[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 43

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Wed Oct 10 23:26:31 CDT 2001

"Nervous, Greck?"

Kessig leaned back in his chair and put his feet on the small wooden table, 
watching with amusement as his lutin companion paced back and forth outside 
the cramped storeroom they had converted into a guard station. The little 
green wretch held a crude dagger in one hand, quietly turning it end over end 
as he scanned the hallway for trouble.

" 'Course not," Greck said, scowling. "Jus' ready, that's all. I ain't 
lettin' no demons sneak up on me."

"Demons?" Kessig grinned.

"Keeper demons. You seen 'em. They hearts 'r' evil, so they turned in 
t'beasts and women. Punishmented."

Kessig laughed heartily. "If their evil hearts turned them into wenches, the 
world needs more wicked men!" he declared. "I'd like to see a few of those 
'evil women' come our way tonight. We could show 'em a good time, you and me, 
eh Greck?"

Greck stared at the human soldier, aghast. "Oh, no. No no no," he said, 
waving his hands in fear. "You gonna summon bad magic on us. Don' touch the 
evil, Kessig, 'cept to destroy it!"

The mercenary snorted. "You're an odd one, Greck," he said, taking a swig of 
wine from a bottle he'd found in the storeroom. "I've seen others of your 
kind have their way with Keeper womenfolk."

"Yeah, an' they paid bad for it, too!" Greck shot back. "Remember that 
outpost that caught the otter woman a few months ago? The whole place was 
destroyed, all of 'em killed. They paid bad for touching the evil."

"Yeah, whatever, Greck." Kessig said, waving a hand dismissively as he took 
another drink. "You just send any pretty wenches you see my way. I'll take 
care of those wicked women for ya."

Greck turned away from his partner, grumbling irritably. He didn't see the 
four black, spindly arms reach out of the shadows and seize Kessig from 
behind, clamping his mouth shut as a long dagger sliced across his throat.

He did hear the clatter, though, when the chair Kessig had been sitting in 
fell over backwards. He turned and stuck his head in the doorway--

Just in time to see Bradfox's arrow speeding towards him.

The arrow struck the lutin straight between the eyes, and the little beast 
fell backwards into the hall, slain instantly.

"Nice shot," Daria murmured.

"Thanks," said Brad, wandering over to the crates that lined one wall of the 
room. That soldier had been holding a bottle of wine...

David wiped his daggers off on the body of the human guard, examining them 
carefully before placing them back in his bandoleer. "This one must have been 
drinking for a while before we arrived," he said, stooping to check the body 
for weapons. "He didn't hear a thing."

"I don't know that anyone would have," Daria mused. "I know I wouldn't want 
to face you in a dark room."

The ant spread his mandibles in the equivalent of a grin. "Thanks, Squire."

"Credit where credit is due," the redhead replied, going over to the fallen 
lutin and searching it for anything of value. There wasn't much.

"Come on," she said. "Let's drag these two into the passage. I don't want any 
evidence of their fate left behind."

They did as instructed, carrying the two bodies back into the narrow corridor 
that the Key had opened for them in the back of the room. The others were 
waiting for them inside.

"Success?" Morel asked with a grin.

"Success," Daria agreed.

Garulf took both of the bodies, one under each arm, and went off in search of 
a place to dispose of them. Starling went back with Daria and, with a careful 
application of her fiery breath, managed to erase the bloodstains that 
covered the floor. Then the whole group disappeared back into the passage, 
the wall closing behind them without a trace.

The wall silently opened, and Daria's strike team entered the first floor of 
the Lightbringer Archives. Merai rose to greet her friend, grinning at the 
look of satisfaction on the redhead's face.

"Good news, I take it?" the feline priestess asked.

"Victory, Merai!" Daria said, embracing her friend. "We found and eliminated 
three enemy guard stations in two hours' time."

"Was anyone hurt?" someone asked, as a small crowd formed around the 
returning warriors.

"Only our enemies!" Garulf declared, raising his blood-stained axe high for 
everyone to see.

