's a thirdak?"
"The Hipocci pet of choice." said Oren as he gave Sandy a friendly scritch
under the chin. "They eat magic, and so they're natural allies and
bodyguards against devil's Strand."
"Yep yep!" Sandy agreed.
"What are you doing out here, little friend?"
"I was hungry. I came out looking for some magic to eat. I smelled lots
of magic over this way, so I came, and I found you. You guys are really,
really magical, and you're making me even hungrier."
Felice went to one of the wagons and got out a frying pan. It was a
magically charged pan, embellished with a simple spell which would allow it
to cook without a fire. It seemed as though Felice was going to cook the
beast dinner, but instead, she have the pan itself to the thirdak, who
chomped it down as easily as if it were cheese.
"Oh, this is absolutely delicious!" said Sandy around a mouthful of
magically imbued tin.
"You know, you shouldn't have wandered out this far by yourself." said
Felice as she stroked Sandy's neck. "Wandering off alone is what got you
turned into a thirdak in the first place."
"And yet, it may be to our advantage." said Oren. "You can show us where
our people are hidden."
Sandy seemed to hesitate. "Mommy told me not to tell anyone where the
"It's all right." said Oren. "We're friends. We're not going to let the
Stranders know. We're here to help."
Felice wondered if she should point out that she already knew where the
refugee camp was.
"Follow me." said Sandy.
* * *
Sytet came to deliver his report, doing his best to ignore the throbbing
pain that was emanating from the strips of meat which hung where his
fingers had once been.
Kayrok looked horrified at the wound which his underling had received,
though any lutin commander worth his salt would be made of sterner stuff.
He made a show of fussing over the soldier's wounded hand.
"I am of werebeast blood." Sytet said by way of dismissing aid. "The hand
"It won't regrow properly if you don't get it treated properly." said
Kayrok. "Tripe! Foxtooth! These two are versed in the medical arts.
They are healers."
Sytet snorted indignantly, forgetting the fact that he was addressing his
commander. "In my homeland, we had no need of healers. A lutin who could
not care for his own wounds was left to his fate as a weakling."
Kayrok placed a rough, green hand on Sytet's shoulder. "If this were any
other company, I would agree with that philosophy, my loyal werebat, but it
isn't. The fact is, I need you. Every lutin here is important, and you,
especially, with your unique gift of bodily transformation. I can't take
the risk of you becoming permanently injured because of something that
never should have happened. I NEED you, Sytet!
His chest puffed out in pride, Sytet offered his hand to the two healers,
"Now then." said Kayrok. "Report."
"There is a caravan approaching from the northeast. They appear to be
primarily keepers. They travel in four wagons, and their numbers include
two knights and six armed guards. Prince Phil of Wales rides with them, I
believe, as does the thieving rat, the dragon-spy and one who fits the
description of the childlike warrior."
Kayrok beamed. "You have done excellent work, friend Sytet! I knew that
I could count on you!"
Sytet smiled, eminently pleased with himself, and sat quietly as Tripe and
Foxtooth bandaged his injured hand.
Kayrok was pleased with himself as well. This was one command which he
would truly enjoy.
* * *
Danielle wondered for a moment why she had ever accepted a position in the
long patrol. Why had she taken a job that had her skulking around the
catacombs beneath the keep with a handful of others, trying to track down
vicious monsters? She knew the answer, of course. Even though her heart
might still be somewhat attached to her birthplace of Pan Mir far to the
east, Metamor Keep was her home now, and she was going to see that it
remained that way.
Following her instincts, she had separated from the group a moment ago to
try and track down a being which left a trail of tangible evil. The
feeling was unique, she thought as she followed it. It seemed malicious,
and yet... empty, as if all thought and emotion had been scooped out of it.
It was a feeling one might sense from a giant maneating insect, if one
ever encountered such a thing.
There was a glimmer of motion. In the dank and murky grey, a darker
"danielle." called a hollow voice.
