Unforgiving lands - Now in hiatus - Details at last post


First Post
So! 20 views per update, ain't that sweet? It'd be even sweeter to have additional reader comments, but hey, I'm not complaining, just sayin' :)

Enjoy this chapter folks, or at least I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. Comments and criticism are always welcome :D

Chapter 13


Draegen Ender, Master of the Honor Guard, stared back at Gilliam, a grim look on his face. His hands were placed firmly on top of his heavy desk, acting as supports for his body, as he leaned forward.

“And so you killed the leader of the spies, Reldo the Mighty, our only viable source of information for the time being” he stated, rather than asked. “Am I missing something, mercenary?”

“It could be that, as I explained, he didn't feel like relinquishing any secrets he had, Master Ender” Gilliam replied wearily. He had explained the whole matter once, but he still didn't enjoy having to do so again.

Master Ender nodded gravely, and practically slumped back on his chair, letting go of his hands on the desk, where more than a dozen scrolls lay, all full of valuable words and numbers. It was all illuminated by the lanterns in the room, since the sun hadn't raised from the horizon, yet.

Vincent cleared his throat before taking a step forward and opening his mouth to speak, effectively standing right next to the mercenary “Master Ender, I'm afraid that Gilliam's words are true, from beginning to end; Reldo's sheer determination to keep his contractor's identity secret proved steadfast 'till the end of his life”.

“I'll grant him that much: he had a strong will” Darius was commenting to Kahleen, both standing a few steps behind.

“Giving praise to your enemies, soldier?” Draegen inquired with a raised eyebrow.

Darius dropped his conversation in a blink and straightened like the soldier he was, fixing his gaze on some invisible spot directly across from him “No, sir, just observing my enemy's traits, which I consider valuable”.

“Lapdog” Gilliam thought, but didn't say. “In any case” he began anew, drawing Draegen's attention to him once more “we know it's either House Grugarch or House Ganellar that have orchestrated this”.

Master Ender's expression remained still, like an eternal tombstone “Do you, now?” he replied at length. “And how is it that you know for a fact that it was either of those Houses, mercenary?”.

Gilliam tried to compose a coherent answer “Well, you see... the dwarf and his men...”, and Kahleen took a step forward to assist him, placing a hand on his shoulder to make him stop talking.

“We don't, Master Ender, that is the truth” she said calmly. “But the dwarf didn't reject the idea that it could be either House requesting his aid”.

“She speaks the truth, sir” Darius added, still hanging back from the rest of the group.

The room went silent as Draegen placed both elbows on the desk, resting his chin on his folded hands.

“Very well” the old warrior conceded at length. “I will take note of this, but know that such evidence won't lead to any direct action against either House. We need stronger proof than that before House Kashtar or House Dagoth make a move”.

The man's arms returned to their previous position, by his lap, as he regarded the four companions “Is that understood?”.

“Yes, Master Ender”.

“Yes, sir”.


“I do, Master Ender”.

“You are all dismissed, then” Draegen said. “I shall send a messenger for you when I have your next task available”.

Without saying anything else, the four left the room. Both Darius and Vincent saluted before passing through the door.


Hours later, it was still dark outside, but Seawall's buildings started to become more clear as dawn approached, heralded by the false dawn, which painted the horizon in blue and green tones. Merchants were beginning to set up their shops and establishments for a new day of work, and everyone else in the city who had some responsibility would attend to it in a matter of hours. For now, though, everything held an almost mystic silence, which permeated the entire city.

Darius Brokenblade was leaning on a railing, atop a balcony on the fourth floor of Valor's Banner, watching the spectacle of the incoming dawn. His features were serene, displaying no particular emotion, and he didn't flinch when he heard the metallic door behind him open.

“Ah, here you are, Darius”.

The soldier didn't have to turn to recognize the newcomer, for he recognized Vincent's voice pretty well. He didn't reply, however, and remained in his position, gazing at the city below.

Walking slowly towards the railing, Vincent stood next to Darius, appreciating what the other man was focused on. It truly was a spectacular sight.

“You can't sleep, I take it?” Vincent inquired, glancing at the soldier.

Darius responded with a slow shake of his head.

Nodding to himself, the squire turned his attention back to the vista ahead of them “Likewise. That battle occurred very recently, and I have trouble resting immediately after one”.

Neither man said anything, and so they each kept to their own thoughts for a while. It was Darius who broke the silence, after a minute.

“I almost died, back then, against Reldo”.

Vincent didn't know how to respond to that right away, and took his time to give an answer “I wasn't far away from that fate, either” the squire pointed out. “Has the experience shocked you?”.

It took some time for the soldier to come up with a reply of his own. Sighing deeply, he stood straight and stretched his arms upwards.

“You could say so” he admitted. Darius turned his head to face Vincent, for the first time in the conversation “But yet I'm here, alive, unlike others who were less fortunate”.

“You mean your friends” Vincent observed, looking intently at the man's pained eyes.

Darius averted his gaze from the squire's face, and went back to observing the sleeping city.

“This fear” the squire began “does it prevent you from fighting anymore, Darius?”.

“On the contrary” the soldier replied without hesitation.

Vincent was confused about this, and placed his hands on his hips as he contemplated Darius, who still gazed forwards.

“What is it, then? What do you feel, as of now?”

Darius turned half-way to face the squire, a smile forming on his fair features, and something powerful shining within his blue eyes.

“Since our last battles, Vincent, I have found that I have this burning desire... to be alive”.

The squire smiled back, and remained silent. Both men were looking at the horizon, then, just as the sun's upper edge rose by an inch, and shone its radiance upon the two of them.

No words could've described what they experienced, as they stood on the railing by themselves, staring at the golden orb's entrance to this world, to cast away the darkness, and commence a new day.


Gilliam stared into the depths of the woman's brown eyes, allowing himself to be drawn into them.

“Jillian” he called her, for that was her name. The woman's long black hair was a mess, and it covered half her face.

“Gilliam” she replied, staring back into his eyes in the same way, as if this link was all that kept them in this world, together. She reached out for him, extending a hand. Gilliam took it, and brought her to close to his body, embracing her with one arm.

“I will protect you, no matter what” he whispered into her ear, inhaling a breath of her aroma in the process, feeling lightheaded just by being close to her.

“You lie, Gilliam” Jillian replied, pushing him back to arm's length. The warrior didn't know what to make of this sudden change of emotions, and looked at her perplexedly.

“My love, why can't you trust my words?” he asked her, sounding pained.

The woman returned a blank expression “Why, isn't it obvious?” she asked him, her tone sarcastic.

Gilliam looked at her, and when he glanced down, he saw it: his own bastard sword, running through her chest, all covered in her blood. He paled, and tried to pull the sword out, desperate, but try as he might, he couldn't.

“Why, Gilliam?” she implored “Why have you done this to me? I thought you loved me”.

“I-no, I didn't do this, and I do love you, Jillian!” he responded, fear clogging his thoughts, making them run wildly, rendering him unable to come up with a way to save her. He tried with both his hands, but the blade wouldn't let go of her body, and the blood kept pouring out all the while.

“You said you would protect me, Gilliam” Jillian said, accusingly. “But in the end, it's the other way around”.

“No, this can't be happening!” Gilliam cried, still attempting to pry the sword out of Jillian's body, getting his hands bloody as he did.

“You killed me, Gilliam”.


Gilliam opened his eyes, and realized he was sitting upright on a bed, having shouted at the emptiness of the room he was in. Then he remembered: he had received accommodations at the keep, as a reward for his late night battle. Shuddering, due to the cold sweat that coated his naked body, the mercenary hugged his own torso, and remained in that position for a long while.

“I didn't kill you, my love” he whispered, as tears fell freely down his face.


Time was meaningless, and space was rendered unimportant and useless. In her trance, Kahleen didn't perceive things as anyone normally might, such as the passage of time, or other bodily sensations. There wasn't any depth to where she was, any echo to her thoughts or words. She simply was, focused in her meditative state, being one with the spirits of the Nether, the plane under the control of Deriner, Lady of Essence. In a way, Kahleen was communing with the deity herself, but at the same time, she wasn't, for her link with the Nether meant a connection with Deriner's domain, but not her essence.

In this place between the worlds, the Nether, words didn't come in the form of sound, but rather essence, spiritual energy. The essence fluctuated around the shaman, like smoke of a multitude of shifting colors, going into her own physical form, joining with her essence, and simultaneously drawing from it, taking it away.

It was through this exchange that she was able to renew her energies to summon shamanic magic in the world, when she needed it. Through years of repetition and practice, the hermit had been able to perfect this exchange of essence, allowing her to regain her energies faster. Entering the trance was easier, as well.

At the end, when she felt whole once again, Kahleen closed the connection between the Nether and her essence, making the rainbow mists slowly depart from her vicinity. Within moments, she was back where she had started the trance, on the roof of Valor's Banner. The sun was raising, now, and her lean figure was enveloped by its rays of light.

