The True Nature of Power (Chapters 1-5 posted)

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  • #18931
    gblock01
    Participant

    Okay, this is going to be the first long story that I'm going to be posting on this board. I may do others, but that is a long time from now. Before the story starts, I have a few disclaimers to make everyone aware of:
    1) Any similarities between names or actions in the story and other stories, movies or other media are not intentional. I wrote this from stream-of-consciousness, so whatever is locked up in my memory went down on paper.
    2) The world that this story takes place in a D&D-like world, but the same rules do not apply, specifically the rules for magic. There will be some similarities, and some glaring differences. The same goes for certain enemies, such as orcs. They look nothing like the standard that was set in D&D games or Lord of the Rings.
    3) In the course of this story, there will be some rather graphic scenes (not literally, unfortunately). In some cases there will be fighting taking place. I will not be sparing much detail (i.e. some characters are going to be fighting with swords. get the idea?), so, if it bothers you, skip those sections. I will make note of those sections as they come up. There will also be scenes involving sex, sexual references, and nudity. These sections will also be marked, obviously NSFW.

    I must admit, this will start off somewhat slow, but the rest of the story will be worth the wait. I guarantee it. Unless you don't care for FMG, of course. In that case, you're on your own. 😉

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    Chapter 1

    “The history of the land of Arkana has been one of blood and shadow. In this land of magic, few things are ever quite as they appear. Some of the most innocent looking creatures are in fact the most dangerous, but only to those who do not know their nature.

    “For example, one of the indigenous plants to this land is the mortis tree. This beautiful tree flowers twice a year, giving a spectacular view of every possible hue of color that one can see in a plant. Entire groves of this type of tree appear across this continent. Life flourishes under the shade of its branches, specifically plant life and carrion-eaters. For you see, this tree lures creatures of all sorts, sentient and non-sentient alike, to rest under in its shady embrace. The only embrace that those who fall under its spell feel is the icy embrace of death. The tree gives off a fragrance that lulls its victims into a deeper and deeper sleep, until, finally, their heart stops beating. Many decomposers fall prey to it as well, but plants are immune. The poor unfortunates who sleep there, never to wake up again, become fertilizer for the many plants that grow around it. Thankfully, they are not very durable and usually die off before the plants reach maturity.

    “At some point in this continent’s history, settlers came from other lands, sailing from far to the west. When they arrived, they found a beautiful land of magic that was protected from invasion from all sides: massive glaciers to the north, an immense desert to the south, impassible mountains to the east, and a great ocean to the west. The ocean was the only way in or out of this wondrous place, and there were only so many natural harbors.

    “They settled down in this virtual paradise, staying on the coast at first, and then moving inland as they began to understand this new area. As they moved in, they came into contact with other sentient life. Unfortunately, these sentient beings were not very friendly. These creatures, while still somewhat intelligent were hardly human or humane for that matter. Not one of the three immigrant races, the elves, the dwarves, nor the humans, could maintain a peaceful relationship with any of these creatures. They had many forms, most bearing some resemblance to a mix between a human and some form of animal.

    “The most common were orcs. They resembled a gross mix between an ape and a pig. Like the swine that they resembled, they had flat snouts, bristly hair all over their body, and usually had tusks that poked out of their mouth, pointing either up or down from these creature’s twisted lips. They were not particularly bright, and had absolutely massive bodies. On average, they stood at the seven foot mark, unless they stood up straight. In that case, they averaged at about nine feet. It was not uncommon for them to drop a knuckle to the ground to pick up the pace of their bow-legged waddle.

    “Others were beasts conceived of only in nightmares. There were harpies, as well as other avian creatures that roamed the vast skies of the southern desert, along with some reptilian creatures, such as the naga. The harpies are, to put it simply, extreme. They live in extremes in almost every sense of the word. From birth until they reach adulthood, they are more beautiful that the most fair of elves. After that, they begin a rapid descent to extreme ugliness, both of appearance and of wit. The only exception are the male harpies, who stay pretty average all together. Naga are the reptilian denizens of the dunes. Half snake and all vicious, they prey on anyone or thing that enters their domain.

    “The frozen tundra in the north is mostly uninhabited, but the mountains to the west are a different story. Dragons, almost all evil, as well as type of human-dragon cross called a drake occupy the deepest caves. Dragons, despite being beasts, are probably smarter than any other creature that has ever existed. Higher up, massive mounds of sentient, living rock called golems create enormous caverns to call home. On the snow-capped peaks and in the craggy recesses live numerous beasts, each one with unique traits that allows them to survive in this harsh climate.

    “The good races tried to maintain peaceful relations with the creatures that live on the surface, but that ended in disaster. Naga ate the emissaries that were sent to them, and the harpies killed them. The golems crushed all who entered their caverns, so no one even got close to the dragons. Not that anyone wanted to get near them. The orcs simply tortured any that they caught.

    “Naturally, there was retaliation. For the most part, the humans and elves left the mountains alone. The dwarves though, did turn their attention to them and pressed the golems out of an area of the mountains, where the dwarves then made their home.

    “The elves fought in the forests, primarily. They helped in the open fields as well, and helped the humans to defend the beaches that they lived on. Eventually, they stayed in the forests, keeping mostly to themselves.

    “The humans kept to the shores and the fields, fighting when necessary. After this slaughter, a relative peace existed in this realm. Eventually, kingdoms of humans, elves, and dwarves sprang up, and, as always is the case with such things, the former allies began to have wars with each other.

    “After countless bloody battles, things settled down between the kingdoms. The remaining people united into three separate countries. The humans controlled most of the fields and the coast. Their realm was the largest, but was the most sparsely populated. The Elves took the forests and lakes, building magnificent cities on or under the trees and water. The dwarves settled on taking the mountains as their home. The desert and tundra remained mostly uninhabited. Only the suicidal or extremely eccentric lived there.

    “Peace ruled for a time, with minor skirmishes with the monsters next-door. And then, this era of calm was shattered, like so much valuable porcelain. Someone or thing was banding all of the creatures of this land together and drove them to fight those that took their land. Over the course of a year, the beasts destroyed everything that they saw. The kingdoms collapsed, sending each goodly race to withdraw into secure cities. The elves were safe in their trees, and the dwarves were safe in their mountain homes, but the humans were, more or less, left out in the open. The monsters then set up a tyrannical government, forcing the people who had come to this land to be something just above being a slave.

    “This new empire is headed by and entity named Trajanus Cecidi. Under him are four generals: Aurae Crepusculi, Nymphae Inrigo, Silex Lautumia, and Torreo Facis. They still rule us today.”

    #18932
    gblock01
    Participant

    Here's the next part. Enjoy!  😀
    There's a tiny bit of cussing, and there will be in most of the other sections, so get used to it. 😉
    Seriously, though, if it bothers you, just stop reading.

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    Chapter 2

    The man that was speaking turned to his audience. He was an older gentleman, but still moved with a fluid grace that showed him as a true fighter. In the gray light of the stark white room, his grizzled features and smooth gait were comparable to a wolf. An old wolf, but still a wolf.

    He was clearly over the hill, but his six foot frame still stood straight, as if he had several feet of steel shoved up his spine. His long, dark brown hair was beginning to gray at the temples and silver streaks could be seen throughout his straight hair. It was held back with a white bandanna that had a symbol on it that resembled a magen david, but a horizontal line cut through the opposing triangles marred the image. The symbol seemed to shift between the colors red, blue, yellow, and green.

    He wore a white tunic of extremely fine weave, as well as buckskin pants. The very top of a chainmail shirt could be seen under his tunic, at the neck. Across his chest, two straps crossed in an X pattern, each leading to a sheathed saber. The sabers poked over each of his shoulders, above two shoulder pauldrons. His feet were covered by heavy, hobnailed, leather boots and his hands were covered by a pair of hardened-leather gloves. When looked at in full, the man seemed to be ready for a full assault.

    “I do not believe that you have ever had the pleasure of meeting with me, so I will introduce myself. I am Commander Ryu Reis. My companions call me ‘Quicksilver’, but you… fine individuals may call me ‘sir’. I will answer to only the titles of ‘Commander Reis’ and ‘sir’. Anything else is your ass. Understood?” he barked. He moved his gaze across the small, square room, passing over the mages in each corner and focusing on the four individuals in front of him.

    Three of them sounded off in a clear, “Yes, sir!” The fourth merely said, “Sure, sarge.” Ryu didn’t explode in a fit of rage, as the other three expected. Instead, he smiled. It wasn’t a very friendly smile. If this were taking place as part of the animal kingdom, that kind of smile would be the wolf saying that you were about to be dinner.

    He turned his eyes to the fourth figure, making a note of how he dressed and held himself. The figure before him was tall, about an inch shorter than Ryu. He was dressed lightly, in a tunic and a light cloak, as well as buckskin pants. They were all darkly colored, clearly marking this person as one who does most of his work in the dead of night, out of the view of most goodly folk. Similar to Ryu, he had a pair of swords worn across his back, but they were short swords, not sabers. With less of a reach, but more maneuverable, his possible occupations were narrowed down to being either an assassin or a thief. He wore thin boots, good for walking long distances, usually without sound. What gave him away, though, were his gloves. Unlike what an assassin would wear, the fingers of his gloves were removed to allow a thief the necessary dexterity to pick complex locks.

    The only things that were not consistent with his stealthy apparel were his hair and his eyes. His hair, displayed out in the open, spiked with a thick gel, was a bright crimson color. His eyes, though, stood out even more. His eyes were bereft of the usual colors that were seen and appeared a deep violet hue. No one would ever forget seeing eyes like those.

    Leaning in, Ryu spoke softly, “I’m sorry, son, it’s the curse of getting old. What did you say?”

    Smiling cockily, the thief replied, “Listen carefully this time, pops. I said that I understood. Do you need a hearing horn or something?”

    The stern commander stared into the thief’s purple eyes, never dropping his smile. “You must be Chaud Stryke, a thief with an impressive reputation on the streets.”

