Saturday, 2 June 2018

Episode I - XI A Vengeance of Air (Shard I)

A Blood-soaked Legacy

A Vengeance of Air
(Shard I)

“You almost had me.” The heavily armored knight stepped to the side while giving a laugh. He spun his sword in his hand, letting the hilt slide in his glove until he could get a better grip on it. “You have a lot of determination in your stance, but you lack commitment.”

Tyverus lifted himself up from crouching and seized the upturned hilt of his sword from the snow-covered ground. His side, just under the ribs, hurt from where his master had thumped him hard with the flat of his blade. His breath puffed out on the cold northern air as he lifted himself back up to a combat stance. He swiveled his sword and leveled it at his instructor.

“When you are ready to take up your mantle, you will be channeling the very powers of the elements.” The old knight turned his back on his pupil while a cold breeze blew in causing his crimson cape to billow and dance. Taking advantage of the breeze and the rippling crimson fabric behind him, the knight stepped backward. His feet never seemed to touch the snow-strewn ground as he turned in the breeze and struck downward at Tyverus.

Metal clashed against metal as Tyverus lifted his sword to parry the unannounced attack. He let his right foot slide in the snow while bending into his left leg. The downward thrust of his mentor’s blade was more than he could sustain despite having deflected most of its power. He felt his right leg go too far into the snow and his left leg buckled. Before he knew it, he was face-down in the snow.

“Commitment is everything, young man.” The breeze immediately ceased as the soft footpads of the old knight could be heard on the snow beside Tyverus. A gloved hand grabbed him by the stitchings on the back of his leather armor, pulling his wiry frame from the ground and up to a standing pose. “You thought I was taking advantage of the breeze to deceive you, didn’t you.”

Tyverus felt his feet under him once more and turned to face his master. He gave a slight nod and remained quiet. He lifted his gloved hand, palm up, to his nose to check for blood. Thankfully, there was none, but the pain in his face was still stinging.

“The breeze was not something I took advantage of, it was my will that commanded it into existence. When you command the powers of the air, you must use it to your benefit. Your will must be absolute. The slightest hesitation, the slightest worry, will send you flying off from your target. The powers of air are fickle.” The old knight let a gloved hand fall on Tyverus’ small shoulders. “You don’t have your mantle yet, but it’s my job to beat commitment into you. Now prepare yourself again.”

Tyverus gave another nod and took up his default stance once again. He lifted his sword up and watched his master intently. This time he made note of any breezes upon the air.

* * *

An indigo tendril of unholy energy tore through the chilled chamber air to strike at Tyverus’ metal-and-stone-clad face. Sparks and chunks of metal went flying from just below his cheek. The power of the tendril’s attack was enough that if he hadn’t called upon his earthen powers, the entire side of his skull might be missing at this very moment.

Rage continued to burn inside of Tyverus, giving him a resolute focus that kept him from flinching at the attack. He kept his attention firmly on the monster ahead while he continued his flight towards Merithault as she stood a dozen feet ahead and below him. He let the grip of his left hand go loose on the fire-drenched sword he held like a downward-pointed lance. The weight of his sword moved to his right hand as he lifted his left arm up into the air. Crackling white energy rippled from his fingers as he steered himself with his elemental powers.

Another tendril tore upward at him trying to knock his sword from his grasp. He could see the energy with preternatural clarity now that his mantle was fully loosed and dangerously overdrawn. The world around him moved slowly, giving him more than enough time in these split seconds to let his sword lower a few inches. He took advantage of the attack to pull his sword back up toward him once the tendril flowed past the blade. He let his crackling left hand break him for a fraction of a heartbeat on the air. He curled into the break and spun in the air.

He was attempting to keep his armored form between the monster and his blade. This proved to be a good decision as another tendril aimed at his sword struck him just above his right hip. Stone splintered from his armored form as pain welled up from his torn flesh beneath. He let the stimulation go cold in his mind as he continued to bend in the air.

The elemental energy he was calling upon kept him moving as he spun back to his forward facing stance. He lifted his right hand holding his sword up, feeling the air flowing over the sideways swiping blade and causing the flames to lick ferociously back at him. He brought his left arm in tight to his body and allowed the hilt of his blade to be drawn up to his chest. There he grasped the hilt tightly between his right hand and the palm of his left. The tip of his sword was pulled downward to his feet and then with one more push, he brought it out and up like a giant dagger plunged forward in murderous hands.

Tyverus felt his eyes grow wide with focused hatred and a bloodthirsty snarl made its way across his dry lips. He let the power of the air, of his momentum, and the hungry gravity of the world draw him to his prey. His legs lifted behind him as he pushed forward a few more inches. It was only a moment before he felt the scalding tip of his sword bite into the body of the monster. Quickly the smell of burning ichor filled his nostrils.

Merithault hissed and then howled like a wounded beast beneath Tyverus’ blade. The sword impaled her between the shoulder and collarbone, driving deep into her chest. Her pierced flesh burned black beneath the heat as silvery trails of smoke came up from the boiling ichor within her. Tyverus let the full weight of his form carry him further into her body and the feeling of bone grinding on metal made his gloved hands rumble slightly. The blade was now more than a foot’s length into the monster before he began to pull up with both of his hands as air swelled backward at him, given life by his elemental might.

