[Vfw-times] MK Winter assault continues! Part 44

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Wed Oct 17 01:44:56 CDT 2001

 Sorry for the long delay between parts but again Murphy struck hard. There 
will be no further delays in part!

 The last scene in part 43 (Rickkter on the Bridge) has more to it then I had 
in part 43. I was intending to continue in part 44. But seeing the delay 
between parts I am putting the entire scene in instead just for continuity.


"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 hours now. 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 rockface, 
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 
nearly decomposed 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... not 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 had what at first seemed like the stone 
columns formed when stalagmites and stalactites join. Yet those columns 
didn't look like they were formed by the usual mineral deposits; they had a 
decidedly organic appearance.

"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 looked 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 vanishing into pitch-blackness. Upon their rounding that corner, 
Rickkter's witch light, 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 beyond the tunnel. 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 witch light 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 murmured. "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 -- ascetic 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 bridge. 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 surrounding closer. Something about the way the witch light 
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 centre of the bridge, he couldn't help 
but marvel at the rust hanging from their iron rings. The rust looked like 
the leaves of *Trees by the river with the red leaves*, 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 who 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 
offensive posture. "He just seemed to come out of the shadows."
The human, whoever he was, didn't seem to be taking too much of an interest 
in the two morphs that stood so close by him, nor did he seem to make much of 
the witch light 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 armour, and a scarlet cloak. From the expression on his face, he 
didn't 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 his 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, back-pedalling 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 steal drawn, and eyes and ears alert for any 
movement within the witchlight's field of radiance. No shades or other 
apparitions appeared to hinder their flight, and they reached the other side 
without incident.
Rickkter ran a paw over one of the large, rough hewn blocks that made up the 
entrance to the new tunnel. "Well, it seems we've finally reached our 
Jacob's opinion echoed that of the mage, as he too recognized the manner of 
stonework that made up Metamor Keep.
Rickkter's witchlight swiftly descended from its previous lofty height, 
losing its current bulk and resuming its previous size as it swirled about 
the two morphs. "Now we just have to find a staircase leading up," Rickkter 
said as he cast the light in front of them and prepared to enter the tunnel.
"Hold on a minute."
Rickkter turned to see Jacob peering into the blackness in the direction 
where the river originated.
"Could you please cast that over there again? I think I saw something."
Frowning, none the less Rickkter obliged. Joining the blue fox, he cast his 
witchlight upon the water and gazed upon what it revealed.
"Hah, I knew it!" Jacob yipped and jumped over the retaining wall to the 
small, rocky shoreline below. It was a drop of a little over seven feet, 
something the fox could handle with ease. Rickkter chose to stay behind, 
observing his companion's strange actions.

Jacob scampered several yards along the shore, almost to the edge of 
illumination of Rick's witchlight, where he began pawing at the ground. 
Yipping happily, he straightened up, holding a large, amber colour gem 
between his fingers. "I knew I saw something glinting out here! There's a 
while bunch of these gems just lying here. Sure you don't want any of them, 
"I don't think I've ever seen gems that colour," the mage hollered back, his 
arms spread as he leaned on the retaining wall. "Mind if I have a look."
Jacob turned around, and taking careful aim, managed to make a prefect 
overhand toss to the mage, arcing the stone just over the raccoon's head so 
that Rick has to back up a pace to catch it. It seemed that those countless 
hours playing in the street as a child had finally paid off.
Yet upon catching the stone, the raccoon gave a yelp as if he had caught a 
burning ember, immediately throwing the stone to the ground. Rickkter's 
shriek still ringing in his now flattened ears, Jacob saw the mage stalk back 
and forth across the platform, growling and clutching his paw as through it 
really were scalded. The fur around Rickkter's neck bristled out as he 
clamped his eyes shut and continued his little dance of agony.
"What's wrong?" Jacob called back when he had found his voice again.

"Those aren't real gems," Rickkter said, Jacob barely hearing him as Rick 
spoke through clenched teeth. "Those are soul gems, you moron!"

The eyes of the blue fox widened as he looked down at the sapphire like jewel 
in his paw before he let it drop to the ground. "Where could such things have 
come from?"

"Oh, they probably belonged to the person you're standing on," remarked 
Rickkter from the bridge where he was examining and flexing his paw.

