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Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:15 PM #211
Novice (Lvl 1)
Speaker vs Barendd Nobeard
Something is about me, pressing in, squeezing. I move. Muscles respond slowly, as if held in a powerful grip. I look. My eyes are open, yet I cannot see; the colour is leeched out of the world.
All is white, and in that white is movement, though I cannot comprehend what it is that I see.
Something is wrong. Wrong. I yearn to know what it is, but I cannot think, my thoughts are hazy and as vague as the formless substance around me. Before I can understand, I dream.
The world is now mine to observe once more, my thoughts restored to focus. At first I can see only the colour gold, a great expanse of precious metal. A statue of gold. I know where I am, though I do not know how I arrived. Nor do I know the identity of the voice that now speaks from the air to me.
“Memories are powerful. They remind you of who you are. They take you back, and within the past they shape you, creating a new being from the old. Do you recognize this one, child?”
I looked up. My gaze reached high, and still higher, until the vast expanse of a blue sky filled my eyes and still the statue rises, burnished by the light, beautiful. Now I know where I am.
“This was the day you swore to my enemy that you would be faithful. That your life would be spent fighting for his glory. That you would die for the honour. Do you remember, child?”
My hands—small and smooth, without the rough calluses that would come. My feet—bare and unmarked by many years on the road. I remember taking the oath, young in years and experience, innocent to the consequences of my actions. I remember that I was once a child.
(‘The child' picture)
Then all is white again. I am once again held by pressure. I flail and struggle, to no avail. My unease is compounded by the fact that I cannot breathe. My mouth stubbornly refuses to open. I will suffocate soon.
“Time passes, and oaths grow bitter in the cold expanse of months and years.”
I am free again. A young man stands before me, athletic, strong. He smiles at me, white teeth showing, lips curled back. I still cannot breathe, but the need to do so passes from my body.
“How acidic does your tongue now taste, when you come to the end, and know that all you’ve done is done in vain?” He asks, teasingly.
We are in a green field, him and I. My shape is no longer that of a young girl, but of a woman, fine toned by the hunt. Now I sense that it is my turn to speak.
“Any who work against you cannot die in futility.” My voice rings harsh in my ears.
“So, you have guessed my name?” the young man inquires.
“I have guessed that you are a servant of evil.”
“No servant, wretch, but evil itself. Now with power over you. The power of life and death.”
“I am a hunter. You have no power over the light I chose to reside within me.”
“Indeed. But I have the power to ask you now, when the choice matters most, if you want that light to remain.”
I would speak to deny him, to dismiss that choice as one already taken, but the young man turns from me and bends to his knees. His face begins to smoke, then his body, as if some great fire consumed him from within.
(‘Steaming man’ picture)
When he rises again and turns back to me, I am forced to step back in horror. Where his eyes once were are empty sockets, where smooth skin stretched over hard muscle there is only bone. His hair is long and white. His teeth still grin, but now it is the fleshless grin of the dead. Permanent and unseeing, that of a dead man.
“When you wake from this nightmare, warrior, you will find yourself immersed in water, flung from the cliffs into the ocean depths, your lungs poised on the brink of collapse and your body too far from the air above.”
So that is the pressure; that is why I couldn’t breathe.
“What your merciful mind has caused you to forget, warrior, is that you are betrayed, your mission foiled. My men have found you, and have overcome you, and now have thrown you to the very edge of life.”
The white I saw was the exhalation of my fall, the pouring out of my breath. A white curtain beyond which death laid waiting.
“Whether you survive the experience or not now depends on my will, warrior. A simple spell will whisk you from the water, and you will find air your friend once more. The price will come, but it pales in comparison with the alternative.”
The water pressing all about me, slowing my movements, impeding my arms and legs, encasement as strong as steel and as final as that horror which it brings.
“Really, I cannot believe you have a choice at all, warrior. Yet I must ask. Is this your brave yet useless end? Or do you live, plucked from the jaws of death, just as they snap shut.”