    Chaud, still smiling, waved his hand as if what the imposing man before him was saying was irrelevant. “‘Thief’ is such a negative word, and not a very accurate one, besides. I like to think of myself as a ‘liberator’. After all, I do liberate goods from people who don’t need or deserve it and give it to those who do.”

    “Regardless, stealing is stealing. You had better reconsider your position or you will be thrown into the deepest cavern that we can find, to play with the golems.”

    Chaud’s cocky smile never faltered. “You have no right,” he said. “I have done nothing wrong. You can’t touch me.”

    Ryu motioned to one of the spellcasters in the room. Immediately, one stepped forward and handed a stack of papers to him. Looking at the papers in his hand, Ryu began to read parts of them aloud. “Chaud Stryke: wanted for petty larceny, grand theft, arson, burglary, robbery, trespassing, breaking and entering… The list goes on. If you behave, all of this can just go away.”

    Chaud’s smile persisted. “I may have acted outside the law, from time to time, but I did so for good moral cause. Never once did anyone get hurt, and there were no witnesses to testify against me. You can’t touch me,” he insisted.

    Ryu began to chuckle under his breath, enjoying the sport ad knowing the eventual outcome. Deciding to humor him, Ryu continued bantering. “We have been watching you for some time. We have all of the proof that we need to lock you up for good. Here are a few of the cases that we have had our eyes on. Approximately two years, five months ago, you broke into a nobleman’s house and stole all of the gold that he had stored there.”

    “Nobles steal from the commoners, so I just stole it back. I never kept any of the money.”

    Ryu continued, unconcerned. “Another case of burglary occurred about three months later, this time, though, you struck a military depot, stealing some weaponry as well as a good amount of ammo and rations.”

    “They went to a group of soldiers that were busy fending off some creatures from one of the forests that the elves don’t inhabit.”

    “About one year ago, you burnt a factory to the ground.”

    “That was an illegal sweatshop where nobles were using children to make various goods.”

    “A number of months ago, you waylaid a caravan of a wealthy merchant’s goods and, after stealing some, burnt the rest.”

    “What I took, I gave to some beggars. What I had burnt was illegal contraband.”

    “About one month ago, you burnt a warehouse down to the ground.”

    “Okay, that one was for me. The warehouse was abandoned, and I figured that the iron dust in there would burn a brilliant color.”

    Ryu smiled again. “That was still destruction of private property that didn’t belong to you. You just admitted to that in a room of seven potential witnesses. The list continues. Do I need to go further, or do you understand where you stand with the law?”

    Chaud’s crestfallen look was answer enough. Turning away from him, he surveyed the rest of his captive audience.

    The first person that he laid his eyes on was a relatively young looking dwarf with an enormous beer-belly. The actual size of his gut was masked by loricated plate armor that covered his entire torso. He had matching armor on his legs. His feet were covered by metal plated greaves and his hands were protected by tempered gauntlets. A warhammer swung easily at his hip. He had a full helm with a T shaped section missing from the front for seeing and breathing tied to his belt on the opposite side of the warhammer. This particular individual was Prauge Gutrot, a warrior of some renown amongst the dwarves that lived in the mountains to the west.

    The next one was a beautiful elven woman. Straight, long brown hair framed a face unmarred from her almost two centuries of existence. Physically, she would be as developed as a human woman of nineteen. She was a cleric of Mystra, the goddess of Magic, and dressed accordingly. On her head, she wore a golden circlet that bore her deity’s symbol. The fact that it was a gold circlet meant that she was a high priestess. She wore a sky-blue robe that seemed to almost float as she moved. The color perfectly mirrored the deep blue color of her eyes. On a sash around her slim waist, she had a small mace. From just under the hem of her robe, the toes of her high-laced sandals could be seen on her petite feet. This figure of beauty was Mayim Aquus, one of the most powerful priestesses to have ever walked this planet.

    The last individual was something altogether different. From what Ryu knew of him, he was a mage, but he certainly wasn’t dressed as one. Instead of the customary robe, he was wearing a finely woven tunic as well as a pair of lightly colored pants. On both hands, he wore light, tightly fitting gloves. On the back of each of the gloves sat the same symbol that was on Ryu’s bandanna. He also wore heavy leather boots that rose halfway up his shins.

    To further detract from the wizardly image, he wore two metal plate shin guards behind his boots and two bracers, one on each forearm. Both the pair of shin guards and the bracers were made of a metal that he had never seen before. At first glance, they appeared to be made of highly polished steel. If one looked more closely, however, one would notice odd under- and overtones of color in the shiny metal, similar to how many enchanted items, particularly weapons and armor, looked. Unlike those types of items, the pieces of armor bore no trace of any magical properties.

    The only thing that made him look like he might be a wizard was the staff that he carried. It appeared as a normal quarterstaff, but it was clearly enchanted to allow its holder to focus easier. This was an enormous boon, considering the fact that this apparently young man, Jinn Skye, specialized in two different schools of magic: destruction and alteration. If the spells cast from their respective schools of magic were not properly focused upon, both could have dire consequences.

    Further removing himself from the image of a frail spellcaster, his body was well toned and was obviously more than ready to use his staff as a weapon at a moment’s notice. He looked more like a monk or a fighter than a wizard or a sorcerer. His short, dark brown hair contrasted sharply with the rest of his clothing, which were all light in color, yellow being predominant. At the same time, his eyes matched his clothing perfectly. Like Chaud, Jinn’s eyes were a most unusual color. His penetrating gaze was a distinctly golden hue, which tended to gather light and reflect it, giving him an animalistic appearance. The most striking thing about his eyes, though, was the innumerable number of years of experience that they reflected. He had the body of an eighteen year-old, but his eyes looked more fitting for the oldest of elves. More unusual, was that he was a human.

    Clearing his throat, Ryu continued. “I know who you all are, so there is no need for further introductions. Now that we are all clear on who I am, we can continue. To put it simply, you are all being charged with the task of eliminating our odious overlords.” He motioned to the spellcasters in each corner of the room before continuing. “Until now, we have not had any information on who or what the five creatures leading the beasts were. These wizards will be crafting illusions to show you what your foes look like.” As he finished, the room was filled with four separate images, each one depicting a different monster, obviously the four generals.

    Ryu motioned to the first one, a male harpy of obvious beauty. His muscles were sleek and taut, reflecting his eagle-like avian parts. In a closeable quiver hanging by his side, a number of javelins could be seen. Unlike most harpies, this one wore armor. On his torso, he wore hardened hide armor, as well as matching armor on the fleshy part of his upper legs. His lower legs simply had leather bracers on them, as did his forearms. “This is Aurae Cepusculi. He is the commander of the avian forces under Trajanus’s control. Thankfully, he is not of a patient mindset, and is often rash and emotional. While not stupid, he is easily goaded into making foolish mistakes. Like most male harpies, he is incredibly conceited, so anything that can wound his pride will push him over the edge.

    “In contrast, this is Torreo Facis.” This time he pointed to the humanoid form of a drake. He was an obvious descendent of a green dragon, as his yellow eyes and green scales indicated. He, unlike Aurae, was heavily armored. He wore a set of heavy chainmail that extended over his arms and had a large great axe strapped to his back. He wore special gauntlets that were crafted to fit his three-fingered hands. He didn’t wear any boots. His large, three-toed feet were spread out too far to fit anything that could possibly be made for them. His legs, though, were protected by fitted metal plates that completely covered his unusually shaped legs. He also wore a helmet that was molded to his head, as well as his serpentine neck. “He is the central intelligence that controls the creatures that rule over us. Without him, their campaign would never have succeeded. He is crafty, and holds no loyalty to anyone but himself. You will have to outfox him to best him.”

    The third figure was a massive mound of a mixture of clay and stone, molded into a humanoid shape. The only distinguishing feature was an enormous ruby, about the size of an orange, which was set into the middle of its forehead. Chaud’s eyes sparkled with delight as he gazed upon the magnificent gem. Ryu cleared his throat again. “Don’t get any ideas into your head, thief. That gem can only be owned by the king of the golems. If anyone else possessed it, they would be plagued by golems until it was returned to the rightful king. Killing the king won’t work, either, because a new one would assume command as soon as the old one passes on. This is Silex Lautumia. This brute is about as dumb as you can get, but is fiercely, even blindly loyal. This powerhouse can change the shape of various parts of his body to create different types of weapons. His favorite is a bladed whip that extends from his arm. The only way to get rid of this thing is to destroy it completely. He controls the ground troops.”

    The last figure was one of a beautiful woman. She was short, only standing at four feet five inches, but that did nothing to hide her outlandish beauty. She wore a white robe that protected her modesty, but was transparent enough to leave nothing about her curvaceous form to the imagination. Her body was highly toned, with slight definition in her muscles, further accentuating her shape. Her high, firm breasts jutted out proudly, each one perfectly round and firm. They were each about the size of grapefruits. Her hair was of a golden color, similar to Jinn’s eyes, with a more metallic look than a normal blond color. Just under her flowing locks her ears were visible. They came to a definite point, much like an elf, except they weren’t as prominent as an elf’s. Her eyes were another oddity, shining a definite silver.

    Her face was something that should be unattainable for anyone of any mortal race. Her features were smooth, and her skin was a creamy white. Her nose was in perfect proportion with the rest of her face. Her full, pouting lips, in sharp contrast with the rest of her creamy features, were a bright, cherry red. In the image, she was smiling, showing two rows of perfectly straight, white teeth. The image was breathtaking, until you got a better look at her teeth. Her canine teeth were longer than they should be, making them definite fangs. That alone was enough to turn Chaud off, despite his lecherous nature.

    “This is the last of the generals, Nymphae Inrigo. She is a siren, that is to say something akin to a succubus. She is the commander of all of their aquatic forces. While she has no apparent weapons in this image, she will use a trident, if the situation calls for it. She is inhumanly strong, and, if you don’t keep your wits about you, she can use her voice to place you into a trance. She, like Aurae, is incredibly vain. Unlike Aurae, she can use her body to get what she wants, and is not shy about doing so. My only advice about dealing with her is to bear in mind a simple saying, ‘Beauty is only skin-deep.’”

