[Vfw-times] MK Winter assault part 16
COkane8116 at aol.com
COkane8116 at aol.com
Sat Aug 25 22:12:13 CDT 2001
12/24 - 10pm
Blades flashed, and bodies fell inside the now crimson corridors of the
besieged Keep. Coming from up ahead of him, Ryuo heard the clash of blades
and shouts of battle. Leaving his most recent kill sprawled out on the
floor, Ryuo dashed forward to investigate.
Rounding the corner, Ryuo found a group of five of the Keep's warriors
holding off a group of Lutins. Behind them stood a stooped, elderly woman
who had interposed her frail body between the fighting and three young
children; the wide-eyed confusion and fear on the children's faces led Ryuo
to believe that these children were not youthened adults. As Ryuo watched,
kept from the battle by the Keepers before him, the five warriors beat back
the horrid beasts, but the battle was taking its toll.
As the warriors advanced, they were forced to step over the fallen bodies of
two of their own as well as a slew of invaders. Even as the last Lutin fell,
it lunged desperately with its spear. The wicked, metal tip caught one of
the Keepers--a pig morph named Jonathan--on the leg, ripping a deep wound
into his calf. As Jonathan screamed, dropping to the ground, a talbot morph
swung and the last Lutin's head went rolling down the corridor.
As Toby helped Jonathan to his feet, he looked down the corridor. Through
the blood that flowed down his face he could see the armored fox, and a smile
broke out on his face. "Ro! Am I glad to see someone like you here!" he
Ryuo inclined his head slightly in greeting, and then began to speak, using
what sign language he could to try to make his point clear. "Gir, hurt leg.
In Duke of room. Bring...." Ryuo fumbled with the right word, "to Coe."
Toby nodded soberly. Turning back to the other four he said, "How's
Jonathan." The pig morph was on the floor, obviously in pain. The other
warriors were attempting to staunch the blood that poured from the wound.
One of the warriors, a large man with brown hair and a full mustache, looked
up and shook his head.
"He's not going anywhere, I think it sliced into the bone." the man said.
Toby thought about it for a moment. He remembered what Ryuo had done before,
and came to a decision. "Alright, you three, take Jonathan, Mrs. Wilkes, and
the three young ones to the Chapel. Hopefully we can meet up with the rest
of our men there. If not, find out who's in charge and follow their orders.
If the Cathedral is blocked, don't attempt anything stupid. Either try for
the Lothansi temple or find some place to hunker down until reinforcements
can find you. I know we all want to take some Lutin heads, but the kids come
first. I'm going to go with Ro here to find Gil--hopefully will meet up with
you in the Chapel. We're gonna all have a nice warm toast together at the
Deaf Mule when this is all over, and I don't want any of you to miss it!"
Toby's energy seemed to infect the rest of the warriors, who stood just that
much straighter as they took off down the hall. Toby watched them for a
while, catching his breath from the moment of action. Turning to Ryuo he
commented, "Looks like you've grown a little about the waist there." A
bright smile and a light laugh accompanied the comment, aimed at the obese
appearance of Ryuo's unbelted armor.
Ryuo stared with a nervous smile, completely lost as to what Toby had just
said. His confusion only made the Talbot laugh harder, with a slight bark.
"Never mind." Toby apologized, "Let's go. Show me where Gil is. "He made
sure to carefully enunciate the last bit so that Ryuo could understand, which
he did. Together they began to backtrack along Ryuo's original path.
As they started Ryuo posed another question: "The Duke, is safe, no?"
"Yes. Last I heard." Toby said, "And now that I'm with you, I know I am,
too." His barking laugh echoed through the corridor as the two ran through
12/24 - 10:30pm
The guards at the door were surprised to see a group of armed soldiers
wanting out as Dan's small coterie arrived. At first the officer in charge
refused their passage, thinking they were trying to make their way to the
outer walls. After Christoff explained that they were on a rescue mission,
they were reluctantly allowed to pass. The door guards informed the captain
the that there were probably small bands of the enemy already roaming the
grounds, though, as far as they knew, no large force had yet formed inside
the curtain walls.
"As soon as we see lutins out there this door gets locked and barred."
explained the guard coldly. "No matter which side of it you are on."
The door was unbarred and opened, and two soldiers slipped out quickly to
make sure the way was clear. While waiting for their return, Dan leaned his
borrowed spear against the wall. Reaching into his robes, he grasped the
small amulet around his neck and spoke the trigger phrase. Suddenly, he was
surrounded by an aura of warmth that immediately began to sink into his skin.
