Medievia Mudslinger

March 30th, 2003

Encounter in The Dark Woods - By Illist

Standing in the cold, Illist's eyes followed a dragon as it descended to land in the nearby wilderness. In his mind he distantly heard Wek tell him to remain completely silent. Slowly, crouching lower in the frost-covered leaves, he found a parting in the branches. Squinting against the sunlight, he was able to make out the dragon rider. Heavy armor and plenty of weapons - a warrior.

'Well here it is,' thought Illist. 'I've been waiting forever and it’s finally coming down to the last minute.'

The nearby clan town, owned by the White Rose clan, stood stark against the afternoon sky. Solid walls protected the population and they beckoned to him. Sanctuary. Solace. Safety. Even as the treacherous thought faded, Illist's eyes traveled back to the Dark Woods in the distance. His mother had told him that if he was bad then he'd be left in there alone for the ogres. His friends had swapped tales of the place, gleaned from the heroes they had overheard.

Shuddering, Illist forced himself to concentrate on the objective at hand. He and some others in his clan were waiting for some unfortunate soul to walk in to the ambush area, inside Dark Woods. Wek had given him simple yet exact commands. He had to wait for Wek to give him the signal then he would phase to Ojom, the leader of his clan, if the gods willed it so. From there he would run across the blood sea's banks eastward. Once he had hit the ambush area it was a simple matter of finding the victim.

Calming his shuddered breathing, Illist asked his clan a question, "I thought we were waiting for a trade runner, this guy landed on dragon back... are we just going to kill him anyway?"

Zelerond answered his question, "Yea', we’re just gonna hit whoever comes through."

Shrugging, Illist prepared himself for the battle that would begin shortly. Two minutes passed as he tried to ignore the tingling sensation that crept over his skin. Crouching in the bushes, trying to be quiet as possible, he began to wipe his sweaty palms on his shaking robes. Fear crept slowly throughout his entire body. He began trying to take control over his nerves, just as the guild master had taught all clerics. After a few seconds of deep breathing and mentally taking control, he saw his hands slow their quavering and his robes seem to stop shaking.

Endless moments passed and Illist began to wonder if it had already begun - they forgot to tell him. Fear of scorn prevented him from asking any questions or breaking anyone's concentration.

About five minutes later Illist found himself doused in sweat. It was deathly cold, the chill seeming to emanate from the Dark Woods, yet he was hot enough to sweat. Damp patches began to form around his chest and armpits. His long hair became matted to the back of his neck and cheeks. Soon he was about to burst from the tension. He couldn't stand it any longer.

"Anything happening yet?" Illist blurted over the clan mindlink.

"Patience Illist." spoke Wek, "Something should happen shortly.

Trusting in his grandfather, Illist sat down. 'I guess it isn't that bad.' he thought to himself, 'I mean, nothing bad could happen to me even in the worst case scenario. I've got nearly four heroes that are going to be in the Dark Woods for the ambush as well. Yeah, absolutely nothing to worry about, it’s not like I have to do anything majo...'

"MOVE, MOVE, MOVE," screamed Wek over the clan mindlink.

Gasping, Illist jumped to his feet. To the south he saw birds fly into the air, scared by the distant sound of battle cries. Trying to remember the arcane prayer to the phase spell, but he couldn't think straight. After a few fumbles he finally got it right and opened up a hole in the air. Stepping forward, he walked through the hole and out of another hole. When he stumbled out he saw Ojom sitting on the ground with a penetrating gaze to the east. Knowing he had to move, Illist ran across the bank eastward. The mud on the ground seemed to betray his footing and he held his robes up to avoid slipping.

After stumbling a few times and an overwhelming amount of running, Illist heard the clear sounds of battle. The branches closed together as he ran, holding out the light and trapping the darkness within. He had entered the Dark Woods. A chill jolt running up his spine. The echoing sounds of a battle nearby drifted through the stale air. Slowing to a walk, heading east through the small and vigorous dirt paths, he started to lose his way. Standing still, trying to make out where he had to go from the sounds of battle, he felt something snake past his leg.

