[Vfw-times] Mk Winter assault part 75

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Fri Jan 4 01:29:19 CST 2002



    Raven stepped through the door at the back of Barracks One and cast a 
glance over the expansive room. The battle was over, but the hall was still 
filled with a subdued buzz of activity. The dead lay scattered from one end 
to the other, and spots were slowly being cleared on the blood-soaked floor 
to make room for the treatment of the wounded. Coe and his fellow healers 
were working feverishly to save as many Keepers as possible, while the 
soldiers and militia picked through the bodies for any comrades who might 
still be alive. It was a grisly, deadly serious scene -- but though the men 
and women of Metamor had paid a heavy price this day, they had won the battle 
decisively. The sheer numbers of dead invaders attested to that.
    "Lothanasa! Glad to see you're still alive."
    Raven turned and nodded in polite acknowledgement to Rickkter, who was 
wiping his sword with a cloth as he approached. The raccoon looked like hell 
-- several hells, actually. Blood and gore seemed to cover every inch of his 
body, though she suspected that most of it wasn't his. He seemed to be 
breathing with a fair amount of difficulty, probably due to the numerous 
cracked ribs she could see with her aura-sight.
    "Likewise, Rickkter. It would have been a shame to lose you."
    "You're too kind," he replied, with affected modesty. "I take it you were 
successful in stopping the Moranasi?"
    "Aye. It was a hard battle, but justice has been served."
    "Good. I would have liked to have killed that woman myself, but 
apparently my methods weren't strong enough for a Shadow Bringer."
    Raven raised her eyebrows in interest. "Were you there when she changed? 
I still need to recover her clothes for the offering to Dokorath."
    "Aye, they're ... around here somewhere," the raccoon frowned, scanning 
the piles of bodies around them. At last he walked over to one of the pillars 
supporting the roof, pulled aside a few corpses, and retrieved the pile of 
blood-soaked garments that lay beneath them. After picking through the 
clothes for a moment, he pulled out an ornamented dagger and handed the rest 
to Raven.
"Here you are."
    "My thanks." Raven looked at the black, silver-edged robes, the belt, the 
shoes ... and something beneath the robes...
    "This is magical armor," she said, holding up a short-sleeved black tunic 
covered with silver runes. It had a large, blood-stained hole in the middle 
of the chest. "I thought only mithril could pierce this."
    "That and a few other things," Rick said, holding up the dagger for 
inspection. "This is one of Marshak's Teeth, four daggers that will 
supposedly pierce any armor."
    "I remember those. You won them at the tournament, didn't you?"
    The battlemage smirked. "Aye, they were the prize for second place. I 
suppose I should be grateful that Kwanzaa bested me."
    Raven smiled slightly and folded the Shadow Bringer's clothes neatly over 
her arm. "Thank you, Rickkter. You helped Merai and myself more than you may 
    "Always glad to be of service, Lightbringer," the coon said, bowing 
    "Mistress Lightbringer!" a deep voice bellowed across the room.
    Raven turned to see a tall, muscular bear-morph beckoning to her. He was 
kneeling beside a young woman -- Daria, to judge by her aura. "If you'll 
excuse me, Rickkter..."
    "Of course, Lothanasa."
    The priestess walked swiftly towards the ursine warrior. As she drew 
closer, she recognized him as Garulf, one of the members of Daria's otrinca 
squad. He was covered with blood, both his own and others', but none of his 
wounds seemed particularly grievous. Daria, on the other hand...
    "By Akkala," she murmured, kneeling down beside the young warrior-woman.
    "Can you help her?" Garulf asked.
    "Aye, of course," Raven replied, examining Daria's body with her 
aura-sight. Several of her ribs had broken, again; one of her lungs was punct
ured; there was damage to her liver and one of her kidneys; and her right 
biceps and abdominal muscles had taken a few nasty cuts. "Heart looks well 
... brain and spine are unharmed," she said, after a moment. "I can heal her, 
though it shall take some time."
"Is it safe to move her?"
    Raven peered closely at those broken ribs, finally determining that none 
of them looked likely to pierce the heart. "Aye, I think so, but we'd best be 
careful. Do you have a stretcher?"
    "I can get one."
    "Do so."
    The bear rose quickly to his feet in search of the needed equipment. A 
minute or two later, Daria let out a soft moan and began to stir.
    "Stay put, Daria," Raven cautioned her, placing a hand on her forehead. 
"You have some broken ribs."
    The redhead sighed, then coughed weakly at the sensation of blood in her 
lung. "Again?"
    "Aye, and 'tis a bit worse this time," the priestess answered. "Garulf is 
bringing a stretcher to take you back to the temple."
    Daria closed her eyes and nodded. "Where's Merai?"
    Raven lifted her head and took a brief look around the room. Merai's aura 
stood out like a lantern at midnight. "Over there, assisting the healers," 
she said. "She's fine."
    The young warrior smiled. "Good."
    Garulf came back with the stretcher, and he and Raven began the delicate 
task of moving Daria onto it and strapping her down. They were just getting 
ready to move her when a loud yipping noise caught their attention. Looking 
up, they saw Kee Coyote running into the barracks, looking excited and out of 
    "Reinforcements!" he shouted. "They've arrived!"


