June 22, 2000
Syrothis and Arksangiel had always been friends. Even since they were young, they had been adventuring with each other since before they had graduated from the Medievia School of Adventuring Knowledge. When they graduated at twenty, Syrothis and Arksangiel had gone their separate ways, one learning the arts of thievery, and Arksangiel the ways of a warrior. Arksangiel one day met Nibenay, something of a prodigious mage. Nibenay saw that Arksangiel was lost, didn't really belong to a group, and introduced him to a bunch of rag-tag warriors led by a legendary hero. As soon as Nibenay taught Arksangiel how to reach across a unique telepathic link and speak to the others in the group, Arksangiel excitedly said hello. Much to his surprise, Syrothis heard his old friend say "Hi everyone, how are you?" and immediately telepathed back "ARKSANGIEL??!"
"Ouch! That hurt! Keep it down a bit!" mumbled Bachen.
"Sorry, sir" the two friends echoed in unison.
"Syrothis, I just took a trip to New Ashton - someone there mentioned that some carpenters building a house in Ruellia needed nails. I was going to take them some, for a price."
"Arks, I'll just be right there. Zeksagmak the ruby dragon actually volunteered to fly me - he just said it beats breathing fire at heroes all day. We had a really cool conversation about the workings of the Medievian trade roads." Syrothis smiled, and continued, "He asked all about our plans for the day, you'd think he was a really nice dragon. I guess he's just kind to those Medievians who don't have a prayer of even hurting him."
"Cool - I'll wait for you at the trade post - I'll buy your stuff for you." Arksangiel was a little worried that Zeksagmak might have a bit too much information about the run, but then realized that no one is "all bad."
"Alright, thanks Arks."
Later that night, Syrothis arrived at New Ashton on Zeksagmak, and found Arksangiel curled up asleep, looking all innocent. Syrothis looked at Arksangiel, and using a trick he had been taught by a mischievous mage at school, conjured an ice cube with little effort and dropped it down Arksangiel's tunic. Arksangiel grunted, and much to Syrothis' surprise, remained asleep.
Syrothis then stepped back and began thinking about how to wake his friend.
A twig snapped nearby and Arksangiel woke with a start, drew his sword, and plunged it into a giant snake-like banelar materializing behind him. The sword must have pierced the banelars heart, because it quickly lurched back, green ooze pouring out of the wound. The banelar reared back and began uttering words - Asum Mitum Zim Ort Hur! A fireball rushed toward Arksangiel and just disappeared. Arksangiel tossed an orb up and down in his hand… chuckling quietly at the banelar. Syrothis smiled, and jumped in to the fight with his friend, plunging a poisoned dagger through the banelar's scaly skin. The banelar, with the combined shock of everything that had gone on during the fight, had a heart attack and died.
"Man! I was hoping he'd fight back!"
"Humans!" growled the voice of Zeksegmak "I telepathically told him I was going to kill him if he moved."
Bowing to the dragon, Arksangiel replied "I am glad you are on our side, may your lair be in peace for many months." Inwardly disturbed at the overtures of kindness made by the most notorious dragon in med...Zeksagmak the Slaughterer couldn't be nice?!
"Thank you." Zeksagmak's voice trailed off as he flew away...leaving behind a whispering sound that might have almost been a laugh.
"Now, here's your wagon Syroth, let's get these nails to Ruellia." The chill of the odd occurrence with the dragon hung with them, like a sprite clinging to their leg, as they finished preparations for their adventures as two entrepreneurs in search of wealth.
The two of them walked off, neither a bit tired, as the sun began to rise, recounting stories of what they had seen and done since they parted so long ago. Both had become very skilled in their crafts, and wanted to prove to the other that they were each the better fighter, could tackle the biggest foes, or as Kiste later said it, act like male show-offs. As the two rode down the forested trail between some hills, Arksangiel showed Syrothis his crystal dagger.
"Mage I bought it from told me it blinds on impact - he still hasn't figured out the enchantments"
"Heh - look at this, Arks, this dagger is coated with a deadly venom! If I don't kill them the poison will. Umm... something feels a little odd. Let's stop here for a bit."
"You're right - a bit too much magic in the air right now, and evil, a great evil, is nearby. I can feel it."
"Always were the goody-two-shoes saint - knew when evil was around any corner, beating all your friends in the 'kill-the-skeleton' drills in the graveyard. Guess it comes in handy sometimes."
"Uh-oh, what did they say in school again - dimensional vortex collapsing means a what?"
A growling voice shouts "Dukniel Nyenday! Vasnrok Beth Ude!"
Arksangiel slapped himself on the head and exclaimed "Doh! Demonlord! I am losing my memory! Let's back off a bit and see if it leaves us alone."
"Good idea." said Syrothis.
The two of them heard dogs barking a few hundred yards away, and retreated back down the road with their freight, prepared to make a stand about five hundred Medievian yards from the demon. Both quaffed magenta potions that Syrothis had brought along, and got ready to show off their fighting skills.