Holding in a yelp, he looked down just in time to see a branch wrap around his leg and pull him down. Desperately scratching at the branch, he panted as it broke off. Standing up, Illist ran off the path and straight to the sounds of battle. Driven by panic and fear he ignored the half formed faces in the trunks of the trees, and the branches that were constantly clutching against him, seemingly of their own will.

Illist walked into a room and immediately slipped, hitting the dirt with a thud. Looking down, he realized his white robes were being soaked in the pool of blood that had betrayed his footing. Staring up, dazed, he saw three people from his clan fighting the enemy - the warrior that had landed near here on dragon back. There were only a few obvious exits though, one to the north that was a gap in the trees and to the east and west where a dirt path led. The carnage was insane; the victim stared around viciously his eyes darting to any exit he could find.

Every time he made a dash for an exit, one of Illist’s clan members was expertly there in a flash. For an instant Illist couldn't move, the smell of blood, the sound of metal being driven into flesh, and the ferocity of what he was seeing left him temporarily disoriented. Looking at the victim, he saw a slight smile on the man's blood stained face...

"Illist - STOP SITTING THERE AND MOVE!" The words hammered into Illist's brain.

With comprehension came action. Standing up, Illist tried to pull a spell from memory to launch at the victim. Going for the first words that came to mind, Illist spoke the arcane language and vomited a demonic flame directly at the victim. It slammed into the man's stomach sending his target reeling.

Closing his eyes, ears, and mind, Illist felt nausea well up inside him. He slowly slumped to his knees. A hand touched his shoulder. He looked up to see a member of his clan congratulating him on his first kill. Feeling disgusted, Illist looked at the cadaver. Black scorch marks smeared over all across the body snared his eye and a charred hole in the stomach stared back. Its face was frozen in an eternal grimace of pain. Illist realized that he was shuddering and not from the cold.

Now that the victim was dead, Ojom walked into the scene to join the looting.

One of his friends looked at him awkwardly and said, "Hey Illist join the loot, man. You had the final blow anyway."

Forcing a shivered laugh, Illist gulped and noticed a nice ring that seemed to glow with fire on the corpse's finger. Walking around the blood pools he took the ring off the quickly cooling hand.

'This isn't really that bad,' thought Illist. 'Besides once I sell this ring I won't have to worry about money for months.'

Zelerond said, "We better move out, this guy might have friends."

Nodding in agreement, Illist took a step away from the gruesome sight of the corpse and prepared to cast the spell of Transportation.

Pain struck him in the back. Not once or twice, but three times he felt the strike. He tried to scream but no words would come out. Turning around his blood-dimmed vision made out a man wielding a dagger. Fresh blood dripped from its point. Illist’s blood.

Gasping, Illist heard a familiar voice roar and Zelerond started attacking the man who had stabbed him. Warm hands pressed against Illist's back and the intense pain was gone. Turning around he saw Wraxe standing there, looking at the east path. Glancing over in that direction Illist could see a group of approximately ten well armed men. Feeling fear fall like a stone in his stomach Illist froze. They had taken the bait.

Wek and Wraxe ran forward with battle cries and charged the group of strangers. Zelerond ran into the new fight and started striking at the enemies with his dagger of fire. It sliced through one man's guard to send him falling away in pain, but two more took his place. Their weapons struck Zelerond's arms and body and he bellowed his pain in defiance.

Wek and Wraxe fought back to back, each one facing off two enemies. Illist watched in horror as they started to succumb too many minor wounds, yet their enemies remained as fresh as ever. Wek feinted and struck down a leather-clad man who fell away, only to see him return to the fray after a priest laid glowing hands on him.

Wraxe's movements were slowing, even to Illist's untrained eyes, and he'd taken a nasty cut to his forehead. The blood from that had blinded one eye and his enemies knew it. All their attacks came from that side as he furiously tried to beat them off. Running over to Wraxe, Illist swung his wooden cane in a full arc at an attacker, slamming it through the man’s visor. Bones crushed. The man staggered backwards and slumped to the ground.