Dan found the heat revitalizing, though the though of having to step out
into the frigid night put a damper on the feeling. Pulling his heavy robes
tighter around, Dan began to steel himself for the effects of the cold.
The scouts returned, reporting that no enemies had been seen, though
visibility was extremely poor. Twenty paces at most. The snow was piling up
on the lawns and pavement, and the temperature was dropping quickly. The sun
had already disappeared
behind the mountains, leaving the yard draped in shadows. Torches were not
taken lest their light attract the attention of unwanted eyes.
Stepping through the door and into the dark, the small band found
themselves at the base of one of the huge spires that formed the Upper Keep.
Beginning to circle the tower, they moved slowly. The snow was deep and
constantly shifting under their feet as it was blown across the pavement by
the winds. Across the icy stone they walked, scanning the whiteness that
surrounded them for any signs of the enemy. Occasionally, someone would stop,
thinking they had seen something, or maybe heard the sounds of battle over
the howl of the wind. Yet the storm revealed nothing to them, alone in the
They slowly continued their trek through the dark, following the wall of
the tower. It was a route familiar to Dan. One he had followed many times on
visits to his earth-bound friend. Though never before had he made the trip in
a blizzard while surrounded by the enemy. After a few minutes, a wall
immerged out of the darkness.
"This is the wall of Laracin's Yard. It runs from here, and curves around
to meet the main wall that divides the Palace grounds from that of the Lower
Keep. I think it used to be some sort of private garden for a prince or some
such." Dan explained to Christoff, speaking up to try and make himself heard
over the wind. "I guess it still is, in a way."
Dan led the soldiers to a tall stone arch in the wall. Though the arch
appeared to have been gated at one time in the past, the only sign that
remained of the doors were some rusted hinges whose corroded bolts were
barely holding them to the stone. Leaving two of the soldiers at the portal
as watch, the rest of the group entered the yard.
The surrounding walls provided some shelter from the gusting winds. Even
with the shelter, the storm still raging around them causing the surrounding
to fade into a dull gray. The raised archway that ran around the garden was
almost invisible. The garden plots that filled the yard were bare. Except for
a few leafless skeleton-like trees and the short stone walls surrounding
them, they were indistinguishable from the wide paths
that snaked between them.
.In the relatively calmer weather of the yard, the soldiers began to spread
out. Most looked towards the reason that they had journeyed from the warmth
and safety of the Keep. Standing in the middle of the yard, as he had for the
last eight years, was Laracin. A black silhouette against the dark gray sky,
his bare, knobby branches could be seen reaching into the night's sky.
"How the hell are we supposed to move that?" Dan heard one of the soldiers
mutter as she looked up and down the larch morph's trunk.
Dan followed her gaze. Laracin stood the height of almost five men,
stretching far above the heads of all assembled. Picking up a pick axe from
a small alcove in the wall, Dan handed it to the solider. "Now we dig."
"I don't want to be stuck in a cul-de-sac like this place once the lutins
take the grounds. The other entrances will already have been sealed, and we
wouldn't be able to fit the tree through them anyway." broke in Christoff.
"Let's get to work people!"
Quickly distributing the few tools stored in the alcove, they prepared to
start digging. Dan started by marking out a circle in the snow-covered earth.
"Dig along this circle. Hopefully that will leave Laracin enough roots to
survive in the spring. The first foot or so of soil is going to be frozen
solid, like rock, so let those with the picks work on it. Once we're through
that, those of us using shovels, spears, swords, whatever, can join in."
Even as he gave his instructions to the soldiers, doubts began to flow
through his head about whether Laracin would even survive his rescue. Even
though the treemorph was asleep at the moment, the damage done to him in
digging him out might be more then his system could take. Would it be better
for them to 'rescue' him now, just to have Laracin die slowly as he came out
of dormancy the next spring? Or would it be kinder to leave him to a quick,
unconscious death in a lutin cooking fire? Forcing those thoughts from his
head, Dan cleared his mind for nothing but the task ahead.
The dirt was frozen soils making digging hard. The ice made the ground as
hard as granite. The few shovels and picks were quickly pressed into service,
with others hacking into the ground with what ever they had on hand. The
sounds of metal clanging against the hard soil could be heard all around the
leafless tree. Chunks of frozen earth began to pile up as they cut deeper
into the earth. The circular pit grew around the tree. As they reached
farther into the ground the soil began to soften, becoming more yielding to
The work kept most warm, even in the bitter cold, though Dan was beginning
to feel the icy tendrils slipping around his defenses. His body, unable to
generate its own heat, was at the mercy of external sources; something that
was in short supply where he was. If he had not been making use of the
magical charm the temperature would have incapacitated him minutes after
stepping through the door. Even now, he could already feel his responses
begin to become sluggish.