The shaman smiled, satisfied by her trance, and glad to be back in time to witness such a scene. Seawall was being bathed in the sunlight as well, and the golden light's advance on its buildings and streets was majestic, to say the least.

“Aah, life” she said, basking in the moment's beauty.


The four met in the morning, by the keep's entrance, each one of them dressed for battle, with their respective weapons and armor. It was cloudy, threatening to rain at any time, but otherwise the afternoon had been pleasant enough so far.

“Sheesh, Master Ender allowed us no more than a day of rest before this journey” Gilliam complained, scratching his head and looking around. A procession of guards were passing by, escorting a high ranking noble of House Kashtar. Not one of them paid the quartet any heed.

Vincent chuckled and slapped Gilliam on the back “Cheer up, Gil, at least we got a good night's sleep, right?”.

“Indeed! I'd say Master Ender is quite generous” Darius quipped in, sounding as optimistic as the squire, and slapping the mercenary on the back from the other side.

Gilliam groaned and shook his head “Are you two trying to form a duo, to further annoy me with your positive talk?”.

But it was all said with good intentions, and the three laughed together. Kahleen merely smiled at this.

“The items should have been identified by now” the shaman reminded them. “I say we pick them up at the arcanist's shop before we go to our briefing”.

Darius nodded and begun to walk away from Valor's Banner, with the strong wind moving his blond hair backwards, making him look dashing “Onwards, to the mage's building!” he declared, sounding heroic. Or, at least, making the endeavor sound heroic.

The other three had no reason to reject this, and so they followed suit. However, someone's voice was directed at them from the side of the stone bridge they were on, and made them stop to face the man who owned it.

It was a red haired human, with a cunning smile on his face, clad in leather armor, a longsword on his hip, accompanied by a short sword on the other one. His lean, yet muscular body was placed on top of the bridge's railing, sitting there comfortably, arms folded across his chest.

“Now now, let's finish this little game of ours, shall we?” offered Gon, leaping down from the railing to land a few feet away from the companions, arms extended, as if offering a hug.

Gilliam rolled his eyes, and Darius groaned. It had almost been a perfect start.
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First Post
Before you read the next chapter, I'd like to make one big announcement: first, thank you all who keep reading and adding to the view count, it's what keeps me going, besides the joy of writing this stuff out :D

Secondly, did this story hour get like 50 views in the last update?! I could've sworn to Pelor that the number was 590 or something, and now it's well over 600! In any case, thank you all again for your interest. To those new readers out there, come out and say hello! Don't be shy! I'd just like to know who's reading my tale, at least ;)

Without further comments, I give you, the next chapter. Fine, I lied, there's the thing with Gon's stat block, I'll update that when I have the chance in the Rogue's Gallery :p

Chapter 14

The Mermaid's Dream

Gon approached the four with a smile a father had when he reunited with his dear children “Come now! Why such expressions of distaste at my reappearance?” he asked them jovially. “Surely you have missed my departure?”.

Darius was about to tell him that it was the exact opposite, but Gilliam interjected “Where in the Hells were you, Gon? You disappeared after the massacre at the warehouse”.

If anything, Gon was amused at the mercenary's angry tone “Why, I was cornered against two of the remaining thugs, and had to force my escape through a tall window”.

“How come we didn't hear from you until now?” Kahleen inquired, sounding curious rather than suspicious, unlike the other men.

“I was wounded, greatly so, which didn't allow me to communicate my situation, not even to my superiors” the red-head explained calmly, with a cunning smile on his face. “I've recently informed Master Ender of my whereabouts, and he has accepted my explanation”.

Gon then pointed at the keep they had left with one finger “In there, I was given a very noble task” he stated humbly, proceeding to place a hand on his chest, where his heart was located. “I am to assist you in your dangerous mission, whatever it might be”.

His heroic claims were met with stares of resentfulness and annoyance from both mercenary and soldier. Vincent didn't look angered in the least, nor did the serene shaman. “You know that we must meet with a contact at a certain location, then?” the squire asked him.

“Of course” Gon answered happily. “I know the details, so you must not worry about my knowledge”.

Darius was looking elsewhere, so that he didn't have to face the man. “We need to stop by a mage's place, to retrieve certain items of use”.

This didn't seem to rub off of Gon in a negative way, either. “We'll make as many stops that are necessary, even if they number in the millions!” he announced with glee, throwing a fist up in the air. Gilliam dismissed this with a wave of his hand and begun to walk away, tired of the man's attitude.

Without a word, Kahleen followed, and Darius didn't need much encouragement to do the same. Only Vincent remained, who offered Gon an outstretched hand. “I hope we work well together” he said with a small grin.

The soldier kept smiling as he took the hand and shook it vigorously “Likewise, good squire!”.

Already walking at a faster pace, Gilliam sighed. “What's the jail time in Seawall for murdering a blabbering red-headed fool, Darius?”.

The soldier sighed as well before responding. “Not long enough to convince me to do otherwise”.


They had spare time to reach the contact in the Merchant district, since the appointed time of the meeting was for the late evening, and so the five went to a wizard's guild house in order to retrieve the identified items.

Gilliam had been forced to press the arcanist who gave him the items to be less cryptic with his explanations of what the rings, boots and belt did, and eventually the man yielded and told him in plain words what their function was.

“Mages and their need for drama when it comes to magic” the mercenary fumed as he left the guild house, carrying an additional leather pouch with him on his hand. He gestured for the waiting four to follow him towards a less crowded street, and they all complied wordlessly. It took almost a minute to reach a more secure area.

“What have we got, then?” Gon asked eagerly, rubbing his hands at the sight of the four magical items within the leather satchel. Needless to say, he was the only one who was so thrilled with these objects.

Suppressing a groan of annoyance, Gilliam took out one of the rings, which was made of dark jade, and held it in his open palm. “This ring will protect whoever wears it, much like a shield defends its wielder, through its magics”.

“Maybe Reldo wasn't that good himself, if he had that to assist him” Darius reflected while looking at the ring. Vincent nodded but didn't say anything. “What about the second ring?” Kahleen inquired, curious.

Gilliam took out the other one, which was made of onyx black as the night, with a teardrop shaped ruby attached to it. It seemed more valuable as jewelery rather than as a magical object. “And this other one defends the wearer from fire”.

No one said anything, and so Gilliam grabbed the remaining two objects, belt and boots, placing them in the center of the circle they were forming. There was nothing out of the ordinary with them, save for the runes engraved in each, barely visible unless one was very perceptive.

“Let me guess,” Gon said, “the belt can change your gender, and the boots allow you to move with stealth”. His guess was met with different degrees of stupefaction from the others, but this didn't seem to offend the merry soldier “I said I was guessing, didn't I?”.

“Anyway” Gilliam continued, tired of Gon's quips. “This belt gives enhanced physical might to the one wearing it” he was saying, making Vincent say “So much for the 'Mighty' Reldo”.

Lifting the boots with one hand, the mercenary told them of the last object's function. “And this pair grant you more agility to avoid attacks, and to increase your accuracy as well ” he said, glancing at Kahleen at the end. “All yours” he offered, extending the boots for her to grab. With a smile and a “Thank you”, the shaman took the boots and began to put them on, which looked rather strange, since she had been barefoot until now.

Before anyone (or more specifically, Gon) could say anything else, Gilliam delegated the belt to Darius with an offered hand. “Put it to good use, soldier” he said with exaggerated tones. Darius seemed surprised by the gift, and slowly begun to place it around his waist, securing it to his armor. “I don't feel stronger...” he was saying after he had strapped the belt on.

“Test it on Gon” Gilliam muttered.

Gon still had a look of a little boy who couldn't wait to open his presents in his birthday. “Say, who gets the rings?”.

Gilliam thrust his hand into the satchel, grasping for the two rings, and took them out at the same time, palm open upwards, in Vincent's direction. “Here you go, Vince”.

The elf blinked, clearly not having expected this. “Ah, well, I suppose I'll keep the jade ring, to increase my defensive capabilities...” he began to say awkwardly, moving his hand over Gilliam's. The mercenary shook his head “No, you take both, Vince”.

Even more surprised, Vincent stood there mutely for a moment before finally grasping both rings and placing each on of his hands. “Why both, Gil?”. Gon looked irritated and asked the same question, drawing a sigh from the mercenary.

“Because you need them the most. My job is to keep you alive, and the better equipped you are, the easier it is to accomplish that task” he explained.

Crossing his arms in front of his chest and making a pout, Gon harrumphed loudly “And why don't I get an item?”.

Gilliam scowled back at him. “Because you didn't fight Reldo with us, that's why”.

The shaman was looking at the sky, noticing the sun's position. “I say we start walking towards the tavern, so that we make it with time to spare” the shaman suggested to the rest. Gon was about to start an argument with Gilliam, but seeing that the other three were leaving, he quickly dropped the issue and decided to sing a song instead. He kept going non-stop, switching to a new one when he finished the first one.

