Saturday, September 26, 2009

Song of the Countess

Stuart Loomis sighed as he felt the small boy's forehead, shaking his head while the child slept. Tightening his purple cloak around the leather jerkin and pants that covered his slender form, he looked back to the boy's mother, who was sitting on the small wooden chair, rocking herself back and forth while anxiously awaiting the wizard's diagnosis.
"And you're saying he hasn't woken up for three days," Stu said his crisp voice that had a drawl to it.
The mother nodded. "Yes sir. Three days ago he seemed fine and was playing with his friends. When he came inside, he went straight to his room. When I heard no noise, I went to check on him and found him asleep. I assumed he was just taking a nap..." She stopped, trying her hardest to keep her composure.

Stu crossed his arms and continued to stare at the child. He had come to the desert town of Miffleteau at the request of his old friend Hara. Moments after he had teleported town-causing a slight panic from the people who had seen him appear in the streets-Stu explained who he was and where he had come from, which resulted in several concerned parents asking him to look at their children. Dusk was now approaching and already he had looked at six children, all of whom were experiencing the same sleeping symptoms as the little boy.
"I will do what I can to help your son," Stu said in a quiet voice before leaving the room. "I must go and meet a friend who knows more about this sickness than I do."
The mother nodded as the wizard left her son's room. As she heard the door shut, he looked at her son and prayed to the gods that he would soon wake.


Stu walked through the dirt streets of Miffleteau underneath the star filled night sky. He tossed back the hood of his cloak, revealing his curly red hair and handsome face that featured light gray eyes and a small nose.
After whispering a command word in the draconic dialect, his long blue staff with the circular jade gemstone mounted on the top, materialized in his hands.
Even as he took his first steps through the boundaries of Miffleteau, Stu noticed he was still gaining the attention of the villagers who were still running around town this early in the evening. He took note of the burly butcher wearing an apron that was stained with fresh blood, and the group of prostitutes, male and female, standing by the a small cottage, giving him looks that told the wizard that if he was a fellow working individual like themselves, then he had better not do business in their territory.
Stu moved past the prostitutes and walked close to the large stone buildings that reminded him of the ones back home in Stoddarvale. He had actually been on his way home when received a message from an old friend, asking him to come to the town.
He continued to travel the city streets until he saw a large two-story structure with marble statues of lions displayed in front of a white sign that read: The Lordly Lion.
After wiping his hand over his face, Stu entered the restaurant.

As he entered the Lordly Lion, Stu noticed the many heads of animals mounted above the Lion's fireplace and all over the walls . He took his eyes away from the restaurant's trophies and quickly found his way over to the bar where the bartender, a large curvy woman with black hair and tan skin greeted him. "What ya havin?"
Stu smiled while noticing a tattoo of a scimitar on her wrist. "Just some ale please," he answered. "Whatever you have on tap."
The bartender nodded and drew a blue clay mug from under the counter. "Judging by the accent in your voice, I would say you're from Napiersen."
"Close, I was born and raised in Tippsin, which is east of Napiersin" Stu answered as the bartender handed him his drink. "I currently reside in the north. I'm actually here to meet a friend."
"A wizard like yourself," she commented, pointing to the staff as Stu was leaning it against the bar. "I must say, not many mages who stop in here wear leathers and a shirt under their capes-" she stopped when she heard a loud crash coming from the other side of the restaurant.
"Excuse me," she said before grabbing a large battle axe that was hanging above several bottles of wine.
Stu took a sip of his drink while listening to the chatter going on amongst the Lion's customers as well as the bartender's yelling from the opposite side of the lobby. He was about to relocate, when he felt a firm hand gently touch his shoulder.
Surprised by the sudden interaction, Stu 's body released a defensive spell that shot a tiny lightning bolt at whoever had touched him. When he turned to face the newcomer, his eyes widened, recognizing his friend Hara Bona, a robust dark skinned man wearing white and blue silks and a white turbin that covered most of his black hair.
"Hara, I am so sorry," Stu said as the man regained his composure.
Hara held his hands before Stu and said in his soft voice," No need to apologize my friend, I should have known better. Mages from my land are also known to employ defense spells to keep themselves from getting stabbed in the back. I am happy you chose a simple lightning spell where most magic users I know would have used poisonous spikes. I am also happy you could meet me here on such short notice."
The wizard nodded and pulled a seat for his friend. "So what is this problem you were speaking of? From the words in your message it sounded like you were in some trouble."
Hara shook his head. "Things are fine in the desert as I am temporary here with a group of my fellow guardsmen. We are charged with accompanying a high priestess as she makes her pilgrimage across the world. The priestess happens to be Sultan Rashad Bishir's niece, Nala Aliposa."
"Sultan Bishir, he rules the Firebeetle country not too far from here"
"That he does, and here is where comes the problem," Hara answered as he leaned close to Stu. "When we arrived in this town two days ago, Nala was compelled to help the townspeople with their crisis, as any priest would. When we went to the temple to pray to our goddess Rajah, the Lady of the Sands, we found ourselves facing undead as well as facing the same slumbering sickness that overcame the children in this town. I think the temple was overrun by an aragol, or how you say a, lich."
Stu raised an eyebrow. "A lich? Are you certain?"
Hara stared at the wizard for a moment, then stroked his thick pointed beard. "I am not sure, it appeared to look like a woman floating in the air. It hit my comrades and I with some powerful magic. Nala tried to battle her while the rest of us escaped to seek aid."
Stu closed his eyes and sighed. He remembered reading about all kinds of undead during his early apprenticeship. According to the texts he read in his mentor Demeteria's library, liches were powerful magic users who gave up their bodies to become much more powerful in their specific field of magic and to gain eternal life, but in the process, their souls would be torn and whatever left of their humanity would be lost.
"What about the priestess and your men?"
Hara shook his head once more as a sorrowful look passed his face. " Some of them are staying here at the inn. A few others stayed with Nala. While we were exploring the temple, we found an altar rooms. This beautiful song came out and my men soon feel asleep. The priestess knew what kind of magic we were dealing with, and she immediately told me to cover my ears and had me go for help while she stayed with the men. It has only been one day but I fear for her."
"It was lucky then that I was walking this direction when your Stu finished his ale and patted Hara on the shoulder. "Do not worry Hara, we'll save your priestess and your men."
Hara smiled and followed Stu as they left the Lordly Lion and began their walk to Miffleteau's temple.

Stu and Hara walked quietly along the city streets, passing a trio of homeless men sleeping on the corner.
Stu sighed as the sound of flat harp music filled the air around them. With each step they took, he began to feel a mysterious exhaustion overtaking them while the music was becoming louder. Sensing that the exhaustion was resulting from the music, Stu ripped off two small pieces of his shirt and put them in his ears
He glanced at Hara, who appeared to be placing tissue paper in his own ears. Hara looked back at Stu and began signing with his fingers, We heard this same music in the temple.

Stu nodded, remembering his mentor mentioning that some wizards specialized with magic that affected a person's energy and sleep.

