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Thread: The Shadows of Night pt 2

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Newcastle Upon Tyne in England

    Default The Shadows of Night pt 2

    The second part of my fanfic story series, enjoy ^.=.^

    The night of the world of Istaria, a world on the verge of tearing itself apart.
    Throughout its turbulent history Istaria had been plagued with battle and strife, so much so it was whispered that the Gods had grown tired of seeing their creation smote to ruins and had abandoned the world to its fate. Not long afterwards the first of the undead had been raised, a decaying mass of grotesque corpses that roamed the world, spreading disease, blight and death to all they came upon. The races of the world had rallied to stop them, burning their own slain and all the undead that they came upon. The ensuing war had endured for nearly a century.
    Battles had been fought. Vast tracts of land were reduced to a blighted waste as war swept entire continents into its maelstrom. Entire races had been all but extinguished as the undead made their slow, inexorable march across the free lands, and time and time again they were barely halted at the price of a hero’s life and countless men at arms, but the war had taken its toll. Slowly the races began to dwindle, and the tide of the battle turned against them. The undead marched unopposed to stand before the gates of Tazoon, the greatest of the free cities.
    Defeat had seemed inevitable.
    The last of the living races, thrown together in the desperate struggle to survive had forgone their age-old animosities and stood side by side against the hordes to make their final stand. Human, Dryad, Fiend and Dwarf had answered the call. Dragon, Saris, Sslik, Satyr, Elf and Half-Giant rallied the last of their numbers, prepared to fight to the end. The battle for Tazoon lasted two years and cost nearly a million lives before the grim end seemed nigh. Yet, as the last of its defenders manned the ramparts, certain in the knowledge that the next battle would be their last, the Gods granted their children a final, parting, gift. As they were slain, those who stood before the walls of Tazoon rose to life once more, not as the shambling abominations that the Withered Aegis had unleashed onto the world, but whole in mind and body. The tide turned once more, the dead were driven from the streets of Tazoon and pursued into the lands of the living races, there to be vanquished and driven back to their blighted wastes. Thus the Gifted came to be.
    Only the Gifted ones; those for who death held no fear, ultimately stemmed the tide at the cost of their lives. It was a price they paid gladly. For them, death was only an inconvenience, nothing that a few cups of coffee and an aspirin couldn’t sort out. So it had been for nearly thirty years, as the world gradually returned to some semblance of normal life. The war continued, but at a slower pace. Criers proclaimed openly that the Withered Aegis had met their match in the Gifted.
    That was all about to change.
    Throughout the living lands a shadow passed, winding and twisting through the early pre-dawn light, as fleeting as a breeze in spring. Even in the darkness it could be seen by those who cared to look; a deeper shade of black against the night. Across Istaria, dogs whimpered and horses shied in their stalls as it passed. Babies cried in their cots and would not be comforted by their mothers. Occasionally, the Shadow would stop over the slumbering form of a creature and reach out to them before darting off once more. The sleeper’s dreams would become troubled, dark, and they would turn uneasily in their beds at its touch. Dreams twisted into nightmares, and then nothing at all. About this time Katrina awoke to a cold sweat, and on the other side of the world, Melanth took his last breath.
    The world turned, slumbering on through the night, oblivious.
    The Withered Aegis watched, waiting.