That afternoon, the walk to the tavern was the longest and most nerve-bending journey that Gilliam had to endure in his entire life.


Even in the early evening, the Mermaid's Dream was packed full of people, each doing their own thing, but mostly drinking and enjoying a good time in the popular tavern. The patron was a halfling of considerable charisma, for his words were more often than not very convincing, despite his size. He was quite the exotic sight, since his race was a rarity in this section of the continent. The barmaids, however, weren't halflings, but elven and human. Every now and then, the patron had to intervene in order to prevent fights from occurring in his establishment, and it was rare indeed to have a brawl started in the Mermaid's Dream due to his way of swaying people's intentions.

The place had two floors, the main one for drinking, parlor games, and for the minstrels to play their music to liven up the building. The other floor was reserved for sleeping quarters, for those who wanted to stay a night or two. And since the place was kept tidy and clean (or at least relatively so, for a tavern), it wasn't uncommon for the sleeping rooms to be full of guests every night of the week.

It was in one corner, by the fireplace, that six people sat on a circular table, exchanging words in normal tones, since the noise of the entire place prevented them from whispering. The group of five, all dressed as usual, were joined by a sixth in a matter of minutes after they had sat down on the table. Their guest was a half-orc, another rare sight in Seawall, but this one dressed rather elegantly, instead of looking like the typical savage his race was seen as. His indigo robes had golden thread by the edges, and a richly adorned pendant hung from his wide neck, jingling whenever he moved his head.

“Your group is quite peculiar” the half-orc was commenting, observing the five sitting around him. No one save for him had ordered a drink, and the man took a sip of a pricey wine he had paid for. “But that doesn't change my disposition towards passing House Suran's wishes along, obviously”.

Vincent leaned forward, his heavy armor squeaking a bit in the process. “What does the House of Warlocks need from House Kashtar?” he asked, looking at the half-orc in the eye.

“More than you think, squire Vincent” the man retorted simply, grabbing his cup of wine and moving it in the air in circles, making its contents swirl. “As you should know, my name is Hertil Yovic, and my clan is one of the most influential ones of House Suran”.

“You haven't answered the question” Kahleen pointed out. She had to talk louder than usual, with all the noise around them, but her face kept calm nonetheless.

Hertil shifted his eyes in Kahleen's direction “True” he admitted, taking another sip of wine. “House Suran requires the aid of your House, squire, in order to deal with a problem of ours up north”.

Gilliam raised an eyebrow at this. “Barbarians?”.

“Your companion is very intelligent” Hertil appraised, nodding to Gilliam. The mercenary didn't seem to take the compliment well, as it sounded condescending to his ears. “Yes, Barbarians have been assaulting our settlements up north, at the Frostfell Mountains. Our... business in the area requires peaceful surroundings, and such violent attacks distract House Suran from its research”.

“Would you mind being a tad more specific, good sir?” Gon prodded with that cunning smile of his. “We would appreciate knowing more than that before we agree to help your House”. Surprisingly, Darius nodded in agreement, an event that heralded the end of the world, no doubt.

The half-orc leaned back on his chair, observing his wine-filled glass with intent, seeming lost in thought for an instant. Vincent seemed annoyed by this, and placed his arms on the table, leaning forward once more “As a member of House Kashtar and clan Ender, I demand to know what business it is that we are helping, Hertil Yovic”.

This seemed to have an effect on the noble, for he resumed his original posture at once, facing Vincent squarely, with serious expression on his face. “If this will make you aid House Suran, then I shall comply to your demands, squire Vincent” he stated, sounding like he had been pressed to do say he wasn't planning on revealing unless it was as a last resort.

Gilliam appeared impressed by this, as he had never seen Vincent command such force of will to get things done so quickly. “Go on, then” the mercenary bade him.

Taking a breath, Hertil began to look around at the five, speaking as he moved his head to face each of them individually. “My House has always been focused in the arcane, everything under the domain of Fahrassi, Goddess of the Elements, and thus our main research and investigations are related solely to those subjects”.

“In the late years, House Suran has found valuable relics and objects in several caverns along the Frostfell Mountains, and thus begun to explore the area more and more, with each new discovery fueling the desire to obtain the next ancient item that lay there, hidden”.

His words were easy to follow, and as Hertil talked the five almost forgot about the background noise that was constantly around the tavern. None of them made a move or a sound as they listened the half-orc's speech intently.

“Apparently, the Wind Spear tribe, one of the most powerful groups of Barbarians in the region, took offense in our investigation of the caves, and commenced to perform raids on our settlements without warning”. Hertil paused, sipping another inch of wine from his cup. “In order to continue the research, we must have more suitable conditions in which to do so”.

Kahleen shifted on her seat, a bit uneasy, and only Darius seemed to note this.

“I still don't see how House Kashtar is involved in this, noble Hertil” Vincent said to him, his expression serious. Next to him, Darius added “Indeed, you haven't drawn that connection, only the need for it”.

Nodding, the half-orc yielded the point. “Very true. Let us say that House Suran shall be... indebted to your House, if you help us with our issue” he explained, hands apart and open. This seemed to satisfy everyone else.

“Give us a map, and we'll give you our strength to deal with the Wind Spear Tribe” Gilliam said simply, offering a hand with the palm facing up to Hertil. The noble complied, and from his extravagant robes he took out a folded scroll, the seal of House Suran drawn on it.

Gon took a hold of the map before Gilliam reached out for it, and opened it on his own, scanning its contents. “What in the Hells are you doing?” the mercenary demanded, flustered. But the red-headed soldier didn't reply, focused as he was on the scroll. Darius was about to press him further to respond, but just then the man stopped abruptly, handing it over to Gilliam, a wide smile on his face.

Taking it away rather forcefully, Gilliam placed the scroll on the table in front of him. “I was merely checking the veracity of the map, Gilliam” Gon explained calmly. “And from what I gather, it's quite accurate”. Hertil contemplated Gon with narrowed eyes, but didn't say anything.

Gilliam didn't know that much about forgeries, but for some reason he trusted Gon's judgement. The map in question did look like the real deal, with many carefully drawn lines going everywhere, indicating the geography of the northwest section of the continent, and a clear path between Seawall and the Frostfell Mountains.

“Anything else we should know, noble of House Suran?” Darius inquired, sounding just a bit suspicious. The half-orc shook his head in response “That's all that I have to offer, gentlemen” he responded rather ambiguously, then glancing at Kahleen, “and lady”. The shaman's eye glinted for a moment, and it wasn't clear what message she was conveying with her one-eyed look.

“I take it that you need us to depart right away?” Vincent asked, as he began to stand up from his seat. Hertil nodded and proceeded to do the same, albeit in a more elegant fashion “You are correct, squire. Gather your resources and leave as soon as you can muster”.

With that, the half-orc left the tavern, leaving the five in their table, every one of them on their feet by then. Darius looked at Kahleen with concern “Everything alright, miss?”. The woman took a moment's respite before replying “I'll explain later. Let us go outside for now”.

The night wasn't that warm, even though it was summertime, but then again, Seawall was located by the ocean, which allowed for the winds to shape the weather. Closing the door behind them, the group abandoned the crowded establishment and walked by the main street of the district, heading to buy provisions.

“Interesting ordeals are happening at the time with House Suran, it seems” Gon commented off-handedly, catching everyone else by surprise. “What do you mean by that?” Gilliam asked the wily man, glancing at him sideways.

“Why, it seems like they fear a spy or an assassin, isn't that obvious?” he responded casually, gesturing back at the Mermaid's Dream as he did. “Why else would a noble of House Suran conduct such business in an undignified place like a tavern, rather than an actual upper-class house?”.

No one had an answer, not even Gilliam, who was usually very perceptive of hidden motives and deals. Darius abhorred talking to Gon, but the other soldier seemed to have been accurate in his observation. “How does that affect us, if at all?”.

Gon chuckled as he threw his arms up in the air “Heck if I know! I'm just pointing out the obvious: House Suran is being paranoid, and rightly so”.

“You think that other Houses are involved in this as well, just like with House Dagoth and House Ganellar?” Vincent inquired at length, sounding skeptical.

Gon merely shrugged in response. “Who knows? It's all a gigantic web of intrigue, and it's quite the task to follow its links, to see where they go”.

“Or more importantly” Darius said, “knowing who the spider is”.
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First Post
Boo-yah! :D

No, it's not another chapter, I'm afraid. It's Gon's stat block! Our beloved roguish soldier is now officially statted in the Rogue's Gallery. Go see him at the link in my signature, if you dare ;)


First Post
Uhm, signature?

And yes, I am still reading your story faithfully. Personally, I think Gilliam should have created a new sheath for one of his swords using Gom when he was making noise about getting a magic item, but that's just me.