A cheer rose up in the crowded hall, and Merai felt a brightening in the 
auras of those around her. For the first time since the temple had been 
sealed, there was a real feeling of hope. They could make a difference in the 
battle to protect their home. They could fight.

And they could win.


12/25 - 6pm

"What the heck is that sound?" Jacob asked, his voice echoing off the walls 
of the tunnel. They had been progressing through the sewers and catacombs of 
Metamor Keep for an unknown number of days now it seemed. As they had moved 
up and down through the myriad tunnels, the architecture had varied widely. 
At first it was circular brick, defiantly laid by the hand of man; yet that 
design had rapidly degenerated into roughly hewn passages carved right into 
the bedrock. The sight of the first body, a skull on a wooden ledge cut into 
the rock face, gleaming hideously in Rickkter's witchlight,  had forced a 
yelp from Jacob's throat and caused him to drop his sword. The sudden noise 
in the desolate crypt had startled Rickkter so badly that he had whipped 
around, knife drawn. He gave the startled fox a dirty look before 
recommencing their trek through the catacombs.  From there they had moved 
into some kind of sub-sewer system. At first Jacob had been glad to leave the 
tight passageways and innumerable partially mummified bodies behind him, at 
least until he began examining his new surroundings more.

Before they had been in actual passageways, square on all sides and with 
level flooring. But now they were in a literal tunnels, round corridors lined 
with support ribs that they had to walk over to get by them. The air in the 
tunnels was dry, yet when Jacob looked at the walls, they seemed to shine 
with a wet gleam. And while the tunnels themselves were made of cut stone, 
various support ribs were what at first seemed like the stone columns formed 
when stalagmites and stalactites join. Yet those columns did not look like 
the usual mineral deposits had formed them; they had a decidedly organic 

"What sound?" replied Rickkter. He was more intent on forward progress than 
in making conversation or studying the tunnel. The fact that this was their 
longest discussion outside of asking where Rick was going or which way Jacob 
thought they should head showed that quite clearly.

"That rumbling. It's been getting louder for the last several minutes."

Now Rickkter paused and cocked his head to the side, listening to the noise. 
Lifting his nose, he sniffed at the air of the passage, his long whiskers 
twitching in the faint illumination of the witchlight. "Jacob, you've been 
living in town for far too long," Rickkter finally pronounced.

Jacob pricked his ears up and erfed at the raccoon.

"The sound is water. You can smell it from here. Sounds like a hell of a 
waterfall up ahead to boot"

Sure enough, just up ahead and around a double bend in the tunnel, the curved 
walls vanished into pitch darkness. Upon their rounding that corner 
Rickkter's witchlight, a bobbing source of constant illumination that Jacob 
had grown so used to, surged upwards from its previous domain of the tunnel 
ceiling and plunged the two morphs into near darkness. Jacob could only see a 
dim outline of the mage as Rickkter craned his check upwards, following the 
path of the light. 

"Damn, how big is this place?" the raccoon muttered as he stepped down from 
the tunnel onto some sort of ledge just within the new chamber. From the echo 
of the roaring water in his ears, Jacob guessed the cavern beyond was indeed 
pretty big. Rickkter was on the other side of what the fox now saw was an 
actual platform, peering into the gloom where the river emerged from the 
darkness. His witchlight rose about thirty feet in the air, swelling to 
almost ten times its previous size, throwing the dank cavern with its running 
water into harsh illumination.

The walls were of an expected wet and slimy appearance; all holding that 
curved and worn look of untold generations of exposure to running water. 
Jacob spared the platform they were on a quick examination and was rather 
amazed at what he saw. What he had first assumed to be a natural crag on the 
face of the cavern wall that the tunnels simply spilled out of was in fact a 
man made, stone bridge. He was standing on one side of the stone frame that 
joined the narrow stone bridge to their wall. The bridge itself was suspended 
over the gorge of the underground river, running not more than five metres 
from the roaring oblivion of the falls. In that direction, all beyond was 
darkness. Rickkter now came over to the side where the fox gawked about 
himself to take a view from the side of the bridge where the falls were.