His grin is mocking, his stance insolent. He already knows that answer I must give.
(‘Mocking grin’ picture)
I do not waste time in responding. “I accept”
He laughs. “Then you are mine.” His hands began to move, the dead lips start to utter the words that will save me.
“I accept.” I say again, staring down into the black wells of his eyes. “I accept the fulfilment of my oath, the promise I swore to defend the light, and the path I have led.”
The dead man stops his spell, his eyes on mine, his teeth still and silent in the wake of my words.
“I accept my death, and do not submit. I die free of you, and I die well.”
“As is your choice.” His final words to me are cold, but I am warm now.
On all sides the water waits once more. My lungs are empty. I fall through the white curtain of air that heralds my passage. My limbs lose their strength and become still.
Yet my mind is clear.
I fall towards the depths, and rise into the light.
(‘Into the depths’ picture)
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Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:17 PM #212
Novice (Lvl 1)
I am done.
I look forward to seeing the other three entries!
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:20 PM #213
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
RL got in the way for me again, and this time when I tried to stay up late to finish I fell asleep at my computer desk. Never fear, though, I am on the last page and should have no problem posting my piece by the deadline in 40 minutes.
However, once again I am not going to get a chance to look it over or do any editing before posting it
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:39 PM #214
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Eek! C'mon NiTessine, I want to see what you wrote for this round!
I'm finished now, just taking the last 20 minutes to try to do some quick proof reading.
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:52 PM #215
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Sniktch vs NiTessine, rd 2
Far away in the tower of Daggas Bludd the wizard Jhakkar stared into his crystal ball impassively as he watched the destruction of the servants of Hecate, stroking his flowing white beard. On his shoulder perched Grundy, his homunculus, the twisted little man clutching at his master nervously as he saw the work of three years falling apart before his eyes. (pic 4)
“Master,” he whined, “we are ruined! The slayer will surely come after us next; what are we to do?”
“Calm yourself! The slayer does not even realize that we played a part in this. We will do what we always do, my pet, what we always do,” Jhakkar rumbled. “We watch and we wait. Besides, all is not lost yet, for we have yet to unleash our greatest weapon.”
They both laughed at that. When Jhakkar could control his mirth again he continued, “When the world is ripe for the plucking we will call upon that weapon and watch the earth burn.”
The day that Khorr’d destroyed the temple, a child was found by the druids of the Twilight Woods. It came floating down the Rillarock in a dainty, watertight bassinet right into the small village of Nevyr, where it was discovered by Belba the midwife as she took care of her weekly laundry. He was a perfectly proportioned little man with beautiful blue eyes and shiny golden hair, and Belba was instantly smitten.
She took the child before the council and they were also charmed by the innocent and cheerful baby, and he was adopted by the village as a whole. Thus they were alarmed when Khorr’d passed through a week later on his way back to the deep forest glade that he called home and declared the child to be evil.
“Ye canna be keepin’ it, now,” he said solemnly before a gathering of the council. “Ye may not be able to tell with yer human senses, but the child reeks of the taint of Hecate. Yer enemies still seek to destroy ye even after they been vanquished.”
The council was forced to agree, for none could argue with the acute senses of the fey satyr. Heartbroken, they agreed that it would be done and parted sadly with Khorr’d as he continued on to his abode. However, they did not realize that Belba had sneaked into the meeting and had sat listening in horror as the council issued the decree.
When the druids ventured to the midwife’s house after bidding the faun farewell they found it abandoned; Belba and the child having vanished into the woodlands long ago. The druids debated for several days before deciding to let the midwife go and not inform the satyr, figuring that the absence of the babe from their realm was just as good as its destruction.
Poor Belba ran long and far, not realizing that she was not being pursued and that her actions were being guided subtly from afar. Eventually she stumbled upon a cave near the edge of the woods, an old abandoned bear’s den. Over the next few weeks she worked long and hard to transform the cave into a home for herself and the child, who she had named Frewen, until they were living in relative comfort. The child was plagued by nightmares but other than that Belba saw no indication of the great evil that the satyr had warned of, and she became convinced that in this case the fey was mistaken.