As soon as Tyverus began to pull upward with his command of air, three more tendrils of deadly energy ripped towards him. He turned, narrowly missing two of them that were aimed at his head and neck. Another tendril hit him and tore through the stone and metal covering his right upper arm. More pain soared through his heightened consciousness, but again he let the concerns of his mortal body fall away into nothingness. It no longer mattered if his body was intact or if he lost any limbs, his body was now a weapon of vengeance which would continue to fight until its last breath.

Tyverus no longer wanted to be so close to this abomination, as the ephemeral tendrils of energy were too focused near her. He used the rest of his aerial command to focus a gap of energy in front of him. The air between him and the beast rippled for a heartbeat as a globe-shaped vacuum formed between them. He let go of his sword for a moment while tightening his left hand into a fist. His right hand held the hilt with white knuckles.

Merithault looked up with her unearthly eyes to gaze at him just as he launched his fist into her face. His arm couldn’t reach to punch her, and he was quite certain such an attack would be folly so soon into the battle. He opened his fingers and with his will forced the orb of vacuum to go off directly into her face. Thunder soon roared between them and the explosive force of the impact sent Tyverus backward.

The grip he held on his sword proved strong enough to keep the blade in his grip as the force on the blade tore open Merithault’s wound. One-third of the monster’s chest exploded outward in a gush of ancient bone fragments and sprays of black ichor. The continuing waves of energy pushed Tyverus a safe distance back into the air, now a safe distance away.

Tyverus folded his sword sideways across his chest and bent inward toward it to keep his momentum. He flipped backward, preparing to land on the ground near the bridge when he noticed that Merithault was no longer wincing in pain. The undead fiend was focused intently upon him with her right arm raised towards him. A wave of otherwise invisible, telekinetic energy came from her skeletal palm towards him.

The impact of Tyverus’ feet upon the cold earth didn’t come and he soon realized she was holding his armored weight aloft with the power of her mind. With the force of another small explosion, he felt his arms get torn to their sides and his legs being spread apart. He was suspended upon nothing like a man prepared to be drawn and quartered.

Slowly he began to notice that Merithault was pulling him in, and with each inch he drifted towards her, her cruel smile widened. He began to struggle with the invisible bonds that tightened upon him, but as soon as he could move, the monster tightened her grip further. As his mind began to crawl at the possibilities of getting out from her power, he noticed three more tendrils of energy soaring at him.

Each tendril tore more rock and metal from his frame. He could do nothing but suffer these lashes as his mind frantically contemplated his situation. He drowned out more pain and closed his eyes focusing the remainder of his spent energies. In a clear moment, he remembered a conversation he had with Isilda when they were setting up camp.

It felt like a million years ago, but it had only been two days before all this trouble began. Isilda had mentioned that before she was asked to come on this expedition, she was learning the first powers of telekinesis. She had joked with him about how it had taken her eight months just to learn how to flip the pages in a book or carry a feather in the air. She had mentioned how powerful the masters of her order were with their abilities. She ruminated about how it seemed like a long stretch for her to be able to lift and fling boulders around.

Isilda had displayed some of her abilities when stirring stew over the fire at the camp. She let the ladle drop into the stew and then with some focus and a slight nosebleed, she had managed to slowly stir the stew with the ladle. She could only maintain the concentration for a few moments before she grasped the utensil in her hands and sheepishly looked up at him. Tyverus remembered the warm and proud smile on her face as the blood dripped over her full lips.

Isilda promised to teach him how to do it when the expedition was done, she had emphasized her taking him to Alsira Thaenat to see the home of her order. It was a promise that made Tyverus’ heart skip a beat with hope and expectation. The chance to learn some of the powers of the oracles as he had wanted to do as a child while being in the company of a woman he had become enamored with in such a short time.

Tyverus, as he was, wanted to show off to the young woman. As soon as he saw her wipe the blood from her lips and return to stirring their evening meal, he remembered a trick a fellow knight had shown him during the Battle of the Wounded Wolf. He raised his hands out and clasped Isilda’s hands tightly causing her to drop the ladle.

“Watch this. I think I can command the Haeth arts as well as you.” He said while smiling and staring into her eyes. They moved their entwined hands away from the pot and both looked down to the stew. With seeming little effort, the ladle began to stir the stew on its own.

“How did you manage that?” He heard her say with that enchanting and soothing voice she had. The voice that could make ice twinkle and dance. He kept up the ruse for a few moments but then relented and explained it all to her. The command he had over the elemental earth and metal, as well as that of small, well-timed air gusts, allowed him to simulate the same effects as telekinesis. It was crude and demanded more energy in lateral and sympathetic ways, but it had worked.

Tyverus’ eyes shot open as the memories faded away. He would need to do a similar thing to fight against the force of the monster’s mind on his body. If her command of telekinesis was powerful enough to freeze him in the air, immobilize him, and drag him slowly to her, his command of the elements would need to be even more powerful.

