Blades of Misery
By Daravon Ragnar in Dark Ages
Hum... seems like the infection is retroceding as expected. I finally said, taking the vial with a transparent liquid from the dusty shelf.
I knew you would be able to help me, old pal.
Don't count too much on that though. Here, apply this medicine on the affected area every night before sleeping for the next week.
I will. Thank you again, Daravon.
You are welcome, but...well. Please make an effort and avoid being so promiscuous, will you? I'm tired of having you come screaming for help every Deoch with those same problems. I'm not even a healer, you know!
Zarin just smiled, knowing he wouldn't be able to promise that.
Heh, ya know I'd rather be treated by those cute Aisling priestesses, but whenever I explain the nature of the case, they invariably cast beag cradh on me and walk away. Good thing I have this childhood friend of mine who turned out to be a raving luna... er, a wizard. He completed, laughing.
Oh, I'm starting to regret the day I met ya. You're hopeless, aren't ya Zarin? I replied with a jesting tone.
His restless brown eyes landed on the old, wooden table for the first time, staring at the beautiful shining blade by it. His mouth gaped in awe as his hands approached the fine weapon.
Wow... where did you get this, man? You're not even a warrior!
Do not touch that!!!
I grasped the sword off his hands, holding it like a pet or a baby. Suddenly realizing what I was doing, I hastily put it back on the table, scratching my head.
Hum... I'm sorry, don't know what got to me. Er, feel free to take a look at it.
His stare was somewhat wary and surprised now. He proceeded to examine the sword and slashed the air in front of him as if to practice. The sight of that fine blade in the hands of someone else disturbed me immensely and I couldn't determine why. I cleaned the sweat off my forehead with a old scrap of clothing and tried to look away from it, but time after time, my eyes would come back to the shining metal.
You look nervous, Dar. Is something wrong? He said putting the weapon back.
Er... no, not at all. Hum... in fact... well, it's just so embarrasing...
Oh, you Aislings. Masters in the art of turning simple things into problems of gigantesque proportions. Tell me what's the matter already, man!
All right then, I had to tell someone anyway. Well, let me see... to make a long story short, ever since I found this weapon, I can't seem to part with it no matter what.
I silenced for a moment, then proceeded.
In fact, I cannot even sleep without it anymore. I have to put it under my pillow and wake up several times to make sure it's still there.
Zarin couldn't hold his laughter.
Er... Daravon, pal, I guess you really should do as I said and get yourself a girlfriend, ya know...
Humph! Just as much as you should get less girlfriends, yes? Oh, nevermind, I didn't think you would understand. I myself don't.
Heh, well... there was that story grandpa used to tell me time after time again...
About a battle between Loures and the Rebels. Might be just a tale, but would explain your unusual "problem" very well. Even though I still think if you came with me to the tavern to meet those cute waitresses, we'd have that solved in no time, ya know.
Yes, yes, I already know your perverted mind can't think about anything else. Now how about telling me that story? I replied, picking up two glasses and a bottle of brandy.
If you insist... as I said, it's just a tale. Oh, and... don't you happen, by any chance, to have anything stronger there, uh?
Hehehe... I certainly do... with a grin, I took the bottle well hidden among all others and served him the green liquid we both appreciated so much.
Well... he finally started, taking a sip so there was this idealistic person named Ainmeal and...
Chaper One The Beggining of the End
Our scout is back and wishes to... before he could finish, the rogue rushed into the cabin, with an alarmed expression.
Forgive my manners, sire. There's simply no time to lose.
Ainmeal, calmly as always, signed to the soldier it was all right. The rogue proceeded before he could say anything.
Loures troops are heading toward us, they shall be here within hours, I have seen them with my very eyes and...
Please calm down. I cannot understand you otherwise. Here, have some water. Ainmeal handed him the jug with an unchanging expression.
Thank you, my lord. As I was saying, there are about four thousand soldiers approaching our location. I estimate they shall be here in eight hours. Main force is comprised of warriors backed up by priests.
I see. What about Aristo and Fenio? Have you managed to meet with their units?
Yes, I've met with a few survivors from them. They attempted to ambush this enemy legion I'm speaking of, using high ground to their advantage and attacking from two sides at once. But it was our men who fell into a trap. They were completely surrounded and only a few managed to escape. Sadly, Aristo was slain in this incident.
A silence that seemed like eternity followed. Ainmeal appeared to be lost in thought as the seasoned rogue looked at him expectantly. The general finally spoke.
Corwin. You are to reassume the command of our rogue unit. Have them set traps all around the south of our encampment. Withdraw from the area before the enemy is within sight. Understood?
The rogue left and Ainmeal followed shortly thereafter, just to meet Palantyr, High Priest and second in command; and Schilia, leader of the wizard division, at the entrance.
Oh, I was looking for you two. Come in.
The two did as he said. Ainmeal proceeded.
I suppose you are aware of the news by now.
Schilia and Palantyr looked at each other.
Yes, we are.