    Waving his hand, Ryu signaled to the wizards in the room to interrupt the illusions. On another signal from the Commander, they combined their spells to create one large illusion. This one was of a gigantic red dragon. Its terrible, lamp-like, golden eyes, since it was an illusion, were devoid of any life, but they seemed to bore into everyone’s very soul. Its eyes had vertical slits, like a cat’s, and seemed to reflect all light in the room. Its red scales glowed an orange color, as if its inner fires were constantly heating them. Each great tooth was about as long as one of Chaud’s short swords. Its body filled the entire room, wings and all. Ryu let the enormity of the beast sink in before he spoke again. “This is Trajanus Cecidi. I’m sure that you all know what his role is. Unfortunately, we still don’t know that much about him. All that we know for sure is that he is the oldest and most powerful of his kind. As you are now, you will have a difficult time fighting his generals, to say nothing of fighting and killing him. You will need to find a very specific magical item first.

    “The item that you will be seeking is one that was crafted by good dragons of long ago, we believe the sliver ones, the ones that were strongest in magic, but the most powerful dragons, the gold dragons, may have been involved as well. We have precious little information concerning this item. Its nature and location are unknown, as are the powers that it bestows upon it owner. All that we know is that it exists somewhere between the mountains and the coast. From all of the legends that we have poured through, we believe it to lie somewhere in the middle of the largest forest that the elves don’t occupy. I believe that it is called the Woods of Sleeping Death. I’m not sure why, though. Probably due to the unusual number of mortis trees that exist around its perimeter.

    “Your mission is to find all of the information that you can, get into the forest, and find the location of this artifact, if it exists in that region. If you find it, bring it back here so we can find out what the actual enchantments are. If, in the course of your mission you find out what it does, then you are given my permission use whatever force necessary to storm Trajanus’s cavern and use the object to defeat him. You will be sufficiently compensated for your work. In the event that you do anything that helps Trajanus or his forces to obtain this item first, other agents from our organization will be sent out to neutralize all who were a party to treason. Do you all understand what it is that you must do and what it is that is at stake?”

    This time, all four sounded out with a clear, “Yes, sir!” Ryu nodded grimly. “Very well. You are dismissed. Mages! Please guide our troops to the center of the city!” As soon as those words were said, the four new companions and the four wizards vanished in a flash of blinding light.

    #18933
    gblock01
    Participant

    THis next part is a little long. However, I'm sure that all of you will enjoy it anyway. Still no FMG in this section, but I promise that there will be some in the next section. In this section, there is some MMG, but not enough, in my opinion, to merit this needing to be posted in another section. Also, the growth is in a different context than most things on this board. You'll see what I mean when you get to it. Enjoy!

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    Chapter 3

    Another blinding flash filled the entire first floor of an old, abandoned building. When the brilliant light faded, eight figures stood in the formerly empty room. Swaying on their feet, four of the figures tried to maintain their balance. One of them spoke in a loud obnoxious voice, “Gods! I think I’m gonna be sick!” He looked as if he were about to retch on the ground, but managed to calm his churning stomach. “Ugh! Good lord! Do they have to move us about like that? And what’s with calling us ‘troops’? I think this guy’s got a mental complex or … UGH!”

    The shortest of the dizzy figures had just slammed his elbow into the loudmouth’s gut. Doubling over, he did throw up this time. Grumbling to himself, the small figure seemed satisfied. “At least there is something less foul coming out of your mouth now.” Even the stern figures that remained steady let out a little snicker at the dwarf’s comedic episode.

    The figure that had been struck lay on the ground moaning. Another of the unsteady figures stumbled towards his prone form. Extending a hand, he helped the idiot to his feet. “You need to learn when to keep your mouth shut, Chaud, was it? I am Jinn Skye, a wizard of some skill, though not as much as I would like. The dizziness will pass soon, but, if we have to do this again in the future, kindly remember that you aren’t the only person who will be feeling miserable. Especially if you happen to be standing near the dwarf again,” he chuckled.

    The dwarf, in response, kicked Jinn in the leg. Clearing his throat, he said in a gravelly voice, “I go’ a name, mister meddlin’ mage. Name’s Prauge Gutrot. Fix it in tha’ empty space o’ a head o’ yers.” His voice carried a heavy accent, making his rough appearance even more intimidating. “An’ tha’ pansy deserved wha’ he go’! I canno’ say tha’ I care fer magic, much, but I don’ go complainin’ about it neither.”

    Jinn couldn’t help but smile at the surly dwarf. “My apologies, good dwarf. I’m sorry if my lofty words have offended you. I know that that kind of talk is above you. I shall have to speak in monosyllabic words and make grunting noises so you can understand me better.” At first, the dwarf looked outraged, but then got the hidden meaning behind the words. Instantly, his grim visage melted into a broad smile that showed many large, crooked teeth. “Ha! I think tha’ we’ll be gettin’ along fine, wizard. Er, I guess I should call ya Jinn, shouldn’ I, seein’ as we’re gonna be travelin’ together.”

    Shaking her head, the slim but beautiful fourth figure spoke. “You men! Always fighting! It’s a wonder that any are left on this planet!” Jinn turned his beaming face to the elven woman. “Ah, yes Mayim. You are absolutely right. But then, what makes life worth living if it is not fighting for something that you deem important, despite how foolish it seems to others.” Mayim could not keep her angry appearance, and, like Prauge did a few moments before, allowed her face to slide into a smile. “You of all people should know that Jinn, shouldn’t you? Considering your special situation and all.” Jinn’s smile dropped instantly and gave the beautiful woman an extremely stern look, telling her that it would be best if she took that track of thought no further.

    Ignoring the quizzical looks from both Prauge and Chaud, Jinn turned to the four figures behind them. “You may go now. We can manage on our own from here. Oh! And tell your boss that he needs to lighten up, okay? Life’s too short to act like you have a bug up your ass all the time.” Finishing with a smile, he turned back to the other three. The four figures paled at the thought of delivering that kind of message to their commander, and wasted no time in using another spell to disappear in another blinding flash of light.

    Jinn motioned for everyone to move through the gloom to the door that was facing them. Once everyone had settled their stomachs, they moved forward, into the bright sunlight of the city that they had been in before being taken to Ryu “Quicksilver” Reis’s briefing room.

    Once out in the brilliant light of the sun at its peak during the day, Chaud stretched his aching muscles. “Seriously, does it always feel like that when you get teleported?” he asked Jinn. “I mean, you are the only magician among us. Surely you’ve worked those kinds of spells throughout your career.”

    Smiling at his ignorance, Jinn shook his head. “Sorry, Chaud but I really have no experience in the magics of movement. I specialize in the destructive arts, as well in the arts of alteration. I do know, however, someone who could tell you.” Chaud’s face brightened when Jinn said that. “For one, you could go back and ask Ryu.” Chaud’s face paled. Jinn, chuckling at his response, continued. “Or, you could ask Mayim. You are a thief, so I had assumed that you knew already. Mayim is a priestess of Mystra, the goddess of all magic. While she cannot actually work the spells, she knows more about them than anyone else. It is part of one of her duties as a high priestess of her order.”

    Expectantly, Chaud turned his face to Mayim’s, a pleading look in his eye. A little surprised at being put on the spot in such a way, she hesitated in answering. “Oh, well, uh… yes. Yes. No matter what, anyone who gets teleported will feel that way, even if they are doing the teleporting. After a while, though, your body gets used to being displaced so rapidly and is able to tolerate it better. The only real difference is that you recover faster. Do it enough, and the recovery seems almost instantaneous. But, Jinn, you knew that as well. Why didn’t you just tell him?” Surprised, Chaud looked at Jinn. Smiling yet again, Jinn said, “Because I wanted you to say something without scolding them simultaneously.” Giving an exasperated sigh, she moved off, towards the busy streets of the city. Jinn and the others followed after her.

    As the walked through the winding streets of the city, Jinn began to notice that Prauge kept staring at him. Having an idea of what he was thinking, Jinn decided that it would be a good idea to get it over with. “You have a question in your eyes, Prauge. Anything I can help you with?” Startled, the dwarf stammered a reply. “Er, um…yea’. I, I wanted t’ know why, if yer a wizard, yer dressed more like a fighter.”

    Jinn was disappointed by the question. He knew that Prauge wanted to ask something else, but he had stopped himself and asked something else. Sighing, he figured that he had better answer. “Well, I practice a unique type of magic. While I still conform to the schools of magic that are normally taught, I don’t use the same methods in my castings. Instead of using specific ingredients, I use the ambient energies around us. As such, I don’t need to wear a wizard’s robe. Also, I have trained myself to fight using weapons should the need arise. This outfit, while a little odd for a warrior, allows me to use my staff as I need. Does that suffice?” Prauge was stammering again. “Er… y-yea’. Sure.”

    Lapsing back into silence, they continued on. Inevitably, Chaud broke the relative quite of the street. “Now that I’m thinking about it, where exactly are we going? I mean, I happen to live in this city, so I can get my stuff at any time, but what about you guys? From what I can remember about the layout of this city, we are heading towards the noble’s quarters. I’m pretty sure that we don’t have any business there.” Chaud’s purple eyes shifted nervously as he spoke.

    Prauge rolled his eyes. “Lemme guess, you broke into those houses, didn’ you?” Chaud paled, but kept silent. Jinn spoke to him, trying to calm him. “For your information, our inn is in the noble’s quarters.” Chaud made a surprised noise. “It is? How do you afford it? You have to spend money just to go into a shop down there! And how is it that all three of you are staying at the same inn if you’ve never met each other before?” Clearing his throat, Jinn answered. “Ahem. Uh, well, you see, Mayim and I have known each other for, uh, some time now. Prauge’s staying there, on the other hand, was a coincidence.

    “I don’t understand, though, why you don’t seem to want to go into the noble’s quarters. If you are as good of a thief as your reputation says, you should be able to piece together a suitable disguise. Although, your eyes and hair will be a problem.” Jinn snapped his fingers. “Ah! Got it!” He began to dig around in a small pouch that attached to his belt. After extracting some spare fabric and a small stick of wood, he handed it to Chaud, who looked completely baffled. Jinn extended his hands towards Chaud and began to chant.

