[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 88
COkane8116 at aol.com
COkane8116 at aol.com
Tue Jan 22 02:59:08 CST 2002
Ten men and women waited just inside the gates of the Keep. The winds had
died down, but the air outside was still bitter cold, and few looked forward
to going out into it. Still, they had to keep up the assault. With most of
the Lutins pushed from the Keep, it was time to look at taking back the town.
While others went to the wall, small bands like this one were being sent out
into the town to clear out the town as best they could, to prevent any Lutins
from attacking the Keepers from behind when the final push came.
Elcuared drew himself up to his full seven-foot height; luckily his antlers
had been shed for the season or he might not have been able to fit through
some of the corridors at all. He towered over the four and a half-foot Ryuo,
but then again, he towered over just about everyone else as well.
"You all know what's happening, I hope. The enemy is being attacked from the
outside, and the main forces have pushed through the gates. We fear that
there may still be some Lutins holed up in buildings within the town,
however, and we don't want them to come back and bite us in the arse later
on. Our mission is to clean out any Lutins we find in town, and to rescue
any citizens that may have been stuck outside of the Keep during the
invasion. Are there any questions before we move out?" The towering captain
looked around at the group of combat hardened warriors. It wasn't a pretty
group, with bloodstained armour and weapons everywhere. The cloaks that many
wore for warmth were torn in a myriad of places, and the granite visages were
chipped and dirtied. Still, there was a strong, silent agreement among all
of them that by nightfall no invader would remain in their home.
Seeing only grim determination on their faces--even that of the normally
smiling Toby--Elcuared nodded. "Alright then folks, what are we waiting
around here for? Let's move out!"
Together, they moved out of the Keep and into the snow, making for the outer
gate that separated the Keep and town of Metamor. As they trudged through
the snow, often being forced to cut their own path through glistening white
powder up to their knees, they could see lumps that mostcould only assume
were bodies that had fallen and been covered in the blizzard earlier.
Despite a conscious effort to avoid them, they occasionally stumbled across a
frozen, bloody visage staring hauntingly out from the drifts. Most of them
were Lutins, but one in particular caught Ryuo's attention.
The mound was larger than the others, and as they passed by, a small breeze
blew some of the snow off of the contents below. Staring out, eyes glassy,
was the rooster Ryuo had seen in the stables earlier. The rest of the mound
seemed to be made up of the horse that he had apparently been trying to save.
He must have become lost in the blizzard, Ryuo realized, and sighed. Death
was only part of life, and he excepted that. Still, he had a feeling down in
his stomach as though the fates had somehow betrayed him.
Rationally, he knew that was not true. Both he and this frozen fowl had
fought for the lives of the horses and the others in that stable, each in
their own way. He had gone down in that fight, like a warrior, and with
honour. Ryuo committed the face to memory, and vowed to get a name so that
he could offer incense to the rooster's spirit when he next had the chance.
The troops pushed past the snow-covered corpses that littered the frozen
wasteland between the Keep and the town, and on to the gates. Although the
men and women at the gates were once more members of the Keep's military,
many grisly reminders remained from the first night. Blood and entrails were
frozen to the walls, where men and women had died, some without any warning
that the enemy was about. Although most of the corpses had been cleaned up,
there were some things that would take more effort than could be devoted just
Passing through the gates, the patrol headed off into the town.
The streets of Metamor lay empty except for the bodies and blood-soaked snow
that reminded everyone of the battle that had been raging for the past
several days and nights. By now, everyone had closed their minds to the sea
of familiar faces that stared back at them from the snow; they were fortunate
that there were fewer in the town than had been closer to the Keep itself.
Bodies were now little more than faceless lumps of meat as the Keepers' own
minds shut themselves off from the horrors of war.
Most of the houses the patrols checked were found clear of anything, living
or dead. Fortunately, the majority of the Keepers had been either at the
Follower or Lightbringer services, and both places had been well defended
from the invaders. Those that had not gone to the service had quickly tried
to make their way to one of the shelters if they could, dropping everything
as the dreadful alarm had tolled its fearful notes throughout the town.
Other citizens had not been so lucky, however. For whatever reason they had
stayed in their homes, or been slow in escaping to the shelters. This was
usually either an inability or unwillingness to go out into the storm--which
also claimed its share of victims. One well-known, age regressed merchant
was found in his townhouse holding a bag that had been filled with all of his
gold, gems, and silverware. His greed had bought him a Lutin club, bashed
into his skull.