Good. Saves us precious time. You might have figured out by now we will not be able to defend our encampment. It's just a matter of time before they overwhelm us here. And the reinforcements we requested are still one week away.
Pardon me, sire. If I remember correctly, our personnel en route to this outpost is not carrying any combat equipment currently, yes?
And... the weapons we have in our storeroom would be assigned to them?
Yes. See the gravity of the situation? Drink some water and try to keep a low voice. We don't need panic spreading around the camp, do we? Now, here's the course of action I intend to take...
Chapter Two Demise of a Dream
The restless winds howled as the impressive battalion mounted camp on the outskirts of the rebel outpost. Deviro stepped down from his horse and watched the horizon in silence. His shining golden armor and red mantle granted him a very bold look.
Deviro quickly turned around, surprised, and jumped backwards, assuming a defensive stance. He then recomposed, smiling.
There's our finest rogue. Please make some noise while walking, yes?
Sorry, it's the habit, my lord.
Yes, I know. Keep that excellent conditioning up. Well, so what did you find there?
I couldn't get too close or the wizards would spot and quickly get rid of me. The plains in front of us here are brimming with recently set traps. There are some hastily built wooden fortifications in place, all around their camp. Traps are less abundant on the north, west and east approaches. Oh, and the most important of it all. Ainmeal himself seems to be in that encampment.
Ainmeal? Deviro's expression was that of a pleasant surprise. So I will have the honor of doing battle against the supreme leader...
Certainly, my lord.
Oh, and... how about their numbers?
I estimate about one thousand and half. Many wizards, priests and warriors. They even have some of those weird monks there, but no significant numbers. Even as we speak, they are reinforcing the wooden barricades, sire.
So they really intend to defend against a three to one disadvantage? The power of fanaticism never fails to impress me. As well as that of engineering...
The rogue grinned, understanding fully what the general meant with that.
The beautiful blue sky was now spotted by a few black dots, as if by an omen of what was to come. The vultures hovered over the battlefield in circles, trusting the promise of abundant food bellow. Large boulders rained from the sky over the encampment, followed by screams of pain and major confusion.
By Danaan, just who had the great idea of setting traps between us and them? Now we cannot engage the catapults!
We must get out of here now!
Another boulder fell nearby, crushing a section of the fragile barricade. The order to retreat was finally issued. From the northern gates, the once proud combatants scattered around in mass confusion. The punishment from the skies continued all the while.
Chapter 3 Glittering, Bleeding Prizes
Circling around, the Battalion entered the now desert outpost through what should have been the east gate. Deviro looked as bold as ever now, having forced Ainmeal himself to retreat.
Well, let's not waste any time here. Burn everything.
Excuse me, sire? The condition of our equipment is not very good after all those skirmishes we had on our way here. There are some blacksmith tools here, maybe we should stop and repair?
No time for that. We are going after those fanatics. The equipment can take another battle or two,
I hope, my lord...
Oh, but just look at this! So that's why they were so eager to defend this forsaken place... Deviro was standing at the entrance of one of the few cabins still undamaged, with a big smile on his face. His subordinate approached to verify what he was talking about.
Oh my... all those swords, shields, full sets of armor! All recently made, it seems. So shiny! Ceannlaidir seems to be smiling at us today, eh, my lord?
Certainly. Well, I guess our equipment issue is solved. he finished, smiling and walking away.
But what are we going to do with our current equipment?
Leave it behind with the siege engines. When the mop up personnel arrive, they'll retrieve it. We can't afford to have anything slow us down. Let's move!
Of course, sire.
Deviro walked around with a meaningful smile on his face. Yes, he would finally have the ultimate glory. Ainmeal's head would be his prize.
Chapter 4 Obsession
Tracked them down yet? Deviro was the personification of impatience now.
Yes, they regrouped on the valley bellow and moved to the north, my lord.
North? Are you sure of that?
Absolutely, my lord. All of the rogues agreed on this one.
An interesting choice... They might have crossed the peaks once, do they think they can do it again? Deviro was speaking more to himself than to his subordinate. The rogue noticed it and remained silent.
All right, to the north then!
The army travelled for the remainder of the day, with a few rogues going ahead and on the flanks as was usual. When they finally mounted camp, it was already dark. Deviro could not believe they were really moving towards the mountains.
So, the tracks did not change direction?
They did not, my lord. They are still travelling north. All of them.
The legion proceeded before the morning sun could greet it. Some more hours and they would reach the impressive peaks. A heavy storm ensued, as if sent by Ceannlaidir himself to signal the impending battle.
Ah, perfect. This heavy rain and lightning... it gives a more epic feel to what is about to happen here today. Don't you think, Adam?
If you say so, sire. For me it just makes it more difficult to travel and track the rogue grinned.
Deviro suddenly signed for them to stop. Ainmeal's band could be seen in the valley bellow, cornered against the giant rock formations. Tenes's general stared at the cliffs on both sides of the valley, above them.