    With an extremely nervous look, Chaud turned to Mayim. “What, in the name of all that is holy, is he doing? I thought that he didn’t need materials for spells!” Mayim seemed amused by Chaud’s words and explained briefly. “For alteration magic, you have to have something to alter.” In another flash of light, the pieces of fabric had transformed into two identical bandannas and the stick was now a long walking stick. Still not understanding, Chaud cast a querying look at Jinn. Rolling his eyes at the thief’s slow wits, he explained. “One bandanna to cover your hair, another to cover your eyes. The stick, you use to find your way around. You are now officially blind. Prauge, if you would be so kind, could you please be our new cripple’s helper?”

    Trying and failing to hide his mirth, Prauge nodded consent, and helped Chaud tie the bandannas on. Soon, they were three people leading a blind friend to an inn in the noble quarters.

    Half an hour later, Jinn was helping his “crippled brother” up the stairs of the inn that he, Prauge, and Mayim were staying at. Once up the stairs, Prauge left to go to his room to get his stuff. Meanwhile, Jinn and Mayim were steering Chaud to their room. As soon as the door was closed securely behind them, Jinn told the thief that he could take the bandannas off. Sighing in relief, Chaud removed the fabric from his eyes and head. He started to hand the three pieces of his disguise back to Jinn, but he shook his head and motioned for Chaud to keep them for future use.

    Deciding to break the uncomfortable silence, Chaud walked to the window of the room, admiring the view, and asked, “So where is your room, Mayim? Is it as nice as this one?” From behind him, Mayim answered, “Yes and no.” Chaud grunted a response and focused on the magnificent houses, more like small palaces, really, that the noble’s resided in. Then he realized that she had not answered the first part of his question. Turning around, he was about to repeat his question, when his breath caught in his throat. Both Jinn and Mayim were still in the room, but Mayim had taken off her robe, apparently with the intent to change clothes and not thinking that Chaud would turn around.

    She was hugging Jinn in a tender embrace, passionately kissing the mage. She was dressed in a shift that spared her modesty well, but did nothing to hide her glorious curves or her high, rounded breasts. The shift went down to just above the middle of her smooth thighs, revealing long, toned legs. The shift, while hanging loosely on her slim frame, did nothing to hide the rounded shape of her firm rear. For the first and probably only time in his life, Chaud Stryke, smart-ass thief extraordinaire, was speechless.

    Sensing his lavender gaze, Mayim broke the embrace, looked Chaud in the eyes, blushed, and went into a smaller room that Chaud hadn’t seen because the door was in the way. Chaud stared at Jinn in disbelief. Jinn’s tanned features colored slightly at the unwavering gaze. Not knowing what else to do, he smiled. “Who can say what form love will take? Even if it is between races.”

    “But you’re human.”

    “So?”

    “You. Are. Human! She’s an elf! There’s nothing wrong with being with her, but seriously! She will outlive you by at least eight centuries. For her to look the same age as you, she must be almost two centuries old! How can you love her so deeply, knowing that?”

    “Eventually, you’ll understand that age doesn’t matter as much as most people think that it does,” Jinn sighed, “Love is as love does. You can’t control it, and the age gap isn’t quite what you think it is.”

    “What in the seven hells are you talking about? You can’t be any older than me, and elves mature at their own pace. Unless she’s a halfy, then there is no way that there could be a small age gap between you two!”

    “I’m sorry, but what did you call her?”

    “A halfy. Half-something. You know how there are half-orcs and half-elves? Well, on the streets, they’re just called halfies, regardless of their other race and pretty much frowned upon. No offense meant.”

    Jinn smiled grimly, “None taken, but it’s more than your life’s worth to insult her. I will restrain myself from doing lasting harm, but if she gets angry, all bets are off. And I can guarantee that she is a full-blooded elf.”

    Utterly confused and about to say something, Mayim came back into the room, dressed in a very odd manner. No longer was she wearing a sky-blue robe. Now, she was wearing what looked like a leather harness that completely covered her torso. It stretched to cover her shoulder and her bountiful chest, and extended a ways along her upper arms and all of the way down her legs. She had various straps going around her leather armor, one of them with her mace fastened to it. The leather was colored a deep blue, setting off her eyes, much like her robes did. Blushing again, she answered Chaud’s amazed stare. “Well, in the cities it’s fine, but wearing a robe out in the wild is stupid unless you’re a wizard. This is much more practical. I promise you, there is a very good reason for my wearing it.” She turned to Jinn. “Well, now that he knows that we’re lovers, I figured that I should go ahead and change. Did you finish packing everything.”

    Jinn grimaced. “Ah, no. I didn’t get a chance to since I was talking with Chaud.” Jinn absently waved his hand. All of their possessions flew about the room and shrunk to fit into Jinn’s small pouch. “Okay. Done.”

    Chaud’s mouth was hanging open. “I thought that you said that you couldn’t use magic to move things!” Another amused expression spread across Jinn’s face. “Oh? Well, yes, that’s true. But, with the destructive spells, I often have to move air around to accomplish whatever task I am trying to do. I simply did the same thing to hold them aloft and push them along. At the same time, I used alteration magic to shrink them.”

    “Are you some kind of all-powerful magician, or something?”

    “Oh, good heavens, no! I only have so much energy that I can use on spells. This is all small stuff, so I haven’t used much. Real spells used in battle take much more energy. Now, put the bandannas back on. We would look very strange indeed if the person who had walked in here blind had somehow had his sight restored. That kind of thing is beyond the powers of the highest clerics.” Grumbling to himself, he began to put them back on, with a little help from Mayim. Jinn walked outside, looking for Prauge. He met Prauge just around the corner of the hallway and led him back to the room where Mayim and Chaud were waiting for them. Once together, they left the inn and headed towards the slums.

    As they got closer to the slums, the four companions began to notice a rapid change in their surroundings as they went from whitewashed walls and wide, clean streets to dingy buildings and cramped, cluttered alleyways. Chaud, his false bandages removed, looked about the area with something that looked remarkably like sympathy. Prauge and Jinn kept their faces carefully emotionless, while Mayim looked on the verge of tears. Keeping her voice steady, she asked Chaud, “How can the people live like this? Don’t the nobles care at all?” Snorting, Chaud gave a curt reply, “The nobles? Don’t make me laugh. I’ll be very surprised if one of them has ever done a selfless thing in their lives!” Jinn cleared his throat at that, but Chaud continued on as if he had not heard anything. “These people live as best they can, without any help from those selfish, bloated plutocrats! Most of them don’t live past their forty-fifth birthday. Very few even live that long.”

    Chaud turned away as a little boy, his belly bloated from starvation, called his name. “Chaud! Chaud! Did you get any food?” Chaud bent down and picked the little boy up. The little boy’s stick-thin arms went around Chaud’s neck instantly, giving him a great hug. His skeletal face was split by a wide smile as his muddy-brown eyes stared into Chaud’s purple ones. Chaud tried to return the smile, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. “I’m sorry Jongen. I was caught before I could get any food.”

    The boy’s smile left his face in an instant. He then looked to Jinn, Mayim, and Prauge, standing around them as they watched this scene. His eyes were filled with a burning hatred that shocked them. “Leave him alone! He never did anything to you! He’s a good person! Go away! If you don’t let him go, I – I – I’ll kill you!”

    Stunned by the boys words, Chaud couldn’t find any words to scold the boy, nor could anyone else. Jinn, however, saw a different solution. He moved towards Jongen, his golden eyes glittering in the sunlight. Jongen took one look into those eyes, and began to cry. Not bawling tears, but a silent kind of weeping that only shows itself through the tears streaming down his face. Taking the child from Chaud, he spoke softly to him. “We are not the bad guys here. We were all caught, and taken to see someone. He told us that, if we behaved, we can help many, many people. People like you. Would you like that?” The boy nodded and Jinn continued. “Good. Then will you help us?” The boy nodded again. “Good, then here is how you can do it. I want you to be a good boy and help other people like yourself. I will give you something to help them. Will you promise me to help them?” Smiling this time, the boy nodded. “Very good! Now, run off and find the biggest bag that you can find. We’ll wait here for you. Hurry along now.” Now beaming, the boy disappeared into the crowded alleys.

    Prauge was bewildered and Mayim was curious. Chaud, though, was staring at Jinn in an inscrutable manner. Jinn, ignoring all three stares, was digging around in his pouch. When the boy finally returned, he was carrying an enormous sack, probably one that had been previously used by the nobles to throw out garbage. Looking at Jinn expectantly, he watched as Jinn pulled out a single, solitary leg of chicken. Jongen looked crestfallen. He began to get an angry gleam in his eyes when Jinn tossed the leg into the sack. “Just wait one more moment. I did promise that I would give you something to help everyone, right?” Jinn was chanting again. His mumbled syllables reached a crescendo and a flash of light filled the bag. Suddenly, the bag was filled with countless chicken legs. Unfortunately, the sack was now too heavy for the boy’s bony limbs to budge, let alone lift. Jongen wasted no time in pointing this out.

    Jinn chuckled. “Well, we will just have to do something about that, won’t we? I am going to cast another spell, this time on you. Unfortunately, the effects are not permanent, but there will be some side effects that should leave you in much better health than you are now.” Looking at Jinn with a mix of curiosity and fear, the boy held still as the mage began to cast another spell. Jinn suddenly seemed to be having a little trouble pronouncing the words that had, up until now, passed smoothly from his lips. Mayim stepped forward, unhooked Jinn’s staff, and handed it to him. The words seemed to come more smoothly, but he still struggled.

    Finally, Mayim sighed, and began to pray to her goddess. A blue glow suddenly surrounded her. Almost at the same time, a golden nimbus settled over Jinn’s body. Now the words were coming very smoothly. Reaching the climax of the spell, Jinn threw his hands at the boy, as if he was trying to move something very heavy.