After three blocks, the two friends arrived at Miffleteau's temple. Along the way they had passed six women and two grandine males sleeping on the sidewalks and alleyways.
Stu looked up at the massive building while Hara opened the door. Like most structures dedicated to the gods, Miffleteau's temple walls were made of white brick while the floor had marble lining. There were stained glass windows depicting warriors and wizards fighting in glorious battles that had taken place hundreds of years ago. Stu guessed this temple was dedicated to Tristain, a god of battle and tactics, and his wife Rayna, a goddess worshiped by barbarian warriors.
Hara opened the temple's dark wooden doors and entered after Stu. Together, they scanned the main lobby, finding dark blue and purple banners hanging from the ceilings and the walls. They also saw the many bodies laying on the floor.
At first Stu assumed these people were just caught in the spell of the song, but as he walked past each body, he saw the skin of each body appear pale and withering, as if they had aged by years.
Stu looked at Hara and asked with his hands, Is this what you found when you and your men came here for the first time?
The desert man nodded and replied, There were only a few bodies like this throughout the temple. The epidemic must have spread.
Stu looked away and walked into a narrow hallway where oil paintings of Miffleteau were hanging on both walls. Underneath the paintings, Stu noticed dozens of glowing runes, recognizing many of them as letters from the elvish alphabet.
The wizard stroked his chin as while Hara caught up to him. This doesn't appear to spell any words that make sense, but there is a reassurance of the letter G, he thought.
Hara brought Stu to a large circular room where broken skeletons and splintered bones were scattered all over the floor. He pointed over to a pile of four frail bodies. She must have brought the skeletons to life to fight them.
Three of the bodies were large men covered in scratches and torn chain mail, their swords inches away from their fingers. The fourth a woman wearing dark purple robes with dried blood stains running down the left side of her midsection, her chest moving up and down slowly. Stu stared at the woman for a moment, guessing that she must have used her divine magic to protect herself from the lich.
Hara's eyes widened with worry as he rushed over to the bodies. Stu was about to follow his friend, when he began sensing a powerful magical presence approaching them. After tapping his staff on the ground to catch Hara's attention, Stu began signing, Someone is coming. Get Nala out of here.
Much to Stu's surprise, the lich appeared to look like a tall, slender woman wearing a blood red gown with a snow white mask that covered her face. Her body began emitting a white aura, as she raised her hands in the hair.

"It appears more guests have arrived," said a beautiful and hollow voice that echoed in Stu's mind. "No doubt you are here to keep me from my children."
Stu shot a look at Hara as he carried the priestess' body in his arms and walked out of the room.
"I will deal with them later," the woman continued, balling her white gloved fingers into fists as she prepared to launch a spell at the wizard. "But you young wizard will have the satisfaction of dying a slow and painful death at the hands of the Countess."
Stu stepped back as the Countess opened her fists and shot two thick strands of lightning, both of which hit the young man in the chest.
Stu let out a scream as his back hit the wall, while small trails of black smoke rose from where the lightning bolt had hit him. He pointed his staff at her and shouted," Freeze." The Countess started to laugh, but stopped as several crystal clear spikes burst from the floor, penetrating though her body and pushing her into the ceiling, her blood dripping to the floor.

Stu quickly got to his feet, only to realize the cloth had fallen from his ears. The harp music began filling his ears once again, much louder than when he heard it from outside.
Taking his focus off the woman, Stu waved his hands, creating a magical circle of silence around himself that deafened all sound, including the music. He noticed a wooden door near the pile of Hara's fallen comrades and walked through it. He quickly spotted the small, black harp with bone white strings. Etched along the harp's sides were runes similar to what he had seen in the temple hallway.
Stu looked back and saw the Countess floating towards him, her body soaked in water and blood.
It looks like my spell worked too well, Stu said to himself, realizing that because of his circle, he was unable to hear the crashing coming from the other room that was created when the Countess broke though her icy bonds.
Stu quickly moved to the harp, while the woman swept its left arm, sending several glowing darts that hit the human in the chest and face.
Disoriented from the attack, Stu stumbled towards the altar and pushed the harp from the altar.
The Countess screamed as the harp hit the floor, shattering on impact. She was about to cast another lightning spell to end the foolish mortal's life, but Stu turned just in time and made a motion with his left hand, creating a circle of fire that wrapped itself around the woman
Stu smiled and clenched his fingers, causing the circle of fire to engulf the masked magic user. Once the fire vanished, the Countess' charred body fell to the floor.
Wasting no time, Stu stepped forward and drove the blunt end of his staff through the woman's face, smashing the mask and along with the front part of her skull.

The moment Stu walked out of the temple, he was greeted by Hara, who embraced the wizard tightly.

“It appears I was wise to call upon you for aid,” said the desert man “Thank you my friend.”
"It was no trouble Hara," Stu said before telling his friend about the duel he had with the woman who called herself the Countess. When he was finished, Stu placed his staff at his side, then turned to his friend. “I take the sultan's niece is well.”
Hara nodded. “Once the music stopped I noticed that she and the other priests were regaining their strength.”
The wizard bent down and picked up the pieces of the harp. “If you don’t mind, I would like to keep this and show it to Demetria.”
Hara looked closely at the broken pieces of the harp, then back at his friend. “I do not see any reason I, nor anyone at the temple would want to keep it. I also talked to Nala about the aragol. She told me that while she was asleep, she was kept having several nightmares. The children around town kept having the same experiences. I hope that with this Countess defeated, the children will be able to sleep peacefully."
"So do I old friend. So do I."

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Stoddarvale almost fell victim to a werebeast


The elf Ireniana Falfaren and her halfling companion Melissa Tarsburrough walked quietly into the lavishly decorated ball room, located in the eastern wing of Stoddarvale's Bronze Scale Inn. Drumming her fingers on the handle of her sword, Falfaren scanned the entire ball room, staring at the dozens of guests who were lining up to fill their mugs, steins, and wine goblets. Melissa, whose cape and leathers matched that of Falfaren, stared at the purple and gold banners that hung around the room. Each banner was lined with golden feathers and embossed with the image of a foaming mug resting on a plate.
The halfling's almond shaped blue eyes stared at a group of drunkards waving their half-filled mugs back and forth while stumbling over one another. "Is this all they do?" she muttered to her friend in a disapproving voice as her fingers went to the handle of her own sword sheathed on her belt.
Falfaren smirked, her slanted eyes watching a group of dwarves across the room sharing a keg of ale. "The so called feast of Duncan Drinksalot, the supposed father of wines and other alcohols," the halfling added in an unimpressed voice.
"Or so the dwarves and priests would have you believe," Falfaren added. She ignored the glares she was receiving from those nearby, and walked with Melissa to a small square table, where a muscular green skinned ork wearing a black leathers, and a human covered from head to toe in armor were eating roast chicken and corn on the cob.
"Evening gentlemen," greeted Falfaren as she extended her hand. My name is Ireniana and this is my companion Melissa."
"Where did you get the chicken?" Melissa asked curiously.

"At the table at the other side of the room," The human replied as he rose to shake the elf's hand. "I am Sir Nestor Rogers and this is my friend Graymood Danrys."
Falfaren removed her plum colored fedora, revealing her long back hair. She then watched the ork stroke his fumanchu mustache. "Graymood Danrys, the champion of this city's arena?"
"The very one," the ork responded, his thin lips parting in a smile.
The elf turned to her friend as she said," Can you believe it Melissa, we are about to engorge ourselves in spirits with a renown prize fighter and a knight of the guard."
"I will leave the spirits to you Falfaren," the halfling said in a casual voice. "What brings you both here?"
The knight smiled as a robust red haired serving girl brought over four steins and set them in the middle of table, then set down two plates of chicken, potatoes, and corn in front of Falfaren and Melissa. "Graymood and I are here to celebrate his one hundredth victory in the Stoddarvale Arena of Honor."
"The tickets were a part of the winner's purse," the ork added, showing his left arm that was lined with purple scars. "As were these. And what brings the great Ireniana and Melissa? You are a long way from your office near the docks."
Falfaren was about to respond, when she saw a blurred reflection on the side of her beer stein.. Putting her response to the ork's question on hold, she glanced back to see a tall elven male standing over her shoulder. She noticed the wine red priest robes her wore over his olive colored skin. "And what can I do for a servant of the Winelord?" she asked in a slightly irritated voice.
The priest extended his hand and Falfaren quickly brought out her invitation. "Here is my ticket, I am Ireni Falfaren, coming here in place of Charlie Hawkshadow, who was unable to attend." She then signaled to her halfling friend and added," And Melissa here is my plus one."
"I know who you are Ireniana Falfaren," the priest said in the elvish dialect as he pulled a chair from the table behind him. "I am Irvinevell Savigon, from the land of Delnair like yourself. Your reputation proceeds you Ireniana." He glanced at Nestor and Graymood, before leaning close and whispering," Perhaps you could join me at my table with my fellow priests instead of sitting here with these brutes whose only quality is they know how to swing a weapon. From there you will be able to be close to High Priestess Natasha Thorn as she gives her speech. We could also discuss about our homeland."
"Tempting," Falfaren responded in the language understood by all of the kingdom's residents, stroking her chin as if she had a beard. "But if you knew my reputation, you would know that I rarely keep in contact with anyone in Delnair outside of my family, and that I prefer not to be seen in the company of pompous clergymen like yourself. I have a few exceptions to that rule, but none of them are present this evening. Now go back to your priest table and talk about how many heathens you converted to your drunken god."
Before Irvinevell could respond to Falfaren's words, Nestor and Graymood stood up from their seats, causing the priest to scurry back to his table.
"Graymood and I are going to fill our cups," the knight began, watching the priest. "Perhaps we could fill yours as well."
"No thank you," the halfling said with a shake of her head as she began eating.