Another family had apparently tried to hide from the invaders by rushing up
to the attic. All five had been slaughtered cruelly, one by one. When the
patrol found them, the children lay dead in their own pools of blood,
uncomprehending fear frozen on their lifeless faces as they stared, pleading
for help from their parents across the room. The mother was bent over a
Follower Bible, which she held in her fur-covered hands. A wooden crucifix
had buried itself into her palm. The father was strung up from the ceiling
next to her, and from the lacerations on the body, it could be easily seen
that he had been tortured extensively before dying.
Other houses held equally grisly displays, but they were fortunately few and
far between. By the time they made their first contact with a Lutin tribe in
the city, everyone in the patrol was ready to pay them back tenfold for every
wound they had inflicted in their malevolent sport.
The first sign of any activity was the poorly fletched arrow that sailed on
an unstable course through the air and into the snow at the feet of the
patrol. Following the trajectory, everyone could see the Lutin archers
leering down from the second story of a nearby inn. Reflexively, everyone
dived for cover as a downpour of deadly wooden rain followed the first,
"Thank Artela for impatient enemies." Toby told Ryuo as they plastered
themselves flat against a wooden wall. Ryuo's eyes showed little or no
comprehension of what Toby had said, instead focusing on the inn and the
surrounding terrain. Using the metal head of the glaive he carried, Ryuo
pointed to a small alley that seemed to lead behind the inn. Toby nodded,
understanding the fox's intent, and then looked over to where Elcuared and a
few others were also hunkered down. Getting the moose's attention, Toby
signed him a plan. The moose signed back confirmation and the go ahead, and
then turned to say something to the others with him. The four archers with
the patrol all prepared their bows and nocked arrows from the quivers at
their hips. Once they were ready, they all stepped out into the street and
fired up into the inn.
Toby and Ryuo broke into a crouched as soon as the arrows left their bows,
making all speed for the alleyway, and then ducking inside. With their
distraction accomplished, the four archers stepped back into the safety of
the wall as arrows rained down on them once more.
Inside the alleyway, Ryuo and Toby were careful to use all possible stealth.
They walked slowly so as to minimize any jangling that might come from sudden
movements, and kept themselves bent low and close to the wall, so that they
didn't have any Lutins watching them through the windows on the side of the
building. Slowly they worked their way behind the inn, and into a rather
large yard that included an outhouse and log pile, among other things. Ryuo
and Toby both looked around to see what kind of a plan they could formulate.
The inn was two stories, with an attic, no doubt. It appeared that the back
near the alleyway was the kitchen, and there was only one window that could
be seen here, as well as a single door large enough to fit a tun of wine
through. Upstairs there were several windows that looked down onto the
courtyard, but the shutters were closed on all but one. No faces could be
seen at that window; presumably, all those inside were focused on the front
of the building. On the far side of the building from where Toby and Ryuo
stood there was a shed large enough to hold four horses, and a carriage. A
snow covered wagon was buried next to the back wall of the inn.
The two seemed at a loss for how best to go about this planned rear attack,
until they looked up once more. Toby grinned as he saw the thick layer of
snow that sat precariously above them, ending in a wickedly sharp series of
icicles, some as long as his arm. Looking over at a stack of barrels peeking
out of the snow near the derelict wagon, Toby tapped Ryuo on the shoulder and
gestured something to him. Together, they got to work.
Inside the inn, the Burnt-bones clan hollered at the cowardly Keepers hiding
outside. The warriors had a running bet as to who would be the first one to
drop any of the animal freaks; currently the pool was running high in favor
of Rounder, the acknowledged best archer of the group.
Upstairs, a small group of warriors cheered and jeered the archers who stood
with bows ready to pick off any Keepers foolish enough to try once more to
step out into the street.
In what had been the inn's downstairs common room, Walking Death sat and
watched the younger generation as they reveled in the glory and honor that
would soon be theirs. This was not his first encounter with the Keepers; nor
would it be his last, he thought with a sigh. The invasion had been going
well, but it was taking too long. Now the Keepers had retaken the Keep and
were moving back into the town. After this latest encounter, the tribe would
have to find some way of retreating out of the city without Nasoj's mages
disciplining them for running away. Unconsciously, Walking Death rubbed his
gnarled fingers through the fur of his bonded companion, who lay at his side.
The moon dog shared his master's frustration, growling deep in his throat.
The spirits of this place were neither friendly, nor easily controlled. Most
seemed openly hostile to the Lutins, but that was to be expected. The
defiance of this piece of rock and the vermin that infested it felt like a
sting against their collective being, however, and being forced to retreat
only made the sting worse. Wanting nothing more than to jump outside and
rend the Keeper's limb from limb for such indignity, the moon dog curbed his
passions in deference to his chosen lord. The shaman assured him that there
would be plenty of blood to drink, if they were only patient.