Jhakkar smiled to himself in his distant tower, pleased by the current course of events. The child would survive to achieve his purpose and none would be the wiser until it was too late; his plans would achieve fruition. He patiently watched for the next two years as Frewen developed into a happy young toddler, then decided it was time to move forward at last.
“It is time for you to play a part, Grundy,” the wizard stated and the evil little golem hopped down from his shoulder and onto the table, rubbing his tiny hands together with wicked glee. Jhakkar fell into the magic then, letting the syllables stream from his lips as he concentrated on the last image he’d seen within the crystal ball. As he intoned the last word a bright flash of light filled the tower, and when it cleared the homunculus could no longer be seen.
An instant later Grundy materialized upon a low hanging branch on the outskirts of a wood and went to work.
Belba whistled cheerfully and off-key as she gathered wild blackberries on a late spring day, Frewen playing a few feet away. Completely absorbed in her task, she did not notice the approach of strangers until it was far too late, when she heard the crunch of footsteps just behind her. She whirled around and found a hideous beast towering over her, a vicious looking humanoid that strongly resembled a hyena. She opened her mouth to scream, but the creature reached out and grasped her about the neck with a powerful claw and snapped it with a quick twist.
The infant began to cry but another of the monsters bent down and lifted him almost gently from the ground, cradling the boy in its arms. A tiny deformed man jumped down from the beast’s shoulder, trying to comfort Frewen. “You have nothing to fear from us,” assured Grundy.
Though the boy could not understand the golem explained anyway. “You are fiend-touched; your father was a demon. You have great powers but you must learn to use them. I have been sent to teach you.”
Frewen spent the next few years in training with Grundy, learning to unlock the latent abilities inherited from his demonic parent. The homunculus also poisoned the boy’s mind, filling him with bitterness and rage. Grundy directed his hatred toward the druids in particular, telling Frewen constant lies about the manner of his birth and subsequent abandonment.
In his lonely spire, Jhakkar only smiled and watched...
Khorr’d woke one morning with a terrible sense of unease. The woods seemed strangely silent and he knew that something was amiss even before he saw the faint plumes of smoke rising into the sky. The satyr grabbed his blade and pipes and bounded off in the direction of the smoke, praying that his instincts were a miss.
Sadly, they were not. He arrived in Nevyr to find it a smoking ruin, the inhabitants either badly mangled or skinned alive and left hanging from the trees. (pic 3) The burly warrior let out a bestial moan of mingled rage and pain, then set about looking for tracks. He found a pair at last, those of several heavy humanoid creatures wearing heavy boots. The trail was easy to follow and he ran off through the forest, hoping to gain time on his quarry.
However, those he pursued seemed to possess unnatural constitution and he seemed to make no headway in his chase. He passed out of the woodlands and onto a broad, flat grasslands and he still saw no indication that he was any closer. Finally he came to a barren windswept plain in a place where the sun beat relentlessly down upon the scorched earth and he found he could continue no farther. The sun had heated the earth to the point where even his hooves felt uncomfortable being in direct contact with it. The tracks had changed curiously, resembling smaller round holes in the dirt and not heavy booted feet, but they continued straight into the fabled Scorched Plains.
Frustrated and on the verge of despair, Khorr’d started to skirt the edges of the plain, hoping to find a point where the passage would be easier. He traveled west along the edge of the desert for two days but found no break in the unending miles of flat, super-heated soil. On the third day however he had a lucky break.
The satyr woke to find himself surrounded by swarthy, dark-skinned men on strange wooden stilts. He immediately saw the usefulness of these devices for crossing the hot ground, and he rose to a sitting position, extending his hands in a sign of peace and calling out to the men, “Ho there and well met! Ye wouldna be interested in partin’ with a pair o’ them stilts, would ye?”