    Katrina had spent the night busying herself with small tasks to keep her mind occupied. It was either that or re-live the horrible dream over again. It was a relief when dawn finally dawned red over the small town of Parsinia and the first sounds of industry broke the all consuming silence. Outside, the noise of cattle being driven to their sparse pastures was as a balm to her, soothing tattered nerves, mending broken souls. She decided to waste no time. The priests would open the temple doors as soon as they had completed their ritual ablutions, and she hoped that it was there she could find her answers. Someone there would know what had happened, what had been a dream, yet not a dream.
    She left the confines of her small house, relishing the rejuvenating breeze of fresh, salty sea air. Like many ocean towns, Parsinia relied upon fishing as its main source of livelihood, and even as she traversed the wide main street the fishermen boarded their skiffs. Even though the town had been built by the clawed artisans of the feline Saris, its population included examples of many of the living races. Lizardlike Sslik rested in the shadows; the cold blooded creatures gathering the sun’s warmth on their scaled skin, beside which human workers had started threshing sacks of corn. Even a solitary horned Fiend had made its abode here, far away from its normal icy haunts.
    Life moved quickly in Parsinia. The blazing heat of the equatorial sun would be nearly unbearable by afternoon, and the town’s inhabitants were in a hurry to avoid the worst of the glare. Only at dawn and sunset could tasks be completed, and there were many tasks. Blacksmiths needed to forge weapons and armour, farmers tend to their lands and herds. The town martial had the unfortunate problem of keeping the local population of sand beetles and rogue golems under control which always required a lot of effort and more often than not, a very, very sharp axe.
    It took nearly half an hour to reach the secluded temple on the outskirts of town, with much jostling and deft footwork on her part to avoid the morning rush. The temple was of plain construction, as was typical of Saris dwellings. Only a few statues of abbots long past and some wind and sand chipped paintwork gave any hint as to its purpose. The gates had already been opened, and the priests were at work within, sweeping dust and the all pervasive sand from the doorless rooms, beating the same from unadorned mats that were among their few possessions. The Saris were perhaps the most religious of all the living races, favouring no god above the other, yet dedicated to the interpretations of their teachings equally. As she approached, the current abbot; and elderly Saris whose whiskers were greying, greeted her enthusiastically.
    “Ah, welcome child! I assume that you have reconsidered our offer towards your tutelage?” He purred, turning on the spot so fast that his robes flew outwards like a set of skirts, and she couldn’t help but giggle girlishly at the embarrassed expression that flitted across his leonine face. Like all Saris, he was about six feet tall and slighter in build than the average human. His body, such of it that could be made out beneath the heavy robes, was roughly the same shape as a human’s, save his legs which were as those of a beast. His cat’s head regarded her with a quizzical, if friendly stare from wise amber eyes as he waited for her response.
    “I’m afraid not, father.” She grinned, brushing her long golden hair from her eyes. “I have little desire to follow my mother’s path to religion, though I believe you may be able to help me with another problem that has weighed heavily on my soul.”
    “Of course my child! What else are we here for, if not to give council to the troubled?” He laughed, clapping her on the back. “It’s never too late to repent you know.” He added hopefully.
    “My dilemma is nothing of that sort father.” She laughed, allowing herself to be led into the monastery. In an airy, three sided room the temple’s other scions had started the morning prayers in honour of the gods and their creation. The sweet scent of incense filled the air as the first of the mantras was sung. Katrina was fond of this old Saris, the one who had made her and her mother feel at home amongst their kind, or at least as at home as a human could feel amongst Saris. As she grew up she had always been envious of them; the way they moved with such feline grace seemed so effortless and made her feel dull and clumsy. Her one attempt to run away had nearly resulted in her death at the teeth of a roving pack of wolves.
    “I am concerned about a dream I experienced last night, father.” She explained, struggling to keep pace with his loping gait. “I had a dream that was terrible, a dream of death and darkness that vanished as I awoke.”
    “A dream is but a dream child, it is nothing to be afraid of.” The abbot smiled, showing long teeth.
