Merexia blinked his eyes in the warm morning sunlight. He glanced around his personal quarters and nodded when he saw that everything was in order. He rolled out of bed and put on his personal equipment. He incanted some detection spells and picked up his Staff of Seduction. He smiled when he noticed the magical aura surrounding the powerful weapon. He opened his door, and stepped out into the great hall of his clanhall.
Sunlight flooded into the clanhall where the members of The White Rose met from the skylight high up in the great domed ceiling. White rosebushes grew in the back of the hall, giving off a pleasant scent. Merexia smiled when he saw his close friend, the intelligent white tiger Altaica, stalking through the rosebushes. Merexia glanced at the other clanmembers eating breakfast nearby. Suddenly, he noticed he no longer saw Altaica! Too late, he saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. Merexia let out a yelp just as Altaica pounced, knocking him down. Altaica bared his fangs in a way that could only be interpreted as a grin. Merexia intoned a simple healing spell, closing his claw wounds, then turned to examine his torn and dirtied cloak. He frowned and said, "Altaica! This was a new cloak! This is coming out of your food allowance!" Altaica growled, and lunged at Merexia. He quickly cast a 'Hand of Wind' spell, sending Altaica yowling through the air. Suddenly, a deep voice echoed throughout the hall. "Alright, knock it off you two!" Merexia stood up, brushed himself off, and grinned sheepishly at his clanleader, Cirque Silverspirit, who was trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile. Altaica snuffled, then turned and silently padded out of the clanhall. Merexia sighed as he wrapped the remains of his cloak around him and said, "Well, I have some business to take care of, so I'll be off. Be back shortly." With that, he turned and stepped out of the clanhall, whistling jauntily.
Merexia saw Altaica stalking through the shadows towards an unsuspecting citizen. He chuckled to himself and decided to have a little fun. He quietly chanted a spell, and suddenly Altaica stumbled and fell, blind. He screamed and yowled pitifully, and Merexia tried to hide his laughter so Altaica wouldn't know it was him. Then he heard a low growl behind him, and something large and heavy slammed into him from behind, dropping him to his knees. He looked behind him and cringed. It was a large female lion. "Shandrahl! Wait!" he exclaimed. Ignoring his plea, the lioness swatted him across the face with her paw, sending him sprawling across the floor. He slid across the smooth stone and hit the fountain. Seeing the world spinning, he decided it would be a good idea to take a nap.
A bucketful of water splashed on Merexia's face, and he was instantly awake. He groaned and blinked his eyes. Brushing his wet hair aside, he peered up at the attractive young woman before him. He tried to smile, but winced. "Hi Goaderia, what are you doing here?" She smiled, but said nothing. She calmly chanted a spell, and touched Merexia's cheek. His wounds healed, and he stood up. "Uhh...thanks," he said. She smirked and said, "Let me guess, Shandrahl got you?" Merexia replied, "Well, yeah. I was just playing with Altaica and she took me from behind." He glanced around quickly. "They're not here anymore, are they?" Goaderia laughed and said, "No, they went off somewhere via portal. Now, how many times have I told you not to mess with Altaica when Shandrahl is around? You know she's got a mean streak when it comes to messing with Altaica." Merexia grinned sheepishly and said, "Well...err...umm...you want to come with me to Shadowclaw?" Goaderia frowned. "Don't change the subject. Oh all right. Are we leaving now?" Merexia nodded and said, "I'll call a dragon." He closed his eyes and sent out a call for a dragon. A firelizard appeared, flew next to Merexia, and disappeared. Merexia muttered and said, "I hate those little pickpockets." Goaderia just giggled. Suddenly, a shadow fell over the pair as an enormous figure blocked out the sun. The gold dragon floated down gently and stared dubiously at the two. The dragon faced Merexia and said in a deep, bass voice, "Two passengers? This is highly unusual." Merexia laughed and swatted the dragon. "Oh come on, Kyrenos. I know you can handle it. Tell you what, I'll do you a favor." The dragon pondered for a moment and said, "Well, there was one thing I always wanted to see you do." "What's that?" With a mischievous smile, Kyrenos said, "Fly." He raised one huge claw and flicked Merexia. He flew through the air and landed with a *SPLASH* in the fountain. He sputtered and shouted, "You'll pay for that!" Kyrenos grinned and said, "Would you like me to dry you off?" He took a deep breath. Merexia cringed and yelled, "No no! Don't! OK OK you win!" He glared at Goaderia, who was rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. Merexia muttered some oaths and walked up the dragon's extended wing. He held out a hand to help Goaderia up, but she smirked and cast a 'levitation' spell. She floated up, but couldn't reach the dragon! Merexia laughed and pulled her in. "Kyrenos, we're going to Shadowclaw Fortress." The dragon blinked once, then nodded his head and took off.