The strange men only stared at him blankly, but at least they made no threatening moves, so Khorr’d tried again. “Ahem, I was wonderin’ if ye might be persuaded to sell me a pair o’ yer stilts.”
One of the men stepped forward and rambled off something in a tongue foreign to the satyr and he sighed as he understood that clear communication would be impossible. He stood up and approached one of the men, pointing at the stilts and then at himself. The man shouted back angrily and backed away from the faun, and he stopped, trying to think of a different tack.
His eyes rested upon the panpipe shoved in his belt and an idea came into his head. He slowly pulled the pipes free and lifted them to his lips then started to blow, tentatively at first but rapidly gaining tempo and volume. He began to dance and twirl about as he played, drawing the strangers into the song. He danced among them and blew reel after reel of catchy music as they performed an elaborate and beautiful stick dance upon their stilts. (pic 2)
At last they seemed to draw to a close, and Khorr’d quit playing and panted for breath. One of the men broke away from the others and approached him, the man appearing to be the oldest one there. Khorr’d knelt and bowed respectfully as the man approached but he smiled and shook his head, grasping the faun by the shoulder and pulling him upright again. He produced a pair of stilts from somewhere and pressed them into the satyr’s hands, then nodded and pointed out across the baked ground.
Khorr’d practiced walking on his new stilts for a couple of hours before taking leave of his new-found friends, waving to them fondly as he set forth across the Scorched Plains. He angled back to the southeast, hoping to come across his quarries’ tracks again. He journeyed all through the night and into the next day, not daring to stop in the hostile terrain, but when he finally reached the other side he had still not discovered any signs of the trail again.
Beginning to despair again, Khorr’d continued southeast, not really expecting to find anything but not knowing what else to do and not ready to abandon his quest yet. He saw signs that he was entering populated lands a week later, and the next night he woke suddenly to the illumination of a great fire not far off. He sprang to his feet, sword in hand, and sprinted off in the direction of the blaze, somehow instinctively feeling that it was related to the prey he had tracked across half the continent.
He arrived at the scene of a village engulfed in flames. He could see mangled corpses strewn about the ground and heard echoing screams emanating from the hamlet, and bounded forward to put an end to the suffering of helpless innocents. He was not prepared for what he would find...
He entered the thick smoke blanketing the village to find a human child standing before him, silhouetted by the leaping flames. The youth appeared to be quite innocent, with cherubic features, deep blue eyes, and a halo of blond hair, but Khorr’d’s nostrils flared as he detected a familiar reek of taint coming from the boy. His eyes widened and he yelled, “You!” and the boy turned towards him. A terrible roar erupted from the lad’s lips then and he raised one hand in a clenched fist. (pic 1) Terrible unholy energy exploded around the satyr, but the fey was made of stern stuff and survived it unfazed.
He started to charge forward but caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye and rolled to the side at the last instant as a powerful gnoll leapt out of hiding and attempted to behead him with its axe. Khorr’d’s dodge caught the creature by surprise and it tilted forward, unbalanced by the miss. The satyr brought his legs sweeping around and kicked at the back of its knee and the gnoll fell heavily to the earth. Khorr’d was back on his feet and upon the fallen gnoll in a flash, creasing his opponent’s skull with his keen blade before it could rise. Even as the first gnoll died the satyr became aware of two more of the creatures stealthily moving in at his flanks and whirled to face the nearer of the two, intentionally exposing his backside to the other.
The beasts took the bait and rushed in swinging their axes. Khorr’d waited until he they were nearly on top of him and then tumbled to the side, slashing with his sword in a low arc at the legs of the attacker coming in from behind. He scored a stinging hit across its shins and it lost control of its charge, falling to the ground howling as its axe slipped free from its fingers and spun through the air. The thick wooden handle caught the other gnoll in the face and its head snapped back. Khorr’d was quick to take advantage of the opening, launching himself forward and striking the creature in the chest with his horns. The gnoll doubled over as it felt the air collapse from its lungs, then the satyr’s blade flashed once and it dropped to the ground, dead.