Ainmeal is starting to disappoint me. Thinking we'd fall for the same trick his underlings pitifully tried to pull on us? Adam, have our rogues check those two cliffs. I have a feeling we'll have to slaughter a few helpless wizards before going for the cream of it.
At once, sire.
Deviro waited patiently, eyes gazing at the rebels ahead, mind drifting away with the thoughts of his glorious return to Loures, having slain the leader of the fanatics. They could not escape now. Victory was at hand. His pleasant daydreaming was interrupted abruptly by Adams's voice.
No human presence at all on those cliffs, milord. We searched them throughly. No one has been there for the last weeks, I can assure your highness of that.
Deviro was silent for a few seconds. As he finally spoke, his eyes had a different spark about them.
I can't help but admire such determination, even if a fanatical one. He knew his soldiers would desert and run with their tails between the legs as soon as they had to actually fight us. He made sure they would not be able to. Ah, the desperation factor. It has wonderful effects, but no way it can beat a three to one advantage. By bringing them to this dead end, he has just forsaken his own life and that of his comrades. Onward, brave combatants, the day of our glory has come!
The fearsome sound of thousands of men marching towards uncertainty could be heard. Birds flew away in panic. Vultures were already used to that and knew they always meant food was to follow. Their presence again spotted the now ruddy, stormy sky. A thousand voices screaming in unison followed from the other side of the battlefield. Ainmeal's warriors charged valiantly, followed closely by the wizards and priests. Then, the sounds of clashing metal, agonizing screams of pain, war cries... yet, the scene that followed was perplexing at best. From one side, warriors battled with skill and grace. There was no panic in their faces, just determination. From the other side, a clumsy band tried hopelesly to put up a good fight. Their swords seemed to have a will of their own. Their arms stopped dead during swings or waved the blades around in funny paterns. Even when they did hit, their opponents wouldn't appear to be all that hurt. Above their heads, an elemental nightmare took place. Their magical belts, supposed to grant protection against the elements, seemed to be reacting with them instead, making the effects even more devastating. Sometimes it seemed as though their armors were phasing out of existence exactly when they were being hit, just to return afterwards.
Deviro charged forward, unable to believe what was happening. That could not be, those were trained troops and they had a numerical advantage. It was just some bad luck, the next wave would perform better. The glory would be his. Yes, he would have the honor of killing Ainmeal with his own hands. Oh, how he longed for this moment. And the last remants of his army scattered around, routed, as the stalwart, indomitable fanatics marched forward. Deviro suddenly stepped out of his dream. They were upon him. He drew his formidable sword and waited with a serene expression.
Definitely. I am inside my cabin, sleeping right now. I will wake up at any moment.
Without a single scream of pain, the fine blade pierced his neck, driven by his own hands.
Chapter 5 The Blessed Curse
Night had fallen and the storm finally subsided. The soldiers sang and danced, warmed up by the taste of victory, as well as by rum. Ainmeal's expression remained unchanged as usual.
Man... you are really something, you know that? All of this and you haven't had a drop of sweat come out of ya, have you? Palantyr was obviously drunk. Ainmeal smiled.
Reason never fails us those times, you see? The secret is keeping a cool head and planning carefully. There's no place for panic in a war.
Silence followed. Ainmeal proceeded
Oh well. So I was a bit apprehensive. Yes, yes, I never felt so much fear in my life, happy now? But if you tell this to anyone, I swear I kill you. a big, warm smile surfaced on his face, just to vanish as quickly as it it appeared.
Congratulations there, general! Schilia approached the two.
Oh, Schilia! It's you who deserve my congratulations! Excellent work your team of wizards did there.
Heh, theoretically, it was possible all the time, you know. It's nothing but an inverted enchantment.
But it took a briliant mind such as yours to actually devise a practical application for it. Even if it is a one time only application. she smiled.
Yes, people will be a lot more careful with the equipment they use from now on.
As well as show more respect for us wizards, I hope. Oh, by the way... maybe you should reconsider that project I once presented you about the underground installations, eh? she winked.
And so the inexorable tides of time passed. You know what happens after major battles. People scavenge any itens of value the fallen souls once had. The cursed equipment spread all over Temuair.
It's said they're rust proof and also make the wearer obsessed with them after a little time. This is so to make it more difficult for he/she to drop it even after the equipment is tried in combat. If they survive the first try, that is...
... And that's the way it was. he finished taking the last sip from the glass. So, what did you think?
Despite the fact that it clashes with virtually any historical records in existence, it's a nice... story. If it's indeed an inverted enchantment, I might try to decurse this sword once I have the time.
Oh, so you don't believe it, eh? Fine.
He wandered around in a mischievous way. The brat was planning something for sure. He spoke.
By the way, I'm taking fencing lessons now, ya know? I was really looking for a good weapon and I thought I might bo...
HANDS OFF!!!!!! I jumped on the table, covering the sword with my body and damaging my clothes in the process.
Zarin couldn't stop laughing. Applying a friendly tap on my shoulder, he left with a big, victorious grin on his face.