[Vfw-times] MK Winter assault part 2
COkane8116 at aol.com
COkane8116 at aol.com
Mon Aug 6 22:40:16 CDT 2001
Here is part 2 I hope you enjoy!
23 December 707CR - 3pm
Borne by a powerful upper level weather pattern, a bitterly cold wind
hissed a sibilant, sinister curse across the featureless plane of ice. Made
dark by the depths of the water over which it had frozen, the ice had the
look of obsidian, worn smooth by the constant winter wind. Located high
above the treeline, the alpine lake was a featureless black plane in a white
landscape, broken only by stone and the occasional hardy, tortured looking
Out upon the center of this blackness was a collection of still shapes,
most of them thickly garbed in fur to ward off the bitter winter wind. They
sat in a rough circle, five of them in all, around a sixth figure sprawled
supine upon the ice. The five sat with legs crossed, backs straight under
their heavy winter garb, wispy trails of mist the only revelation that the
motionless figures lived. The sixth also breathed, but was not garbed
against the elements though it wore fur.
The supine creature seemed wrong somehow, its legs inhuman, the fur
that covered its body natural despite its hauntingly human appearance.
Appearing half hunting dog and half human, it was an amalgam of the two. A
thin red mist rose from the unclothed body, spiraling upward in seeming
defiance of the shrill wind hissing across the ice. From long, animalistic
feet, wrists, and brow the red mist rose from slashes in the flesh of the
female creature. The others sat at five points around her; at hands, feet,
and head. Scribed into the black ice was a circle which encompassed the
half-human beast, within which was scribed a five pointed star. The body's
spread limbs and head defined the five points of that star, the five others
sitting outside the ritual circle as they worked their magic upon the body
Weather mage Kundar Lusk sat at her head, as the master of the ritual,
leading the intonations as he watched the blood-red mist rise from the
lesions in her flesh. The spell drew itself from the very life force of the
female bound within the circle. He did not know her name, but he was forced
to grant her a grudging respect for her temerity, her bravery. She had been
a spy, within the very walls of Nasoj's own bastion. Only carelessness of
one who knew her true nature had betrayed her presence, leading to her
capture attempting to send word to those to whom she owed allegiance.
She had proven strong and resistant to the interrogations of Nasoj's
inquisitioners, mages, and torturers, and had never broken. At least, never
broken in a manner that would make her speak. Her mind had shattered,
leaving her mad. All she knew now was terror, which Kundar had fostered to
assist in the working of his spell. Fear liberated more force from a soul
than any other emotion, even love.
Withdrawing his attention from the nearly completed weave of blood and
weather magic, he looked about at the four others arrayed upon the ice
before him. Kundar was a northerner, born and raised at the foot of
Horshiah, the great glacier, and found the dry cold to be refreshing. He
wore a minimum of garb, warmed by the magic he wove. Two of the others were
also of the northland, though not from as far north as Kundar. One was the
earth mage Kiyle Jan, who was nearly as icy as the lake upon which they
worked their magic. She was a vicious creature dedicated to war and death,
be it against those Lutins under their very command, or the Keepers they
would soon be facing. She simply liked to kill.
Kundar respected only her power, though he would have liked to break
her icy will. Her body was as lissome as any southlander courtesan, but her
attitude was all polar wolf. That she was subordinate to him in this
campaign irked her to no end, which gave him some satisfaction.
Huk Chjarikuk was a generalist mage, his talents covered the gamut of
magics, from fire to earth to weather. He was at the victim's right hand as
second to Kundar. Though he had a wide range of talents, they were all a
great deal weaker than any practitioner of specific forces. He was a
steady, calm contemplator, seemingly slow to reach any point of decision,
but swift to act once his mind was set. Kundar enjoyed having the man at
his right hand, for he was a follower, and worked well in Kundar's shadow.
The other two were less known to the weather mage, their magics being
almost completely alien to him, though both were similar practitioners of
blood rites. Tum Yi was from the east, a place he called the Dragon Sands,
but had little else to say on the matter. Not that he could say much, his
language being almost as alien as his meditative magics. The man wore even
less than Kundar, the discipline of his body being such that he seemed
immune to the elements. His magic was something Kundar could not identify,
seemingly equal parts alchemal and sacrificial, the bald man going through
prisoners and animals at a rate that left even the vicious Kiyle amazed.