The pine marten's fur stood up straight as every survival instinct
screamed at her to flee, but she stood her ground and made ready to attack.
As soon as the creature was in view, she would trap it using her eldritch
shields and render it helpless.
"danielle. come to me. be made complete." called the hollow voice.
Dropping her torch, Danielle took a step forward. She understood now what
the creature was offering. To be complete, it...
She shook herself back to rational thought, and was immediately gripped by
even greater fear. How had the darkling managed to break through the
defenses of her mind? How?
What happened next was too quick for anyone to follow, much less react to.
A million black tendrils shot forward and wove themselves around
Danielle's body. In the space of a heartbeat, the darkling had completely
enveloped the marten.
"Yes!" exclaimed the monster. "I can feel your power within me! You will
be a wonderful host, my little Danielle! We will wreak splendid havoc
Danielle tried to scream, but her throat was not under her own control.
The darkling controlled her voice. It controlled her arms and legs. It
even dipped down into her thoughts and drew upon her knowledge of magic,
but it didn't stop there. It probed cruelly all around inside her mind,
bypassing the barriers as easily as one steps through an open door.
Perhaps for the first time, Danielle knew true fear.
* * *
"Can you see?" asked Faith. "What's going on down there?"
"Shh." Naomi replied. "There's a caravan coming this way. It must have
come through the pass from the north."
"You don't think it's those awful little green things, do you?"
"No... No, there's a rat driving one of the carts!"
"A giant rat!" Naomi affirmed. "There's a rabbit... an ape... they're
being led by a thirdak."
Faith strained her eyeballs to try to see the creatures in the valley
below as they wended their way through the ruins. "I think I see one.
Yeah, it's an otter. It's an otter walking on two legs, and he's wearing a
"Very funny, Faith."
"I'm not joking, Naomi, look!"
She looked. "Well I'll be!"
"I know who it is." said a voice behind them. The women turned to see
Keet, the baker. He had a patch over one eye and his arm had been rendered
useless, but despite his physical condition, he seemed to bubble with
enthusiasm at the sight below. "That's Nerr's little boy down there.
Oren, the storyteller."
"How do you know that?"
"There was only one warrior who managed to survive the battle that
destroyed Hipocc, and that's because he sent himself into exile. He took a
drink of polluted water and turned into an otter. I spoke with him the day
before he left, as his voice was changing. I thought he was on a sugar
high at the time."
"You really think it's him?"
"He's come to bring victory with the dawning of the sun."
Both women turned to stare at Keet.
"Well don't you ever read your nursery rhymes? You've got to know... THAT
is the childlike warrior!"
Faith leaned on a rock. "He's supposed to have four companions. I count
at least a dozen."
It wasn't long before Sandy came bounding up the hillside to the refugee
camp. "I found Felice and Oren!" she proclaimed. "And they got people
with them to help us! They got knights and a prince, and a healer, and
soldiers, and a big hairy monkey who's a marine..."
Slowly, with the remainder of the caravan behind him, Oren approached the
* * *
The one known as "Mist Ocean" sat in the middle of her meditation chamber
as soft music caressed her ears and aromatic incense fondled her nose. The
ceiling above her displayed a serene night sky, despite the dawning day
outside. She felt totally serene and in harmony with nature and the
universe. It was like being as innocent as a newborn babe. Of course, the
reason for that was that the serenity spell was powered by the life force
of a newborn babe. She allowed herself a smile of thanks to what would
have otherwise been a healthy son. This moment would not be possible
without him. Feeling just a little curious, she rose and strode over to
his pen. The infant lay on his back, gaunt, but not emaciated, eyes
staring at the ceiling without taking anything in. The boy would live to
provide a few more seasons of peace.
The door swung open. A small green man in armor entered.
"Kayrok!" came the melodious voice of Ocean Mist in acknowledgment of the
new presence. "I was beginning to wonder if you were coming."