He began to focus some of his last reserves of energy from his mantle to command the powers of the earth. It was fortunate indeed that his body was covered in both rock and metal from the earth, and that his sword was born of finely crafted earthen steel rather than meteoric iron like many other of the Guardian Knights.

As he continued to near Merithault, two more tendrils of energy tore forth to impact his left forearm and his right leg. The impact on his arm had some give to it, but the impact on his leg was enough to cause a severe open wound. Tyverus gulped down the pain and began to focus his will on the rock surrounding his body.

The force on his sword arm began to grow as he melted the metal around it and reformed the rock at strange and unnatural angles. The pain began to well up to the point that he could feel his consciousness leave his body for a few moments, several times. With each inch he neared the monster, the elemental energy of his arm and sword grew to fevered heights.

He bit his bottom lip until it bled as it was all he could do not to shatter his teeth under the strain. Tendons in his arm felt like they would snap along with the bones trapped and contorted between the tightening rock. The flames dancing across his blade began to lick higher and with greater hunger melting the steel of his sword. Every muscle in his arm was tensed beyond measure, the heat upon his gloved hand was almost too much to endure.

The grinning skull of Merithault was terribly close now and her outreached arm sending waves of invisible energy was nearly within reach. One more heartbeat filled with overwhelming pain followed by a second as time slowed even further. Then, with a howl of pain and rage, Tyverus unleashed the last of the energy he had been welling up.

The rock and metal on his arm contorted and squealed under the heat and strain. Pebbles shot out along with rivulets of newly unleashed blood as his arm forced itself forward like a sling loosed. The bones of Tyverus’ arm snapped in multiple places, and the strain of the rock held his useless hand in place on his sword. The melted hilt of his blade scorched through the rock as well as leather covering his hand to fuse the blade right into his flesh and bone.

His flaming, bladed, and crushed arm flung forth from his restrained body as he continued to aim the rock at Merithault. The arm swung around from his shoulder and the blade in his hand into the monster’s arm in front of him. The searing metal cut through the unnatural flesh and bone like it was butter. The same burning smell of ichor quickly welled up as the beast howled in pain and shock.

Tyverus dropped heavily to his knees upon the ground. It took a moment for him to grab his crushed sword arm with his still functional one. His mind fluctuated between overwhelming pain and the disjointed bliss of oncoming nervous shock. The bones of his arm were crushed beyond repair and his shoulder was now dislocated. He could no longer feel his fingers, as the metal of his hilt had merged with the metal and rock of his armor, as well as the flesh and bone of his hand.

He looked up at the cowering form of Merithault. She stared daggers at him from her glowing ice eyes as she grasped at her severed wrist. The limp limb sat smoldering on the ground a few yards in front of him. He looked from it back to the snarling face of the abomination and smiled.

There was no moment of respite as Merithault welled up a sudden thrust of telekinetic energy that flung Tyverus backward with tremendous force. Tyverus held his smile as he flew through the air backward until he impacted the roof of the cavern. The impact felt dull compared to the pain in his arm, and he kept his eyes closed trying to relish his small victory.

“Impudent worm!” Merithault screamed in rage from far beneath Tyverus. He opened his eyes to see the fiend staring up at him with her remaining arm tensed and outstretched while flinging him this distance.

He did take his moment of solace now, as he realized he was quite far from the reach of her shadowed tendrils. He was still being pressed against the rock by Merithault’s telekinetic powers but she hadn’t yet seized upon his limbs with focused energy. He looked around him to see several ancient stalactites of considerable size and one of the shining crystals embedded into the rock next to his dangling right arm.

“You actually think you can wound someone such as I?” Merithault let a sadistic cackle follow her hissing words. She kept her eyes focused on him as she let her remaining hand’s grip fall away. She focused her powers with her mind only while crouching down to the rock beneath her. She seized upon her severed limb with her hand and broke contact for a single moment to gaze upon it, then back up to Tyverus.

Merithault lifted her severed wrist up to the burnt stump as she continued to gaze hotly up at Tyverus. Veins of ichor reached out and latched onto the burnt flesh. The veins seemed to pull the severed hand back into place and sealed the burnt wound once more. A charred bracelet of ruined flesh still graced the monster’s wrist, but with a flex of skeletal fingers, Merithault showed that the limb was once more functional.

Tyverus let his eyes quickly fall on the gaping wound in Merithault’s chest and he soon began to see the same veins of ichor worming up from the wound like little snakes of shadow. The wound began to glow from within, like night-time stars shining and twinkling off of a still lake’s surface. The translucent flesh of the monster was slowly knitting itself together.

“I am a servant of Ullthos, impudent boy.” Merithault crooned up at him. She began walking forward in both a totteringly unnatural and fluidly predatory fashion. Those same ice-blue eyes shone up at him, now with the sadism, a child might have to a captured insect, rather than with her earlier unholy rage. “It is by the will of the gods that I exist. I am a weapon in their hands, and I will exist far past the time this world will turn to ash. Or until I succeed in my mission. It is not your place to stop me.”

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