   Misha, walked quickly to where the Duke was standing, surrounded by the 
members of his guard. With the fox was Finbar and Danielle, all looked 
battered and exhausted. To the vulpine, Thomas looked as tired and worn as 
everyone else as he leaned wearily on his sword. The long scout noted the 
dents in the stallions armor and the blood on his sword.

   "General Selig and the mages are dead?" Thomas asked.

   "Yes," Misha replied simply. "Can we . . "

   "Captain Kortel, take your people and go with Misha," the stallion ordered 
a woman standing nearby.

   "How many do you have?" the fox asked.

   "Forty eight," the captain responded. "I started with ninety four."

   "Get your people together and ready to move right now. We have one last 

   "We'll be ready in five minutes. Where are we going?"

   "To Long House," Misha explained. "And I hope we're in time."


    Raven walked ahead of the convoy of wounded Keepers, her steps light and 
her stride long. She was feeling wonderfully optimistic, an emotion that had 
been sorely lacking in her life far too often of late. Nasoj's forces within 
the Keep had been resoundingly defeated, and even now the cavalry brigades 
from the Midlands and the nearby towns of the Valley were doing the same to 
the enemies camped outside. With their leaders dead the invading army would 
be routed, and the Keepers would drive them back into the Giantdowns like 
chaff before the wind. The enemy's morale would be crushed -- and, Raven 
knew, Nasoj would likely have to answer to Prince Ba'al himself for his 
failure. In spite of the horrible destruction the wizard's winter assault had 
caused, the totality of Metamor's victory made the future seem brighter than 
it had in years.
    As they passed out of the corridor, into a small and unornamented room, 
her attention was brought back to the present by the distant sound of an 
animal yelping. And by the timbre of the voice, it seemed disturbingly 
    "Hold," she said, raising her hand to stop the line of people behind her. 
"Guards to the front. Form a line in front of the wounded."
    Silently, six of the soldiers accompanying the convoy entered the room 
and spread out in front of the doorway, keeping the line of wounded behind 
them. The other three warriors took up a rear guard position in the corridor 
at the end of the line. Ears perked forward attentively, Raven drew Elemacil 
from its sheath. Merai came up to stand beside her, carrying a short sword 
she had picked up in the barracks.
    The yelping grew louder, now accompanied by shouts and other noises. 
Soon, just as Raven had feared, a gray wolf came barreling around a corner 
towards the line of Keepers, with about three dozen Lutins in his wake.
    *Damn it,* Raven swore silently. *Wanderer got out of the temple. He must 
have run into some of the troops from the attack on Long House...*
    The wolf ducked into the shadowed corridor with the wounded, as Raven, 
Merai and the soldiers rushed forward to meet the attackers. Momentarily 
surprised at seeing so many Keepers in one place but apparently eager for a 
fight, they hesitated only a moment before leaping into the fray, screaming 
    Somewhere behind her, Raven heard Wanderer let out a quiet whimper.


    Hide, hide, must hide, hide from mash, bash, crash, hide from 
manymanytoomanytoomanytoo ... too ...

    She is there, where She should not be.  Too much, too fast, too danger!  
But She is there, fighting the other pack.  She stands on two paws and holds 
them back.

    The strange feeling comes as she fights, growing strong like the 
moonlight, like fire, like prettynoise.  What?  Whatisit?  Whatwhatwhatwhat 

    She falls, a hittingthing knocking her down.  Get up, She! 
Getupgetupgetup ...

    He ...

    He rai ... raises the ... whatis?

    Raisssssss ...



    I spring on the thrice-accursed lutin and rip his filthy wrist to the 
bone, then spit the hand that's attached to it aside.  As he scrambles back 
without it, I look into his eyes ... and from somewhere deep within me comes 
a rumbling, like thunder in the mountains. Thunder that means ... that means 


    ... the nearby Lutins seem to freeze at the sight of me, and the warriors 
around me seize the opportunity to thrust them back toward the door ... 
doors? I am shoved to the ground from the side, a misplaced boot forcing me 
to the stone floor.  I leave the war to the warriors and turn to Raven.

    She is lying still, dazed, her breath is soft, almost not there, her 
scent ... her ...

    She's scent is weak, confused.  I ... I ...