Loving it CW, definitely loving it.


First Post
Boss said:
Uhm, signature?

And yes, I am still reading your story faithfully. Personally, I think Gilliam should have created a new sheath for one of his swords using Gom when he was making noise about getting a magic item, but that's just me.

Loving it CW, definitely loving it.

First of all, thank you for posting once again, I'm glad to have a reader give his thoughts on the story :)

And yes, Gilliam did have a scenario in mind as you suggest, but alas, making sheaths out of soldiers like Gon is llegal in Seawall! Maybe when they make it out of the city's boundaries... :]

The link for the Rogue's Gallery is here , it should be in my signature, which appears only in the first post of each page.


First Post
Cerulean_Wings said:
First of all, thank you for posting once again, I'm glad to have a reader give his thoughts on the story :)

And yes, Gilliam did have a scenario in mind as you suggest, but alas, making sheaths out of soldiers like Gon is llegal in Seawall! Maybe when they make it out of the city's boundaries... :]

The link for the Rogue's Gallery is here , it should be in my signature, which appears only in the first post of each page.

Yeah, that is why I put a question mark behind signature... I scrolled up to your first post on this thread and there is no sig there at the bottom, just thought you would want to know.


First Post
Ah, I see what you mean now! Thanks for bringing that up Boss, I just noticed that my first post in the thread didn't include my signature, for some reason. I'll edit the link into it, then :)

For those who are curious, I'm keeping an update schedule of Monday - Wednesday - Friday. Or at least 3 updates per week. I love writing chapters, but I have other things to do with my life during the day :eek:

This weekend, on the other hand, you're in for a treat: I have 48 hours of free time :]
Which, unless my math fails me, means 24 new chapters! Well, that's if I relinquish my dignity, hygiene, and nutrition. So, let's say you'll get at least 2 updates this weekend ;)


First Post
Here's the next installment, the first of a couple to come in this long weekend :)


Chapter 15

A long journey

By the dawn of the next the day, everyone had gathered traveling supplies for their long trek and felt ready to face the journey ahead of them. Each traveler carried an equal amount of gear, even though some of them, like Vincent and Darius, were already burdened with their heavy armor. The squire and soldier would get more sleeping time and less guard shifts, in return.

The day was sunny, a good augury, although the only one who counted this as such was Darius, who was pointed out to be “superstitious” by his peers. Gon used every opportunity to make jokes about the soldier's beliefs, now that had been given material with which to make fun of.

Initially, the land outside Seawall was lush and green, filled with pastures everywhere, making for a pleasant area to go by. As one moved east and north, however, the terrain started to turn into slightly barren hills, and the Gray Spears, the mountains to the north, begun to get closer in sight. The mountain range stretched far, from the very west, by the coast, to the east, where the peninsula started.

They had traveled for only two days from Seawall, when Darius finally lost his patience with the merry Gon. “Would it kill you to remain quiet, Gon?!” he yelled as his face turned red, although not from the sun shining on them from above. “We've got many days of walking, and I could use some solace, every now and then” he added in a more level tone.

“I so happen to be allergic to silence, my dear Brokenblade” Gon explained with feigned sadness. “You wouldn't want my face to go all puffy, because you dislike the sound of my voice, would you?”.

Before Darius could reply, Vincent spoke, seemingly oblivious to their heated exchange. “Say, Gon, how come you don't wear the usual Honor Guard armor, or even carry a spear?” he asked from behind the two soldiers.

Gon didn't mind aborting his pestering for the time being and slowed down to fall in line with the squire. “It so happens that I'm more comfortable with lighter protections, my good squire”. To demonstrate, he jumped up in the air and spun in a complete circle before landing gracefully on the ground, smoothly returning to the walking pace.

Vincent seemed impressed by this. “You've received different training than the regular soldier, then?”.

“I've received different training before I joined the Honor Guard” Gon replied with a smile and a wink. The squire didn't inquire further, understanding from his words that the matter was private.

“Kahleen, have you got magic to get rid of a massive headache?” Gilliam was asking the shaman, a couple of paces ahead of the rest. “I'm afraid that my power can only affect wounds, not annoyances” she responded with a shake of his head.

The mercenary looked back every now and then, mainly at Gon, but his casual glances didn't provide with any further insight of what the roguish soldier was up to. “What about silencing Gon?” he asked in a lower voice.

“I could, but I'm not going to” Kahleen replied, laughing lightly after she did. Gilliam noted this with a frown. How many times had he seen the shaman laugh, from the day he'd known her?

“To be honest, I see more wisdom in preserving our energies for the journey, rather than to fight amongst ourselves” she suggested serenely to the man. Sighing deeply, Gilliam yielded to that point. “I agree, but...” he said, his next words trailing off. Kahleen didn't say anything, and waited for him to continue his sentence. Gilliam kicked a nearby stone, expressing his feelings at the time. “There's something odd with him. I can't put my finger into what, exactly, but something about that soldier unnerves me”.

Just then, Vincent was laughing wildly at a comment Gon had made, and it was unlikely that anyone but them heard what they had said. “Tell me about it” Darius commented in a frustrated tone, hurrying his pace to place himself by Gilliam's side. The shaman didn't say anything herself, remaining silent for the time being.

“Did he always pester you, even in the quarters of the Honor Guard?” the mercenary asked Darius. Nodding, the blond soldier let out an angry breath. “Indeed. He always finds something to mock me about. Especially my last name”.

“I don't see anything remotely funny about your last name, Darius” Gilliam reassured him in a serious tone. This didn't seem to improve the man's mood, however. Darius mumbled a curse and started to walk faster, gaining distance from the rest of the group.

“Let me talk to him” Kahleen said, before Gilliam could stop the soldier from moving ahead. The shaman quickened her pace as well, catching up with the furious Darius in little time.

“I have a proposal” she said to him upon reaching his side. The soldier looked curious, but not overtly so. “Go ahead” he said in a tired way.

“I will tell you about my past with the Wind spear tribe, if you then tell me about yours”. This took Darius by surprise, and the man didn't know how to reply for several seconds.

“Alright, I don't mind telling you, miss” he said at length, sounding less angry than before. Almost subconsciously, he glanced back at the other three, and saw that Gilliam was looking at him intently. Apparently, the mercenary held some hope that the shaman could help him.

“You may call me Kahleen” she said, her tone still the same as it always had been. It was almost like a river, one that didn't bend or turn, always flowing smoothly in the same direction, without moving up or down in its course.

“My last name comes from a loss,” he began “when my grandfather, Argus Hial, fought in a civil war in Seawall. The whole conflict wasn't as big as I make it sound, but it took its fair amount of lives in the process”.

“Was your grandfather one of the unfortunate ones to die in the conflict?”.

Darius shook his head, bearing a grim expression. “No, he didn't die there. He was quite the seasoned fighter, changing the tides of each battle to his favor practically all the time. The only people who weren't proud of him were the ones of the opposing faction, and even some of them had to admit he was admirable in his efforts and tactics”. Nodding, Kahleen responded “I don't see any shame in this, but quite the opposite”.

“That's because I'm not done with the story” Darius said, if a bit too forcefully. “Argus fought countless times, his energies seemingly infinite, until he battled the leader of the opposing faction head to head, blade against blade. The ones who witnessed this confrontation claim that the whole war stopped just to watch the two collide”.

Seconds passed in silence, but Kahleen didn't demand a continuation of the story, nonetheless. For some reason, Darius felt compelled to finish his tale. “My grandfather's blade was sundered in two by the enemy leader. His reputation, pride, and his last name were sundered as well. Since his opponent took mercy on him, he was allowed to live, but in exchange of not participating in the clash of factions until one of them overcame the other”.

Darius took a moment to regain his breath and think ahead, in order to bring the rest of the tale together as one. “The civil war was won by my grandfather's side, but to him, it wasn't a victory he felt proud of. Days after the conflict settled down in Seawall, Argus Hial departed the city, never to seen again. His son, my father, kept the name as a reminder of the event”. He looked at Kahleen, feeling more relieved.

“Now it's your turn”. The shaman acknowledged this with a quick nod.

“The Wind spear tribe was, and according to the noble from House Suran, still is a very barbaric group. Even when I was a child and lived there, they had slaves in the tribe, using them for menial tasks”.

“Where did these slaves come from?” Darius dared to ask, sounding troubled by the concept of slavery. Kahleen gestured at the Gray Peaks, to the north. “Anywhere they raided. They attacked other smaller tribes, for the sake of maintaining their dominance over the land, making it clear they were the strongest”. Her words came out in a flat, monotone voice, making the recounting sound even more chilling than it was. A part of Darius wanted to ask the shaman to stop telling him these things, but he didn't interrupt her.

