[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!



Metamor Keep 
Winter Assault 

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 
alpine lake. 
    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 
straight down. 
    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 
massive axe. 
    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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