Falfaren smiled and leaned back in her chair. "I guess I will have Melissa's then. Whatever they have that is strong."
Nestor nodded and looked to his friend. "I think we can find something that will live up to the lady's expectations."
As the gentlemen left, Melissa leaned close to Falfaren and whispered," He is still staring this way, and talking with his fellow priests."
Falfaren did her best to ignore the looks of the priests. Once Nestor and Graymood returned with their hands full of drinks, all eyes turned towards the front of the ball room where a beautiful woman wearing priestly robes walked onto the small stage. Her shoulder length black hair was parted down the middle, some of it covering the ruby encrusted gold torque she wore around her neck. The elf raised an eyebrow, noticing the hairs rising on her arms.

"Thank you all for attending," the woman whom Falfaren and Melissa guessed was the high priestess Natasha Thorn. "We all must thank the Winelord for this occasion to come together."
Sounds of prayers thanking the wine god echoed throughout the room. Melissa kept her silence while Falfaren drank her ale in a loud and obnoxious manner.
Natasha's wide eyes stared at the elf, who finished with a belch. "Oh please continue sister, I am sure we are all eager to hear the glorious words of Duncan," Falfaren said as Thorn's eyes, along with the eyes of her priests set upon her.

The high priestess closed her eyes. "Tonight is not just about sharing drinks and memories-" her words were replaced by rapid breaths while her left arm clutched her right arm. "We must also not forget..." She let out a grunt as she bent low.
Just as the priests jumped from their table to help their priestess when all light-candlelit and magical went out-followed by the silence of the music.
The guests began to whisper amongst themselves until a feral growl filled the room. It was followed by a blood curdling cry and the tearing of clothing and flesh.
The priests of the Winelord chanted a spell that re-illuminated the room. The high priestess Thorn appeared to have vanished. Laying on the ground where she had stood was the body of a dwarf covered in his own blood. Irvinevell quickly turned over his body, revealing to everyone the dwarf's stomach, which had been ripped open.
"Jondin...," whispered the elf before stepping back to allow the remainder of his brethren to carry the dwarf's body.

The guests began whispering amongst themselves their theories of how the priest was killed by a creature that must have taken Natasha. Irvinevell held his hand up to silence the guests."Our high priestess is missing and one of our brothers is dead." His eyes went over to Nestor as he added," It appears the Stoddarvale guards are not as efficient in their protection as they boast."

Both Nestor and Graymood were about to stand when Melissa stood up. "There were guards when we came to the inn. Why weren't you able to protect your high priestess? Perhaps you were too drunk..." She stopped as two of the priests walked forward, which we responded by drawing her sword.

"I am merely saying that those skilled in battle such as a knight and a gladiator should have been able to stand up to whatever creature," the priest corrected as he made his way over to the table. "However-" Irvinevell gasped as Falfaren had drawn her sword and placed its tip at the priest's neck.
"Then perhaps it's best if you let more qualified individuals take care of this matter," Falfaren snapped. "Brother Irvinevell, you will continue your little party outside of this ball room while my companions and I get to the bottom of this matter."
Irvinevell glared at the elf holding the sword. "You? The one who was drowning herself in alcohol while Natasha was singing the praises and glory of Lord Duncan."
Falfaren sneered as she stood up and walked past the priest. "If your god is a true lover of the drink, he would have encouraged that I partake in downing the sweet nectar."
Before the priest could say any more, Nestor stood in front of him, staring directly into his eyes. "Brother, I am one of Stoddarvale's sworn defenders, and since this crime has taken place outside of a church, you have no right to tell anyone, especially this woman who has helped us in numerous investigations, that she can not partake in this investigation. Now I suggest you go interrogate, pray, weep, or whatever it is you priests do for your dead."

Offended and angered by the knights words, Irvinevell glared at Falfaren once more, then walked back to his fellow priests to escort the remainder of the guests out of the ball room.
Falfaren looked where the dwarf was slain, noting the splatters of blood and tiny chunks of entrails left on the floor. Nestor shook his head, reverting back to his calm self. "From the way the body had looked, it seemed the poor man was ripped apart by an animal. I guess that clears us two-legged folk."
Falfaren smiled as Nestor spoke the last few words with a bit of sarcasm. "There was no way either of you could have killed him."

Graymood smiled and shuffled his feet. "Such a kill would be have to be quick. Quite impressive if you ask me."
"Yes quite," the elf said before looking at her halfling friend. "Why don't you both stand around and look for clues. Drink some ale if you think it helps you." Nestor and Graymood exchanged glances, confused at how the elf conducted her methods.
"What have you found Melissa?" Falfaren asked curiously.
The halfling crossed her arms and walked in a circle. "I haven't found much," she answered as she bent down and picked up a few strands of long white hair. 'Except this that is. I agree that it could have been an animal that attacked the priest and nabbed Thorn, but we would have known if an animal came in."
Falfaren's lips parted in a grin. "How so my dead Melissa?"
Melissa rolled her eyes, hating whenever Falfaren challenged her theories. "I don't know. There could have been a crash. Perhaps those long ears of yours would have heard it come in, or we might have smelled it."
"There are beasts in the forests near Stoddarvale," Falfaren said, looking at the hair Melissa held in her fingertips. "I think we are correct to assume this was the work of a werebeast, but not just an ordinary animal. There has been a rumor going around that werewolves have been roaming these parts. Perhaps he took the high priestess."
Melissa nodded. "Again, would we have not seen the werewolf?" She took a step back, unaware that her right foot touched a small rectangle in the floor.
Falfaren was about to add to her theory, when she the floor came out from underneath her and she fell.
The halfling went over to the hole and looked down, seeing Falfaren standing in a pool of murky water. "Are you all right?"
"Yes it seems that my fall was stopped by a large body," the elf admitted, standing onto her feet. "Well Melissa, it looks like we found how the beast could have escaped."
Nestor and Graymood looked down into the hole as Falfaren pulled up a large, well rounded headless corpse with sewage dripping and running down her arms. While Melissa suppressed the urge to vomit, Graymood said," It appears that you have found the body of an ogre Miss Falfaren. He looked like a healer from the arena"
"But ogres usually go outside of the traveler's district," Nestor commented, crossing his arms.
"Interesting," the elf remarked, finding similar rips and tears in the body as the dwarf. "You know Melissa, this is no way for him to get-"
"No head jokes!" the halfling shrieked before jumping down into the hole. Looking at the ogre's body, she added. "Whatever killed the priest had to have killed this ogre."
"Which means that whatever did this is roaming around Stoddarvale with a high priestess," Falfaren said with grim expression on her face. "Anyone who crosses paths with it, is in great danger."


Falfaren cursed as she looked up at the full moon that shared the night sky with thousands of stars.
"You've been staring at that thing a dozen times now," Melissa said as they crossed the intersection where Stoddarvale's Military Square intersected with its Nobles District.
"Do you think it was wise leaving Nestor and Graymood back at the inn?" Melissa asked the elf, the strong scent of raw sewage reeking from their clothes and bodies.

"They seemed eager to stay behind and keep the crowd under control," Falfaren answered as they followed what their noses to be a scent trail that was the same smell they had unwillingly acquired from walking in the sewer under the Bronze Scale. "They also were eager to keep the Drunklord's cronies off of our backs."
The two companions heard a scream come from down the street. Drawing their weapons they raced down the street until they stopped at a small shop where the wooden door was broken down. "I think we found what we were looking for," Falfaren said with a grin.