"Wish we had a mage," mumbled Arksangiel, "He'd hurt them bad with area spells."
Syrothis flashed a heavy oaken staff in front of Arksangiel's face, mouthing the words 'portable mage, well, cleric.' Smiling at Syrothis' resourcefulness, Arksangiel adjusted his armor and turned to face the closing hounds. It was time for round one, man vs demonic minions. After they dispatched the hounds, both sat down and meditated nearby, not too close to disrupt each other, but close enough to be able to help. They sighed with collective relief having won the battle, or so they thought. Having used their special techniques to fully heal, the two converged on their freight, anxious to be certain it was not damaged in the fight. That's when they heard it again, the growling voice of the demonlord shouting "You will be killed like the dogs that you are!"
Arksangiel shouted back "No, you're the dogs, you - you - dog."
"That was rather lame Arks."
"Yeah! It was, wasn't it, and do you hear that?"
Just as Syrothis and Arksangiel turned to look, five more hounds suddenly turned the corner on the road, and burst into the clearing with the tethered freight, frightening the horses. :::Here we go again::: thought Arksangiel, as he and Syrothis engaged the next wave of hounds. After about four waves of hounds, the heard the demonlord shout "Foolish mortals, I will get revenge for the death of my minions!"
"Never heard them say that before," muttered Syrothis.
"Never heard them say anything, they usually leave me alone - must be a valuable run, let's push on."
"Sure Arks, let's go," as he took the reigns of the wagon, Syrothis looked back at the two-dozen or so corpses of the man-hounds, chanted prayers to the gods, and they burst into flame.
The duo traveled for the rest of the day without event, seeing the beautiful sight of the Medievian countryside. They had a wonderful chat with a set of twins in an information booth at one intersection, where they discovered that they needed to head west. The two were feeling a little tired as they headed out on the next leg of their journey, hopefully an uneventful leg.
"Time to tether the horses - we've worn them out."
"Right, Arks, and I need a break, I'm a bit sore from riding."
Syrothis and Arksangiel tethered their horses, not to the nice, convenient posts found around Medievia, but to the trunk of a gigantic tree that was nearby. Quite a bit wearied from travel, they sat down to rest, and absorb some of Medievia's inherent magic to heal their wounds at a faster than normal rate. Arksangiel smelled an awful scent near the road, and motioned Syrothis to come with him to investigate. Syrothis came to Arksangiel and look around, peering throughout the brush near the trail. Syrothis found the source of the stench - it was the remains of a body which appeared to have once been human. The mangled corpse had been mauled by trolls before and after death, to the point it was barely recognizable. That was when the two kindred adventurers knew that the scent meant there were trolls about. They hadn't been prepared for this in the Medievia School of Adventuring - all the new students wanted to hear about dragons and phantoms and the legendary puffballs of the eclipse. These "newbies" convinced the teacher to skip the lessons on trolls, and now Arksangiel and Syrothis regretted letting them.
"I heard these ambushes killed Bachen once, and an entire formation of the strongest Medievians ever known!" Arksangiel was very distraught.
"Well, Arks, let's try our best." The two prepared for battle, but little did they know what the other side was planning!
The troll cleric had gotten the timetables by beating up one of the nearby guides - some elven ranger had them. The dragon had told him - he knew that the trade caravan was due in shortly. There were no people of value on it, and he'd just brought some of his weaker friends to practice killing these worthless humans. The Captains were tough - he'd made sure of that, no one beats the trolls. "Fiiinnd huuumaaaaansss kkilllll!" He growled at the trainees he'd brought along. The thief sneaked off in a westerly direction, as did the mage. The cleric brought the warrior with him and went east along the road. He would be the one to kill the humans, his fame, his power, and his food, he'd be the dragon's right hand troll, the best dragon in Medievia with the best cleric troll in Medievia! He slowly walked down the trail, gradually increasing his pace along with his dreams and as the adrenaline in his veins prepared him for the fight. :::There are the humans!!!::: He saw them looking over the body of a little Medievian man his group had killed earlier for sustenance. The cleric looked at the nearest one and began chanting "Amri Mitseti Vas Corp" and reached out with a spiritual hand to wither the skin of the warrior. His spell fizzled for some reason, but barely scratched the warrior enough to get his attention.
"Arks, get him!" shouted the other most likely a thief, as the warrior came running towards the cleric, charging into him. The cleric was knocked off his feet, and took several hits from the warrior while trying to get back up to cast his spells. The warrior looked at him, and as he was preparing a spell, simply said "Dumb troll." The cleric became enraged and fumbled his spell unable to concentrate as the red penetrated his vision - he'd kill them both. Now, where was that thief? Pain jetted through his back, and a sharp twisting set the cleric into convulsions, choking on his own blood. As he fell backwards, blood gushing out of the stab wound which had penetrated his heart, he saw the thief, standing behind him, cleaning a shadowy dagger. Humans--one, trolls--zero.