The last gnoll had recovered by this time, pulling a pair of long bladed knives from its belt and rushing back in. Khorr’d parried several furious blows in rapid succession, catching one of the knives on his blade and pushing it far out to the side on his last parry. The other dagger whistled in unblocked and the satyr accepted the hit on his forearm, catching the gnoll’s arm in his mighty grip as it followed through. He fell to his knees and twisted that arm, using the beast’s momentum to lift it over his head and drop it back to the ground on its back. Before it could rise a well-placed kick opened its skull and poured its brains into the dust.
Breathing a little harder now, the satyr turned back to face the evil child, who had watched the entire battle with a bemused expression on its face. As its last ally fell the boy’s eyes began to widen as fear started to his mind. The satyr rushed forward, yelling, “Prepare to return to the hell that spawned ye!” and the child turned and ran off into the burning town.
Khorr’d started to give pursuit but a tiny figure launched itself from hiding and landed on his arm, biting and scratching in a frenzy. The faun could feel the stinging of the golem’s poison entering his bloodstream, but he trusted his magical constitution to protect him from the worst effects. He plucked the homunculus free and hurled it to the ground, trampling it into the earth beneath his hooves. When the tiny construct moved no more the satyr moved to where he’d seen the child disappear and began searching for the trail again.
In the distant tower of Daggas Bludd, the wizard Jhakkar howled in pain as his creation was crushed, the backlash of Grundy’s death wounding him severely. Greatly weakened, he could no longer maintain his link to the crystal ball and the images within it faded. A stream of curses left his lips as he considered the last few scenes that had flashed before him – the bastard satyr was on the verge of defeating his plans once again!
Swearing vengeance, the wizard crawled to his bed and collapsed. When he regained his strength he would watch and wait for the opportunity to settle the score with the damned fey.
Hours later Khorr’d’s chase came to an end. It had taken him some time to locate the boy’s trail where he’d left the town, and the child had managed to put a good distance between them, but the satyr ignored his exhaustion and the stinging of his wounds and set out after him. Finally, in the small hours of the morning he found his quarry, sleeping peacefully on a bed of moss where at last its strength had fled.
The faun regarded the small sleeping form sorrowfully. At rest the demon-spawn appeared to be nothing more than an innocent child, his features beautiful and angelic. Still, the satyr knew that there could be no redemption for this one; the taint was in its blood and it would bring nothing but destruction to the world if allowed to survive. Others had made that mistake before and paid the price.
Khorr’d’s expression grew grim and he unsheathed his long, shining sword, stalking towards the child. It heard him as he drew near and awoke, lifting frightened and pleading eyes to gaze at the fey.
The satyr’s lips tightened and his knuckles grew white, but his resolve did not falter and he showed no mercy.
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:52 PM #216
wow, folks are cutting it close!
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:55 PM #217
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Yeah, there it is, for better or for worse. I'm not going to be able to get any more work on it done without going over the deadline. C'Mon NiT, 2 minutes left by my watch
Its a bit longer and more ambitious than last round, but I hope it stands up as a good follow-up under the cold discerning eyes of the judges. Clay, next time can we have 72 hours, please? I'm gonna take a nap at my desk now
Last edited by Sniktch; Wednesday, 12th March, 2003 at 01:55 PM.
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 01:59 PM #218
Gallant (Lvl 3)
A Good Life
Vennizen the Silvery lay dying. He was not particularly opposed to this, having lived good life, and reached venerable age of 90. Lying between his silken sheets on this warm spring morning, he felt only restful.
He was alone; it'd be an hour before the servants should start roaming the house, and yet another after that before the rest of the family would wake up. He'd have plenty of time to leave his mortal coil.