The stench of blood and rotten flesh filled the halfling's nose as she drew her sword as she said," And I thought the scent of fecal matter was bad. The smell of death is much worse."
"One of life's little blessings my dear Melissa," Falfaren commented as she walked towards the door. "I will go first."
"But aren't you worried that you will be putting High Priestess Natasha at risk?"
The elf smirked at her friend. "Since we escaped out of the sewer, I came up with another theory that our werewolf and our priestess would be one in the same."
"The full moon, of course," Melissa said as she entered the house behind Falfaren. The halfling was shocked to find Natasha on the floor, her naked body sprouting fur and claws. Natasha's red feral eyes looked at her, then at Falfaren.
"Behold Melissa, we have our wolf," Falfaren proclaimed in a proud voice. "Though she it seems she has not had her lycan's disease long enough for her to be fully transformed."
"She must have made her escape when the lights went back," Melissa said, reflecting back on the events in the ball room.
"And killed the ogre she hired to help her make her escape, but not before killing the dwarven priest who was standing near the trap door." Falfaren stepped towards Natasha, whose eyes followed the elf.
"I fled because I did not want to hurt those people" Natasha said in a quivering voice. "I prayed to the Winelord to keep this curse from coming. but he warned me that he was powerless to stop it."
"A lot of good that did," the elf remarked, slowly moving her sword from left to right in a taunting gesture. "You should have not come to the ball."
"It was Irvinevell's idea that I escape through the sewers," snapped the priestess as rage and hunger was coming over her. "I take grief in knowing I killed one of my brethern and an innocent being. But as you, who spurns the gods and flaunts her beliefs, I will enjoy ripping you into shreds."
Natasha lunged at Falfaren, slashing her claws in a wild manner. Falfaren sidestepped the priestess and stabbed her blade at the beast's throat, only to have it swatted out of her hand.
Before Falfaren could grab her sword, Natasha tackled her to the floor and bit into her lower neck, near the collarbone.
After letting out an irritated scream, the elf drove her fist several times into the back of Natasha's head, but the priestess continued to dig her teeth into Falfaren's flesh.

Recalling some legends about werewolves, Melissa grabbed a silver coin from her pocket and stabbed her sword into the priestess' back, digging a hole deep enough to fit the coin.
Feeling the coin slide into her back, Natasha released her jaws from Falfaren's neck and tossed the halfling over her shoulder. After taking a step towards the woman who had wounded her, Natasha fell to the floor and broke out in a rhythmic convulsion.
Falfaren sat up and rubbed her wounded beck as the priestess looked up at her once more, then ceased moving.
Melissa stood up and stared in disbelief at Natasha's dead body. "I just killed a high priestess...I have angered the gods."
"Yes, as well as saving all of Stoddarvale, which includes the royal families and maybe the dragons who sleep in the mountains behind the palace," Falfaren said in hopes of suppressing the pain and nausea. She applied pressure to the wound as she walked over to Melissa. "That's more than some gods do, even on their best days."
Melissa nodded and produced another silver coin from her pocket. "I remembered reading that silver is like a poison to werewolves and other creatures afflicted with lycan's disease. Even if she wasn't fully transformed, it was still enough to kill her."
Falfaren found a piece of Natasha's torn robes near the doorway and used it to bandage her wound. Seeing the object in the halfling's hand she said," Though Natasha was partially transformed her bite may transform me. I may need that coin you're holding."

Melissa handed her the coin, a stern look crossed her face as she asked," You would use it to kill yourself?"
The elf shrugged her shoulder. "Let's hope it does not come to that. Still, we must get back and have a chat with the priests."
"Perhaps they can heal your wound," the halfling suggested.
Falfaren grinned and shook her head. "I would rather poison myself with the coin."

* * * *

Falfaren and Melissa were on their way back to the Bronze Scale when they passed Nestor and Graymood under a glowing lantern that was suspended on a post.
"I told you we would find them if we followed the smell," Nestor commented as he and the ork walked up to the women. "Lady Falfaren, you look terrible."
"Were you able to find the high priestess and whatever creature took her?" asked Graymood, whose eyes now saw the body slumped over the elf's shoulder.
"We found the high priestess," Falfaren said, dropping the body unceremoniously in front of the two men. She then went into detail about their encounter with Natasha. Once she was finished, Nestor looked at Graymood.
"Has anyone told you that you can be insensitive sometimes Miss Falfaren?" the ork asked.
"I've told her a time or two," Melissa answered casually. Her eyes then saw Irvinevell leading four of his priests towards them. "Wonderful."
Spotting the body of their high priestess, Irvinevell and his brothers in faith raced and picked up the body of Natasha Thorn. While the others grieved, Irvinevell looked up at Falfaren, his eyes flashed with anger and accusation. "You did this? You killed our high priestess?"

Falfaren pointed to her halfling companion and said," It was actually Melissa who killed Natasha. With a silver coin nonetheless. I'm sure you would have been able to do the same thing if she would have transformed at the Bronze Scale or would have you just let her run rampant and kill all of those innocent guests."
Irvinevell said nothing as the other priests drew their maces at the elf. Nestor and Graymood stepped in front of Falfaren while Irvinevell signaled for his men to stand down.
"We did what we had to do to keep the city safe," Melissa said before Falfaren could make the same statement.
"It was a curse inflicted on her by a dark priestess of Sakur," Irvinevell said, looking at the halfling and the elf. "There was many times when she asked me to kill her for having this disease. Perhaps if we acted sooner, we could have stopped it sooner...The plan was for her to escape when she began to transform."
"Sooner or later, it does not matter," Falfaren said, a shiver of pain running up her neck. "What's done is done. If this would have gone on, she probably would have killed more people."
Irvinevell closed his eyes, as if a revelation had come to him. "You don't know that."
Irvinevell and his priests picked up the body and carried it with them. As they walked away, Graymood turned to Falfaren and Melissa," Perhaps it was Duncan's will that you both came here tonight."
"Gods or not, we all have hand in our destiny," Falfaren began, as if she rehearsed these words many times. "Natasha chose to come to the feast, knowing she was at risk and risking the lives of her priests and all of the guests. That is what makes something like this a tragedy. Could have this been prevented? Maybe."
A moment of silence passed the four, until Melissa said," On the matter of preventing tragedies, we still have to find someone to look at your wound."
Falfaren uncovered her bandage,a lair of dry blood covering where she had been bitten. "I suppose if we ask-"
"Do not worry Lady Falfaren," Nestor interrupted, looking at the wound. "In the forest, Graymood and I know of some druids who can help you. My lady Lonicera, who is a skilled healer and a disciple of the Earthmother."
"Sounds great," Falfaren remarked, covering up her wound once again.
As they began walking behind Nestor and Graymood, Melissa looked up at her friend and asked," You do not seem to like the idea of dealing with another priestess."
Falfaren shrugged and said," I admit, I do not know what to expect. Although I hear centaurs roam the forests around these parts."
"So do dragons," the halfling said with a smile. "In which case let's hope you do transform into a werebeast of some sort. That way, the three of us will make our getaway while you fend it off."
"Well then my dear Melissa, you best hope I do not survive that encounter, because if I do, then I will come for you next."
The two companions shared a laugh as they left the Stoddarvale city limits.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Acrathiss and Tealcnarr conflict

