Saturday, 2 June 2018

Episode I - XIV A Vengeance of Fire (Shard I)

A Blood-soaked Legacy

A Vengeance of Fire
(Shard I)

Tyverus opened his eyes to a world of chaos and blood-drenched savagery, all around him the ground was covered with still-burning embers, blood, debris, and dead bodies. It took a moment for all of his other senses to come back; the sounds of men howling with fury or screaming with pain, the bitter smell of gore liberated forth by the slashing of metal and the taste of his own bitter blood on his tongue. All around him was the doom that all of humanity brought upon its brothers and sisters. This savagery was the only true gift that the gods above had bequeathed upon all of mankind: War.

Without having to be conscious of it, Tyverus took a step forward and ducked under the blade that was sweeping across the air toward his head. The blade swung in mere inches from cleaving in his skull. Attached to that blade was a barbarian covered in furs, yelling at the top of his lungs. Bones of birds swayed from threads woven through the barbarian’s nose and up the sides of his face. His beard was matted with blood and gobbets of flesh. What was to be seen of his face beneath the splatters of blood and dirt, was painted in the blue clay paint that the Khollisthenna people — The Death Wolves of the North — were known to wear to war.

This particular warrior of the barbarian tribes had previously struck Tyverus in the face with his metal bracer, sending him into a moment of blackness. He didn’t need to be fully aware of his state, as he was trained well enough. Without needing to think, his body was reacting to every thrust and slash the barbarian warrior sent his way. The Khollis berserker had gotten in a lucky shot and it was now time for Tyverus to ensure it would be that warrior’s last.

Tyverus had dropped his blade a few moments earlier and since that had become quite enamored with the blade the barbarian had tried to kill him with. Keeping up momentum in his first step he dropped into a crouch and turned his back to the still-roaring barbarian. He let his left foot slip on the pool of blood at his feet allowing him to hit the barbarian in the chest with his shoulders. The momentum was enough to knock the wind from the howling man’s lungs.

A small command of earthen power was made as Tyverus channeled the energies of the ground below into his right hand. Rocks and pebbles formed along the leather glove he wore to reinforce him. With a downward thrust, he pummeled his fist into the swinging sword arm of the barbarian. Behind his right hand, his left greedily reached out to grab the hilt of the berserker’s sword. Tyverus’ impact was enough to break the warrior’s arm almost in twain. Bones shot up from flesh and a light sprinkle of blood covered Tyverus’ face.

Before the warrior could suck in air for a cry of pain, Tyverus had clutched and stolen the blade from him. With a swing and pivot, Tyverus took up his earlier stance before the man and sent the singing metal of the blade into the barbarian’s neck. As soon as metal impacted bone, the Khollis warrior grabbed Tyverus by the neck with his other hand. Meaty fingers dug into the knight’s flesh just above his mantle and for a moment it felt like the barbarian might lift him from the ground.

Tyverus knew how hardy and powerful these tribesmen of the northern lands were, but he never thought that such power could be held by a man who had his own sword embedded in his neck. Spouts and sprays of steaming blood-drenched Tyverus’ front as he continued to pull the blade through the warrior’s neck. Bone grated against metal as he managed to pull the blade downward and free. The grip on his neck hadn’t abated.

The sky-blue eyes of the warrior stared hotly with rage and judgment at Tyverus as he stood his ground and let the blade fall away to the ground. The grip on his neck began to loosen as each heartbeat brought more of the barbarian’s blood up and out of his body. Slowly the grip fell away and the warrior dropped to his knees.

“You fought well.” Tyverus spoke softly under his breath. “Join your ancestors and your kin in the halls of Olthenna.” He took a step backward as the warrior continued to stare at him hotly. The warrior did nothing to staunch the spilling of his own blood. Slowly his eyes closed as he knelt forward to grab up his sword from the ground with his functional hand and impaled it tip down into the steaming soil. He got back up into a full kneeling stance, leaning on the cross-brace of his weapon. The warrior opened his eyes once more to stare at Tyverus, with a look no longer of rage, but one of peace at dying in battle against a superior opponent.

