Friday, May 28, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Seven, Reflection

"Captain Waveblade, are the men ready to move out?"
"Aye ma'am. We're packed and fueled. Just give the word."
"The word is given." Alicea hopped into the nearest truck, helping a few of the new recruits in after her.
"Aye ma'am." Orion jogged off to the nearest truck, yelling at the troops to follow suit.

She glanced around at her comapnions. The Gibbets insisted on riding with her, they took their job as her bodyguards very seriously. Ishylde and, Tania was it? also rode with them; Orion and his crew, along with Zack, would be at the rear.

Whatever Ishylde's new companion was called, she reeked of necromancy. It was hardly an unfamiliar taint. She'd dispatched of several necromantic creatures in the past decade, Ga-Vok shaman tended to practice a limited and supervised sort of necromancy; golems and wood imps and other such simple conjurations. This girl though, she was clearly nothing simple. Free will, life functions and needs, emotions, this was a person and yet not. Even a fully reanimated corpse would have been simple by comparison.
The magic was no shaman's work either. The blood was alive and the solidity of steel flowed in the faded spell; a Nielda had been responsible. As Alicea sat listening to the Gibbet's generally crude banter and suggestive remarks towards Ishylde, who took it in stride for the most part, she focused her mind against Tania's. She knew that with careful enough observation the more insignificant seeming elements of a spell could be used to trace its caster. She'd watched Aurou do it to determine witch of the clan's numerous lesser casters was responsible for what few magical crimes were commited.
With what little experience she'd had dealing with the local magicians she couldn't name the responsible party. But she recognized the feel, the magician had fought her and lost. Somehow Tania was nothing more than a Nielda now, Enelat must have been a better father than he'd looked to have cured her, or decursed her or however he'd done it. He'd made her powerful too from the way it seemed. More importantly, it may have been an evil magic, but it was nothing Shadithic. Enelat had acomplished his feats with mere arcanum; he was clearly far more powerful than she'd given him credit for. But that didn't answer the questions of why and how he'd done it. Maybe he'd repented of it since, perhaps he'd gone crazy since, the dead mage was a mystery that could never be answered; clearly Tania knew even less than she did. What Ishylde had told her was enough though, the necromancer had passed his creation on to Ishylde. She was her own person, but she would honor her father's last command just as Ishylde would. Her loyalty would not need to be proven, she had nothing to gain from their loss and nothing but loss from their defeat. Tania's fate would rest on their victory. Not, Alicea thought to herself, that the rest of our fates are any different.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Six, Ward

Ishylde considered the tearful girl beside her. Tania had managed to stay composed while she'd packed her clothes and some food into a knapsack. She'd even managed to tell her where the keys were for those trucks that worked. But when Ishylde had gone back in to help her bring out the spellbooks she'd found her new companion sobbing into the rug. She could hardly blame her; whatever sort of man Enelat had been, to Tania he'd been a father. She'd been at somewhat of a loss; grief in the mountains was normally a very private matter, if you stumbled upon someone in that state there the usual thing to do was to leave them be. But she'd been entrusted with the girl as a last request, leaving her be was no longer an option. She'd given her a clean rag to wipe her tears with and carried the books for her. She'd even waited at the gate for her, apparently while she'd never been aware of her appearance her body had been quite accoustomed to its mechanics. Her coordination was poor, and she could manage little more than a walk without collapsing.

After helping her charge up for what felt to be the hundrenth time, Ishylde just stopped and looked at the girl. She was strong, both of mind and body, but she was empty. Like a masterless golem, she lived yet had no heart.
Ishylde knew little of magic, only a few pieces of Alchemy Zack had showed her. The presence of it in the girl was strong enough that even she could feel it. Not just the power given her by Enelat's last spell, nor that small power she'd born before; her very nature throbbed with the taint of a darker more powerful spell than any she'd ever encountered. It was like the faint trace that Enelat's death had left upon her. It was both weaker with time and stength, and stronger in effect and nature. Within was the taint of another death, more tragic and less deserved. Tania was a being of magic, that could be certain; but she was not a mere golem. She was not without soul, just of a hollow one. In time she coud become as much a person as Ishylde was. It would be a long road, and if the stories told by firelight on moonless nights belied the truth she would be vulnerable to all manner of shades and demons until she came into her own. A more powerful magician would be needed to protect and guide her; someone like Alicea.

"Tania." The girl looked up, wiping a briny moisture from her cheek.
"I'm taking you with me. I serve a woman named Alicea. She's a strong warrior and a powerful magician. She'll keep you safe."
She smiled weakly. Ishylde acted on the whispering of that Nieldic voice. A maternal spirit swelled in her breast as she brushed a few copper hairs from the face of the distraught child. A soft smile grew, and she gazed kindly into her ward.
"As will I."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Five, Blood

Enelat was surprisingly skilled with the blade for a mechanic. Admittedly he wasn't a mere mechanic, if she was lucky he would only be a very talented and possibly insane necromancer if not..He could easily be a warlock as powerful as Kron.