"We were followed." the lutin answered. "It was necessary for us to... to
give... a pair of Keepers... of knights... slip... away from..."
Mist passed her hand over the infant. The stars, the music, and the
incense ceased as the baby began to cry in exhaustion. It's voice could
not be heard, however. A silence spell insure that such an inconvenience
need not be endured.
Kayrok shook his head as though he were shaking off the effects of a drug.
"It's the serenity spell." said Mist Ocean. "It has that effect on the
unprepared. Now then. What have you to report?"
"We were followed by two knights from Metamor Keep. We managed to lose
them, but I was later to discover that these knights had made a rendevous
with a caravan making its way toward Hipocc."
"I see. And was there perchance, an otter in this caravan?"
"There was, my Lady. Two, in fact."
"And one of them was dressed in the uniform of a Hipocci warrior."
"I... I have reason to believe so."
Mist Ocean beckoned the lutin to follow her into the next chamber. "Look
here." she said, indicating a pool of water in the center of the room.
"I've been keeping an eye on Metamor Keep for months now. After all, it
wouldn't do to be ill prepared."
"Simple really. I put a double vision spell on a particularly bad
assassin and sent him off to kill the childlike warrior. So far he's done
everything but. This is, of course, exactly how I planned it. My assassin
has defected, and now acts as a spy without his knowledge. Plus, he sends
me back some really entertaining images involving that manly rhinoceros."
"My Lady, should we not be attending to the current problem? The Keepers
are here. Now. Our plans to disarm Metamor keep are threatened."
Mist gazed at Kayrok. "You're incredibly well spoken for a lutin, you
know that?" she asked.
Kayrok stifled a grunt of frustration.
"I would not worry about them. They are led by Oren, the son of Nerr."
Mist Ocean walked to the back of the room and pulled back a curtain
sharply. Behind it was a man. Naked but for a loincloth, he hung,
bleeding from an enormous wooden cross. Nails had been driven through his
hands and feet, and his head pierced with thorns.
"Do you like it?" asked Mist. "I thought it would be poetic to keep this
one this way, as a reminder of exactly how his god died. Of course, I had
to cauterize his wounds to keep him from bleeding to death, as I need him
The man on the cross looked up with piercing, burning eyes. "My God yet
lives." he declared in a voice free from spite. "You will learn this very
"Oh will I?" asked the sorceress. "Where is your god, now? Why doesn't
he take you away from here?"
"I am here in your clutches to serve a purpose. The more you torture me,
the more you assure your own destruction."
Mist Ocean seemed uneasy as she pulled the curtain back into place.
Kayrok fought a bubble of bile which rose in his throat. "Who?" he asked,
"Why, Nerr, of course. This is the father of the childlike warrior."
* * *
"It was horrible." said Leo, a youngster who was almost of fighting age.
"It was the tailor, Bari, who betrayed us. He canceled out our barriers
and allowed the Stranders to overrun us in the middle of the night. Our
warriors fought valiantly, but it was hopeless. By the time they were
marshaled, the Strand already controlled all the strategic positions. Our
watchmen had all been killed, as had the entire assembly of elders. The
warriors went soon afterward."
"But their magic..."
"Was supplemented by lutins and ogres. Antimagic does nothing against an
ogre with a mace."
"I'll second that." said Beetle, an elderly man whose leg was splinted and
cast due to an ogre's handiwork.
Oren wanted to hear more, but the morning air was split by a thirdak's
roar. Reacting instantly, both the Hipocci and the fighters from the
caravan rushed to see the cause of the commotion. Rounding a hillock, they
found Charles, eyes wide, back pressed up against the steep hill. Directly
in front of him stood a growling Thirdak.
"Spellsipper, heel!" one of the women called out. The beast looked over
to acknowledge the command, but stood his ground.
This time the beast reluctantly obeyed.
"I'm sorry!" said the woman. "I don't know why he acted like that. Are
you carrying anything magical on you?"