    With a great lurch, Jinn moved forward and seemed to thrust something into the boy’s body. Moving forward anxiously, Chaud looked to see if Jinn had done him any harm. Jongen had a strange look on his face, his eyes not seeming to see anything. Suddenly, the boy’s frail form seemed to stiffen. Slowly, his pot-belly shrunk, leaving him looking normal, if still extremely thin. Then his body began to thicken, his arms and legs developing a fine tone. His stomach had become flat, and his chest no longer had a caved in appearance. He stiffened further, though it was hard to see how he could have done that. The small boy began to get less small as his height increased by a few inches and his still-skinny limbs began to develop hard, defined muscles. While not standing out very clearly at rest, the muscles were very obvious.

    Finally relaxing, the not-so-small boy looked around, wondering what had happened. He looked down at his body and gave a yelp of surprise. His eyes tearful with gratitude and awe, he looked back to Jinn, who now appeared extremely tired, almost as if he had spent the entire morning running without a break. Catching his breath, Jinn leaned on his staff for support. “If you want to thank me, go now and give out as much food as you can. You may, of course, keep some for yourself and your family. Now go. You will only stay like that for a few hours. Your body should retain its tone, though. You will basically be caught in between this form and your original body. I would guess your original height and much smaller muscles. Now hurry!” Tears leaking down his face, a smile threatening to tear his now fleshed out face in two, he ran down the nearest alley, shouting his thanks, promising to help everyone he could and be a good boy.

    Mayim shook her head, laughing at the now very healthy boy as he skipped down the street. Prauge even let a small smile crack his granite-like face. Chaud, though, with his crimson hair, violet eyes, and wide, gaping mouth, looked very much like a landed, exotic fish. “H-how d-d-did you d-do that?” Jinn, though still weary, smiled at Chaud. “Alteration, remember? That boy would have died in about two weeks had I not done that. I really just hit two birds with one stone. Bringing him from the point-of-no-return, though, was harder than I expected. If Mayim hadn’t been here, I doubt that I could have finished that spell before collapsing. Healing is not what alteration magic is meant to do, and I just changed his fate by doing that. If it weren’t for… er… other things, I would likely have died from the strain. If we ever get back from this mission, please do not tell him what I did. Knowing that you could die in the gutter is enough stress for a child. Knowing that he almost did would have bound him to me in a way that would be bad for both of us. Will you promise me that?” Chaud nodded solemnly. Jinn nodded back. “I need to eat and regain some of my energy. Can we get going now?” Chaud nodded again and led his three new friends through the twisting streets to his home.

    As he gathered his things, Jinn was wolfing down whatever food Chaud had stored there. Chaud was more than willing to part with it after all that Jinn had done. Besides, it wouldn’t have kept long enough for them to get back to it. Prauge was sitting outside, examining the alleyway that this house was on. Mayim, meanwhile, was talking to Chaud. True to his nature, he couldn’t help but slip in some smart-ass comments. “So, why do you live here, if you’re a thief? Couldn’t you just live in a nicer house, so that you could prey on the nobles that you hate so much?”

    “I’m not a thief, I’m a liberator.”

    “Whatever. Like Ryu said, stealing is stealing.”

    “Hmph. It doesn’t matter. I stay here because these people need me. They have no one who can protect them or take care of them when times are particularly harsh. And I don’t hate all nobles. I have met a few that weren’t too terrible. They helped me as a kid…” Chaud quickly changed the subject. “Well, anyway, I just take from those who have too much and, mostly, give to those who have too little. I keep some for myself, of course, to fund my little campaign. I actually have some people who openly help me here, though. Even if they don’t do it openly, I can always find an open door from a family around here if I need to be hidden. That boy, Jongen, all that he has left is his mother, who was giving up her food to help him survive. She was worse off than he was. I expect that, unless Jongen gives her some of that food quickly, she won’t be much longer for this world. You have no idea how bad it is here.”

    “Honestly, I don’t want to know. I just want to help them.”

    Chaud paused in his packing, and then continued at a faster pace. “Look, don’t get mushy on me. If you want to help them so badly, why don’t you use some of your clerical powers to help them? The quicker that we get this over with, the better.” Slinging his pack over his shoulder, he tried to push past Mayim to get out of the room. Before she let him through, she spoke to him. “I don’t use my powers because to do so every moment causes them to lose any strength that they have. Jinn can’t help everyone either. Helping one boy who was fated to die nearly took all of his energy. How can he do it with so many? Magic and the gods and goddesses do not exist to end all problems, but to exist as we do. We use them as tools to achieve whatever ends we desire. There are other ways to help them besides stealing. Try to find it.” A blank look on his face, Chaud moved past her into the main room, where Jinn was just finishing.

    “Feel better?” Chaud asked gruffly. Jinn nodded and stood up, no longer having to lean on his staff. “Great. Let’s go.” Jinn looked to Mayim, asking with his gaze what had put Chaud in such a bad mood. Through that single, short glance, Jinn understood what had happened. Putting his arm around Mayim’s slim shoulder, he led her out the door. After getting together with Prauge and Chaud, they moved to the west exit of the city. As the moved out of the slums, Jongen caught up with them, his sack empty.

    He was nowhere near as muscular as he was when they had last seen him, but a good amount of tone was still visible. “Thank you again, sir! Thank you so much! I just came back from my mom. She wanted me to give this to you.” He gave Jinn a slip of paper. Jinn smiled at the happy boy. “Thank you and give my regards to your mother. Oh, and my name is Jinn Skye. If you can find him, there is a man who works for the military named Commander Ryu ‘Quicksilver’ Reis. Please tell him my name and of your living conditions. I’m sure that he will send someone or thing to help.” He took out another piece of chicken, waved his fingers over it, and it grew to three times its size. He wrapped one of the bandannas that Chaud had used around it and gave it to Jongen. “For you and your mother to share.” Jinn winked at him. Jongen couldn’t hide his glee. “Thank you! Oh! Before I forget, don’t look at that piece of paper until you’re outside the city. Thanks again!” He smiled at Jinn, looking truly happy and content, and ran off into the hustle and bustle of the city.

    They stepped through the city gates and looked at the mountains and the forests in the distance. Chaud sighed at the distance that they had to travel. He turned to Jinn. “So what did Jongen’s mother give you?” Jinn shrugged and unfolded the paper. On it was a message untidily scrawled. So you can always find your way to what you seek. Below the writing was the same symbol that both Ryu and Jinn wore, the magen david with a line through the middle. Unlike, the others, it didn’t shift colors. Instead, its six points were six different colors, the topmost being yellow. Going clockwise around it, the other points were blue, red, green, orange, and violet. The line in the middle was black. The yellow point was oddly highlighted, almost as if a ray of light from the sun now setting before them in the west were shining specifically on it. Jinn turned the paper so that he was holding it up-side down. The writing had moved, but the symbol had not. He moved it to its upright position.

    Smiling broadly, he turned to Chaud. “I think that the boy that you are so fond of is the son of a sorceress. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is able to learn the wizardly arts himself. I really must come back here and see him sometime.” Chaud looked thunderstruck. “Well, my companions,” said Jinn, “let us not tarry any longer. We have some work ahead of us, which is best done quickly.” Without one more word, they set off into the sunset.

    #18934
    Fonk
    Participant

    This could get epic but I'm really eager to find out what's going on. Good work and good luck!

    #18935
    gblock01
    Participant

    Okay. Sorry that it took so long to update this story, but I'm working on a number of other projects. Anyway, as promised, there is some FMG in this one. And Fonk, you're right. This story is turning out to be an epic. It's longer than I had planned, but I don't see anything wrong with how it is right now. Enjoy!

    **********************************************

    Chapter 4

    Meanwhile, on the other end of the continent, deep below the craggy peaks of the mountains, others were preparing to go on a long journey as well. At about the same time that Ryu had given Jinn, Chaud, Mayim, and Prauge their quest, the great dragon Trajanus set his forces onto the same trail, fearing what could or would happen if the four companions found the relic. He had addressed his most trusted generals, telling them, in no uncertain terms whatsoever, that the way of life that they all enjoyed would soon be destroyed if the four friends were successful. The generals rallied to the call to arms and began to make preparations, in their own particular way, to impede their journey.

    Torreo, the most clever of the four, sent forth wave after wave of orcs to slow down the soon-to-be troublesome pests. He did not want them killed yet, seeing them as possibly useful. Silex, in an uncharacteristically intelligent move, split his forces, sending a quarter of those at hand to scout out and protect the Forest of Sleeping Death. The rest were stationed about the mountains, obliterating all intruding into their snowy peaks. Aurae, in a characteristically rash move, sent a squad of his finest harpy troops to kill the would-be heroes. Nymphae did nothing of any military importance. Instead, she moved through the human population, using her abundant charms to obtain information about the companions’ whereabouts.

    Feeling that this was not getting them anywhere Torreo called the other three generals together into one of the spacious caverns that were abundant in the mountains. He had Silex order all golems to stay out and keep all other creatures as far away from them as possible. When all four had gathered together, Torreo addressed them all. His voice was remarkably like that of a naga, a rather dry voice with a sibilant hissing on many words, which set him apart from other drakes. Drakes were more commonly known to use the rumbling voice of their dragon parent.

    “We do not yet know the whereaboutsss of the myssstical item that we ssseek. Our ressspective forcesss will not sssucceed in completely ssstoping our enemiesss. We mussst leave now and claim it for oussselvesss!”

    Aurae snorted and ruffled his sleek feathers a bit, giving a clear message that he was disgusted with this idea. In a high-pitched voice that sounded like an eagle’s cry, he spoke. “Oh come now! Those fools are simple creatures that do not even deserve our full attention! They are inferior beings that we can crush as is our pleasure. As we speak, my harpy forces should be tearing those fools limb from –”

    Aurae glared at Torreo reproachfully as the drake interrupted him. “Thossse dumb clucksss will have their feathersss plucked!” he hissed, “I know that my orcsss will not be able to defeat them, leassst of all that infernal Jinn Ssskye!” As he said Jinn’s name, he bent his serpentine neck and spat on the ground.