The flight took 20 minutes, but the two clannies passed the time talking. The dragon landed gently in front of the massive gates to the fortress. After announcing their identities, the two passed throught the gates. Shadowclaw himself was there to greet them. Merexia walked up to shake his hand, but suddenly an urgent voice raced through his head. "Everyone return to the clantown! We're under attack!" As soon as Merexia heard Cirque's voice, he shot a glance at Goaderia, who appeared upset. He turned back to Shadowclaw and said, "There seems to be an emergency, Shadowclaw. We must depart immediately." Shadowclaw raised a hand and shook his head. "No," he said. "You came here for a purpose, and you will carry it out." Six soldiers moved to block the exit. Merexia chanted for a moment, and a firestorm raged, immolating the soldiers. The two rushed out the gate towards Kyrenos. Shadowclaw shouted, "Stop them!" Calime, the Fortress Mage, appeared and watched the running figures. Two dozen soldiers rushed after them. Merexia spun around and cast 'tremor'. The floor rumbled and all the soldiers stumbled and fell. Calime frowned and threw a lightning bolt at Merexia. The bolt caught him square on the chest and threw him against Kyrenos. The dragon snatched Merexia in one claw and extended his wing. Goaderia grabbed a dagger and threw it at Calime, then rushed up the wing. The dagger flew out and grazed Calime's leg, disrupting her spell. Kyrenos launched himself into the air and flew off. Shadowclaw turned to Calime and said, "Don't worry, they'll be back again someday soon."
Kyrenos flew for two minutes before floating down to a gentle landing in a forest clearing. The dragon released Merexia and moved off to the side, keeping watch. Goaderia jumped down and rushed over to Merexia. He was not hurt too badly. Although his armor had prevented the bolt from penetrating, the electric shock had burned him and jolted his nervous system. Goaderia frowned. It had been a long time since she had practiced her clerical skills. She concentrated for a moment, and suddenly the words and inflection for a powerful healing spell sprang into her mind. She chanted the spell, and a bright aura surrounded Merexia, healing his wounds. He groaned and sat up. "Ohh...my head is killing me!" Goaderia gave a small smile and said, "Come on, we have to get back to the clantown." Merexia nodded and climbed onto Kyrenos. Goaderia followed suit and Kyrenos leapt into the air, speeding back to the besieged clantown.
Kyrenos was panting as he dug his claws into the road at the entrance to the clantown. As soon as Goaderia and Merexia jumped off, he flew away. Merexia shrugged and ran into the town, Goaderia right behind him. Merexia frowned when he saw the chopped up body of the guard. Frowning, he rushed towards the clanhall. As he ran, he saw the corpses of guards, citizens, and bandits. In the large vaulted chamber by the fountain, a massive melee raged. Bandits swarmed around, taking jabs at various people. The wounded lay moaning on the floor, forgotten in the heat of the battle. Cirque Silverspirit stood next to the fountain and cast spell after spell, decimating bandits, but for each one killed, there seemed to be two more to take the fallen's place. Slowly, the members of The White Rose beat back the invaders, pushing them away from the hall. Suddenly, the bandits scatter, hiding. The remaining clanmembers looked around in dismay. Scores of the wounded lay scattered about, moaning. All the clanmembers were wounded, but still in fairly good health. However, the same could not be said for the citizens of the town. Scores lay dead and dying. Merexia thought for a moment, then said, "Guys, do what you can, I'll be back with help." With that, he popped out of existence, entering the magical area known as Medlink.
Merexia stood in the social area, pondering his next move. He began contacting various members of the Order of the Blue Star. As each medic entered the social area, Merexia waved them into the nearby conference room. Once the last one had arrived, Merexia walked into the conference room. The assembled medics watched their leader silently as he walked by. Merexia turned and looked at each medic. Belarin, Tar'in, Alrena, T'sitar, Olfasar, all proven medics and trusted friends. Newer medics were also present, people he didn't know as well. For some, this would be their first trial in combat. Two veteran medics were not present, casualties of a recent battle against a dragon. The ranks were beginning to thin out, as more and more people fell prey to the rising tide of monsters. Merexia would need more medics to meet future problems, but there was no time now. He took a deep breath and explained the situation. Most of the medics remained stony faced, although some seemed a bit nervous. However, each pledged that he or she would rush to the clantown with the utmost haste. Merexia nodded his head and dismissed them. He the disappeared and popped back into the real world.