Acrathiis and Tealcnarr conflict

Standing on the deck of the ship named Big Bass, the swordsman Percival McDorran breathed in the sweet air of the Mauervill sea as the cool winds blew through his head of black curly hair. Despite the cool temperature outside, the skinny human, who was only twenty six summers old was hot, mainly due to the thickness of his chain mail shirt and pants he wore over his body, as well as the sun's heat that came from directly above.
Scratching the patch of brown fuzz that grew on his face, Percival turned his head, seeing his friend Robyn Mock approaching him, her long blond hair that reminded him of pasta noddles was swinging wildly as a powerful gust of wind blew past her. As always, Robyn was dressed in her olive colored robes weaved from a mixture of wool and linen. The robe hid her curves and her muscular thighs and legs.
"I told you not to wear your armor when it's so hot," Robyn commented to the swordsman as sweat trickled down his face.
Percival shook his head. They had both left their home at the monastery four days ago and journeyed to Strongspear Island's port city of Acrathiis to sell goods at the Grand Merchant's Festival. Some of the goods they had brought from the monastery included weapons and armor forged by Percival, as well as Robyn's own wooden carvings.
"You never know when an enemy is going to attack," Percival said in a smug voice, forcing his monk companion to roll her own eyes.
Robyn smirked and crossed her arms. "I see you are ready to face danger my friend, even without the use of your sword."
The swordsman looked down, seeing his sheath, but no sword. "Damn it," he whispered, looking back at the monk. "Well I'm glad to have you and your lethal hands to protect me."
Robyn shook her head and crossed her arms. "Percival, for the last year you have studied and mastered all of the sword techniques the monastery has to offer, not to mention your prior experience as a city watchmen."
"I was a knight."
"I'm sure you were, but the point is, you could grab any sword, or even a long stick and use it as a formidable weapon if we were attacked. I'm sure you even have some skills in hand-to-hand combat."
Percival smiled brightly, flattered by his friend's words.
'We should be at shore soon," the monk said, walking past him. "I'm glad the Grandmaster chose us to run the booth at this year's festival."
"I am too Robyn," Percival began as he walked next to her. "But you never told me why the monastery travels all this way every year to partake in one merchant's festival when we could trade with other cities that are only a day's travel."
The monk turned to her companion and said," Legend has it that Strongspear Island is blessed by Bella herself. Since we are from a monastery that serves the War Goddess, we happen to sell a lot at the festival."
Percival's eyes wandered. "Interesting."
Robyn faced the man, seizing him gently by the shoulders. "I know that your faith in the gods is not as strong as the rest of us, but Bella does smile on the monastery. The Grandmaster suspects that she has a particular interest in you."
"So I've heard," Percival merely said before the shirtless, barrel chested helmsman passed them. "Excuse me, how long till we reach the shore?" the swordsman asked.
"Before nightfall," was all the helmsman said before he continued on his way.
Robyn patted her friend's shoulder. "I am going to meditate in my cabin for the next hour. Perhaps you could say a prayer for a save voyage from the Triton the Sea Lord."
"I thought he and Bella were rivals," Percival said as Robyn left the deck. The swordsman walked along the deck, his thoughts with Bella, a goddess whom respected to a degree where many of the weapons and armor he made were decorated with her symbols of olive branches and owls. Like him, she was a warrior, but she relied on tactics and intelligence as much as she did on her weapons.

* * * *

Acrathiis was bustling with people of all races, ages, and nationalities, all of whom came to participate in the fifty-sixth annual Great Merchant's Festival, either as sellers or as customers. Hundreds of booths of all shapes and sizes filled the streets, each offering their own products and services. Merchants would walk from street corner to street corner, declaring with pride and arrogance in their voices, that their wares were the best in the lands and were for sale for an affordable price.

Foreign merchants were not the only ones profiting from the festival. the feast halls, inns, and taverns of Acrathiis were filled with wealthy patrons spending gold for a moment's rest. The temples in the city dedicated to Bella, Triton, and Gaea the Earth Mother, were receiving extra offerings from visitors. Even the local pick pockets and law enforcement were kept busy with the traffic of newcomers.
The sun was just setting as Percival and Robyn were sitting at their large booth carved from pine wood. Percival glanced across the street, seeing other merchants lighting candles and lanterns to help customers view their items.
"The Grandmaster told me that the first day of the festival is a little slow for us," the monk said as she straightened the flutes and sashes on the left side of the booth.
"Maybe a little light would help," Percival suggested to her.
Robyn gave a nod, then snapped her fingers. "I just remembered, I forgot to see if the temple had any rooms available. It's not that far away." The monk rose from her seat and walked away.
No sooner than when the monk left, a tall, beautiful woman with long auburn hair and a white dress approached the table. She removed her steel-rimmed bifocals while her gray owl-like eyes devoured the display of swords and shields to the swordsman's right.
Percival took in a deep breath, hoping to shake the nervousness that was creeping up on him. "Can I help you?"
The woman's attention went to Percival, her thin lips parting with a smile. "Yes, I was just looking at your goods. Very beautiful." She picked up the sword with the blue handle and no cross piece. Her eyes took note of the gemstones embedded under the etchings of tree branches that extended to the lower part of the blade.
"Thank you," the swordsman responded. "I forged those myself."
The woman's eyes widened with excitement. "You did not."
"I'm afraid I did."
"That is quite impressive my boy," she said, looking at the rest of the goods. "Everyone who stays at the monastery is an expert craftsman in some way."
The woman's words sparked confusion in the swordsman, but before he could ask how she knew of the monastery, the woman grabbed a plain gray cotton shirt, then dropped a bag of coins on top of a pair of copper jewel encrusted bracelets.
"And I will take these," the woman added, grabbing a thick spool of yarn and a bronze ring.
Percival opened the bag of coins, to which the woman said," There is fifty gold in that bag."
Taking his eyes from the bag, he looked at the items the woman held in her hands. "Those items do not add up to fifty gold."
"Consider it a donation to your church," the woman said, looking into his eyes.
"Just how do you know-" Percival stopped as the woman reached out with her left hand and grabbed his sword from behind the booth.
"Then I will buy this then," the woman declared, moving the ordinary looking sword in front of his face.
Percival made a grab for his weapon. "That is not for sale. That's my sword."
"But I want to buy it," the woman said, her lips pouting. "You have plenty of swords to choose from, much better looking swords in fact. Why you could just forge yourself another."
Frustrated, the swordsman shook his head. "Fine, take it." He took one last look at the weapon that was previously his, seeing tiny runes glowing on both sides of the blade.
"Simply marvelous," the woman said as the sound of horns roared in the distance. "It's about time she showed up," she added in a casual tone. "I suggest you grab the sword I was looking at if you intend to survive this."
Percival looked down at the blue handled sword. "Survive what?" he asked as he picked it up. When he looked up, the woman was no longer there. He looked around the street, watching as a wave of people ran past him, screaming of barbarian warriors coming to attack.
"Barbarians?" Percival whispered. Looking ahead, he saw twelve men and six women, all on horseback, wearing leathers and hide, and armed with swords and axes.
The swordsman's first instinct was to look for Robyn, when he saw ten of Acrathiis' guards come together and walk towards the barbarian group.
One of the barbarian warriors, a beautiful woman with long brown hair and light blue eyes, rode past the group to meet the guards. Percival noticed she wore leather armor that showed off her curves and muscular arms. "Have the people of Acrathiis chosen to face us honorably, or shall we expect more ambushes?" the woman asked in a loud voice that caused the swordsman's heart to skip a beat.
The guard at the front, a robust man wearing the standard breastplate armor, looked up at the woman. "Princess Amberlee, the Great Merchant's Festival has started. People from all over Airway are here to trade. Surely you know the value of the festival, for your people used to participate in this event."
"We did once upon a time," said the woman addressed as Amberlee. "Yet those days are gone."
"Very well then," the guard began, looking at all of his men. "But know that you and your band are no match for the Acrathiis guardsmen and the merchants who have stayed to defend their goods."
At the guard's words, Percival looked around and saw some of the merchants had indeed stayed behind, armed with whatever weapons they carried. He then look back at Amberlee, whose lips split into a wicked grin.
"Petty merchants and feeble guards do not intimidate the finest warriors of the Tealcnarr nation." The princess let out a cry, that got a response of ferocious roars from her warriors, who charged the guards.
Gritting his teeth, Percival ran with the guards, avoiding the arrows fired by two of the merchants who hid behind their oval shaped booth for cover.
Running past a red haired guard fighting a bald barbarian warrior, the swordsman found himself face-to-face with a Tealcnarr warrior six inches taller than him, wielding a curved sword that was stained with fresh blood.
The warrior swung his sword towards Percival, but only managed to cut a few hairs from the swordsman's head.