The last and most miserable of their lot was the Sathmoran warrior
mage, Thorne. A young fellow not long past his final tests of Mastery. His
chosen force was fire and lightning, making him absolutely miserable in the
cold and dry north. His bitter hatred of those who banished him from the
south sent him north, where his undisciplined ambition helped him to rise
swiftly in the ranks of Nasoj's magical ranks. This was the man's first
campaign, though Kundar suspected that he was well versed with fighting by
magic and steel.
The man also held a simmering hatred for anyone more powerful or in a
place of power above him, which put him in confrontation with all the other
mages of their small circle on this mission, for he was the most minor of
them even if his power was among the most powerful. Kundar could not help
but chuckle at the soft southerner with his thick layering of furs and his
waste of magic in keeping himself warm.
Kundar turned his attention back to their prisoner, a Keeper far from
her home spying for their survival. She had worked for many years, if what
Kundar had learned was true, to help thwart Nasoj and his minions. She,
among them all, was not clad whatsoever. Runic patterns had been shaven
into her grey and brown pelt, some of which shimmered with active power
while others were quiescent. Her body did not feel the cold, despite the
fact she was literally frozen to the surface of the ice. Kundar had
invested a small tidbit of his weather spell to sustain her body's warmth,
lest she expire too swiftly.
With luck, the sustaining magic would keep her alive for a week or more
while the weather took its strength from the consumption of her spirit.
Once her soul was no more her body would swiftly fail, activating the last
of the runes shaven into her fur and etched into the ice. The resulting
heat would melt through the surface of the lake, obliterating the evidence
of their magery here and losing her corpse forever in the dark depths of the
General Shatterbone met them near the upper treeline in the first
throes of a mighty blizzard, his fur lined leather armour tucked up under
his scarred greyish green chin. He glared up at the assemblage of taller
human mages as his personal retinue gathered closer around him. The wind,
briefly calm as the heavy warm air mass came in from the southwest pushed
aside the cold northern wind, left the snow falling in thick, heavy sheets
Kundar came to a stop before the general, looking down upon the shrewd,
cunning Lutin war-chief. "Your forces prepared?" he asked in the common
tongue, forcing the Lutin to speak a language other than his own. The ugly
Lutin scowled, then nodded shortly.
"Yes." he turned and waved a hand toward the half-seen treeline a few
hundred paces further down the slope. "They slay watchers, scouts. Mole
near place. No warning."
"Good. They move once darkness has come." Kundar nodded as he walked
past the Lutin with little more regard than that necessary to give his
orders. The other mages, arrayed loosely out behind him in their concealing
white furs, said nothing, too depleted from their spellcasting. "A fog will
rise soon, and the storm will come with dawn. Tell them to dress warm, or
they shall die." Kundar could care less how many of the noisome beasts
would freeze to death in his blizzard, for even with half their number
frozen they would still have enough to overrun the Keep. They still had the
giants, trolls, and ogres to add their muscle to the Lutin's speed and
ferocity waiting in the wings.
He was more worried about their one surviving tundra mole, and its
positioning. Three others had died in the summer and fall of various
ailments, leaving them but one to continue their offensive. His feet
crunched through the thin, dry snow as he headed down the slope of the
mountain toward their pavilion within the distant treeline. They would
remain there through the night, recuperating their strength, and move to
follow the army with the dawn. He knew that they would face the harder
trek, into the teeth of the very blizzard that they had just summoned, but
he was confident in his ability to find his way in the very worst of
After all, he had been watching the passes from these very heights for
years, avoiding or decimating what few patrols ever came this high. He
heard the rubbing, squealing crunch of snow behind him as his retinue
followed, their own minds on whatever orders Nasoj had given them before
they left his citadel a month ago. Kundar had his orders, which were known
to him alone, and he knew that the others had their orders.
He simply wondered which of them had been ordered to slay him should he
falter, or who would do so no matter /what/ their orders had been.