Taking a more comfortable position, he reflected back on his life. His earliest memories were at the age of five, when his latent magical powers had first awoken and marked him special for the rest of his life. The unfortunate, though deserving, recipient of his magical outburst had been a bandit chieftain, who was just in the process of burning down his noble family's estate in countryside, a day's ride from Dajeq. The man had been immolated in a conflagration that rivalled the heat of the burning buildings. (pic 1)
He'd slung fire and flames many times that day, destroying the bandits with the sort of innocent rage that only a child can muster. The border riders had found him soon after, following the enormous pillar of smoke that cleft the grey sky in twain.
Many things had died that day, his childhood among them. After it had been ascertained he was a natural sorcerer, he'd been taken in by the clergy of Annek the Nighttime Protector, as the law dictated.
From then on, his days were full of study, about the principles of magic, the religious texts of Annek, and the histories of the Dajeqi people. He never saw his parents again, until over a decade later, when he'd been groomed into the rank of a full warrior priest. At the time, he was the clergyman of a patrol through the jungles surrounding the city, hunting a band of border raiders, the eternal plague of the borderlands. They'd been told the raiders had attacked a caravan and taken a number of prisoners, including Vennizen's parents. A cold rage had burned inside him that day, and once they came upon the flayed cadavers of his kin, he let it out. (pic 3)
He'd run and tracked with exceptional skill that day, leaving behind the rest of his patrol. When they caught up with him, he'd already caught up with the bandits, and all that was left was a crater and smoking bones.
Vennizen had soon been transferred out of field duty afterwards. The Dajeqi military could not afford to have such unpredictable power in their ranks. He was made a temple priest, though he continued to practice the traditional skills of a Dajeqi warrior; archery, tracking, and the hom-dai.
The hom-dai was an integral part of the Dajeqi culture. It was a very dramatic martial arts, where the combatants moved about on short stilts. (pic 2)The first thing taught to a student of hom-dai was to never set his foot down from a stilt during a fight. Moving the foot in other ways, however, was quite important when pressing an attack. Some of the most devastating attacks were lightning-fast kicks to the front, or a double kick, where the warrior took support from his stilts and kicked forward with his feet. The punches were similarly quick, the hand leaving the stilt only for a fraction of a second to smack the opponent in the jaw.
The stilts themselves were also used for offence, when the fighter put both feet on the same stilt and used the other to swing at his enemies. Hom-dai was most often played as a sport, where the bruises and occasional broken bones were accepted as a risk and quickly forgiven by the cheerful Dajeqi, who saw it was a part of the fun. However, against the border raiders, it was used to deadly effect, and the stilts were iron-shod.
Vennizen had made a good hom-dai player. But those days were past him, now. He'd married in the meanwhile, too, and his beautiful wife, Mesijah, had borne him three healthy sons and a daughter.
Since his fortieth year, the priesthood called his attention once more to the ever-growing list of responsibilities he had as a senior clergyman. He was required to do sermons, paint himself white to symbolize the relation he had with the moon god, and live away from his family, in a niche behind the great statue's head in the temple of Annek. His quarters there were austere, and from there he would wander forth in the hour of midnight, to sit on the shoulder of Annek, and speak to the believers. (pic 4)
That had ended, too. His time of duty as a priest of Annek expired, and he could retire to his rebuilt family estate, to spend his life as he would with his family. Mesijah died of a strange wasting disease along the years, leaving Vennizen feeling empty and old. And now, seven years after his wife, he felt his own death approaching. He had no fears, having served the Nighttime Protector well in his time. Now, he could just lie down in his bed, smiling.
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 02:04 PM #219
i have nit as being 2 minutes late....close enuf for me to leave the inclusion or rejection of his story to sniktch.
sniktch- sportsman-like patience or deadline loving justice?
Wednesday, 12th March, 2003, 02:07 PM #220
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Woo! He made it! Clay, sportsmanlike patience from me. He's close enough to the deadline and I didn't want to win by default, anyway. No matter how it turns out, I'd rather leave this in the hands of our esteemed judges.