Percival managed to sidestep the barbarian's next two attacks, then slashed his own sword in a wide arc, cutting the warrior's left pectoral muscle. Before his foe could retaliate, the swordsman kicked his left foot into the warrior's left calf, then drove the bottom of his weapon into the throat.
Turning away from the Tealcnarr, who was now gasping for air, Percival went up to a dark skinned, short haired warrior and slash his blade through her right leg. As her leg gave out, the warrior woman drove her sword though his shoulder and pulled it back out. Percival stepped back and held his bleeding shoulder, watching the woman fall to the ground the same time as her sword.
Just as he continued his way through the battle, Percival heard a familiar cry. Looking back, he saw Robyn spin kick a seven foot Tealcnarr male in the face. He watched the warrior stagger while the monk threw six quick jabs into his chest, then follow through with an uppercut that sent the large man to the ground. Just as Robyn regained her stance, two large Tealcnarr women charged at the monk. Before Percival could call out her name, Robyn rolled behind both barbarians and sprang her to feet.
Percival was about to help his friend, when a powerful weight struck his back and forced him to his stomach. After tossing his attacker off did he notice the body of the guard who had spoken to the princess, laying next to him.
"Child's play," the swordsman heard Princess Amberlee say as she jumped onto his back. Throwing her off once more caused a twitch of pain to distract him from the princess' sword as it lightly pierced his left arm.
"Another easy kill," Amberlee said as she swung her sword at his face, causing Percival to block it with his own sword.
The swordsman backed two more steps, doing his best to ignore the pain in his arm and side as he deflected Amberlee's sword. The princess attacked once more, but Percival sidestepped the attack, then swiped his blade across her shoulder.
"That is an impressive sword," Amberlee began, ignoring her wound as she swatted Percival's cheek with her blade. "It will look good on my mantle."
Percival smiled, wondering if the princess was serious, or if she was trying to provoke him into a reckless attack. "As would that armor of yours," he replied, dodging another swing. "Only that would look better on the floor next to my clothes-"
"Percival!" scolded Robyn, while the guards and Tealcnarr warriors who managed to hear the swordsman's words laughed.
Angered and embarrassed, Amberlee slashed her sword across Percival's chest, drawing a thin line of blood. "I will cut out your-" she ceased her words as another battle horn filled the air. "More guards must be coming. The princess debated whether to finish her opponent, but then she saw the monk approaching her, her fists balled and rage in her eyes.
Princess Amberlee cursed as she ran past Percival and Robyn and followed her warriors. The monk, whose eyes followed Amberlee into the distance, held her friend as she said," I would have been here sooner, but the temple was farther than I thought. The beds are comfortable though." She stopped to look at his wounds.

"I'll live," Percival said, ignoring the pain in his chest and arm. "That woman..."
"She is apart of the Tealcnarr barbarian tribe that lives in the northeast part of the island," Robyn began, putting his sword back in his sheath, then placed his right arm around her.

Percival sighed as he watched more guards arrive while two dwarven merchants helped three weary watchmen gather the fallen.

One of the guards, a stout woman whose forehead was marked with a large bruise, stepped in front of them and said," Those barbarians have slaughtered villages and towns all over the island in a matter of days."
Percival raised an eyebrow. "I was under the impression that this island was sparsely populated."

"It is now," the guard said, removing her helmet to reveal her bald head that sported a long purple scar. "The Tealcnarr used to be peaceful."
Percival looked at Robyn as she gasped at their booth that was now broken in half, with their goods scattered everywhere.
"We made some money before the fight," Percival said as Robyn let go of him and began picking up their wares. "A woman came and bought some yarn, a ring, and my sword."
The monk turned to Percival and glanced at the sword in his sheath. "She bought your sword? Interesting." She sighed and looked at the pile. "You should get to the temple, it's six blocks from here. Get your cuts looked at."
"Are you sure?" Percival asked, watching the monk as she began gathering their goods.
"The city will provide us with a new booth and I will manage," Robyn said as she looked around. "I guess it was good for me to wait until tomorrow to sell my carvings."
Percival nodded as he wiped the small trickle of blood from his chest, then began walking.

* * * *

Underneath the full auburn moon, Percival smiled as he walked across a small pool behind the inn, surrounded by flush green trees and bushes. He washed his face then took his shirt, smoothing out the bandages around his arm and shoulder, then splashing water on the thin cut on his chest.

"You should have listened to Robyn," said a voice over Percival's shoulder. The swordsman looked back to see the customer who had visited his booth from earlier.
"Have you been watching me this whole time?" demanded Percival, who was fumbling to put his shirt back on.
The woman tilted her head and replied," You could say that." She began to circle him and continued," The Tealcnarr are not attacking because of shear desire, just so you know. Amberlee's hand has been forced, much like yours in the past. You should go to the Tealcnarr lands in the Northeast and aid her."
Percival stared at the woman, realizing who woman truly was. "Bella?"
The woman smiled at him. "You and Robyn are to leave in the morning."
"But what about our booth? You must know that Robyn and I are here on business, assuming the city was able to replace our booth."
"Oh they were able to," Bella replied with a nod. "Though the new booth isn't as big as the other."
Percival rolled his eyes. "We can't forgo our duty to the monastery."
"The Grandmaster will understand," the goddess said. "He will see this as a holy mission."
"That's not the point," the swordsman said, crossing his arms. "The monastery would be losing money and a chance to acquire goods to help us better understand the world. I mean if we could find a replacement to help us sell our goods then Robyn and I could leave. But do you think we could trust the other merchants to keep their word?"
Bella shook her head. "I see what you're trying to do." the goddess stroked her chin and looked at the man. "I will run your booth while you and Robyn do this mission for me. You will not need to give me a report of what you are selling and the prices, I know them already."
Percival smiled and bowed to the goddess before going back to join Robyn at the booth.

* * * *

"I can not believe that Bella is working at our booth," Robyn said as she and Percival walked under the morning sun, their feet scuffling through the grass that was wet from last night's brief rain fall.
Percival bit his lip. After his encounter with the goddess, he went back to the temple to wait for Robyn rather than joining her. Once she arrived, he explained everything to her, saving the part of bandaging his own wounds at the inn. To his surprise, the monk was hesitant to go on this journey, because she did not believe a divine being should do a mortal's work. The swordsman won her over by explaining the importance of the mission.
"It sounds as if Bella is trying to save these people," the monk continued as they passed three trees. "Their leader was the most barbaric of all, and not to mention a tad arrogant. Although your behavior was not helping."
"Well she also happened to be adept with a blade," Percival blurted out. When he saw Robyn's confused expression, he added," You heard the guard. These Tealcnarr were not always like this."
"So quick you are to stick up for her," Robyn commented in a sly voice.
Percival stared forward, reflecting on Robyn's remark while at the same time thinking of Amberlee's smile and Bella's words.
What could she mean by Amberlee's hand being forced? he asked himself. His memory drifted back to the first encounter he ever had with a god. It was a year ago, he had made a bargain with Calillilli, a goddess of vengeance, to save the life of a little girl named Annie, in exchange for killing a former disciple of her's. Although the adventure resulted in meeting new friends and slaying a dragon, it was also the first step in the swordsman's restoration of faith.
"Could it be she is attacking villages and cities to save the life of a loved one?" he whispered as he and the monk crossed a small wooden bridge.
Percival and Robyn continued their journey through the morning until the sun was directly over them. After finding a small shaded area with two large trees, Percival sat down and ate some raisins and beans he kept in his pocket. When he noticed Robyn staring at him, he asked," Is everything all right?"
The monk sighed and sat up against the tree. "Please forgive me Percival. I should have not questioned Bella's judgement."
The swordsman raised an eyebrow. "I do not recall you questioning Bella's will. Besides you know that I believe that it's okay for someone to question their faith in the gods every once in a while."
Robyn shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps, but if she would have us journey to this village, then it must be important. I am going to meditate on this."
"You do that," Percival said as he finished his small lunch. "If you see her, ask how business has been, will you?"
"I will," Robyn said, resisting the urge to laugh. "Perhaps you should nap and rest your legs before we continue."
Percival looked at Robyn, who was now sitting cross legged, her eyes closed. Deciding to follow his friend's advice, he laid back on the cold grass and drifted to sleep while thinking of the princess.