"I don't think we're going to get it any better then that." called out Dan,
inspecting the trench that encircled Laracin's trunk.
Jace pulled a canteen from his belt, took a quick swig and then offered the
container to Dan. Taking a quick swig from the container, the grasshopper
shuddered as the ice cold water flowed down his throat.
"So, what happens now?" asked Jace.
Dan pondered his answer while watching Captain Christoff talking with the
sentries that had been left watching the door.
"We've cut through most of Laracin's roots." he explained, mentally wincing
at the thought of the damage done. "Now we just have to cut under him to free
the last of the roots, lower him to the ground and then carry him back to
"Sounds easy enough." responded the young man.
"I hope so."
Christoff had finished checking with the sentries, and moved over to join
Dan and Jace. "We don't have much time from the looks of it. We've been out
here almost twenty minutes. The sentries haven't seen anything yet, but they
can hear fighting all around. I think that the enemy is all but moving freely
over outer walls. Soon the grounds are going to be flooded with a lutin
"Curse Nasoj for this." swore Jace. "If it wasn't for that damned wizard
then those little green bastards would have never been able to organize
enough to form an army."
With only a nod in acknowledgment, the captain called the troops back to
work. A pair of ropes were tied around Laracin's trunk, guidelines for his
decent. While the rest of the men took up the line, Dan, Jace and Christoff
worked to cut through the last pieces of earth and wood holding the treemorph
in his bed.
Christoff, using the butt of a spear as a lever, began to pry Laracin from
his hole in the ground. Slowly, his trunk began to tilt. The slack on the
ropes disappeared as the soldiers held them taunt against an uncontrolled
fall. With a shudder and final sharp crack, the earth gave up its prisoner.
The full weight of the tree fell on to the ropes, dragging those holding them
across the icy stones. The slow decent began to speed up, only mitigated by
the mass of those on the ropes, until Laracin's body came to a rest on the
Quickly, the ropes were wrapped around Laracin, pressing his branches as
close as possible to his trunk to make carrying easier. Dan winced at the
sound of wood cracking as the frozen twigs bent under the rope, some
breaking. The ten largest among the small company lined up either side of the
fallen Keeper, hoisting his wooden body onto their shoulders.
The remainder, Dan and Jace among them, readied their weapons. Taking the
point, the seven armed Keepers passed through the gate and back into the
maelstrom of the Keep grounds. Slowly leading their encumbered comrades
through the snow, they began to follow the wall, leading them back to Metamor
and the safety of its walls.
The job offer had couldn't have come at a better time for Teria Mandessor and
Ferwig Jirow. Times had been hard for the two. They had been part of a very
good bandit gang, until the leader took an arrow in the throat from an army
archer. The two had taken what they could and fled, wandering until they fell
in with a mercenary band that had been selling its skills among the various
confederation duchies and would be kingdoms. They had lived the good life
then, with the constant fighting among the small fiefdoms, mercenaries were
very well paid. Then Emperor Koravelia won the battle of Do Won River and
ordered that all mercenaries put to death rather than pay them. So again the
pair had fled, this time much poorer then before. After a few poor paying
jobs as bodyguards and poorly paid caravan guards they had found themselves
in a dreary midlands town, broke. That was when they had been offered the
"It's a simple hack and burn raid," the warrior had said. "You go in ahead of
an invasion and destroy everything you can find. Make things easier for the
invasion to succeed. For that we're offering you plenty of gold, and all the
loot you can grab."
The details that had been left out was they weren't to just raid the
countryside near a castle and cause chaos to draw out the guard. They were
to attack a castle itself; always a dangerous and bloody business. What they
didn't find out till they reached Midtown was the fact that the castle was
Metamor Keep. It wasn't bad enough that the people at Metamor had a
reputation of being formidable foes, but the rumors of the curse scared even
the most fearless. It took a lot of fast talk and a lot of free flowing gold
to convince most to stay. Teria and Ferwig had stayed, the money offered
would let them live comfortably for a long time. The two mercenaries were put
ill at ease by the fact that they would be allied with lutins and the
northern hordes under the dark mage Nasoj's command, but the gold had been
paid up front. It weighed heavily on their choices, which were few at the
The job they had been given was a simple one, they were to kill the Patrol
Master, a jackal named George. This dog like head of scouts was a brilliant
strategist, so they had been informed. His scouts had wrecked havoc on their
employer's forces. Time and time again lutins had headed south only to be
ambushed by Keepers directed by the Patrol Master. The man had one weakness;
he never fought but remained in his very well appointed apartment eating and
The spy had described the jackal as an old, out of shape ex bandit getting
fat and drunk. Neither of them trusted the spy's report; no traitor could be
trusted. After all if he betrayed one leader for money and promises of power
why not a second? Nasoj's agent had made it sound simple. All they had to do
was crash into George's apartment and kill him while he was drunk from
celebrating, an easy job.