Quickly, Illist turned to heal Wraxe’s injured forehead. Wraxe let his guard down to be healed. Even as Illist brought the prayers to mind, another attacker leapt and drove his feet directly into Wraxe’s chest. Wraxe’s body went limp as it flew across the battle field and into a gnarled tree. Instinctively acting on rage and revenge Illist cast his newest spell - harm.

Placing his hand on the man’s left cheek, he felt the skin twist and wither beneath his touch. The man left out a tremendous scream that made everyone, foe and friend alike, turn and look in horror. Illist’s enemy fell to his knees and clutched his face with both hands. He looked up at Illist knowing that half his face would remain withered forever.

Over the clan mindlink, Illist felt Ojom roar, "Anyone, get us out of here!"

Glancing over at his comrades, Illist's gaze lingered at a bloodstained tree and his possibly dead father lying twisted against it. He realized how much pain they were in. Ojom was trying to lure off one of the three attackers Wek was busy with, and Zelerond was now surrounded and was being beaten to the ground. It was up to him. Recalling the transportation prayer to mind, Illist quickly spoke the words.

Something failed to work and he looked around in panic as someone moved closer, a wicked blade held in his hands. Illist brought the words of the prayer to mind once more, beseeching the gods for their aid.

Pain lanced through his chest. A face leered close to his, hands reaching out ready to take his valuables. Illist looked down to see the sword blade protruding from his chest. The hands reached him and began tugging, even as he died. More hands swarmed over his body, lifting and pulling at him. So many, so many people ready to steal from one who dared to defy the odds.

The world faded.

"You'll be fine," a voice said.

Illist mumbled something and opened his eyes. Zelerond's face peered down at him.

"I said you'll be fine - now help the others."

Illist sat up and coughed, tasting blood. This place - it was the White Rose clantown? His prayers had been answered!

"Move! They are almost gone," Zelerond told him and Illist sprang to his feet. A wave of nausea came and went, leaving him feeling light headed, but his attention was taken by a pair of bodies on the floor. "Help them," Zelerond said. "My mana is gone."

Illist bent to the bodies - his father, Wraxe, barely lived. How could he still have the spark of life in him with those crushed ribs? Illist began to pray in earnest, asking the gods for succor. A soft glow surrounded his hands and he applied them to the worst of the wounds.

Gore soiled his hands as they eased pain and knitted flesh and bone. For an eternity he prayed, kneeling and begging the gods to allow his father life. Wraxe coughed, spraying blood, and Illist redoubled his prayers. The life was stronger.

Wraxe would live. Wek lay beside him and Illist began to pray once more. He'd asked much of the gods but now he asked for more. They answered, slowly but they answered, and Wek breathed more easily.

"I think," Illist told Zelerond unsteadily, "that they'll liv..."

He woke to see a rough ceiling. The warmth of blankets surrounded him and Illist stretched. Such a dream - he'd never had the like before. To wake after that seemed unfair, somehow.

He rose and glanced into the mirror by the wash bowl. How long had he slept? That was at least two days of stubble he needed to remove to make himself look presentable. As for that scar on his chest...

"You awake yet?" Wraxe's voice came through the door, muffled by the thick wood. "The landlord charges by the night you know."

Illist staggered into his pants and opened the door. "What..."

"We're about recovered - how are you, my boy?" his father asked. "Nice scar," he added approvingly. "You'll have a few more of those before the necromancer claims you. Anyway, we're having a bit of a celebration this afternoon. We've bought a few kegs so it's likely to go on for a few days."

"Celebration?"

"Oh, I almost forgot," Wraxe said, slapping his forehead. "You'll need this." He dropped a ring into Illist's hand and closed his fingers around it. "See you downstairs when you're presentable."

Illist stared at the ring in his hand. The blood had been real. The fight had been real. The scar was real. The pain had gone.

He washed and shaved quickly, whistling merrily. The ring would buy him months of easy living, though he was no longer certain that that is what he wanted. Dressing, he dropped it into a pouch and made his way to the celebration - the noise suggested that it had already gotten underway.

Illist smiled. There would be a time for boasting and a time for life. This was his time.

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