The blizzard hit with the force of an angry god half way through the
night, threatening to rip their pavilion from its moorings. The mages paid
scant attention to the moan of the wind beyond their magically protected
canvas walls, intent upon their various meditations. The acolytes that had
erected the tent knew what weather would be coming, and had taken
appropriate measures to secure their dwelling.
Outside trees whipped and bent, their limbs shattering with the cold
and the force of the howling gale. The sound was muffled, almost inaudible
over the wind, but when a nearby tree was sundered, everyone heard it. Luck
prevented a stray limb from crashing down upon them, but not by much.
Their armies fared worse, attempting to move into the teeth of the
blizzard, sheltered only by the short, dense pines through which they
traveled. They stayed high on the eastern and western slopes of the
mountains, just below the treeline, where there would be few, if any, farms
or grazing livestock. Those hardy souls they did find living at such
heights were quickly overrun and dispatched before they were able to escape
or cast warning spells.
Through the night they moved, setting a brisk pace despite the wind.
Heavy garments and showshoes helped them slog through the driving snow,
though countless bodies fell to the wayside, frozen even as they marched.
Those that fell were quickly stripped of everything usable by those
following them, leaving naught but a frozen body to be buried in the snow or
ravaged by the wolves that ghosted the army.
Lower on the slopes were the cavalry; Lutins riding huge dire wolves
thick with their winter pelts. They cleared the path, working as scouts and
skirmishers, locating larger farms and directing the armies around them so
that there would be no unnecessary battles that might risk detection. Those
huge, voracious beasts made swift prey of those that fell. Ogres and Trolls
followed in the train of the cavalry, herded along by the Giants that
commanded them. Even as far down the slopes as the wolves and giants
traveled they were still well above most of the agricultural lands of the
soft Keepers who huddled securely in their warm cottages in the bottom of
the broad valleys.
By dawn the greater majority of their forces had reached their staging
points and set up camps. The few tents were of whitewashed canvas to blend
in with the snow; erected for commanders and those mages that would support
the armies. Not that camouflage was a big issue with the blinding whiteness
of the driving snow. Soldiers bedded down where they were able. Being
hardy northern creatures that was not a great problem for them. Often
enough they lacked even the cover of trees on their tundra territories, and
blizzards were nothing new to them.
Scouts among the wolf riders were sent out to ward the perimeters of
the camps, kept in touch by their wolves' natural sense of location.
Darkness came early with the growing force of the blizzard, turning
white-out into black-out. The winds picked up continually during the day,
making Kundar's trek toward the distant keep a laborious one. The mages'
circle only lost three acolytes in the trek, though, which they considered a
good balance considering the conditions. They made it to their staging area
shortly after dusk, guided by Kundar's weather sense and understanding of
the valley, stopping less than a mile from the Keep's northern curtain wall.
Around him gathered the other four mages, their acolytes, and several
dozen other mages that would be supporting the assault. They had set up
their command post in a thick copse of pines, stretching canvass from trunk
to trunk to help block out most of the wind, relying on the thick branches
of the trees to block both snow and wind.
Thus sheltered they went over their attack plan one last time, the
support mages nodding silently as they accepted their orders. Kundar and
his four would do nothing unless the Keep was somehow forewarned. His
skirmishers had reported that no one had made contact with the advancing
armies and survived. Those they had sensed attempting to make their way to
the Keep along the few roads were left alone so long as they did not stumble
across the Lutins. Kundar and his generals knew that the Keep would still
expect a few stragglers to brave the storm, both from the north and the
south. A sudden cessation of northern traffic would make them suspicious.
Once their plans were discussed and cemented together, those mages that
would command the Lutins, Giants, and other forces were let away by their
wolfrider escorts. Those that would be supporting the battle, or standing
in reserve, remained behind. Kundar and his circle would be doing nothing
during the initial assault save using their divinations to monitor the
progress. There had been no alerts, so they did not expect more than a
token resistance from those manning the walls.
This was not the greatest of battles Nasoj had ever planned, Kundar
knew, as he had been there for many planning sessions, but it was the best
that could be done before the armies became restive and began to disband.