It was going to be a good deal more hazardous then even they could have
The sight that greeting them as they entered the room was of destruction;
furniture, statues, and other debris lay scattered everywhere. A fine
tapestry on the far wall was burning; below it a couch lay overturned, also
burning. There was no sign of any one, living or dead.
Teria closed her eyes and began to chant, "Mi nana fulm . . " but she never
finished the spell. Suddenly the couch tumbled forward and a figure stood up,
its arm moving as it threw something. The woman mage caught the large dinner
plate square between the eyes and she fell backwards without a sound.
Ferwig didn't waste time or words for his fallen partner, but rushed straight
at the figure, his spear point aimed straight at the persons heart. As he got
closer to the figure he saw the tan and black fur that covered the nude body
and the canine head that was now silently snarling at him. He also saw that
the jackal carried only a dagger.
When Ferwig was within an arms length, George caught the point of the spear
with his dagger, pushing it harmlessly to one side. Then the canine lunged
forward and bit Ferwig on the right arm with all his might. The man let out a
shout and dropped the spear as his leapt backwards. With blood pouring from
his arm he drew a sword with his unhurt hand.
The jackal sidestepped to the left until he was standing next to a large
fireplace. With a swift move he grabbed two weapons from the mantelpiece. Now
facing Ferwig was a jackalman armed with a cutlass and another blade that was
too small to be a sword but too big to be a dagger. Holding both weapons
close to his body the canine advanced on his enemy.
Ferwig lashed out, stabbing straight forward right at George's stomach. The
jackal deflected the blade with the oversized dagger and slashed at Ferwig's
neck with the cutlass. The mercenary had dodge backward to avoid having his
throat sliced open. Again Ferwig lashed out, this time bringing his sword
downward in a arc aimed at George's legs. There was the loud ringing of steel
on steel as George blocked the sword with the cutlass and then lashed out
with his other blade. Ferwig felt the pain as the end jabbed through his fur
coat and into the skin beneath. He gave the jackal a short, fierce punch to
the snout and he lurched back, dazing him for a moment.
The soldier pressed his advantage stabbing at the jackal, forcing him to
dance backward trying to stay away from a killing stroke. Then there was the
ringing of steel on steel again as Ferwig's blade was deflected. Ferwig
dodged a stroke from the cutlass that would have ripped out his innards. It
took all his skill and speed to stay out of reach of the jackals two weapons.
Then George misjudged and swung a little too far with the cutlass leaving
himself open for a moment. Ferwig gave a short slash with his blade and was
rewarded with seeing blood trickle from a wound on the animal man's chest.
Not as large as the mercenary would have wished, the jackal's fur had blunted
most of the slash. The wounded keeper didn't make a sound but lashed out with
both of his own weapons and Ferwig had to leap backwards to avoid being cut.
The mercenary dropped to one knee, his sword clattering from his hand as pain
lanced up his knee where he had landed on a small carved stone statue. As
George rushed him Ferwig picked up his spear from where he had dropped it.
The jackal skidded to a halt just inches from the point that Ferwig jabbed at
him. The canine's arms windmilled as he tried to regain his balance. Standing
up, Ferwig rushed his opponent before he could recover. The razor sharp,
gold tipped point came within inches of the Jackals stomach when George
crossed both his weapons in an 'x' before him and scissoring the tip of the
spear between them. With one swift movement he pushed the point harmlessly
aside and kicked Ferwig in the groin with all his might.
The mercenary let out a gasp of pain and staggered back as a throbbing wave
of agony bloomed between his thighs, his knees going weak as the end of his
spear wavered. He looked up to see the jackal swinging the fireplace poker at
his face, not point first but hilt first. He had a moment of surprise before
the brass wolf's head on the butt end of the tool hilt caught him across the
face. He joined his partner on the floor in unconsciousness.
End part 16
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