    In response, the normally silent Silex spoke, his voice sounding like so many avalanches. “What so significant about him?” Before Torreo could answer, Nymphae spoke. Her voice was a smooth blending of harsh and soft tones that would entrance any normal person. No one gathered was anywhere near normal. In a haughty manner, she answered Sliex’s question. “He’s a problem, rocks-for-brains, because he is an owlam. Even if we get the others, we can’t kill him! At least, not yet.”

    Torreo bent his long neck in an odd caricature of a nod, showing his agreement. “We mussst get the item before them! From what I have been able to gather, the item that we are looking for isss called the ssshalat aboth. It isss a necklaccce of exxxtrordinary power. With it, our rule ssshall never be challenged again!”

    The cavern was filled with murmurs of assent and began to make plans to leave to take this powerful talisman for their master. Though they kept silent about it from each other, each began to harbor fantasies about what they could accomplish with the power in that item. Who needed an old dragon, powerful though he might be, to lead them? They soon set out together, their uneasy alliance already strained by private fantasies of power and wealth soon to be gained.

    ************************************************************************

    It was still dark when Chaud woke up. It was a sharp awakening, one that usually signified something unusual in the immediate vicinity. Looking around sharply with his night-attuned eyes, he slowly got up. Everything around and in the camp was quiet. Nothing seemed out of place. So why was he feeling so uneasy?

    Concerned that something may have happened to his companions, he moved through the camp, utilizing the skills that he has developed as a thief over the course of his life. Soundlessly, he crept about, examining the resting places of his companions. Prauge was where he had plopped down to spend the night, still snoring loud enough to raise the dead. In this land, that was entirely possible and not an entirely comforting thought.

    He then went to Mayim and Jinn’s tent. There was no sound inside, but that didn’t mean anything. Ever so quietly, Chaud opened the tent and took a quick peek inside. To his night-attuned senses, it was as clear as day that neither Jinn nor Mayim were in the tent.

    Pulling his head back out, he looked up into the night sky and scanned the positions of the stars and the moon. He struggled to work the mental calculations despite Prauge’s incessant snoring. Giving up his hopes for a precise measurement, he estimated that it was at least four hours after midnight. So, where could Jinn and Mayim have gone off to at this time of night?

    He cursed softly and kicked at a rock. Hot pain seared up Chaud’s leg as he looked down. The rock was bigger than it had appeared, but flew on anyway. He heard a grunt to the side, and saw that the rock that he had kicked had flown straight into Prauge’s body. Chaud was sweating from a combination of trying not to scream out in pain and his fear that Prauge was probably going to crack his skull for hitting him. Muscles taut with panic, Chaud waited like a frightened deer to see if he needed to flee or not. With another grunt, Prauge turned over on his side and promptly began to snore again. Chaud let out the breath that he was holding and moved deeper into the night.

    A short way from the camp, Chaud saw a strange blue glow. It was at the top of a hill that surrounded the area that they had set up camp in. At first it was hard to make out, but it became more and more visible as he got closer. Finally, he was close enough to see what was at the center of the glow. He crouched behind one of the rocky protrusions that dotted the hill and observed.

    In it stood Jinn and Mayim, both were preoccupied with something. From what he could see, Mayim was the one causing the glow, probably from one of her clerical spells. From this distance, it looked like she was casting her spell on Jinn, and it wasn’t a very comfortable experience for either of them.

    Slowly, the blue light began to fade, soon replaced by the pearly light of the moon and stars. Even from this point, he could hear their voices, if only barely. “It still won’t come off. Are you sure that it even can?” It sounded like Mayim was talking. Jinn responded soon after. “I know that it can. Magic, even divine magic, functions as a balance. If it can be done, then it has to be able to be undone. It can come off. We just haven’t found the way to do it. Also, remember what the sorceress gave me. If it can help me find what I seek, then the answer does exist.”

    “Well that’s fine and all, but until then, you still suffer from its curse. I don’t want that for you. As a cleric, I should be able to remove it.”

    “Again, you forget. It was placed on by the gods, so it is not a cursed item. It is a divine one; one that mortals cannot remove without divine or otherworldly aid. It is not surprising that you failed again.”

    “Still, it doesn’t exactly make me feel very good. I don’t like feeling completely helpless.”

    Chaud strained his ears as he tried to make out more of their conversation. His focus was so absolute that he did not notice the hulking shadow that was creeping up behind him. Suddenly, Chaud felt a large, rough hand close over his mouth and another close about his chest, keeping him from shouting out or moving. A gravelly voice whispered in his ear, “You shouldn’ be eavesdroppin’, boyo. It’s awfully impolite.” Chaud calmed down instantly. Finally, the hands let go.

    “Prauge! What the hell are you doing, scaring me like that?”

    “What th’ hell ‘re you doin’ throwin’ rocks at me? It’s bloody early an’ some people like t’ sleep!”

    “Sorry about that. It was an accident.”

    “Yea’? Well tha’ accident nearly gave me a heart attack! I otta’ show you what it feels like!”

    “No thanks. How long have you been standing behind me?”

    “Ach. Long enough t’ hear some o’ what they’ve been sayin’. Wonder what they’ve been talkin’ about.”

    Chaud shook his head in response. “No idea. Hopefully, they’ll say something that we can over hear.”

    Another voice joined in from behind them. “Or you could ask me.”

    Chaud and Prauge jumped about two feet into the air, which was a remarkable feat for the dwarf. They turned around and found themselves staring into the glittering golden eyes of Jinn. “If you’re hiding, you shouldn’t talk so loudly. Seriously though, if you’re that curious, just ask. You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re curious from me. I’ve known since we’ve met. You’ve wanted to know if there is some secret that I’ve been keeping. Since we’ll be together for a while, I’ll tell you, but we need to get a chance to know each other’s past first. Got it?” Prauge and Chaud, still recovering from their shock, nodded mutely. “Good. Let’s move back to the camp and we can get started. Mayim?”

    In response to his call, Mayim took his arm and they went down together. Chaud and Prauge held their silence until they got down to where their camp was. Jinn used his skills to get a fire going while Mayim looked around to bits of woods or long grasses that they could use to keep the fire going. Once done, they all sat around the fire and began to swap stories. Mayim went first.

    “There isn’t much to my past, even though I have lived for almost two hundred years.” At that, Chaud, shot Jinn a glare that said I told you so. “When I was young, I was raised in a monastery that was dedicated to the goddess Mystra. Over the years, I climbed the ranks, slowly moving up to my present status a high priestess. Due to an unusual connection that I had to otherworldly forces, my divine skills allowed me to become one of the youngest high priestesses of my order to have existed for at least a millennium. While I was serving at the monastery, Jinn came into my life. He was traveling through and found our temple. He came in and stayed for a while, welcoming the break from his rough travels. During his stay, we became… fond of each other. Priests and priestesses of my order were not forbidden to marry, so, after a time, we underwent that sacred ceremony of unison. Since then, I’ve left the monastery behind me and traveled with Jinn, serving my goddess as a traveling cleric. That’s really all that there is to me.”

    When she stopped narrating, Chaud and Prauge looked expectantly at Jinn. “Oh, no. Not yet. Chaud, Prauge, why don’t one of you go first?” Chaud and Prauge exchanged glances. Chaud shrugged and began his story.

    “As any of you might have guessed, I have not had a very stable life. As I grew up, I noticed how poorly the rich were treating the not-so-affluent. So I dedicated my life to alleviating the pains of those who suffered unjustly. And that about covers it. Jinn? Your turn.”

    Jinn stared at Chaud with his golden eyes and half of a smile that said You’re not done yet. When Chaud didn’t respond, Jinn rolled his eyes and made the statement that everyone but Chaud had apparently heard. “If we’re going to learn of each others’ pasts, then it is best that we are honest about everything. Even the things that we would rather forget. If you want to know everything about me, then you had better be ready to do the same.”

    Chaud sighed, not wanting to elaborate, but he did it anyway. “Okay. Fine. I was abandoned at the age of four. To be more precise, I escaped my parents when I was four. I was born into an extremely poor family. My parents barely had enough food for themselves, let alone themselves with a kid. I resulted from an unplanned pregnancy, and, since my mother couldn’t bear to kill an unborn child, things progressed from there. Since I was born, I have been treated as a freak because of my hair and eye color. My mother still couldn’t bear to get rid of me. My father, though, wanted me gone. Dead or alive. He beat my mother until she nearly died and then came after me. Terrified, I ran. I ran for hours, using any small space that I could find to hide in. From that point on, I was alone.

    “Then, when I was about eight, I was found by an elderly couple from the noble’s quarters. They took me in and raised me as their own until I was thirteen. At that point, the other nobles found out that they had been taking care of one that is not their own. They were tried for, of all things, treason. The actual charges were that they were trying to undermine the kingdom and to promote anarchy. In layman’s terms, that meant that they were threatening the hierarchy of the kingdom. They were pressing too hard against the boundary between the aristocrats and the serfs.” Chaud slammed his fist onto the ground. “The were found guilty, beheaded, and their material possessions were sold off to the highest bidder. I was supposed to be included in those possessions, but I fled before they could get me. Since then, I have been tearing away at the immeasurable wealth that the aristocrats had gained over years and years of stepping on the common man’s back.”

    The silence that fell over the camp was deafening. Except for the crackle of the flames of their fire, not one other sound could be heard. Finally Prauge spoke, shattering the silence with his rock-rough voice. “’Tis a sad tale, boyo. I’m sorry fer yer loss. We all are. Best that the past remain past. I’ll begin my tale.

    “I was born in the line of succession t’ the head chair o’ the Gutrot clan. Aside from that, I’m known fer two things: I c’n drink my weight thrice over in beer an’ my battle prowess. Ther’ is no’ much to tell abou’ my past. I grew up as any dwarf does: in the midst o’ battle. Eventually, my father an’ grandfather succumbed t’ Death’s greedy embrace, leavin’ me at the head o’ my clan. I soon left, leavin’ my cousin in charge. I went t’ the human cities, tryin’ t’ get help an’ supplies. Then I was taken by Ryu and wound up with you folk.”