Charles gave a nearly embarrassed "yeah" and pat his pocket, giving no
specifics. Oren noticed that no object made its form apparent through the
* * *
Binge hadn't been with the Longs for more than a few months. Before his
arrival at Metamor, he hadn't even been a fighter, having been much too
fat. However, since becoming a ten- year old with a high-gear metabolism,
he'd discovered that he was quite good at combat now that he could execute
He thought himself a brave and claver sort. That was what prompted him to
go looking for Danielle when she came up missing.
He found her, all right. At least, he found what seemed to be Danielle
after being dipped in molten tar.
"Hello, feedbag, boy." the thing that seemed to be Danielle called. "How
do you like my new outfit?"
Binge pondered for a moment whether he could take this creature. He ran
through the descriptions on the darklings in his head. He understood that
this was a black shell, and that Danielle was trapped inside it, helpless
"Take courage, friend." said Binge. "I'll get help." He turned and
bolted down the corridor, only to run smack into an invisible wall.
Inside the shell, Danielle thought to herself what a novel way this was
for her shields to be used.
"Don't leave yet!" said the shell. "There is someone I want you to meet!"
With a bloodcurdling shriek, a black flaming figure shot up through the
floor. Its inky flames seemed to burn hotter as it came toward Binge, its
fearsome claws reaching for his tender, unscarred face...
* * *
"The spell is to be cast tonight." said the woman known only as "Teacher".
"Since your arrival here at our refugee camp, I have been pouring over
this ancient copy of the rhyme of the childlike warrior to see if there is
any clue as to how to strike at the Strand."
"Anything?" Oren asked, simply.
"Unfortunately, no." said Teacher as she passed the text to an inquisitive
Phil. "I'm convinced that the secret lies somewhere in these two lines,
however." She pointed to part of the text.
Phil tried to read it, but had difficulty with the strange script used by
this remote people. "Sond... sand... kan... flim... anzeeedo... Oh! Sand
and flame and zero score. I remember that part."
Oren looked at the words for himself. Interesting, he thought, that the
prophecy spoke about him quoting that part of itself.
"This doesn't say 'Sand'." said Oren, thoughtfully, almost subvocally.
"It says 'Sondek flame and zero score'." He looked to Charles. The color
had drained from the rodent's ears, but seemed to pool in his eyes. His
face was a mixture of shock and anger.
Oren slapped himself mentally. He wasn't supposed to know about the
sondek! He stared at Charles, mouth open, at a loss for what to say.
* * *
Upon returning to his men, Kayrok called to one of his subcommanders,
Redfoot was of the carnak tribe, known throughout the northlands for their
clever and inovative use of body parts for practical and aesthetic
purposes. Around the back of his neck, he wore a weapon made of two arm
bones tethered together with dried intestine.
"Redfoot," said Kayrok. "There is a matter I need to discuss with you."
"Sir?" Redfoot responded, respectfully.
"The leader of our allies has a plan to keep the Hipocci at bay, but she
requires our assistance. We need a way to leak specific information to the
enemy. How do we do this without them suspecting a trap?"
Redfoot looked around. "Send the werebat." he said. "He is already
wounded and will be easy to capture. He lets himself be taken prisoner, he
feeds the enemy the information under mild duress, then we mount an
operation to rescue him, covertly."
"Well done." said Kayrok. It was all exactly as he had planned it
himself, but it was necessary to allow Redfoot to feel that his intellect
were being put to good use, and thus allow him to share in the glory. Let
the other commanders have their squads of squabbling brutes. Kayrok had
brains, loyalty and teamwork in his. That was all he needed.
A moment later, he was speaking to Sytet, pulling at the were's
heartstrings, tossing about the lofty lutin ideals of glory and sacrifice
and honor until Sytet would have flown straight into the gates of Hell for
Off the bat flew.
-Oren the Otter
tlhaQ biQ Ha'DIbaH
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