The troll warrior heard the cleric's death cry, and slowly sauntered over to check out the scene. He didn't care to much for that bossy cleric - he just liked the blood and guts of and ambush, almost always resulting in dead Medievians and bruised trolls. When the troll warrior approached the two Medievians, he charged. The Medievians fled into the wilderness, and the troll warrior, anxious to get his loot, took their freight. He began to walk down the road, taking the freight away from the captains and any other greedy troll-friends behind him. That's when he heard the Medievians shout "Citizens of Medievia, help us fight these trolls, rally to Arksangiel and Syrothis! Be heroes of war, protectors of the weak, a band of the brave!"
The troll heard the portal, and then a loud bang behind him. :::Those Captains gonna die and I get all, killing fun, me happy, soon bloody with battle!::: thought the dim-witted troll, as he continued to walk down the road, oblivious to the danger ahead.
The troll stopped with a start…that was ahead of him. It was not the Captains - they were hunting! But what was the boom? He didn't think it would last, and kept going, walking right up to a shimmering barrier of energy covering the road. He tried to pass it, and couldn't, and that stupid wagon horse refused to go into the woods. Not even mild torture would make it, and trolls don't pull wagons, that's a goblin's job. The warrior troll stood there and waited for the shield to fall, occasionally poking it with a big stick he found lying beside the road. He was confident that nothing would pass through that wall, so he decided to sit down to rest.
* SNAP *
He heard a sound and jumped just soon enough that the Medievian missed his back with a shadowy dagger, but then got the surprise of his life as a dagger from the thief's other hand plunged into him, releasing a deadly poisonous venom. The troll warrior doubled over and groaned in pain, as he did, he was smashed over the head with the hilt of Purity, the other Medievian's blade. Then the troll saw who had cast the portal, and instantly recognized Bachen, the infamous and unkillable by the trolls. The troll warrior engaged the other two in combat, and Bachen rushed into the fray. Bachen struck furiously, hitting the troll five times and mangling his body, and when the troll backed off a couple steps, quickly chanted "Vas Corp Hur" and pounded him with a massive shockwave, stunning the troll. The troll saw his death coming as the poison began to get the best of him…he collapsed, with a sardonic smile in his twisted defeat. Humans--two, trolls--zero.
The Troll Captains heard the events, and were proceeding to become very anxious. They were only two, knowing they could each kill one of the fledgling Medievians, a thief and a warrior. There was not supposed to be any magic! They were considering leaving when they heard another *Kaboom* just on the other side of them. They were penned in by shimmering magical shields and had nowhere to run.
"Not paid enough to kill a mage - standing here fifteen minutes!"
"I want to go! Find a weakling to kill!"
Bachen, a thief, and a warrior blazed into the clearing, having hitched their freight behind the shields, and engaged the Captains. The Captains concentrated on Bachen and the warrior, who seemed to be in front of and protecting the thief - keeping blows from hitting him while he whipped over their heads. The warrior struck five times, and channeled a scrap of his weak magical energy into his dagger, blinding the one captain. Bachen chanted some magical words at the other Captain, who screamed in terror and began to run, smacking into the force field and fainting. A whip from the thief disarmed the blind captain, who was then killed by a well-placed hit from the warrior. The surviving Captain came to his senses under the sword-point of all three Medievians, and gave up a map to the lair of his boss. He fled into the wilderness, and, collecting all the other trolls, left the road clear for trade once more. Three proper strikes, and the trolls were out.
Bachen looked at the map and studied it carefully.
"This has the singe-marks of an incredibly powerful ruby dragon, probably Zeksegmak."
"Zeksegmak, but he flew me to New Ashton, why would he want to stop the person he helped?"
Bachen looked at Syrothis with his 'battle-hardened hero' expression, "He's an evil dragon, why wouldn't he want to stop you and take the profit from your goods, padding his hoard and improving his fame amongst the other dragons?" "Vas Xen Por!" *Whisk* And Bachen was gone - back home to rest, and tend to his family in Medievia.
Arksangiel and Syrothis continued onward to Ruellia without event, and sold their cargo of nails for a small fortune. The carpenters paid top crown to finish the Mansion they were supposed to build - though it was apparently nowhere near the village. The dragon Zeksagmak still ravages the lands of Medievia at this time, like he has done for over seven months. Zeksagmak has killed over fifteen hundred Medievians in combat alone, and who knows how many more it has plotted for by trade? No one has yet to find the real reasons the Medievian trade runs have been ambushed by mobs recently, but it does not seem to be much of a coincidence that the evil dragons emerged shortly afterwards. Arksangiel and Syrothis survived the first brutal onslaught planned by the great mind of a legendary evil dragon, and yet we all know that sometime, some day, the servants of the dragon will hunt them down, and take revenge. This tale, my friends, is done, and may you learn much from the resourcefulness of these two lowly Medievians, and maybe, just maybe, you can also outsmart the evil ones. I wish you all luck.