Merexia reappeared next to the fountain. A perimeter remained, and a few people were tending the wounded. Medics began emerging from the magical, shimmering portal. After surveying the scene for a moment, they set to work. Belarin walked over to Merexia and said, "Sir, this area is not secure. I suggest we move everyone into the clanhall, where it is safer." Merexia nodded his head and repeated it to Cirque. He nodded his head silently. Merexia motioned to the medics, and they began unfurling sheets from their packs. Taking sticks, they created makeshift stretchers. As they began moving the wounded into the hall, the perimeter slowly shrunk. Finally, all the defenders ran into the hall. The last wounded was brought in, and Belarin and Merexia began walking through the doors. Suddenly, Belarin let out a gurgling sound, and collapsed to the floor. Kennopi jerked his dagger from Belarin's back, and drew his Frostreaver. Merexia yelled and rushed towards Kennopi. Kennopi swept aside Merexia's staff with his massive sword and crushed him with the pommel. As Merexia staggered backwards, Kennopi unleashed a powerful kick that sent Merexia flying out of the hall. The rest of the defenders rushed Kennopi, attacking him. He attempted to hold back their blows, but was unsuccessful. He was slowly driven backwards, when suddenly he choked and coughed up blood. Kamkehsahlin pushed the corpse to the floor and grinned. There was the sound of chanting behind her and she whipped around. Standing by the portal was a wizard, preparing to throw a fireball into the clanhall! If the fireball detonated inside, everyone would be incinerated. Merexia picked himself up and sprinted towards the wizard. The wizard saw Merexia and panicked. Just as Merexia tackled him, he threw the fireball into Merexia's chest. The resulting explosion blasted threw Merexia through the air and he slammed into a shop, limp. The wizard was not as lucky. He was completely destroyed by the blast. A nearby shop was on fire. Tar'in bent down next to the mortally wounded Merexia. As he prepared to cast a healing spell, a shuriken whizzed by and cut his shoulder deeply. He staggered backwards, and another shuriken embedded itself in his chest. He dropped to the floor, dead. Several bandits ran by, throwing various weapons into the hall. Cirque chanted a moment, and a fissure opened up beneath the bandits, and they all fell to their deaths. He organized the remaining defenders in teams of three, and sent them out to hunt bandits. Alrena and Olfasar pulled Merexia into the clanhall and began tending him. Alrena looked up and said, "He's so badly injured that his chances of survival are virtually nil. Spells cannot help him." Altaica growled and noted, "Well, at least we've beat back the bandits for now."
The various search teams came back and reported that they had found no bandits. They had all either run away or were regrouping elsewhere. Everyone hoped for the former, but alas, it was not to be. There was a loud battle cry and several groups of bandits rushed the last remaining defenders. The defenders backed into the doorway where the attackers could not utilize their superior numbers. Suddenly, there was a crunching sound, and holes burst open in the floor. Little rat-like creatures streamed from the holes, armed with bows and short swords. Recognizing the kobolds, Altaica let out a loud roar and leapt out at them, Shandrahl right behind him. The two predators tore through the kobolds, scattering them and reducing their numbers by at least 20. The remaining kobolds let loose a volley of arrows, striking Altaica several times. Ignoring the pain, he bounded towards the kobolds. In a flurry of teeth and claws, 15 kobolds were reduced to little strips of flesh. Shandrahl made short work of the last 10 kobolds and padded over to Altaica. He lay on the floor, leaking various fluids onto the cold stone floor. Altaica whimpered a few times, and his breathing slowed. Shandrahl gathered him up in her paws and began crying softly.
Merexia blinked his eyes in the warm morning sunlight. He started to roll out of his bed, but winced. He realized that he had not been dreaming. He was bandaged all over. He groaned, and thought about what had happened. Goaderia opened the door and walked in. "You're awake!" she said. "You must be starving. Here, have some of this stew." She put a bowl down on the night table and backed away. Merexia took a few sips and said, "Wow, this is good! What is it?" Goaderia replied, "Tiger," and walked out of the room. Merexia shouted, "WHAT!?" He leapt out of bed, ignoring the pain. Wrapping a cloak around himself, he ran out into the hall. Wincing painfully, he looked around. Shandrahl was curled up next to a rosebush, asleep. Blinking back tears, Merexia slowly walked towards Shandrahl. Too late, he saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. Merexia let out a yelp just as a large white tiger pounced, knocking him down. The tiger bared its fangs. Merexia blinked in disbelief and said, "ALTAICA!?" Altaica growled. Ignoring the pain, Merexia clasped Altaica in a crushing bearhug. He looked down then groaned in dismay. "ALTAICA! My cloak!!!"
And so the story ends. But much more hardship was to occur in the life of the young half-elf. Turn the page, and continue the saga of Merexia Renalis...
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***