    As Prague finished, the sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, signaling the break of dawn. Chaud and Prauge’s eyes turned towards Jinn expectantly, waiting for him to reveal this supposedly great secret. Jinn opened his mouth and was about to start when he suddenly froze. His eyes, a burning red-ish yellow with the reflected light of the rising sun, were locked on Mayim. “Mayim! What is it?”

    Chaud and Prauge turned in unison, looking at Mayim. Sweat was beading her brow even though the morning air was cool and the fire itself gave off too little warmth to cause that kind of reaction. She looked as though she was struggling through a massive headache. Prague and Chaud looked genuinely worried, but Jinn looked less than concerned. “Mayim?” asked Jinn, “We’re about to have company, aren’t we.” All that Mayim could do was nod feebly.

    Jinn sighed. “It looks like we’re going to have to put this off for a little while. One of the ‘gifts’ associated with being a high priestess of any goodly god or goddess is the ability to sense those with evil hearts. Since we’re practically going to face off against a physical manifestation of evil, get used to seeing this. We are going to have company soon, and lots of it judging by her reaction.” As he spoke, Mayim seemed to calm down. Soon, she looked just as she had during the rest of the night.

    Jinn got up and ascended the hill that all four of them had been on earlier. He looked away from the sun, off into the distance. Soon, Mayim, Chaud, and Prauge were there with him. When they got there, they found Jinn smiling with almost maniacal glee. “Oh thank the lords of the heavens! I never thought that a bunch of orcs could be this stupid! They’re charging us with not only the sun in their eyes, but they are giving us plenty of time to prepare for their assault. I suggest that we use the blessed time that we are being given. Let’s get back down before they spot us.”

    Once at that bottom of the hill, they took their camp apart and looked for weapons and other items that they might need. Finally, with all of their unnecessary things stored away, they stood ready. Or at least three of them did. Chaud stood battle ready in his dark clothing with some very light leather armor on. His twin swords were strapped on his back with a hilt poking over each shoulder. Most of his face was obscured by a dark handkerchief that covered his mouth and nose, leaving his eyes exposed. All things together, he looked very intimidating. Like a spirit of death come to life.

    Prauge was even more intimidating. Unlike Chaud, he was weighted down with the extremely heavy armor that most dwarves wore. To him, though, his heavy armor was as light as a feather. He had a full helmet on that covered most of his face. It had a section missing shaped like a T that allowed for breathing and seeing. He wore heavy loricated plate over his body and legs, allowing for easier movement. On his hands, he had nail studded gauntlets that were guaranteed to rip through metal and flesh alike. His boots were also metal and studded with nails. His warhammer was at his hip. When one looked at him as a whole, he looked like he could wage a war all on his own. That was probably the point.

    Jinn was something else entirely. He was dressed in the same outfit that he was wearing when they had met. He was wearing light clothes of finely woven fabric. The fabric itself was predominantly yellow. He was wearing light leather gloves and heavy leather boots, and he was still wearing his bracers for his legs and arms. His staff was strapped to his back, but other than that, he wore no armor. His image screamed Hit Me! while saying There is more to me than what you see. at the same time.

    Mayim was the only one who didn’t appear to be ready. She was busy loosening the straps of her leather armor, of all things. Chaud noticed this and wasted no time in pointing out the lapse in logic. “Umm… Mayim? What are you doing? You’re supposed to tighten the straps so that the armor fits. Why are you loosening them?”

    Mayim smiled at him with a mischievous look in her eyes. “Unlike all of you, I don’t actually possess any kind of fighting style, so I use other things to substitute. My clerical spells can only be used on another’s magic or used to heal. Basically, support magic only. However, Jinn and I have found a way to use that to, at the very least, my advantage.” After she finished loosening the straps, she stood up and spoke to Jinn. “Alright Jinn. I’m ready.”

    Jinn smiled, knowing what Chaud and Prauge’s reactions are going to be. “Okay, just stand still.” Mayim stood in the middle of where their camp had been, arms at her sides, looking expectantly at Jinn. Or was that hungrily?

    Jinn began to mutter the mystic words of his latest spell. At the same time, Mayim began to pray, losing herself to the usual blue glow that surrounded her. Just like the last time that she used her power to enhance Jinn’s spells, a golden nimbus surrounded him, feeding power to his spell. Jinn reached around to his staff and unhooked it, using that as additional focus. Suddenly, the glow around Mayim vanished. The one around Jinn, though, stayed where it was.

    From Prauge and Chaud’s point of view, it looked like she was either in pain or very uncomfortable. That changed as grunts of pleasure from Mayim reached their ears. The leather armor that had hung so loosely about her frame was now being pulled into place by some unseen force. Not unseen force, Thought Chaud, but by her own body! She’s growing!

    And Chaud was right. Mayim’s petit frame began to stretch upwards, growing taller and taller. Soon her height increases stopped, leaving her five foot four inch frame at a much taller six feet ten inches. Her growth continued with a surge in the size of her muscles. Slowly, each muscle group began to press against he armor, tightening the formerly loose straps of her armor.

    She let her hands move up and down her strengthening body, but never stopping to pleasure herself, as it looked like she wanted to. Her legs thickened and bulged with power, every striation in each head of the muscle becoming visible. Her rear was swelling like a balloon as it filled out her harness with rock-hard muscle.

    Her abs were visible through the thick leather of her armor, as were the incredible muscles of her back. Her pecs filled out the front of her armor, but not as perfectly as everywhere else. Obviously there would still be more to come after this transformation.

    Her arms were not covered by her armor, so everyone present could bear witness to the awesome growth of those once modest muscles. Her shoulders grew first, splitting into three different heads. They were soon followed by her ballooning triceps and biceps. The latter surged out from the core of her arms as she flexed them. Her forearms similarly bulged, but in a much more passive manner. When that was done, her now small breasts exploded with new growth, swelling to at least twice their original size. With that last detail she now fit her enlarged armor perfectly, if a little strained at the chest.

    Moaning with pleasure from the aftershocks from the transformation, Mayim straightened up and began to flex her new limbs, testing out the strain that they put on her armor. After making a few adjustments, she proclaimed herself ready. Prague and Chaud were struck dumb by the display of pure power. In sheer awe, they turned to Jinn, who explained what had just transpired.

    “She isn’t strong enough for battle on her own, so I used my power to give her a… ahem… little boost.” He wave his hand and muttered another phrase, causing her small mace to expand in size until it was in proportion to her new size and strength. “Why are you guys staring at me like that? Is it that surprising after what I did in the city?”

    Prauge finally shut his mouth and smiled. He turned away form Jinn and moved towards Mayim to talk to her. Chaud, however, stayed and managed to stammer out a question. “H-h-how the hell did you d-do that? I thought that you couldn’t…”

    “Ah. I see. I should clarify. I couldn’t easily heal someone like that. This is different for a number of reasons: 1) Mayim is in perfect health, 2) Mayim knew what I was doing, so she knew exactly how to enhance the spell, and 3) I’ve done this many time in the past.”

    “Many? And do you like disfiguring her like that?”

    “Disfiguring? I think that she looks beautiful like that! What’s not to love about it? I just think that it’s too bad that spells like this are only temporary.”

    Chaud looked thunderstruck. Finally he held up his hands in a stopping gesture. “Whatever. I don’t have any right to criticize what attracts a man to a woman or vice versa. I just don’t like it. But, if it helps us, then more power to her (no pun intended). Right now, though, I say that I’m tired of waiting. I say that we go ahead and get those creatures!”

    Jinn smiled. “Heh. I’m with you. Let’s get Mayim and Prauge and go have some fun!”

    #18936
    Max
    Participant

    Very good story so far. It's nice to see that Mayim found a way to bend the rules over her powers in order to get benefits from them. Also, it's great that Jinn likes her with all that muscle. I hope Chaud learns to see the new beauty that Mayim has  😀

    Max

    #18937
    gblock01
    Participant

    Sorry, but no. It isn't part of Chaud's character to see a woman's beauty beyond charcteristics. Prauge, though will have a slightly different reaction to Chaud. You won't hear about that until later though. The same goes with knowing about Jinn's past.

    By the way, if anyone can guess where I got all four of the good guys' names from I will write a story for them to their specifications. If you're interested, either respond to this post or email me at [email protected] . Also, if anyone can guess why I always use Jinn as the main character for my stories, I'll write a story for them as well.

    Just to make it so that everyone knows what the names are, they are:
    Jinn Skye
    Mayim Aquus
    Prauge Gutrot
    Chaud Stryke

    Only the first names have any signifigance, so the last names are mostly crap that I stuck on to make them sound better. There is a relationship between all of the first names, though, so see if you can guess that as well. Good luck to those who wish to try.  😀

    #18938
    gblock01
    Participant

    Okay, I finally have the next chapter. Compared to the others, it's fairly short. This chapter is a battle scene, but it isn't described very vivdly. So those of you who have weak stomachs can enjoy it too.  😉

    There is a bit of cussing, though. Other than that, enjoy!  😀

    ***********************************************

    Chapter 5

    “‘Fun’ he said! When this is over, I’m going to kill him! Then I’m going to get a cleric, revive him, and kill him again!” cried Chaud, though, in the heart of the battle, it just sounded like another battle cry. To every side of him, orcs were charging, trying to hack apart that tantalizing target with the red hair. Even though he was used to the attack methods of an assassin (strike and then get the hell out of Dodge), he was certainly more than a match for the slew of mutant pigs that were charging at him. As he lost himself in the battle for survival, he noticed just how much like pigs these beasts resembled.

    The orcs were disgusting, ugly things that resembled a gross cross between an ape and a wild boar. Their bodies were humanoid in form, but the resemblance to humans stopped there. Their legs were thickly muscled stalks, each easily as wide as an average human. Perched on top of these pillars of power were hulking torsos, each about as wide as a man is tall. Sprouting from the sides of the chest, arms stuck out like some kind of hideous branch. The arms were roped with heavy muscle and each ended with hands with unusually long fingers. Those fingers were tipped with razor sharp claws. They didn’t use the claws that often, though. They had swords for that kind of work. Again, just like the arms, the twisted features of the torso extended up into the impossibly thick neck and up to the head. The head resembled that of a pig’s in almost every way except for the sheer size of it. They had the snouts, tusks, and ears of boars. Their bodies were covered with coarse bristles, just like pigs, and members of both sexes fought in the battle. Those that were male were disgustingly so, and the females could only be told apart from the males due to their lack of the necessary parts of the male anatomy. Their twisted bodies stood at a massive nine feet in height and, since their bodies were so large, had two hearts. Obviously, they were difficult to kill.