He fought with a knife. The blade was broken, and if the structure was any indication it was originally a sword. It had been masterfully enchanted too; she couldn't have hoped to weave these sorts of spells into anything. Whatever, or whoever, had broken it must have had ungodly power. On top of it all, it seemed to be made of what Nond had once refered to as 'Bloodstone'. It was physically indestructable, magically absorbent, and impossible for all but the best smiths to work with. For that matter, few outside of the Imperial Guards knew of it.

She kicked him back across the room and narrowly avoided his magical retaliation. She should have considered it before hand, few things were more unwise than confronting a mage on his home turf. This was his inner sanctum, he'd plastered enchantments upon it. Every stone and bar in the room gave him strength, and the air hindered her spells. Had she taken the time..

Alicea felt the moon reach past the horizon. She was to late, but at least when she awoke this unholy monster would be a bloody pulp.


Ishylde awoke in a small cage in a large room. The first indication something was wrong was the flickering lights. Rarely a good sign in and of itself, the fact that several had been shorn in half and she could only determine that another had been there at all by its spark spitting fastenings. She stepped throught the bars of her cell, one of which appeared to have been torn in half and all of which had been severely bent. She heard a voice to her left, a man's voice and a vaguely familiar one.
"Tania," he sputtered. "Please come down to the cellar, I haven't much time."

The man toppled to the floor. She rushed over to help him, stopping in shock as she recognized who the man was. Enelat, her captor, had less skin showing than bones. One of his eyes had been gouged and the other was swollen shut, and the damage to his face was so horrific it was a miracle that he had enough throat and mouth left to speak. She could see several wounds had been cauterized, likely by his own hand and spells. And he'd clearly stopped bleeding. But the damage done was too great for survival to be possible.

"Ishylde. I know how you must feel about me. I wish I could make it up to you somehow, take the trucks and anything else your commander needs. She may be the only one with the strength to defeat them, just be careful under the moonlight."
"You think you can just apologize and pay me off? I hope you.."

Tania, the thing from the door had a name apparently, was standing in the entrance of the passage. Enelat looked up to the girl. He placed one gore-laden hand to the top of his desk and the Alchemic glow spread from it across the hall. The pattern he'd created gave off a pale red light, Tania shrank back subconsciously at the sight.
"Sweetheart, stand in the center; this is my command."
That phrase seemed to resonate in Tania. She walked to the center of the room without question and stood there, still questioning what had hapened to her elder.
"Ishylde, please grant a dying guard's request. Take care of her. And if you would just activate this, anywhere would be," he coughed up a clear bile, there wasn't any blood left to lose. "Fine. Please, she's all I've ever really cared for."

Ishylde didn't even think twice about it. The last request was the most holy of all traditions; denying it was worse than murder. No matter how wicked a man might be, he deserved to have a reasonable request granted as he died.
"Goodbye Tania, my little angel. I wish I'd had time to explain everything. Please, listen to Ishylde. She's quite capable, and she'll keep you safe until you can master my power. I know you know where the spellbooks are, take them with you."
Ishylde activated the pattern. Enelat fell apart as the magic he'd used to hold himself together was transfered to his daughter. A grey mist rose as his body disolved, concealing Tania from sight. It faded to reveal her as an ordinary Nielda, indistinguishable from anyone she'd have met in town.

"Dad said I should go with you."
Without her fur, or any of her other canine features, she was actually a very sweet and attractive girl.
"That's fine with me. Let's get started with those trucs then."

She never figured out how she just kept going. Maybe Marelle had acustomed her to violence, maybe some fogotten Nieldic instinct had kicked in, but Ishylde slept as well that night as on any other.

On my Mother

Not quite my usual fair, but something I wanted to bring up nonetheless.

Firstly, my mother is the best advisor in my life. She's unquestionably the wisest, most Christian person I know. Anyone would be prudent to follow her example. If I listened to her even a hundrenth of the times she spoke to me I'd be three times the man I am today, what little better that would be. For that, I am thankful.
Secondly, She has long been the dominant motivating force in my life, followed closely by hunger and the pursuit of short-term happiness. This, considering my own pigheadedness and unwillingness to get out of my extrodinarily comfortable chair in my parents temperature-perfect basement, is quite possibly a feat of greatness equal to any of those of Hercules. It's a feat I myself am only rarely capable of, and even less capable of understanding. For that, I am thankful.
Thirdly, she is the most caring person in my life. Since I was little, and I think most people can say the same, she has been the one to pick me up when I fell. when I bled she bandaged me, when I cried she held me, and when I was angry she calmed me. She taught me to write, and read(and math but I've never much cared for that). I owe her my longstanding love of reading, without which this blog would not exsist.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother's day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four, The Belly of the Beast

The sun was low in the sky, though still hours from setting. The little port town of Auden had proved most welcoming to Alicea's cause, and the camp was bustling with new recruits. A few would stay to defend the town, but most would be joining Alicea as she marched inland to the Monastary.