Their earlier attempts at a summer campaign were undone by the actions of a
few brave keepers, either by accident or design. Those creatures were now
targets, to be slain wherever they might be found. A score of assassins had
been dispatched to scour the Keep once it was secured, their only orders
being to find and capture those specific Keepers.
A rat, a white rabbit, a skunk, a fox. The lord of the Keep, and the
leaders of the two major religious factions. They were focal points for the
Keepers, and their public executions would work to demoralize those
defenders that would undoubtedly band together in an attempt to resist the
new owners of Metamor.
The castle spirit was the express purview of other mages, and out of
Kundar's hands. Another small circle of Moranasi mages was focused on the
capture or distraction of the spirit, to prevent its intervention in their
assault. Kundar did not know where that secretive circle was, as they had
preceded the army by weeks.
He rubbed his hand across the amulet he wore around his neck as he
examined the maps one last time in the dim magelight hovering above the
table. Nasoj claimed that the amulet would protect him against the
lingering effects of the transformational spells, but he did not know how
far he could trust that claim. The magic had been altered by the Keepers
over the years, so it may not have any touch of the Great Mage any longer.
Each of the other mages in his circle possessed a similar amulet, though the
rest of the humans in the army did not. They were expected to assist in the
initial assault, then withdraw from the area affected by the spells.
He let the magelight wink out, taking a few moments to calm himself,
listening to the shriek of the wind across the canvas walls around their
With the darkness came movement, like cockroaches in the shadows, as
dark forms rose from the flanks of the mountains surrounding the Keep.
Unseen, even against the white snow, due to the pure white of the world
surrounding the otherwise peaceful castle, those dark shapes swiftly swept
down toward their prey. The castle, unknowing, hulked large and solid
against the shriek of the wind as the invaders gathered at the base of the
walls. Milling about, the sound of their activities whipped away in the
moaning wind, their presence missed by those manning the top of the wall out
of sight some forty feet above.
Larger forms trudged up among those already milling about at the base
of the wall, long ladders carried between them. The long iron ladders were
quickly raised upright into the wind, their tops coming to rest against the
crenellations high above. The larger shadows moved to steady the wider
bottoms of their ladders as the smaller shadows quickly swarmed upward.
Some, already left cold and stiff by the bitter, unyielding cold, fell
from the ladders, or slipped on the leather-wrapped iron rungs. Regardless
of the method of their fall, it invariably proved fatal as they crashed
against the ice-coated walls and smashed down into those milling around
below. None of those grumbling shadows paid any heed, walking on the
corpses in their haste to ascend the ladders and let the battle finally be
Pacing back and forth before the battlements, the guards atop the walls
clutched their heavy winter garments close about them in a vain attempt to
hold out the biting cold and stinging wind. They walked in pairs, making
contact with others as they moved from one tower to the next, turned, and
paced back the other way. They grumbled to one another, lost in the
darkness with only the wooden railing to one side and the cold stone on the
other to tell them where they stood upon the narrow parapets. None appeared
pleased to be there, though twice as many were there than would normally
have been the case.
Someone, some asinine, paranoid soul had claimed that they would be
attacked, on the eve of the most important holy day of the entire year. In
the middle of the worst blizzard in centuries.
At first glance, one may not have seen many of those guards amidst the
blowing snow and ice, their fur-lined garments caked with a rime of ice, but
they were for the most part visible to one another when they got close. One
of the castle mages had replaced the usual torches with spell-glows, giving
them at least a little light to see by.
Seth did not like those glaring yellow spheres of light, for they did
not burn with fire, or heat, or anything else he had ever known. Eli did
not countenance their creation, did not accept the foul taint of magic.
The ermine circled each one of the lights widely with each circuit of his
patrol, his companion shaking her head at his unbending intolerance of the
helpful aids. The human female was turning to give him a sharp reprimand
for leaving her side yet again when the ermine saw her shadow suddenly
double in size.
Staring in some confusion, he backed further away when she spun, the
shadow separating from her, then suddenly falling to the stones of the
parapet. As it did, the steady glow of the evil lights gleamed from its
A Lutin face, split nearly in half by Alan's heavy sword. Suddenly
shadows were lurching toward them, appearing out of the snow like wraiths,
steel gleaming in the light as three more closed on Alan, whose sword
flashed and thrust. None seemed to notice the ermine, who's white fur
blended into the snow entirely save for the hard black dots on either side
of his muzzle.