    Despite, this though, Chaud took down more than his fair share of orcs with only minor injuries, if any for his troubles. Through the fight, he used an indirect approached to the killing of these creatures. For all that they resembled, beasts, their bodies still functioned as a human’s does. He swept through the ranks of the orcs with a terrifying grace, hamstringing some, gutting others. He even managed to sever the spines of some. But for every one that he took down, another took its place with uncanny speed.

    Prauge was having a bit more luck than Chaud. Unlike Chaud, Prauge was shorter and in heavier armor. He wasn’t taking much damage at all, but he also couldn’t reach any of the vital spots except for the hamstrings on the rare occasion that they were low enough for that. He didn’t have a bladed weapon though, so that really didn’t do him much good. The most that he could do with his war hammer was give them one hell of a bruise. On the other hand, their feet and knees were well within his range, and smashing any one of those targets nicely dropped the orcs’ heads into striking range. No orc skull, no matter how thick, can withstand the awesome power of a Dwarf-forged hammer driven by dwarven strength.

    And then, in contrast with the brash, straight-forward, and gory tactics of the dwarf, Jinn was moving through the battle as if in a dance. He moved through the orcs as if they were standing still, using his staff as both a weapon and a focus for his dazzling spells. Every strike that he made was either accompanied by a flash of lightning or an explosion from a fire ball. Every strike took the life of at least one orc. Finally, his repertoire of spells exhausted, he went straight to melee fighting. As he moved gracefully from one form to the next in his fighting style, orcs fell by the wayside.

    Even this graceful, almost artistic, form of fighting could not compare to the sheer power and beauty of the gargantuan woman that towered over the other members of her party. Mayim tore through the orcs as if they were made of tissue paper, swinging her massive mace as if it weighed no more than a feather. Each swing took orc after orc down. Those that got knocked down did not get up for a long time, if at all, as was most often the case. While not even close to the same height as the orcs, she still moved through them with ease, never stopping when she ran into them.

    With each movement, her large, taut muscles flexed smoothly with the grace of a hunting cat. Each strike blasted the life from another orc, every step took her closer to those that would harm her friends. Then the monsters cleared away from her companions. The sudden shift caught everyone off guard, but only the loudmouthed Chaud let out a yelp of surprise. The orcs, somehow, were now completely surrounding the four warriors.

    Slightly at first, but then with more and more force, the ground began to tremble. Suddenly, the ground in the middle of the clearing was blasted up towards the sky, raining chunks of dirt and debris over the companions. When the dust settled, an orc unlike any that the companions had seen so far was visible. The orc was at least a foot taller than the tallest monster that had assaulted them thus far, making it a towering ten feet tall. Its body was also much wider than those that surrounded them. Despite the size though, there were two more profound differences between the common orcs that they had been fighting and this one. The first was the fact that the beast not only wore practical armor, but that it was wielding a sword of superior quality, not to mention size. The blade itself was as tall as Mayim now stood, and the hilt was half again that length. The other difference was the lack of the usually mindless glaze that perpetually hung over the eyes of the typical orc. This one, while as hideous as the others, if not more, actually appeared to have some degree of intelligence. This was, without a doubt, the commander of this unit.

    Aside from the armor, the orc’s only additional piece of clothing was a necklace that had been enchanted. It was still glowing with the recent release of one of its charges, obviously the cause of the crater and tunnel behind the orc captain. Giving an involuntary shudder that shook the remaining dirt off of himself, he spoke to the companions in a clear, though guttural version of their language. “By order of General Torreo Facis, you to be attacked on sight. He also command that we give you chance to surrender. You then be taken back to base for trial and punishment. If you come now without fight, you may walk away from trial alive. If you choose to fight, you die.”

    The orc captain seemed confident that, despite the losses that his troop had suffered, the sheer numbers left would net him an easy victory. He figured that these puny humans would not pose a threat and that he would be done with them by the day’s end. He figured wrong.

    Prauge was the first to act, charging with a roar of primal fury at the gigantic orc. The orc captain smiled at the foolhardy charge and sidestepped the dwarf’s charge. The dwarf tried to stop, but he couldn’t stop his momentum. He fell into the orc’s outstretched arms. With very little effort, the orc lifted Prauge up and heaved him into the ring of his surrounding subordinates. The impact killed at least one orc and injured several more. The orcs shoved him, unconscious, back into the ring.

    The orc captain was laughing in his guttural voice when he felt a painful sting in the small of his back. He looked over his shoulder to see Chaud with his swords on either side of his spine. Grimacing with the pain, he reached backwards and lifted Chaud up with one hand. Chaud’s purple eyes were filled with a mixture of pain and fear. That didn’t stop him from opening his big mouth, though. “Umm… sorry?” The orc lifted its other hand and raised it above the thief’s head. Chaud looked up at the raised fist and visibly paled. “Oh, shit.” Then Chaud felt an explosion on the top of his skull and knew no more. The orc dropped the limp form of the thief over the edge of the crater that he had made.

    Reaching around again, the behemoth grabbed the two swords embedded in his heavily muscled back and unceremoniously ripped them free. The two short swords looked like toothpicks in his hands. He examined the workmanship of the rather plain blades. Figuring that they weren’t worth keeping, he tossed them into the crater after their owner. They landed, blade down, in the over turned dirt, one to each side of Chaud’s unconscious body.

    Mayim and Jinn exchanged shocked looks. This orc had easily taken down half of the party, only taking damage from Chaud’s sneak attack. At least fourteen orcs lay dead from their fighting alone, and neither Chaud nor Prauge had taken any lasting damage from those encounters! Mayim and Jinn reached the same conclusion at the same time: if they must die in battle, then they might as well take this bastard with them. Nodding at each other briefly, they turned towards the towering figure in front of them and charged.

    The orc laughed again, preparing himself for the combined assault. With a sudden burst of speed, Mayim launched herself ahead of Jinn and locked hands with the giant in a horrid caricature of a game of mercy. The behemoth held an advantage of a little more than three feet over Mayim, but she was stronger. As they tried to overpower each other, Jinn came in from behind Mayim. As he charged, he let his mind wander enough to admire the strain that Mayim was putting on her muscles, forcing them to inflate with the increased blood flow that accompanied hard work and adrenaline rushes.

    Forcing his mind away from such pleasurable thoughts, he focused on the battle ahead of him. Charging up behind Mayim, he dove down to the ground and slid between her marvelously muscled legs to force the orc off balance. The plan worked flawlessly and Jinn, kicking out with one of his legs, slammed into one of the orc’s legs, forcing it to go down onto one knee. That would be a problem if one was the same height or smaller than their opponent, but when you are taller, it is a catastrophe. The orc captain was already bending over slightly to match the smaller warrior’s grip. With him down on one knee, his balance was, to put it bluntly, royally fucked. The loss of the leverage removed his counter to her strength, allowing her to keep him off balance.

    Mayim took this opportunity to kick out the orc’s other leg. Then, using her incredible strength, she began to swing the gargantuan beast in circles around her. Then, using the centrifugal force that accompanied those movements, she released the orc to fly into the surrounding circle. The orc captain blasted through his troop’s ranks, killing any that made contact with his flying form. The throw blew a clear hole in the surrounding circle. At this point, Prauge had gotten back to his feet, if a little shakily. He had moved towards the crater to where Chaud continued to lay motionless and now stood ready to defend his companion at all costs.

    It wasn’t necessary, though. As soon it became clear that their leader had lost the fight, the other orcs had broken ranks and were fleeing as far and fast as they could. Jinn walked over to the still form of the orc captain and, after a few mumbled words, set the beast’s body aflame. If he was not dead, and only unconscious, he most surely was now.

    Mayim and Jinn walked back to where Prauge was standing. After a few moments to make sure that Prauge wasn’t seriously hurt, Mayim went down into the crater and carried up a half-conscious Chaud. As she carried him past Jinn, he muttered to the wizard, “Fun, huh? I’m not sure I want to know what dangerous is. And you didn’t get a scratch. You’re a bastard. You know that, right?” Chaud’s answer came in the form of Mayim “tripping” over a loose stone in the ground, giving the battered thief a nasty jolt. Chaud groaned in defeat.

    Jinn chuckled as Chaud’s antics as he tended to Prauge’s minor injuries. Using his skills with alteration magic, he sped up the healing process for the surly dwarf’s many bruises. “Well,” he said gaily, “I’d say that for a first battle, that didn’t go so bad. The only real problem was when Chaud attacked the captain. All things considered, even that turned out pretty good. So, how’d you fare during the main part of the melee?”

    Prauge groaned as he thought back to the fighting. “I s’ppose tha’ I got abou’ eight o’ ‘em. Chaud must’ve gott’n five o’ ‘em, six a’ most. I’d guess tha’ you go’ seven o’ th’ basta’ds. Mayim, though, she was brilliant! A’ leas’ ten o’ ‘em”

    “More like eleven. I’d still call that a pretty damn good turnout wouldn’t you?”

    “O’ aye. Doesn’ make it hurt any less, though.”

    “Indeed. Well, I’d say that you’re good to go. Speaking of which, I hope that Mayim is done tending to Chaud. We need to get out of here, and soon.”

    “Why’s tha’? We scared ‘em off! What’s t’ flee from?”

    “Weren’t you listening? Torreo sent them. That means that we’ll have more if we linger. Let’s get up to the camp and get the hell out of here.”

    Together, the wizard and the dwarf marched from the battle field to their camp.

    #18939
    Fonk
    Participant

    Interesting chapter, sir! Fights are always fun to write, which I find odd, cos they're often not fun to be in! Keep up your good work. 😀

    #18940
    gblock01
    Participant

    It's one of life's many ironies.

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