* * * *

After securing the belt around her waist, Amberlee entered her father's quarters, immediately kneeling at his bedside.
Judaris, ruler of the Tealcnarr nation, was a large man standing just two inches below seven feet. His muscular body was decoration with scars he had received in battle. His skin was normally tan, but after contracting an illness that was affecting the inside of his body, it was pale.
Amberlee shook her head, seeing her father's ages closed. His shallow and raspy gaps for air was like an accurately applied pressure point. It was hard for her to suppress the pain she felt, and she wondered when it was going to stop.
"Father," she whispered gently taking hold of his hand. Her eyes looked at the door, seeing a familiar, black robed figure standing in the doorway.
"Aeris," the princes hissed.
Aeris removed his hood, revealing his olive colored face, clean shaved head, and hawk nose. His hazel eyes lingered in the princess as he walked over to Judariss. "The goddess is not pleased with your lack of progress in Acrathiis. You could have taken the city."
"With only eighteen warriors against guards, not to mention merchants armed with weapons" Amberlee snapped, causing the priest to jump. "We have been going nonstop on this campaign of yours and we are using what is left of our resources."
"Then let your men and women rest," Aeris purred, turning to the princess. "Once they are all ready, you will storm the city."
Amberlee crossed her arms, but Aeris continued," A pity your father is not well. He would have had the strength to continue to take the city. He would have finished that swordsman on the street."
Judging by the way the woman looked to the ground, Aeris know he struck a nerve. "Fear not dear Amberlee, you will get a second chance, for my goddess tells me the man is on his way now."
Amberlee took a deep breath and walked out of her father's room. The priest assumed she was preparing to greet the man.
"Perhaps they will kill each other in battle," Aeris whispered as he stood above the sick chieftain. "Just as the Tealcnarr and Acrathiis will perhaps kill each other when this is over my dear Calillili"

* * * *

It was nightfall when Percival and Robyn reached the Tealcnarr city. The monk was the first to observe the small houses that were scattered throughout the area. Percival took note of the women and children, and few men were working in the fields.
"It must be time for supper," Percival commented as he and Robyn walked past two children who were going inside.
"It is hard to believe this is a tribe of vicious warriors," Robyn said as he spotted two Tealcnarr sharing what she guessed was water. They continued to walk until Percival saw a tall black statue of a woman standing in the center of the city. Robyn also noticed the statue, her arms shaking as her eyes stared the site of it. "There is a dark energy pulsating from it."
Percival held his friend's shoulders, feeling a familiar presence coming from the statue. "Callallili," he whispered to the monk. "This must have been what Bella was talking about."
No sooner did the swordsman the two steps forward, Amberlee came charging at him, screaming at the top of her lungs. Before he could draw his sword, Robyn jumped and kicked the princess in her face, knocking her back several feet.
When the Tealcnarr warriors saw their princess, they ran low as a large man and a long legged woman stepped in front of her, swinging their axes, only to have Robyn avoid each attack. After dodging what she guessed was the seventh attack, she threw a left jab into the large man's face, then drove her right elbow in his stomach. The barbarian woman next to her swung her axe, but missed Robyn and ended up hitting her comrade instead.
While the barbarian fell to the ground, Robyn grabbed the shaft of the woman's weapon and flipped her into a group of three approaching Tealcnarr warriors.
Six feet away from where the monk was fighting, Percival quickly parried attacks coming from three different warriors, then made a stab with his own weapon, successfully hitting a one-eyed warrior.
Percival continued his offence by spinning in a fast circle, slicing the hand off one Tealcnarr warrior, while knocking the the weapons out of the hands of the other two.
Amberlee walked over and help her hand up, commanding her warriors to stop. "Halt, this one is mine." Drawing her sword, she smiled wickedly at Percival. "Your little friend won't be able to save you now."
The swordsman glanced at Robyn, who was surrounded by four Tealcnarr women. Two lunged at her, but the monk jumped into the air, performing a split kick that knocked down two of her opponents.
Percival held his blood stained blade forward. "I'd be more worried about the warriors fighting her."
Ignoring the man's words, Amberlee swung her sword, only for Percival to block it with his own. The princess continued to deliver slash after slash, but the swordsman easily blocked each one.
Frustrated, Amberlee lunged and stabbed at the swordsman's midsection, but Percival stepped back and brought his knee into the right side of her jaw.
Percival held the tip of her weapon at her throat a split-second before she batted it away and jumped to her feet. She attacked in a faster motion, but Percival continued to match her pace, with only her last attack piercing his armor.
The swordsman went into his own attack, first making a back handed slash that cut Amberlee's left hand.
The princess backed two more steps, allowing Percival to come forward and continue his attack. He was about to attempt a downward slash when he saw Amberlee's eyes look past him. He managed to stop and glance back, seeing a large sickly man walking to the front of the crowd that had gathered to watch the duel.
"Father!" Amberlee gasped, watching Judaris walk towards her, his large eyes looking between her and the man she was fighting.
"Two things I have taught you my daughter," the leader of the Tealcnarr nation began in a low, but powerful voice. "One being that when you give in to your rage without controlling it, you will become reckless." He stepped in front of his daughter and looked back at Percival, then turned his attention back to his daughter. "Second, you never pass judgement on an enemy before you get to know him."
Percival heard Amberlee sigh and watched her stare into her father's eyes. Silence filled the air, but it was short lived as the sound of quick and worried footsteps approached.
"Judaris," Aeris cried as he ran to the father and daughter. "You are not well. You need your rest."
As Robyn joined him, the swordsman stared at the priest, who was putting his arm around Judaris.
Sensing Percival's eyes, Aeris' face twisted into a grin that was telling the swordsman he knew exactly who he was.
"Aeris, I am well enough to stand," Judaris said before looking at the two disiciples of Bella. "You are warriors, both of you. Who sent you? Was it the Acrathiis leaders?"
"We were sent here by the goddess Bella," Percival answered in a calm voice, causing much whispering amongst the Tealcnarr."
"Bella?" Judaris asked. He turned to Aeris, then looked back at Percival and Robyn. "Our nation and warriors honor Bella, therefore you will not be harmed."
The monk arched an eyebrow. "If you honor Bella, why do you follow such a vengeful immortal such as the Mistress of Vengance.?"
Before Judaris could answer, Aeris stepped in front of Robyn. "The Lady offers power to the Tealcnarr, something which Judaris is having trouble acquiring due to his ill state. Too long have they been oppressed by the city people on the island. With Callalilli by their side, they will be given the respect they deserve."
"And that gives you the right to slaughter villages and innocent lives?" the monk asked in a harsh voice. "To take soldiers away from their families?"
"If some have to die for the greater good, then so be it," the priest answered. "Does your goddess not recommend the use of sacrificing front line soldiers to boost morale and gain the advantage, monk?"
As Robyn held back her desire to knock Aeris to the ground, the priest took Judaris by the arm and led him away.
Percival and Robyn watched the priest. After a moment of silence, the monk tapped his shoulder and added in a teasing voice," The princess couldn't seem to take her eyes off of you."
The swordsman turned to see Amberlee walking towards him, flanked by two of the tallest women he had ever seen. "If you are servants of Bella, you are welcome to stay," the princess said in a soft voice.
"Thank you," Percival responded. Before he could say anymore, a slender, black skinned man dressed in hunting leathers ran up to the princess. "Lady Amberlee, they're coming."
The young man's words caught the attentions of everyone. "Who is coming Minos?" inquired the princess.
Minos pointed back to the forest. "Guards from Acrathiis. Their leader wanted me to tell you they are prepared to meet you at dawn's first light."
Amberlee turned towards her guards and said," Get any strong individuals you can. Tell them to be ready at dawn. This may be an attempt at battle, but we will have to see."
"We have to stop this Percival," Robyn said, grabbing her companion's arm.
"I know," Percival said. "I will try and talk to Amberlee. You should-" he stopped as a group of six Tealcnarr warriors approached her. Percival recognized them as the group Robyn had successfully beaten with her own hands.
One of the men stepped forward. "Milady, could you please teach us some of your techniques before we go into battle tomorrow?"
The monk looked uneasily at Percival, before she agreed to the warrior's request.
As his friend led the six Tealcnarr to an open area, Percival went his own direction, brainstorming his ideas of how he was going to stop the upcoming battle.