Alan hollered, her voice almost entirely lost in the shrill cry of the
frozen wind, two of the shadows dropping heavily upon the first, barring the
third. "Raise the alarm!" Seth finally heard as a shadow blocked the
nearest magic glow, the source of that shadow dropping over the lip of the
castle wall and raising a huge axe. It was twice the size of any Lutin Seth
had ever seen. Staggering against the hard wooden railing, the ermine spun
and raced away as Alan went down under a furious blow from the ogre's
He pelted past shadow after shadow as the invaders milled around on the
parapets, none of them giving the white ghost slipping past them any regard
as they slaughtered anyone they found manning the walls. Vivid red dashed
the monochromatic coldness of the winter night, the sight crushing Seth's
soul, calling up a wailing cry from his small chest. His horrified cry went
unheard, even as he reached the distant tower and hammered on the door with
his small fists. Shadows loomed close, casting the wooden portal into
darkness as the nearest magic light was occluded by an attacker.
Seth dropped, scrambling away just as Lutin axe hammered into the
center of the door, making it shudder heavily. The ermine slid and stumbled
toward the far edge of the wall, knowing there was a sleuce there so that
rain could drain off the parapets. Finding the narrow, curved path, he
plunged forward. The Lutin did not pursue, losing the white shadow in the
driving snow as it slid around the curve of the tower. Instead of
attempting the narrow path the Lutin turned back to join its brethren at
battering upon the doorway.
Seth reached the bottom of the walls in short order, ignoring the
numbing cold of water soaking into his fur, and charged as swiftly as his
short legs would allow across the bailey. He knew that if he kept moving in
a straight line he would end up against the wall of the keep itself, where
he could find a door, and raise the alarm.
They were under attack! On Christmas Eve, of all times. Nasoj and his
forces truly were as evil as every legend had painted them.
A shape suddenly plunged out of the white darkness, slamming with a
sickening crunch onto the stone in front of the startled ermine. He knew
the wolf too, Lanscome, a kind fellow who never could keep his armour on
straight. Now he would never have to worry about it any more, for he had no
chest to cover with it, nor a left arm to put it on.
Death did not care, not one whit, claiming the wolf's spirit with the
same swift brutality as it had claimed Alan. The ermine, still screaming
soundlessly into the white nightmare around him, found himself stumbling
over other still forms scattered about the base of the wall. He heard the
harsh bellowing voices of the attackers mingling hauntingly with the shrill
howl of the wind as he fell over yet another body, this of a Lutin who had
stepped just a little too far in its initial climb over the wall to land
face first in the courtyard below. Seth scrambled over the swiftly
stiffening corpse, his paws stained red with its blood, and continued on all
He found the Keep wall with his head, an impact which left him crumbled
and stunned for several breaths before he was able to regain his wits and
stand once more, moving to his right along the wall. He prayed that he
found a door before he was guided back around to one of the towers by the
wall, for the first time in his life truly hoping that his tiny voice was
being carried to his God.
Apparently his prayers were heard, for he came to a door within a few
short strides. Grasping the latch, he lifted it and plunged himself against
the door even as the wind howled into the opening. Just within the doorway
the castle was plunged into sudden darkness as the torches were snuffed by
the cold wind. Another light sprang into existence swiftly enough, hovering
brightly over the head of a startled raccoon dressed in somber black
tailored festively for the ongoing celebrations. At his side was a skunk,
her eyes wide as she clutched the raccoon's arm, pulling her tail close
around her as the cold wind howled down the passageway.
"Lutins!" Seth screamed, "We are." he was never able to finish his
statement as a sudden agony blossomed in his back, sending him staggering
forward a pace, filling his lungs with blood as his head dropped. Standing
four inches out of his chest was the rusted, pitted tip of a Lutin saber,
which suddenly vanished as the rapidly dying ermine was yanked backwards.
His last sight was of the raccoon drawing his hands together, the sudden
bright flash leaping from those hands lost as the ermine's world faded, the
hard stone that met his falling body unfelt and unseen.
And so it begins.
End part 2
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