Suddenly, the rear door of the inn was thrown open, and metal flashed like a
viper, striking down the two Lutins who guarded the door. A black demon,
clad in long, black, armored scales like a wyrm's belly stood in the open
portal, its black form a stark contrast to the blinding white of the snow
outside. Taking only a moment to pause in silent challenge to the Lutin
tribe, the beast began to attack.
Walking Death had never seen anything like this. The golden horns on skin
that looked like steel. Its face was a black, frozen visage of horror, and
it was covered in iron scales. It's arms looked like lizard skin, dotted
with sharp, circular protrusions. Its legs were bent backwards like an
animal's but it wielded a polearm with two hands, and two vestigial wings
seemed to be folded against its back. Although the details were hard to make
out due to the glare of winter snows, Walking Death was sure that the Keepers
had summoned one of their unholy monsters to attack the clan from behind.
As the warriors came into range, the first pair fell to the golden-horned
beast's glaive, which it wielded with supernatural strength and speed. The
warriors gained strength and courage from their numbers, however, and rushed
towards the threat. As the warriors pushed the hellish creature back,
Walking Death began an incantation. Though it would tax his power--and
require a living sacrifice from the clan--he had long ago, in his brash and
adventurous youth, acquired power over a powerful spirit of war. Now, he
knew that he would have to call it forth; the demon his tribe faced would not
fall under their blades, but they could at least delay it for a time.
Chanting the ritual that would call the spirit forth from his prison and bind
him to the shaman's command, Walking Death reached out into the spirit world.
Ash fell from blackened pillars, staining the pure white snow beneath like
the remains of a cremated god, the ruins of the fire-savaged Deaf Mule stood
as a stark reminder of everything that had been lost. Not a single person
remained who couldn't recall at least one friend or loved
one who had fallen to Nasoj's sudden winter assault.
Protected from the freezing cold by several layers of leather and fur, alone
figure stood amongst the ruins. He looked to where the bar had stood and
could almost imagine it was there once more. Sounds seemed to linger in the
air like unforgotten ghosts of the previous patrons. Toby wondered if
somewhere, on some plane of existence, his fallen friends weren't gathered
together in the ghost of this place that held so many memories. No doubt they
would raise their glasses to every new soul that passed through the door, and
together they would share an eternity of tales, friendship, and fine wine.
Carefully, Toby poured himself a glass of dark, red liquid, holding the cup
gingerly in his injured hand. Setting the open bottle in the snow, he took
the wine in his good hand and raised it in a toast to those phantom spirits.
"Did I miss the party?" Asked a deep voice, interrupting the solitary salud.
Hobbling on one leg, the canine turned, unsure what to expect. His eyes
widened in glad surprise at what he saw.
"Don't look at me like that." said Jonathan, hobbling over to the dazed
Keeper, "I ain't dead yet, and you did tell everyone we were gonna meet here
when this was all over."
Toby's phantom tail wagged furiously in joy. "Jonathan! I can't tell you
how relieved I am to see you." Toby would have hugged his porcine pal, "When
you didn't show up at the Cathedral, I feared the worst."
"We were caught by a Lutin force inside the Keep." Jonathan explained, "We
followed your advice and held up in a room until reinforcements finally got
"But your leg..." Toby started. Jonathan cut him off with a wave of his
"There was nothing that could be done. Even if I had made it to Coe, I
doubt he could have fixed it." For the first time during their
conversation, Toby looked down at his friend's leg, which was completely
missing below the left knee. In its place was a wooden peg that looked like
it had been rather hastily fashioned from a piece of furniture.
"I'm sorry..." Toby began, but once more Jonathan interrupted, this time with
"I already said there was nothing anyone could have done. Besides, I
always said I never looked mercenary enough for this place. I guess I
just should have kept my mouth shut." The twinkle in his eye and the
lightness carried in his deep belly laughter seemed to warm the air a few
degrees. For a moment, Toby could put all the horrors of the fighting behind
"Let's toast then!" Toby said, reaching down and handing the bottle to his
portly friend. Jonathan took it in his hand, having had a good seven years
of practice using his parted hooves for such tasks. "To all those who died,
and all those who lived. To the good times we share together, and to the
comfort of those in need. To long life and happiness."
"...and strong legs!" Jonathan chimed in.
"Hear, hear!" shouted Toby, and the two raised wrists together, there in the
burnt out establishment. As the crimson liquid slid down their
throats, both friends knew that they and the Keep would be all right.
End part 88
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