Looking down towards his feet, Jacob saw just what Rick meant. Buried in the 
mud and muck from the river were hand bones and part of an arm. Decomposing 
remains of a leather bag poked up from the mud near the hand, and his own 
foot, showing that it must have fallen and spilled open. A whine escaped 
Jacob's throat as he began to back away, towards the bridge. Today just 
seemed to hold far too many dead people for his taste.

"What are we going to do with them?" he asked after Rickkter finally hoisted 
him back onto the platform.

"Leave them for now. We'll tell the Lightbringer about them when we get 
topside. I'm sure she'll be anxious to dispose of such evil clerical 
artifacts." The witch light, which had been hovering over their heads, darted 
off into the tunnel ahead. "And right now, she's some what in that direction. 
Come on."
Jacob shivered and wrapped his cloak tighter around himself before plunging 
in after Rickkter. He just hoped that these tunnels would be of more mundane 
construction, unlike the previous outlying ones.


Lutins scattered across the white crystal covered landscape, gathered round 
large bon fires and glowing hot fire stones orbs while their comrades' fought 
in battle.

Donned in expensive armor and fine weaponry they sat eating assortments of 
dried and preserved foods prepared for this campaign. They had become 
accustomed to the luxury working underneath the Four Winds brings,  The 
luxury of heat and comfort even during the most furious of blizzards to name 
but one. Even in the dead of night they could see the dark silhouette of the 
Keep looming in the distance.

Four human figures stood solitary around the largest of the bonfires pressed 
against the warmth.

A bold large bald man covered in leather and full bodied runic tattoos sat 
there his immense frame in the snow stroking his beard seemingly deep in 

The thin gnarled hand came down resting upon the large mans shoulder in an 
almost parental fashion.

"What bothers you Phearsome?" said a thin cloaked man in a wispy voice.

The large man Mc Phearsome looked up as the thin masked man hold onto his 
shoulder and smiled while holding back a deep guttural chuckle.

"Bakuda my friend," came the large man, "You're the first person I've ever 
met that wouldn't be worried about being seen this close to the enemy."
This time the masked man was the one restraining laughter.

"My large friend this storm alone would keep up hidden, trust in my illusions 
a little.  I doubt if even the Keep's spirit is aware of this army's 

"Then why not attack," chimed in the soft venomous voice of the Moranasi, 
Lady Eule.

Both Phearsome and Bakuda turned their stares towards the impatient pale 
women who sold her soul to the devil, donned in a black gown across the other 
end of the fire.

"Patience," was Phearsomes only reply.

Eules face grew red and livid her eyes darting back and forth angrily as she 
got up onto her feet.

"How can I be patient!?" she screamed. "How can any of you?"

She began pacing along back and forth along the edge of the fire.

"You Phearsome," exclaimed Eule if Metamor falls you're a free man, you can 
go home to your family."

The bearded man turned his gaze toward the ground, a distant look on his face.

"And You Bakuda," she said pointing towards the masked man, "If Metamor falls 
Nasoj will cure you, you'll be normal again."

"And I'll finally have vengeance…." As she said this she was bowled over onto 
the snowy ground Lutins struggled not to stare, at Eule, or the man in red 
who just committed the act.

"Stop it," came a deceivingly smooth. 

Eule looked up at the imposing figure of Kagnio, the Mercenary.  A young pale 
man donned in red cloak with white hair, He didn't look like a mercenary at 
all.  But as Eule looked up into the strange mans glare, she couldn't help 
but to recollect the images of devastation he would rain down upon his 

Eule shuddered.

"You'll be rich you know."

Before she could finish Kagnio kicked a fist full of snow into the black 
haired witches face.

"Who cares?"

At that he turned around and left heading towards his tent.  Kagnio was 
strange indeed, especially for a mercenary.

"How, how could the Four Winds hide like this," asked Eule as she got back 
onto her feet, "are you all such cowards?"

"Lady Eule," said Bakuda looking down at Shadow Bringer, "We'd love to march 
on and finish this thing, but we're here as backup," he paused looking into 
the looming figurine of the Keep towers in the distance.  "We're not to take 
part in battle until signaled otherwise by Selig wherever he is."

Without saying a word Eule stormed off silently.

"Please Lady Eule," Called out Mc Phearsome with concern.

She paid no attention to the berserkers' plea.

"Mother," she said quietly aloud to herself.

"Mother it won't be long now," she looked up into the night sky.

"Raven, Raven we'll meet again soon," she smiled a cruel and cunning grin.

 The wind roared through the skies, covering everything in a white death.  
The wind shrieked with pain and sorrow, as if announcing oblivion.

End part 44

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