“Our previous shaman, a very wise and ancient man, was struck dead due to an incurable illness. It was a great loss, at least for me, since he was one of the few who voiced his concerns about slavery, and pillaging other tribes and small settlements. I didn't know this, but I was to become the tribe's shaman at the age of fifteen. The shaman's spirit contacted me in a vision, and so it dawned on me that I had to take his post and continue his efforts to pacify the tribe's blood lust”.

“At what age are shamans usually chosen?” Darius inquired, curious. Kahleen shrugged. “Whenever the spirit of the previous shaman contacts them” she explained. “In my case, I was very young, but I took my role seriously and determined to make a change. Things didn't turn out how I had hoped, back then, when I was near my thirties, and my connection to the Nether was greater than it was now”.

Kahleen paused and brushed away some of her brown hair in order to allow her one eye to see better, and cover the hideous scar she bore in place of the other one. “This... being, whatever it was, came and stole a great part of my essence, draining it away with a special dagger”.

In a very chilling way, Kahleen turned her head to face Darius with her eye. “It seemed like the dagger had to be inserted into one of my eye sockets in order to drain as much essence as possible”. The soldier paled, and his lower lip shook for a moment. “Good Gods...” he whispered, truly horrified.

The shaman's expression seemed the same as before, though, and she returned her gaze to the road ahead of them. “I didn't know who or what it was, and I still don't. In my weakened condition, I fled the tribe, fearful of the outspoken brutes taking advantage of me. Needless to say, I had made the right choice, and I stayed away, far away, in order to see things from the outside, trying to find a way to tame the wild Wind spears”.

“That's my story” she said simply. The day had been quite warm minutes ago, but to Darius it felt like winter had come early. The soldier shuddered, and tried to unsuccessfully suppress the reaction, clenching his fists at his sides.

“I-I'm sorry, Kahleen, I didn't know you had gone through something like that” he apologized weakly, but the woman didn't seem offended in the least.

“We are who we are, Darius Brokenblade, and denying that simple fact is denying our very existence. If we are to move forward with our lives, we must come to term with our past”.

She left Darius to ponder on this, and slowed down for Gilliam to catch up to her. Moments later, Darius did the same, still looking a bit shaken by Kahleen's tale. Gilliam glanced at the soldier, a bit concerned, but with a look from Kahleen he changed his mind and decided to keep silent on the matter.

“And then I said to the captain 'Listen here, sir, it's not my fault my companions decided to go naked while I was away from the room!'” Gon was telling Vincent, drawing impressed stares and laughs from the elven squire.

“Long road ahead of us” Gilliam commented absentmindedly, trying to break the awkward silence between them. The two flanking him didn't deny this, but Darius replied in a relaxed tone.

“That's life” the soldier said, rather poetically.


First Post
Hoo-hah! Another update, as promised ;)

From my assessment of the view count, I'd say there's an average of 30 people or so reading every chapter I dish out. Wouldn't it be nice if those 30 people came out and said hello? (hint hint, yes, I'm looking at you)

In any case, I should be able to write up the next update tomorrow, so this chapter's end will be a short cliffhanger :p

Chapter 16

Stone crusher

It took practically a week for them to reach the Gray Spears. Traveling to the Rainbow River, with its unique fish that shone multicolored light when the sun was upon them, had taken half that time, and crossing it had been a simple matter, for Kahleen knew of the exact location of a bridge. The shaman was a great asset for the journey, since they were effectively making the return trip to her tribe in the Frostfell Mountains.

Kahleen estimated it would take close to a month to reach the frozen lands to the north from where they were. Not surprisingly, the map they had was in accord with this and any other assessments she had made. While Gilliam admitted that he had once made a journey across the Gray Spears himself, he claimed to have little memory of the trip, and thus his knowledge was limited.

The weather in the Spears was less warm than the hills and grassland they had been through, but at the same time there was less wind, with the tall peaks guarding them from gale gusts. The initial ascent to the mountains had been treacherous, since they didn't have specialized equipment for the climb. Gilliam and Darius were expert climbers, and so they went up each ledge first, securing a rope at the top and helping the other three get up. Vincent had never received such training from House Kashtar, and his heavy armor made things even trickier for him, but he managed to climb time and again, through sheer force of will, slipping more than once, and falling flat on his back.

On the other hand, Kahleen had no such troubles, for the wizened shaman understood the land better, and her knowledge of nature made up for her lack of climbing talents. She also facilitated Vincent's climb with a shamanic spell she used every now and then, allowing the burdened elf to go up the walls like a spider. Gon had a moderately difficult time, and while his expertise didn't lay in traversing mountains, his agility complimented his efforts, and it was rare to see him slip off a mountain wall.

They were forced to take frequent breaks in order to regain their breath and assess what the best route would be to go on. At first, the four men saw this part of the trek like a daunting and epic area to overcome, but their anxiety was dissipated once Kahleen explained that they wouldn't have to climb constantly in order to reach the other side of the Gray Spears.

“There's a natural canyon that runs east, and we should be able to reach it in a day. Once we make it there, we won't have to climb anymore, and the town of Wellspring will be found in the middle of it, where we can restore our supplies” she explained to the others while they rested within a small indentation against the mountain wall. Wherever one looked from that vantage point, there were only tall peaks surrounding the place, and it was hard to believe that a canyon was actually somewhere ahead.

Vincent seemed relieved by this, for his full plate was wearing him down, slowly but surely. The squire spent most of the time drenched in sweat, even though it wasn't very hot, for all the effort he was putting into climbing. “That's good to hear, Kahleen” he said.

“Aah, Wellspring, quite the place!” Gon commented. “I've been there a couple of times” he said, and in response Gilliam's inquisitive stare, added “Before joining the Honor Guard, that is”.

The mercenary still had a look of suspicion, but didn't press the matter. “Unless we encounter any wild beasts on the way, we should be fine. Our worst enemy, aside from monsters and animals, is the land itself” he told the others, looking over to the edge afterwards. “Falling down would mean death, or with some luck, crippling your body in a painful way”.

“It'd be a shame if such an accident happened”.

Everyone turned to face the red-headed man after he said those words. He smiled and shrugged, disarming the tension. “I'm just saying! It would be a shame to lose any of us to the Gray Spears, yes?”.

Darius muttered something along the lines of “Not if it's you”, but Gon didn't seem to hear it. Shaking his head, Gilliam stood and took a closer look to the path that they were to take after the rest. It was a curved slope, which was hugging the mountain wall as it went up and to the right. It allowed for one person to go at a time, but even one climber would have to press himself hard against the wall in order to avoid falling back.

“I'm ready, we can continue” Vincent said, slowly getting up from his seat on the ground, dusting off his plate as he did. The action was unnecessary, for it would get dirty in a matter of seconds after resuming the ascent. The rest imitated him, and resumed the marching order they had decided, with Gilliam taking point, followed by Vincent, then Gon, Kahleen, and finally Darius. The best climbers were on each end of the line, so that they could assist a falling ally, if it came to that.

With their provisions withering slowly as the journey started, it became easier for the group to move through the mountain pass, but at the same time they knew that hunting for food in such a place would prove very difficult. And if they didn't make it to Wellspring before they ran out of provisions, it would have to come to that.

They traveled for the rest of the day, practically non-stop, putting an effort into making it to the canyon, so that they would rest once they got to the less treacherous part of the Spears. Only at night did the group decide to halt their journey, for it was deadly to move through the darkness. Luck was with them, for once, and they reached the top of the canyon by the morning of the next day, without encountering any hostile beings on their way.

Vincent was crouching by the edge, gazing at the valley in-between the canyon walls. There wasn't any water to be seen, and the ground appeared to be barren and deserted. In his eyes, there wasn't any path that lead to the valley floor that didn't involve crushing his bones in the process, but he had faith in Gilliam and Darius, as the two men worked together to find hand holds for the group to use. They had spent at least five minutes in the task, and it took another five before a suitable route was found.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Gon kept asking both soldier and mercenary, drawing scowls from them. The man tested the ropes he had tied around his waist, and while they did hold tight, this didn't seem to reassure him in the least. Or maybe he wanted to annoy them, for the fun of it, but with Gon no one ever knew what his intentions were.

“Yes, it is, Gon” Gilliam replied dryly, helping Vincent attach several ropes to his bulky shape, since they came to the conclusion that taking off the armor and carrying it on his back would prove harder than wearing it while climbing down.

Once they were all safely tied together with the long rope, the five began to descend by the canyon's wall, one step at a time. Vincent went last, for if he fell, the squire would drag everyone down in a heap. Gilliam, being the lightest of the two good climbers, went first, showing Gon were the hand holds and foot holds were, and the soldier remained quiet for once, using all his concentration in the task at hand. Kahleen imitated Gon the best she could, and Darius showed Vincent the way down just like Gilliam had done with Gon.

No one fell, thankfully, and in fifteen minutes they had traveled all the way down to the valley at the bottom. Two seconds after everyone had untied their ropes a slight tremor started, and everyone bent low to preserve their balance. It wasn't too powerful, making the loose rocks on the ground shake, and it ended sooner than everyone expected.