* * * *

The stars burned brightly in the night sky as Percival walked slowly through the village. After passing by a group of children, he came across Amberlee, who was adjusting her armor. The swordsman began contemplating starting a conversation, when the princess greeted him by saying," I am not sure of your customs, but the Tealcnarr consider it not polite to stand behind and gawk at a woman."
Percival was taken aback by the woman's words. "I was not gawking." He stopped when he saw the dents in her armor. "Your chest piece..."
"It was no fault of yours," Amberlee said while Percival began to examine it. "I tried to fix it and ended up hammering it one time too many. My skill is a little above an apprentice, but...what are you doing?"
Her eyes stared as Percival began running his hands over the dents. "If you want, I could look at this armor for you. I may be able to make it better."
Princess Amberlee's lips twisted in a smile. "You could do that?"
"Yes," Percival said with a smile of his own. "It may take a few hours, but I can do it."
The barbarian princess brushed his shoulder with her left hand, resulting in a shock. Percival stared into the woman's eyes for a moment. "What?" she asked, her own eyes staring into his.
"Do you really have to go through with this battle?" Percival asked, watching as she sat on her porch. "Why are you putting up with that rat of a priest?"
"Because that rat is says his goddess can cure if his sickness, something Bella has chosen not to do," Amberlee said, with a bit of frustration in her voice.

"And is it true, that the city of Acrathiis has treated your people poorly?" the swordsman inquired.

"My people are allowed to come and go into Acrathiis as we please, but our people are looked down upon," the princess briefly explained though Percival had trouble believing her intention to go to war. "Why are you so insistent on preventing this?"
"You don't have to-"
"What would you know of it?" Amberlee snapped before he could finish his sentence. The swordsman expected more, but much to his surprise, Amberlee went inside of her house and slammed the door.
"More than you think princess," Percival whispered before turning his attention back to the armor.

* * * *

Three hours had passed and Percival was still outside, hammering Amberlee's chest piece.
"You should heed your own words Percival," a familiar voice said as the swordsman looked at the armor. Behind him, Bella rolled her eyes as he continued to hammer the dents away.
"If I knew you were going to hammer metal all night, I would have grabbed some supplies for you," the goddess said, circling him.
"Shouldn't you be watching the booth?" Percival asked."
The war goddess smiled proudly. "You'll be happy to know that much of your wares are gone and sold. Being that it was such a profitable day, I decided to end the day early." Bella looked around, her divine gray eyes scanning each corner of the town, seeing many soldiers going into their homes. "They are turning in for what little sleep they will get before they meet the Acrathiis forces. You know, they do not have to go to battle tomorrow."
Percival rolled his eyes. "It's hard to convince Amberlee when her father's life hangs in the balance."
"And Robyn has sure helped the Tealcnarr by teaching them hand to hand combat," Bella added with a smirk. "Now the-"
"Is there a reason you came here?" Percival snapped in an angry voice.
Bella smiled, amused by her warrior's brash words. "If I were an angry god, I would strike you down. You should be more obedient. Take Aeris for example, see how is slips off into the night, doing his goddess' bidding."
Percival raised an eyebrow, seeing the priest walk out of his small house, cloaked in black.
"Is he walking out of the village?" Percival asked, putting down the hammer.
"And towards the Acrathiis guard," the goddess added, pointing in the direction Aeris was walking.
The swordsman handed Bella the hammer and chest piece and said," See what you can do with this."
Holding the armor, the war goddess watched her swordsman follow the priest.

* * * *

In an effort to keep himself hidden, Percival walked behind a pair of tall bushes and watched as Aeris beckon someone over to him. The swordsman kept his hand on his pommel as three Acrathiis guards stepped into view.
"Have the Tealcnarr agreed to a hearing of peace talks?" asked a guard recognized from his first encounter with the barbarians.

There was no mention of Acrathiis wanting peace talks, he said to himself.
"The leader Judaris laughed at your request for peace," Aeris answered in a low voice. "His daughter declared that her hundreds of warriors will slaughter you at dawn. The best course of action is to kill the barbarians while they sleep."
The guards exchanged awkward glances with each other. Without thinking, Percival ran into the open, prompting the guards to draw their weapons. "You have it all wrong," the swordsman yelled. "The Tealcnarr are not marching to attack...I mean they are marching to attack, you but they were never informed of any peace talks."
The guards began muttering amongst themselves, but Percival pointed to Aeris. "This man has lied to you."

Aeris turned to Percival. "Do not listen to this blasphemer. He is a spy for the barbarians and has come under the charms of the princess."
The swordsman resisted the urge to put the priest in his place. He looked into the open, seeing the sun beginning to rise. Looking at the guards, he said," The Tealcnarr are coming this way. They do not want to destroy the city. Amberlee is only doing this because-" he let out a scream as he felt Aeris' dagger plunged into his side.
Percival threw the priest to the ground, then pulled the dagger from his body, staring at its black blade and the poison dripping from its tip.
"A personal message from my goddess, traitor," Aeris said, licking his lips.
The sound of Tealcnarr warriors marching filled the air as more Acrathiis guards approached. Holding his side, Percival turned to see Amberlee, wearing a shining suit of chain mail and leading a group of twenty warriors.
The princess was about to tell Percival about her encounter with the strange woman who broke her chest piece and then replaced it with a new suit of armor, when she saw his wound. Her eyes went to Aeris, who was struggling to his feet. The priest stared into Amberlee's own eyes, when he felt a pair of hands around his neck.
"I would not be so quick to move," Robyn whispered into his ear.
Percival smiled at his friend while twenty Acrathiis guards stood across from the Tealcnarr. "Now just a minute," he yelled, stepping in the middle of the two parties. "This whole war between you to is nothing but a plot created by the Lady of Vengenace. Aeris is her servant, and was playing both sides."
All eyes turned to Aeris, who growled as he struggled in the monk's grasp. "This is the will of my lady. You were to die in battle-" his words ceased as Robyn twisted his neck a little bit. "I admit, I am responsible for everything, including Judaris' illness."
"But you can end the fighting," Percvial said, walking over to Amberlee, hoping she wouldn't charge and kill the priest. Feeling a little light headed from the poison spreading through his body, Percival his hands ran over her breasts as he said," You can begin your peace talks-" he stumbled forward while the princess caught him in her arms.
The swordsman buried his face in Amberlee's sternum. The last thing he heard before losing blacking out, was the quickening of her heartbeat.

* * * *

And so it was, the guards and the monk returned to Acrathis with six Tealcnarr escorts, one of them Amberlee, who was holding a sleeping Percival on her horse.
Once they were back at the port city, the princess helped Percival to a bed, then bid Robyn farewell. Percival would wake up hours later and speak to his monk friend, who informed him that his speech was successful and that the city of Acrathis would agree to speak to the Tealcnarr. When he asked of Aeris, Robyn informed him that the priest was able to escape her, but not before he fell and impaled himself on his own dagger.
After eating breakfast, the two returned to their booth, where a gnome maiden in a green sunflower dress with long white hair was selling a young couple a pair of silver rings.
"And you told me you had Bella herself working out booth," Robyn said before relieving the gnome of her duties.
Percival shook his head as the gnome passed him, but not before she gave him a wink. "I thought you said everything was sold," he whispered.

"Goddess of not, The Grandmaster will be pleased," Robyn said, looking into the bag of gold the gnome had handed to her before leaving.
Percival nodded until he saw Amberlee speaking to a fish trader.
"Perhaps you should go and speak to her," Robyn said, patting her friend on the shoulder. "She said something about you owing an explanation of the clumsy woman breaking her chest piece."
Percival sighed and looked at Robyn, who urged him to leave.
Taking a deep breath, Percival began walking towards the Tealcnarr princess. He had a feeling their conversation would lead to more than just a piece of broken armor.