    “This was different. I have had ill dreams before, yet this one seemed so real as I could reach out and touch it.” She quavered. “I was wondering… It seemed much like the visions my mother described getting. Is it possible that this was a premonition of some sort?”
    The old Saris slowed his pace and regarded her with a thoughtful stare, scratching his chin absent-mindedly with a claw. He seemed lost in thought for a moment, or perhaps reliving an old memory.
    “It is possible.” He conceded, sighing. “The talent of scrying does tend to run in the family line, and your mother was a truly astonishing in her gift with the Talent. To be honest I would be surprised if you did not possess the Talent in a latent form at the very least.” He sighed. “Alas that it is so hard to tell these things until the visions prophesised come to pass. And to say that this dream of yours bodes ill is a bad sign. What exactly came to pass in this dream of yours?”
    “I remember little, and what little I can recall makes no sense to me.” She admitted. “I was in a room of some sort, almost as though under enchantment. I could not move or speak, and there were these robed figures surrounding me and one of them held a knife, like some sort of ritual. I… felt the knife go in, and then everything went black. Then there was nothing, except pain. Pain and loss, and eventually even that went away.” She grinned without much enthusiasm; half hoping that the abbot would tell her to stop being so childish and that it had only been a dream. The oddly thoughtful cast to his suddenly furrowed brow was disconcerting. He seemed suddenly much older, much more borne down by the sorrows of the world than she had ever seen him.
    “I am not much of a bard to put weight to such tales.” She said after a while, to break the dreadful silence. The Abbot came back to himself with a start, as though he had forgotten that she was there.
    “No child, you have no need.” He murmured grimly. “You are not the first to speak of such things. Brother Krysig too has been afflicted by terrible visages of death throughout the night, though I have to say that he recalled less than you did.” He gave her an apprising look. “This is strange, strange indeed. And evil I fear. The dreams of mortals occasionally penetrate into the spirit realm, and those gifted with the Talent such as you are, I am sure, can see distant events before they occur. I know not if Brother Krysig has the Talent, but in any case it is extremely odd that you two should share the same dream. Something is amiss, I fear.”
    He took off again at a high-speed hobble, leaving her flat footed for a moment until she caught up with him as he disappeared into the temple library. The library, unlike much of the temple, was narrow and stuffy, the bone dry air preserving thin sheets of vellum and parchment with little assistance. Rack upon rack of musty tomes and scrolls were arrayed in the room, extending deep underground where the more secret or sacred volumes were stored. The abbot gestured for her to take a seat at one of the many driftwood tables strewn between the aisles and immediately went to work, thumbing through books and dusty records in a distracted, determined manner. Occasionally he would toss one aside with mumbled remarks of “useless” or “not very much help” before selecting another apparently at random. Katrina waited, wondering what could have the usually cheerful and easygoing Saris so concerned.
    After a short while of inspecting the knots in the wood of her table, the abbot reappeared with an enormous leather bound book clutched firmly in one paw whilst the other leafed through the tattered pages. Seeing her surprised and confused expression over the top of the book, he shrugged.
    “I seem to recall seeing some reference to shared dreams once whilst I was studying as a neophyte. Suffice to say, the occurrence is extremely rare. Ah! Here we are…” His face disappeared below the cover and he mumbled to himself distractedly. “Hmmm… There is a record of Gerot and Ermnal the twins, sharing dreams. That was some time ago however, and they viewed only what the other had dreamt. Torbay of Hart and her husband were driven mad by premonitions of the death of the other, but it turned out that they were ensorcelled by a cousin who sought the governorship of the town for himself. You’re not ensorcelled are you?”
    “No, I don’t think so at least.”
    “A pity.” The abbot finished, closing the book with a snap. “None of the other records mention anything like this. A great many discuss dreams, and many more discuss premonitions but never the two together, and there is no account of shared dreams that applies to the situation. I am afraid that either what you two experienced was a freak coincidence, or something else is at work here.” He finished gravely, setting the volume down on the table.
    “I don’t believe in coincidences.” She grumbled, feeling suddenly confused and scared, far more so than she let show to the abbot. “That leaves only one option, but what can we do? How can we find out what is happening?”
    “Let’s find out.” The abbot whispered.