“Imagine if that happened back when we were going down the wall” Gon pointed out, sounding relieved. The others seemed to share his feelings, and each took a breath to relax their bodies.

“At least the worst part is over with” Gilliam noted, hands on his hips, looking at the rest. The tremor returned, just then, and suddenly intensified, threatening the five to bring them to the ground with the seismic movement.

“Why did you have to say that?!” Gon shouted, struggling to keep his feet on the shaking ground. Darius had managed to remain standing, Kahleen was pressed hard against the canyon's wall, but Vincent fell backwards and remained on the ground, like a turtle flipped upside-down.

The tremor increased its potency for an instant, just as a massive chunk of rocks exploded from the ground ahead of them, shooting rubble, dust, and small stones in every way. The seismic movement stopped just then, and when the dust cleared, there was a massive beast standing on top of the hole it had created.

It was a quadruped, with a big sharp claw at the end of each leg. Its body was covered by a hardened and incredibly durable hide that resembled solid rock, and it had a mouth that was bigger in proportion to the ten foot long body. At the time, the beast was busy chewing down the rocks it had eaten to make his way to the surface.

“A land shark?” Darius asked no one in particular, staring at the monster with fear. He didn't know it, but the thing was actually referred as that by scholars.

Vincent was slowly getting up from the ground, and had only now seen what lay in front of them. From the ground, the bulette looked like it was even more imposing than it was, towering Vincent by ten feet. His eyes wide, Vincent reconsidered standing up, as he didn't want to make any sudden movements.

“It's hurt” Kahleen said, pointing towards a big section of the shark's hide that was cracked open, showing its sandy skin below covered in blood. “We should avoid it, and it will do the same”. Gilliam heard her quite well, but he kept his hands on both sword hilts nonetheless.

Behind him, Darius was trying to shake off his fear of the mighty bulette, but remained unmoving for the time being. Gon had a hand on his longsword by his hip, next to him, and the soldier looked dead serious as he observed the land shark's movements.

Hurt as it was, the bulette let out a high-pitched savage scream, and performed a leap, getting quite high in the air with very little of a running start. “Vincent!” Darius yelled out, seeing the beast's target even before it landed on the squire, who was still kneeling on the ground. With a massive thump, the monster fell upon Vincent, shaking the nearby ground, piercing him with its four claws simultaneously. No one understood why initially, but both squire and bulette screamed in agony at the same time.

“He got his spear in time” Kahleen realized, seeing that the weapon's shaft was sticking out from beneath the huge hulk of the beast. The shaman unslung her bow and commanded its magic to come forth, drawing an arrow and letting go. The missile might as well had been aimed for a wall of solid stone, for it bounced off harmlessly of its hide.

Darius and Gilliam charged, their weapons ready in their hands, intent on rescuing the trapped squire. Gilliam moved faster, thanks to his chain shirt, but ten feet before he reached it, the bulette whirled around, remaining on top of Vincent's body, and opened its enormous maw, chomping down on Gilliam as he run towards it. The mercenary hadn't underestimated the thing's reach, dodging the attack by falling into a roll, going under its head. When he came up, Gilliam thrust his sword into the beast's hide, piercing it deeply with his adamantine blade.

Roaring in pain, the bulette reared its big head back to begin a full assault on Gilliam. This time, he couldn't avoid the thing's bite, and the pair of mandibles closed on his right arm, crunching with impossible strength, digging through skin, muscle and bone, effectively breaking the latter. Held as he was by the bulette's bite, Gilliam angled his body to avoid a slashing claw, and was forced to parry the second one with his only available blade.

Darius got there a second later, and as the monster was busy eating his ally, he was able to reach it without problems. The soldier grasped his sword with both hands, placing all his strength into the slashing uppercut he performed upon reaching the bulette. Brute force didn't seem to work, for the beast's tough hide had few weak spots, and the fine sword bounced back, nearly making Darius fall.

“Get Vincent, I'll distract it!” Gilliam shouted through gritted teeth, still feeling his destroyed right arm quite well, somehow keeping a grip on the sword it held. Through his daze, he heard a voice say “I'll stab him where it hurts, boss!”, and it had to be no other than Gon.

The wily man had kept away from the beast since the beginning, realizing that he stood no chance in a face-to-face confrontation. Only then, with the bulette distracted by Gilliam and Darius, did he dash forward, unsheathing his longsword on the way. He could've struck the land shark when he was right behind it, but the sneaky soldier had something else in mind. Gon jumped upon the bulette's back, somehow managing to keep standing on top while the beast moved, and raised his longsword high in the air, before bringing it down it right where the hide was cracked and weakened.

With several inches of steel driving through its back, the bulette screamed in pain, letting go of Gilliam's arm in the process. It started to move backwards , and Darius took the chance to strike again, this time skewing pure power and aiming with care. The blow connected solidly, taking a chunk of the bulette's hide off, and Darius truly felt strengthened by his magical belt then. Hurt, the bulette changed tactics and jumped backwards several feet.

Gon couldn't simply keep holding on to its back on the landing. The man rolled off its back, and fell merely ten feet away from the bulette, well within its reach. Gon yelped upon lifting his head from the ground, seeing the titanic monster opening its massive maw, readying for an attack.

“Vince, are you alright?” Gilliam asked the squire, now that the bulette's bulk had lifted from him. His plate armor had holes in four different areas, but the wounds from each weren't very grave. Darius gave Vincent a hand to get up quickly, and the squire took it with a grunt, hoisting himself upwards. "I'm fine" he said. "My ring protected me from its claws".

Just then, Kahleen had reached the three, chanting a spell, summoning an amber glow that she passed onto Vincent, at Gilliam's request. Most of his wounds closed in the blink of an eye, leaving only small scars and spots of blood.

“Thank you, Kahleen” Vincent said, getting himself ready to continue the fight. Gilliam tried to make it look like he was fine, but the shaman glanced his way. “I'll have to fix that arm when we rest, Gilliam”.

“I'm fine, we should worry about-” he began to say and stopped, realizing they had wasted precious seconds while Gon was left at the bulette's mercy. Gilliam turned to look in the bulette's direction, and saw it about to clamp its mandibles on Gon's head. “Damn it!” he swore, running at full speed after the prone soldier, broken arm or not. But in the back of his mind, he knew he wouldn't make it, and at the same time wondered why Kahleen hadn't done anything yet with her magic or her bow.

The mercenary stopped in mid-charge upon hearing two savage growls coming from the side. From nowhere, two wild wolverines had appeared, and the pair was charging at the bulette with abandon, their muscles bulging due to the berserk state they were in. They pounced upon the land shark in unison, tearing and biting like there was no tomorrow. Their combined attacks distracted the monster, more than anything, since not only were they three times smaller, but their claws and fangs weren't sufficient to pierce through its hide most of the time.

Gon breathed in absolute relief, beginning to crawl away, too shaken to consider standing up and running, while the pair of wolverines ravaged the bulette, clinging onto its head, making the massive beast shake around wildly in an effort to dislodge them.

“That's your doing, I take it” Darius said to Kahleen as he took out his short spear and aimed carefully. He didn't want to hurt the pair of wild animals with his throw.

The shaman responded with a nod. “Indeed. I used my spiritual magic to summon them in our moment of need”. She almost made it sound simple, but to the unexperienced soldier this matter was far away from his comprehension. Next to Darius, Vincent was taking aim with his spear as well. Gilliam stood there, breathing heavily, wincing in pain every now and then, guarding the rest in case the beast charged them.

By then, the two wolverines had scratched and bitten the very wounded bulette several times, but it dislodged them from its body, proceeding to chomp down on one, then the other. With one massive crunch, each wolverine went limp, and dissolved into a greenish energy in death. Confused by this, the beast turned its attention back to its enemies. The red-haired human was nowhere to be seen, regrettably, and so it had to face the other four, beginning a mad charge in the span of a second.

Gilliam, barely twenty feet away from it, braced himself for the incoming onslaught, assuming a defensive stance with his one working arm. He felt something zoom quickly past his right ear, and then realized it had been Darius' spear, which struck true and got stuck on the bulette's hide. But the thing kept coming, new injury and all, and so Darius took a stand next to Gilliam, his sword poised to strike it when it arrived.

It was ten feet away, flattening the earth wherever it pressed its huge claws, making the ground tremble ominously, like an incoming storm. Then there was a shout behind the soldier and mercenary, indicating to “Duck!”, which both men followed without hesitating.

A split second later, another missile crossed the air above them, and flew towards the charging bulette. Vincent's adamantine spear got it right in the eye, and the beast missed a step, crashing down to the ground, its momentum forcing it to slide forwards towards the duo.