"Did you know this was here?" asked Rickkter.

"No, no I never even dreamed," Jacob stammered. "I don't think anyone has any 
idea that such a thing runs below Metamor. How large do you suppose it is?"

"From what I feel of the cavern with my probes..." Rickkter cocked his head 
and murriked. "Say about fifty-five, sixty feet across. The falls are close 
to one hundred straight down. Now hurry up. This is the first sign that we're 
actually near the Keep."

The sides of their platform were designed the same as the outer walls of 
Metamor with a simple facade of low battlements - aesthetic only, as here 
there was nothing to defend against - the tops of which Rickkter lightly 
dragged his claws over as he made to cross the span. Jacob allowed the mage 
to go first, as he always did, despite the fact that the stone span was wide 
enough to permit the two to walk side by side. The fox believed that if 
anything untoward were to happen on the way over, Rickkter would know it 
first, thereby giving himself extra time to react. Instead he chose to 
examine his surroundings more closely. Something about the way the witchlight 
glinted off the wet stone caught his eye in a most captivating manner. As he 
looked briefly at the pair of massive support chains where they vanished into 
darkness to connect at the unseen center of the bridge, he could not help but 
marvel at the rust hanging from their iron rings. The rust looked like the 
autumn leaves of tupelo trees, hanging from its chains in elegant strands. 
Jacob almost wanted to reach out and touch them but feared they would crumble 
to reddish-brown dust, taking the rest of the length with them. His 
admiration was short-lived, however, as Rickkter's exclamation of surprise 
caused him to start and look forward once more.

The warrior mage had his sword out and in a defensive posture was circling a 
figure that stood in the middle of the bridge. Jacob fumbled to withdraw his 
own blade, the large weapon feeling foreign in his paws, and snarled, "Where 
the hell did he come from?"

"No idea," Rickkter replied, never taking his eyes off the human form on the 
bridge. Jacob finally worked his blade free and joined the raccoon's 
defensive posture. "He just seemed to come out of the shadows."

The human, whoever he was, did not seem to be taking too much of an interest 
in the two morphs that circled close by him, nor did he seem to make much of 
the witchlight that blazed threateningly between him and that other party. 
The man was a little taller than Rickkter, clean-shaven and with a head of 
closely cropped, dark blonde hair. He had on high riding boots, well-worn 
leather armor, and a scarlet cloak. Judging from the expression on his face, 
he did not even see the two animal morphs with their drawn steel. Instead, he 
seemed to be looking at something above the heads of the two, something that 
caused him a deal of panic.

"What is he doing?!" Jacob hissed.

Rickkter only grimaced and adjusted the grip on his blade.

Jacob was just about to ask what they were going to do when suddenly the man 
panicked and took flight...

... right though the wall of the bridge.

"A shade! A shade!" Jacob yelped, backpedaling as fast as he could, trying 
not to step on his tail, which had wormed its way between his legs.

"It's not a shade!" Rickkter yelled after him. Though he was still facing 
where the shade had appeared, the mage was retreating as well. "Damn, it get 
back here! I tell you that was not a shade!"

"Then what in all the hells was it?!" Jacob yelled back from the end of the 

"I don't know what it was. I do know that wasn't a shade, that much I can 
tell you."

"How would you know?"

"Because I've dealt with them before!" Rickkter screamed back at the cowering 
fox. "So just trust me on this! Whatever that was, it's gone now. So let's 
get across this bridge before it really does come back!"

Jacob wined in hesitation, his tail still firmly between his legs. "I really 
don't think we should cross, Rick."

Arching his brow, the raccoon asked, "Pray tell, did you happen to see 
another way around this river?" Jacob could only shake his head. "Right, then 
let's go."

This time their crossing of the bridge was no leisurely affair. They jogged 
across the slick stones with steel drawn, eyes and ears alert for any 
movement within the witchlight's field of radiance. No shades or other 
apparitions appeared to harass them further.

End part 43
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