    I go to her side and try to take her face in my hand.  Oh, Raven, Raven, 
please don't go, don't go, please don't go away ...

    ... away ...

    Raven, please ...

    ... please don't ...

    ... don't leave me ...

    ... alone.

    *I'll be a good boy*, my mind whispers in desperation, *I'll be nice, 
I'll be good, pleaseohplease don't leave me alone, not alone, oh please not 
alone again.  I love you too much ... *

    "Wanderer ... "

    I blink more fully awake as she speaks.

    " ... you're giving me a headache ... "

    "Wurrrr ... "

    I blink again, my quick retort dying unspoken.  Unspoken?  What is wrong 
with my voice?  What is wrong with my ... ?

    My hand.  My ... that's no ...

    What ... what's going ... what's going on?


    Taking her hand, Merai helped Raven slowly to her feet. She'd taken a 
nasty hit to the back of the head from a lutin mace, and had lain on the 
floor for a good fifteen minutes before she felt like she could sit up. All 
the while the wolf had guarded her jealously, eyes sharp with human 
intelligence and tender with human affection. Evidently, Wanderer had 
returned to the land of the living.
    Once Merai and the soldiers took care of the remaining Lutins, the 
younger priestess took a good look at Raven's head with her aura-sight. 
Fortunately, it looked like only a mild concussion; Raven would have to be 
careful not to tax herself too much for a few weeks, but there would be no 
lasting harm. Merai guessed that the Lutin's rather short stature had kept 
him from getting a good angle on the blow.
    "Thank you, Merai," Raven said, leaning on the cat-woman's shoulder for 
    "Not a problem, Sister Raven." She turned and gestured to the men and 
women behind her. "Come on, everyone. We shouldn't be far from the temple 
    Slowly the line of battered Keepers continued their journey toward the 
Lightbringer temple, led by two priestesses and a wolf who looked like he'd 
finally awakened from a long and terrible dream. 

*How is your head?*
    Leaning back against the pile of pillows behind her, Raven smiled weakly. 
"Sore. Much like the rest of me," she added with a chuckle. "My fight with 
the Moranasi is catching up with me, I think."
    Wanderer spread his jaws in a lupine grin. *Merai said much the same 
thing,* he "said", the telepathy spell broadcasting his thoughts to her mind. 
She could have used her consciousness-projection abilities to get the same 
result, but in her current condition the healers advised against it. Besides, 
that would have been useless for speaking to other Keepers, and the wolfish 
bard seemed to have a good deal to say after his months-long silence. 
*Methinks the girl is unused to such strenuous exercise.*
    "She'll learn," Raven said, reaching out to idly scratch behind 
Wanderer's ear. Even with his human mind restored, he still found it 
wonderfully pleasant, especially since he was still stuck in a full wolf's 
body. "With things as they are in the world today, I suspect she will need to 
know how to fight, and fight well."
    *That does seem to be the way things are progressing,* Wanderer sighed, 
crawling a bit closer along the bed to allow Raven easier access to his ears. 
He let out a little, contented-sounding whuffle. *Don't stop.*
    They lay there in silence for some time, Raven working her hand around 
both ears and over the top of his head. After a while her hand started 
cramping up, and she let it fall to her side, looking out the window at the 
clear blue sky beyond.
    "I ... I have to apologize for the way that I've treated you."
    The wolf cocked his head curiously but said nothing.
"You've given me so much," Raven said softly, her pale blue eyes beginning to 
water, "and you've asked for so little. I'm ashamed to say that I took you 
for granted, that you would always be there. And then, when you weren't..." 
She paused, wiping the tears from her face. Taking a deep breath, she started 
again. "I never showed you how much you meant to me ... how much solace and 
strength I took from our relationship. I tried to hide it -- tried to be 
strong, like I thought I was supposed to be." She turned to look at him, 
gazing deep into those serious yellow eyes. "I don't think I even knew how 
much I needed you until you were gone."
    Wanderer pulled himself a little closer, the ears flattening back on his 
head. *Raven...*
    The wolf-woman reached out and hugged him tightly, wrapping her arms 
around his neck. "I love you, Charles," she whispered. "I'm not afraid to say 
it anymore. I love you ... oh, gods, Charles, I'm so sorry..."
    *Hush, Raven,* Wanderer said soothingly, nuzzling against her shoulder. 
*There's nothing to forgive. I love you, too.* Then turning his head upward, 
he licked her ear.
    "Agh!" Raven cried in surprise, pulling away to look him in the face. The 
wolf was wearing a roguish grin that she found wonderfully familiar. The 
priestess grinned, broadly and sincerely, filled with more joy than she had 
felt in ages.
    "You realize there's no being rid of me now, don't you?" she warned him 
    Inwardly, the bard laughed. *I was just about to say the same thing 

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