It got to Darius' feet and stopped, unmoving. Vincent took a step forward and grasped his spear's shaft firmly, plucking it out with a sickening sound. “That's what you get in return for attacking us” the squire said to the bulette's corpse.

Both Darius and Gilliam exhaled a breath they had been holding since the bulette had begun its final charge. Kahleen approached Gilliam and healed some of his wounds with a less effective curative magic. His arm was still broken, but the skin had been mended, at least. “Thank you” he said in return, not willing to test his arm's strength for the time being.

Darius retrieved his short spear as well, and looked around after he got it back. “Where the Hells is he?” he asked, referring to the red-haired soldier. His question got answered by Gon tapping him on the shoulder, making him jump and yelp.

“Damn you!” he shouted infuriated to the man, who was now bending over his stomach, laughing hard, his face as red as his hair.

“You should have seen your face! Oh, my dear Broken blade, you're so easy to spook” he was saying in between spasms of laughter. For the rest, it was hard to believe Gon was back to playing pranks so short after the battle had ended. Then again, the soldier didn't have any injuries from the bulette's assault.

Gilliam didn't have a look that indicated any positive feelings towards Gon's humor. “This isn't time for jokes and laughs, soldier” he warned him with a scowl. “There could be other such beasts in the vicinity”.

This seemed to tame Gon a bit, and the soldier settled down. “Alright, point taken, boss, no more jokes for the time being...” he said, yielding to Gilliam's request, for once. Gon then proceeded to face one direction of the valley, the one leading to Wellspring, and begun to walk.

The rest didn't have anything else to do, and wearily begun to follow Gon.


Not a split second after they had started walking, a rock the size of a pony crashed and exploded right in front of Gon, who was ahead of the rest by ten feet. The soldier seemed unharmed, but clearly shaken by the sudden explosion of stones in front of him.

“Over there!” Darius shouted, signaling towards one of the canyon's walls, where a large humanoid was emerging from a tunnel they hadn't seen before. This being, who initially looked like a very tall and muscular human, turned out to be something more, as it emerged fully from the dark cave and came into sight. It had a massive war axe, the head placed comfortably on his shoulder as he grabbed the handle with one hand. Hides of all sorts of animals, brown and gray, covered its tough body, and its skin shone brown under the sun.

He was more than sixty feet away from them, ahead and to the left of their position, but it was fairly certain that the being was close to twelve feet tall.

“Giant” Gilliam said in a voice that only the others would hear. No one moved, seeing that the crater the rock left was quite deep, and the rock had been thrown from quite a distance, a good indication of the giant's might. “We don't want to anger him” Kahleen added in a quiet tone.

The giant took a couple long strides towards them, and they could've sworn they heard a fierce growl from behind, within the cave. “Stone crusher” it said, its voice booming and powerful, echoing through the valley.

Vincent dared to take a step forward and talk. He had no weapons in his hands, which he showed to the giant. “Are you Stone crusher?” he shouted, his voice seeming pitiful compared to the giant's. The large humanoid shook his head and pointed. No one had to turn in order to see where he was aiming: it was the bulette's corpse.

“My pet” the giant explained, his voice filled with contempt and anger, his visage now that of an angry scowl directed at the group. Vincent didn't back down, however. “It attacked us, we had no choice”.

But the giant shook his head and picked up a large rock with his free hand.

“No choice” he said flatly. With a sudden jerk of his arm, the rock he had held flew towards the five, almost hitting Vincent fully on the chest, had the squire not seen it coming and sidestepped in time. The missile passed past them and exploded behind, leaving another deep crater.

“No choice... but to die” the giant finished, growling out a command in his own tongue. It was responded by a terrifying growl that came from the cave, and its origin happened to be a bear two times larger than the usual specimen.

“Damnation” Gilliam cursed. The bulette had weakened them considerably, and it had been but a pet to this giant. “No choice... but to fight!” he corrected, looking at his companions for reassurance. Everyone nodded back, bracing their respective weapons and readying for the fight.

“I'm with you, Gilliam” Darius responded.

“I won't allow any of you to perish” Kahleen reassured them.

“We can't fail House Kashtar, not now” Vincent said with determination.

“I say we end this little game of ours, once and for all!” Gon finished with glee.

Both giant and bear started to move forwards, their ire equal, their means of destruction different, but their goal was the same: five weakened travelers. The ground trembled violently as both hulking monsters advanced, and it was soon to be coated in red with the blood of those standing upon it.


First Post
And here we are, the 2nd chapter of this weekend, just like I promised :)

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Chapter 17


The giant and the dire bear were at eighty feet from the group, and while the bear charged straight ahead, the giant opted to take his time in reaching them, since there really wasn't a place for the five to hide from him in the long run.

Gilliam held his awkward stance, with one arm hanging limp to the side, and the other one firmly gripping a bastard sword. He had sheathed the blade from the broken arm, since he wouldn't be using it for the time being. For all he knew, however, he'd probably end up not being able to use any part of his body if the giant scored a solid hit or two on him.

“If any of you have something particularly effective against a raging giant and its animal friend, this is a good time to let the rest know” he practically shouted, since the rumbling noise the two monsters created was almost deafening.

Kahleen responded by conjuring a spell, generating a blue aura around her figure. “I'll stop the giant, you'll have to stall the bear” she said after finishing the chant. Out of thin air a great amount of water appeared in front of them, pouring onto the dry ground and turning it into a muddy mess. How in the Hells that was going to stop the lumbering giant, only Kahleen seemed to know.

Holding his sword in two hands, Darius shifted uneasy on the spot. “Easier said than done” he mumbled, seeing that bear was twice as large as him, and probably that many times as strong. In a matter of seconds the enormous animal would reach them, and Darius couldn't help but wish he was someplace else, far away from the canyon they were currently in.

The soldier heard something click to the side, and saw Gon firing his crossbow at the bear. The bolt was aimed with great precision, and it stuck to its brown hide, but didn't seem to be more than a small annoyance for the charging beast. Gon placed the weapon back on his belt, and drew his longsword, looking troubled.

“I'll meet the bear with my shield” Vincent shouted, taking two steps forward in order to be ahead of the group, bracing his shield and spear for the onrushing bear. Gilliam, Darius and Gon stood right behind him, ready to pounce after the initial impact.

Kahleen was summoning yet more magic five feet behind the four warriors, and this time the aura she conjured was sand colored. Still, her magic would come into effect after the bear reached them, and barely in time for when the giant made it as well.

“I hope you know what you're doing, Kahleen” Gilliam said without moving his eyes from the incoming duo.

The dire bear, faster than the giant, reached Vincent first, and roared wildly as it swiped a large deadly claw at the squire. The resulting screeching noise from the claw ripping his shield was horrifying, but the shield had held, somehow, and the fierce attack hadn't managed to reach his armor. Still, another attack like that would probably mean the end of his shield.

Vincent held his ground after the bear was right in front of him, and taking a step forward he jabbed the adamantine spear. With his focus going into defense, the weapon didn't punch through the animal's hard hide.

Seeing that their chance to hurt it was upon them, the three other combatants leaped ahead and unleashed their combined attack against the dire beast. Darius rapidly switched from a defensive posture, attempting to drive his blade into the bear's chest. To his surprise, he was able to thrust several inches of the longsword into it, drawing a growl of pain from the animal, as well as a line of blood from the wound.

Gilliam, right next to him, executed two quick slashes, and would've performed two more, if it wasn't for his broken arm. His bastard sword cut the bear on one arm, but the second attempt was stopped short by the beast brushing it away with that same limb.

Finally, Gon emerged from the side, the sneaky soldier jumping over a sweeping slash from the bear as he approached, stabbing it in the leg, making it growl in agony once more. The rest hadn't noticed this before, but it seemed like Gon was trained to be an opportunist, rather than a regular face-to-face combatant. He had hit the animal right where it hurt the most, by the knee, and yet more blood spilled on the barren ground.

The giant's thundering steps were awfully close to them, just when they thought they had gained the upper hand with the dire bear. Looming over them, the large humanoid advanced to position itself right next to its pet, raising his enormous war axe for a devastating strike that no one hoped to survive.

He didn't get to make it, however, as the shaman finished her spell just in time, summoning spiritual energies right under the giant's feet, where the ground had been watered by her previous spell. This time, the wet earth transformed into a muddy mess that the giant fell into, and his long legs were swallowed by it almost to the knee. It was all he could do to avoid tripping on the muddy trap, shaking around in the process.

“Curse you!” the giant bellowed at Kahleen, trying to free himself from the unstable ground unsuccessfully. The woman held her calm visage, even in the face of such an adversary, and didn't reply. Instead, she drew Blood Moon, and began to aim for the dire bear without conjuring the longbow's magic.

The men all breathed out in relief, seeing the giant immobilized for the moment, and their guard dropped, which cost Gon dearly. Whirling to the side, the dire bear mauled the soldier brutally, ripping his leather armor into shreds, and out of pure luck did the man dodge the bear's sharp teeth. While alive, his body was oozing red from deep scars in vast amounts, and he was standing up through sheer willpower.