Or they would if Ishylde ever got back with transportation.
"Where is she? We got here this morning and no one's seen her since."
Barret came up with a few of the fresh soldiers. She'd sent him to scour the town for any sign of her three hours earlier.
"No sign of her your majesty. Maybe she took the money and ran."
"Ishylde? If she did I'll have her prosecuted, that was a lot of money."
"Some of the villagers said they'd directed her towards Enelat's garage just outside of town. We were planing to go investigate it but..."
"Dinner. Go, I'll take care of this."
"Thank you ma'am."

Alicea was worried. Not about Ishylde, she'd be getting a severe talking too at best; It was a full moon and she didn't want to be out late. Last thing she needed was to scare away half of her recruits as they chased for a giant hellhound that didn't exsist.
The garage looked innocent enough, rusty but functional looking trucks inside of a stone half-wall topped by a double spiral of barbed wire. A little stone building stood next to the gate, and she could see a simmilarly designed house at the other end of the yard. Nothing complicated, relatively normal for Nieldic design.
It took her a second glance to get past the girl working the desk. No Ga-Vok that she knew of had ears that flopped like that, and her legs were to Nieldic; something was fishy about this place.

"My name is Alicea. I'm looking for a girl named Ishylde, I'm told she may have come here."
The girl lowered her magazine, some kind of pop culture trash judging by the cover. She stared at Alicea for a few minutes before responding.
"Haven't seen her. What's she look like?"
Her voice was Nielda, not even a trace of accent. She even lacked the half snarl that Ga-Vok couldn't help but sputter out as they spoke in Nielda. That meant that most likely her organs, and if the magazine was any indication, mind, were Nieldic also. There was nothing natural about her, despite the perfectly ordinary behavior she displayed.
"Would you mind if I stepped inside and confirmed that for myself?"
The girl flicked on an intercom switch and leaned over to a microphone at the edge of the desk. Alicea couldn't help but notice that she had a rather lush tail.
"Dad, someone named Alicea here to see you. She's looking for an 'Ishylde'. Should I let her in?"
The radio crakled on the other end and through the static she could hear a gristled voice reply, "Tell her to come back tommorrow."
"He says to..huh?"

Alicea didn't wait to hear that she wasn't wanted. A girl like that wasn't anyone's daughter. Alicea knew all to well the sorts of things a devoted magician could acomplish, and had dispatched of some of their atrocities firsthand.
She made it into the house, the inside was as ordinary as the out. Clean furniture, functional appliances, magazines left on end tables; nothing that wouldn't be found in any other Nieldic home. But here she could confirm her suspicions. Magic was present here. And of the worst sort, the shadows were heavy, the light was mundane, and the air was stiff. It was the sign not of the shadow, but to think it a benign lingering would be folly.

A quick search of the house revealed nothing. But she found a secret passage under the stairs. A ladder into a second basement, easily thirty meters lower than the main basement. And its construction was such that it would be soundproof. Alicea deliberated over whether or not to go down. At this point in the day there was a good chance everything down there would be gnawed bones in the morning. Asshe descended into the cellar, the sun followed.

She entered the dark room. Muffled whimpering could be heard from the entrance. It was coming from a recess a litle to the left of directly across the room, more bothersome though were the low growls coming from recesses, likely cages, all around the room at about twometer intervals. There'd be at least eight whatever they were; but there were ten recesses, one had Ishylde and the last contained the man responsible.

She heard a radio click on.
"Tania, I believe I told you to tell her to come back."
"Sorry Dad, she just went in anyways. I'm not stopping someone that well armed."
"You could have at least said something. Get yourself dinner, I'm afraid I'll be busy for quite some time."
The radio clicked off and she heard a gate drop.
"Kill the intruder!"

The other eight cages creaked open. A light clacking of claw on the concrete floors told her that the opponents would be agile, and dangerous. If the smell was any indication, they'd be a more feral, mindless version of the girl outside. She listened and waited for their onslaught.

The first one pounced, she struck it across the misshappen skull and felt the steely Kraj cloven under her blow. It would be a Nieldic foe then. Seven more circled cautiously, like an abominable pack of wolves. A low growl rising in their throats. Two more dove at her legs; she spun and brought her heal against the soft temple of the first, then dropped elbow first into the neck of the second. As she rolled to recover she brought her axes through the chest of a leaping third, from the thickness she determined that at least one of them was female.
Half were now dead, but she'd backed herself into a cage. With four left, and the moon creeping over the horizon, She opted in favor of the easy path. An outstreached arm, a spoken word, and an open mind left the air rent with her lightning.

"A mage then. I should have known the guard would catch up eventually. Using the archer as bait to draw me out, a clever trick certainly. Shame you didn't think to bring the rest of your squad."
Alicea ignored his presuppositions about her origins. She didn't have time to waste getting details.
"Release her, and I'll make this quick."
The lights turned on. An older man with a hilt-shard knife was facing her from the last cell. He'd gone bald and his beard was gray, but he was still more muscular than any of the warriors in her camp. Indeed, of all the warriors she'd met only General Tasand and the iron golem Nond had seemed more powerful.
"I accept; we shall indeed be quick about this."