    Melanth awoke, and immediately regretted it.
    He felt ill, as though recovering from a deep fever that had racked his body to the point of death. His head felt as though a team of Dwarves were trying to drive a mineshaft through his skull, and that was to say nothing of what felt like a concrete anvil resting in the pit of his stomach. Groaning, he rolled over, keeping his eyes closed with hopes of drifting back off to sleep in the warm sun. Overhead, birds sang their soothing, warbling melodies, and he could sense the rush of air as they fluttered overhead. For some reason, given that he would have preferred at this moment in time that his body did not belong to him, he felt strangely at peace, as though just awaking after a refreshing night of sleep. He knew that the serenity of the moment would not last, but it was nice to pretend, at least, that it would.
    “How long was I out?” He asked eventually, addressing the question to the world at large. He wondered vaguely if whoever answered would have any food on them, or maybe be small enough to be considered food themselves. Right now he would do anything to settle the horrible liverish sensations that were running with sadistic delight from his muzzle to the tip of his tail.
    “Two days, give or take.” Iridan’s gruff voice responded, shifting his weight. When no reply was forthcoming he felt he owed a greater explanation. “It took the better part of a day to find you, and after that you were out cold. I thought it would be better to let you sleep.”
    “Where are we?” Melanth yawned. “This time?”
    “Where do you think?”
    “I was bound to Dalmond, but this isn’t Dalmond.”
    “I’m impressed. Confusion to sarcasm in less than a minute, that has to be some kind of record. If you must know, we’re in the hills south of Bristugo. I dragged your great heavy hide up here because I doubt you would have appreciated the medics of the Naka Duskael prodding and poking you as they do.” Iridan grumbled, pulling up blades of grass with his overlarge talons. “We burned your body as is our tradition, but we knew you would be back on your feet soon enough. How do you feel by the way?”
    Melanth’s injuries, or at least the memory of those injuries which until now had been mercifully absent, flared again at the reminder and he winced as every would-be cut and bruise made itself felt. It wasn’t pain exactly, more the sensation that there should have been pain, but wasn’t. In a very specific way this was more unsettling than the pain itself. He fancied it was very similar to the way as a human whose leg has been amputated can still feel the limb itch.
    “Like I’m recovering from a frigging autopsy, and all the better for your asking.” He said irately, finally opening his eyes and squinting against the glare.
    It must have been about midday, to judge from the lay of the shadows and the sun’s height in the sky. The hills were the verdant green of summer, studded here and there with small shrubs and trees. Rivers of pure, unblemished water ran between the hills, slowly carving valleys from the bedrock. The spot near the top of a large hill that the two dragons lay commanded a wide view across the lands beyond, and Melanth fancied that he could see the rustling of beetles and fat ruxus on the grassy plains below. Far in the distance the town of Bristugo was an indistinct blur of grey stone and wafting smoke from dwellings, which the slight breeze carried even to their distant noses, enticing them with the scent of roasting meat and bread. It was a far cry from the nightmarish battlefield of but days before, where the only scents had been blood, filth and the rotting carcasses of the undead warriors of the Withered Aegis. The nightmarish battle seemed like centuries ago from up here, leagues and leagues more from the frontline, where dragons and the biped races fought daily to hold back the tide, each moment in staving off defeat paid for with blood. The thought of the battle tickled a memory in the back of Melanth’s head, and he cursed himself for not remembering earlier.
    “Did the Withered Aegis counterattack again?” He asked. It was their tactic to do as such, to wait until the living races had exhausted themselves against the endless hordes and then attack again before an effective formation could be re-established. It was a tactic that had broken the lines of many of the Naka Duskael, or scale-less ones as Humans understood the phrase and had claimed the life of more than one dragon.
    “Strangely, they did not. It seems that we have depleted them to some degree, rather than the fighting being ineffectual to both parties and simply moving further south as usual. The guardians of Harro road and Old Oaks fought back a similar force, but they too seemed surprised that no more attacks were forthcoming. This is good news, I feel.”
    Melanth nodded grimly, turning the idea over in his mind where it didn’t fit into the ‘good news’ socket of his brain. He was an old campaigner, one of the so called ‘Gifted’, one to whom death was not the end. But just because death was not the end did not mean that it wasn’t a major pain in the arse. Injuries still hurt, and for weeks after he would be left with the lingering sensation of icy emptiness, to say nothing of the nightmares that would come. He had, if not always survived, at least been a part of many major engagements of the war and had developed an instinct towards the actions of the enemy. He didn’t believe for a second that the Withered Aegis had refrained from attacking because they had no more corpses to do their bidding. Nor were they in the habit of retreating for reasons other than to spread the Blight. A human phrase came to mind.
    “If they appeared to be retreating now, it’s only to get a good run-up later on. I don’t like this. What does Janteel think?”
    The glance that Iridan threw back at him also contained the answer. Janteel, whilst a brilliant commander, battlefield tactician and one of the finest warriors that the Lunus dragons had to offer, was not known to be much of a thinker.
    “I think we should get back to Dralk.” He said, as much to himself as to his friend. Iridan snorted haughtily, tossing his head in denial.
    “We’re long overdue leave as it is.” He grumbled. “It can wait. If indeed there is any truth at all in your notion. Besides, you are hardly fit for duty.” He grinned.
    Melanth, who had just forgotten about his pains once more, swore loudly as they rushed back with the reminder.
    “Then what do you propose we do?”
    “I,” Iridan said proudly, sitting on his haunches and drawing himself to his full, imposing height. “Propose that we go for a drink.”
    Melanath- level 100 ADV/ 60 DCRA -
    Shas Mackard- Saris Berserker/Outfitter et al

    For Lunus, for Dralk! Death before Dishonour!

  2. #2

    Cool Re: The Shadows of Night pt 2

    Looking forward to reading the rest of the series, Mel

    Best regards,

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