“Boss,” he said weakly “I need a rest”. Gilliam didn't disagree with his assessment, but he couldn't make it happen at the time, with the bear and the giant still in front of them. “Stand back, Gon, we'll handle it!” Gilliam shouted, assaulting the dire bear once again in order to distract it from the wounded man. His rapid movements struck true twice, generating two new wounds, and most definitely drawing the beast's attention.

Darius' sword attempted to assist in distracting the bear, but his intended power attack didn't hit the target, slashing only air. Vincent used the same tactic, using brute force rather than precision, and his spear did pierce the tough hide this time. By now, the dire bear was greatly wounded, bleeding from multiple cuts and holes in its body, but this didn't slow its movements down, and rather appeared to enrage it even more.

Kahleen was about to release a carefully aimed arrow when she saw the giant stepping out of the muddied hole and getting ready to strike her down. The shaman aborted her shot, and instead shouted “Run! The giant is free once more!”, followed by starting a desperate chant to bring forth another magic spell.

The dire bear was poised to attack Vincent, and went up in its hind legs to commence the onslaught. However, it landed back on the ground without doing a thing, looking rather perplexed, as if it couldn't see where his target was anymore. Just then, the rest noticed a greenish aura surrounding their bodies, all due to Kahleen's intervention, no doubt.

“The beast won't detect you unless you harm it” she explained quickly. “Now is our time to-”

Her next words turned into a sudden yelp of surprise, as the giant's axe came down from above and sliced a large wound from the beginning of her left shoulder to her right leg. A terrifying amount of blood spluttered forward, and the shaman collapsed, unmoving.

“KAHLEEN!!!” screamed three different voices at the same time, as Vincent, Darius and Gilliam saw what had happened to the hermit. In the sudden chaos, it was Vincent who brought order.

“Gilliam, get Kahleen, I'll hold the giant!” he shouted, moving as he did to place himself between the giant and the fallen shaman. “Darius, Gon, go after Gilliam, find a place to hide, I'll join you later!”

Darius wanted to object, but Gilliam grabbed him by the arm and pulled him towards Kahleen. “No time to argue, do as he says!” he commanded, bending down to hoist Kahleen's limp form over his shoulders. For all the mercenary knew, she was no longer with them, but he moved the dark thought away from his mind: they had to find a hideout, or they would all meet the same fate.

While the bear couldn't sense the companions in any way, the giant was still all too aware of their presence. It swung its large war axe in a sweeping arc, intending to chop Darius and Gilliam in one strike, and there was nothing they could do to prevent it from hitting them.

Vincent jumped in between the axe head and his allies, then, and turned his entire body into a living shield of steel, absorbing the blow squarely on the side of the chest. How in damnation did the squire remain standing was beyond Gilliam, but he didn't question his friend's vigor, and took flight with Kahleen's body, holding her with his one working arm. Darius followed suit, glancing over his shoulder to see Vincent favoring his uninjured side, the other one showing a huge dent in the armor.

Having retreated temporarily after being mauled by the bear, Gon joined the two in their escape, clutching his wounds with one arm as he ran, grimacing at every step. The rogue reached them in little time, and went at their speed.

They would get more tired soon, and with their wounds and Kahleen's body to carry, they wouldn't make it very far. If they didn't find a place to disappear from sight, the giant would catch up, and leave their mangled remains behind.

The squire didn't want to admit it, but that one blow he took made him feel like his ribcage would implode, if it hadn't done that already. He was breathing heavily, and doubted he could dodge the next attack. Looking amused, the giant decided to stay with the elf, rather than chase the rest, and lifted its weapon vertically over its head, in order to bring it downwards with great momentum.

A deity must have been watching over Vincent, right then, for he side stepped in the last possible moment, bashed the axe head to the side with his battered shield, so that instead of cleaving him in two it clipped his shoulder, bouncing him to the side. The force with which the axe collided against the solid earth was definitely inhuman, as the rocks split in two like they were butter being cut by a knife. A large scar on the ground formed mere inches from where Vincent was, allowing him to see what would've become of him had he been struck by the weapon.

The giant frowned, finding it hard to believe the elf avoided the attack. Frustrated, it commanded the bear to eat Vincent, but the animal didn't seem to be able to spot anything to eat nearby. Seizing this golden chance, Vincent turned and ran as fast as he could in his clunky plate mail, and the giant was too focused on yelling at the bear to notice right then.

Just when he thought he had left the giant for good, he heard a great furious roar right behind him, followed by heavy steps which pressed the earth down as they went. The giant was burdened by his own hides, but this didn't slow him down enough, getting closer and closer with each long stride.

Gon, Darius and Gilliam had covered a bit more than a hundred feet by then, but they heard the giant's bellow and his heavy footsteps without a problem. “Damn it, he's going to slaughter him!” Darius cursed, looking over his shoulder yet again. “We can't leave him there, Gilliam, he'll die for sure” he insisted.

But Gilliam wasn't agreeing to any of that. “Have more faith in Vincent, Darius, we gain nothing but our deaths if we go back to him” he said in between grunts of exertion. His earlier wound combined with Kahleen's body, light as it was, made it harder to run.

Darius didn't say anything, instead halting his momentum, and turned around, taking a hold of Kahleen's bow and quiver in one movement. Gilliam was almost dragged to a stop as well, and he looked at the soldier in disbelief. “What in the Hells are you doing?! Keep moving!”.

The man just nocked an arrow, took aim, and said the words of power to activate the longbow's magic.

“Paint the ground red, Blood Moon”. The bow's wood turned from dark to crimson red, and Darius felt the most strange feeling while drawing the arrow back in the string.

Shaking his head, Gilliam cursed loudly and kept running. “Darius, you brave fool” he said under his breath. Gon hadn't stopped for a moment, but somehow he had disappeared from sight in that short interval that Gilliam had looked away. Where could he have gone to?

Vincent had covered some of the distance between himself and the rest, and the giant was hot in his trail, keeping the axe's head back for an attack, once he got in reach. The giant's pursuit was temporarily halted, as an arrow shot into its shoulder, causing him a minor but painful wound. It couldn't understand how this had happened, for it was a tiny arrow that had struck him, and this hesitation allowed Vincent to get away from the giant.

The squire was surprised, since he didn't expect to see Darius holding Blood Moon in his hands. The soldier nodded to him, getting ready to shoot once again. By the time Vincent got close to him, the giant had started after him again, and Darius' next arrow got stuck in its massive hides, causing no damage. “Damn him” he cursed, starting to run side to side with Vincent, bow still in hand.

“Why did you stop running?!” Vincent asked desperate. The soldier shook his head as he moved. “I don't like leaving my companions behind” he explained. While he was still frustrated, Vincent couldn't help but smile a bit at this.

Both squire and soldier ran as fast as their armors allowed, and without warning the steps of the giant ceased. Before they could question why this happened, the answer came in the form of a flying rock as big as them, crashing on Darius' back with great momentum. One shot was enough to knock the wind out of his lungs, causing a massive injury on his shoulder blades.

If it hadn't been for Vincent taking a hold of him, Darius would've fallen face first to the ground. They kept running, Vincent hoisting the other upwards with one arm, and Darius realized he could no longer see properly.

“I can't see Gilliam or Gon” he said groggily.

“Me neither” Vincent replied, filling Darius with dread. Gon, he could understand, but how did the mercenary disappear as well?

Another rock came after them, and this time it crashed right by their heels, the explosion sending both men flying forwards to the ground. The landing wasn't painful compared to what they had endured so far, but Vincent's chest felt on fire since he landed on his injured side.

“Over here”.

All the pain he was enduring must have made Darius hallucinate, for he was hearing voices. Lifting his head from the hard ground, he looked around, confused and dazed. He had to blink several times, as he saw Gilliam's outstretched hand biding the two of them to join him inside a small opening in the canyon's wall.

The giant was approaching rapidly, and the ground began to shake once more. To Darius, everything was moving in slow-motion, as he and Vincent stood up, somehow, and made their way to the narrow opening, nearly breathless.

They heard another shout from the giant, and another large stone collided near them, but save for the exploding rubble they didn't get touched by it. Hearing the steps right behind them, both squire and soldier jumped with their remaining strength, and both made it within the opening just in time.

Gilliam helped them move in quickly, as the giant could still fit his arm through the entrance. Once he accomplished this, they could see and hear from the dark cave that the giant was punching the nearby wall and hacking at it with its axe, more furious than ever. Eventually, the sounds subsided, and the monster walked away, fuming.

The space they were confined to wasn't big, but it allowed for the five to have their own resting spot. And while they were safe for the moment, there didn't seem to be any other exits.

“That was fun”.

The three others glanced Gon's way. He wasn't smiling.

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