The life soon left the warrior’s eyes, but he remained still in his kneeling pose. Tyverus turned away from the warrior and grabbed up his own sword in the grass nearby. The sounds of battle echoed out and a few explosions roared through the smoke-filled air.

Sword in hand, Tyverus launched himself forward into the fray, stepping over burning embers and dead bodies as he sought out more barbarians to send to the goddess of death. Ahead by a few hundred feet, he could see the silhouettes of warriors crashing arms against one another and he aimed there with his feet.

Off to his left, as he ran, he could hear another fray and with a look over he beheld several barbarians closing in on a prone knight. Each of the barbarians raised up their swords or axes as they plunged towards the disarmed and wounded knight. As soon as Tyverus couldn’t see the knight over the warriors closing in on him, he felt a slight breeze tugging at his matted, brown hair.

Knowing exactly what that breeze heralded, Tyverus dropped into a crouch and slid on his right foot. He pulled into a somersault to the right just as a fiery explosion went off to his left. Air drew in with hunger towards the explosion, and immediately after the heat of flames shot out at him. He lifted his left arm to shield his face. The flames hit him first, followed by the hail of scorched chunks of flesh and bone. It would seem that the fallen knight had decided to take the warriors with him into Olthenna’s grace.

Tyverus shook the heat and momentary disorientation from him for a moment and then got back up to a crouching position. As soon as his senses sharpened once again, he heard the whistle of arrows on the wind. Two heavy bolts the size of his forearm bit into the ground by his feet. The whistling of the third bolt ended with a hard impact to his left shoulder.

As soon as his left arm flew to his side under the impact, he raised himself back up to his feet. Without thinking his eyes darted into the smoke before him. By the sounds of the arrows and the direction of the impact, the archer was ahead and to the left. Given the size of the bolts, it was uncertain how far away they were, but he knew they would be notching more arrows within a few seconds.

Tyverus lifted his sword-arm, holding his blade forward and pointed at the source of the arrows. He closed his eyes to focus on his elemental commands of the air, feeling the wind whipping up around him. He opened his eyes to gaze into a small vortex of air reaching out from the tip of his sword like a lance of wind. The lance of swirling smoke spread forward and grew in size.

The whistling of three more arrows came at him and with a slight movement of his sword in his hand, he sent all three careening off in different directions. He focused hard and swelled the air in front of him to whip the smoke away. Before him, his vision elongated through the smoke, creating a spear of clean air. The moments seemed to freeze as he focused all his intention on widening and furthering the area he could see.

The spear of clean air stretched out almost three-hundred yards from where he stood. Ahead he could see several tree trunks and high grasses beyond a snowbank. He stretched the spear wide to create an elongated cone of visibility before him. That is when he could see the blue-painted archer beyond the first trees.

Tyverus couldn’t help but smile at the cleverness of the young woman that stood before him on the other side of the battlefield. She was one of the Khollis archers who were famed for their deviousness as well as the strength of their bow-arms. The woman had already notched another three arrows into her longbow and stood perfectly still to stare through the tunnel of cleared air at Tyverus.

The archer was painted in the same blue clay paint as the rest of the barbarians. Her golden hair, braided and held in check with gemstone beads whipped around her head on the air. Her arms tensed with a strength that most men that Tyverus had met in his travels, from city to city, would be incapable of. On her face was a look of cold determination to fell her prey.

It took only a moment for Tyverus to realize, despite the extreme distance counteracted by his heightened senses, that the woman had slightly pivoted her bow-arm to a sharper angle. The gemstone beads in her hair, trailing over her face, allowed her to gauge the intensity of the vortex Tyverus commanded. With precise skill, she had recalculated her trajectory and was about to loose her new arrows.

Tyverus had no arrogance or conceit about his abilities, knowing that these warriors were well-trained in fighting his kind over the last several years of this war. They had the determination of a people fighting for their home, and the cunning of the wolves that were their tribal namesake. He had to think fast as those arrows made their way to him. He couldn’t cover the distance in time to make it to her and he was on his own in this fight.

He turned his head slightly to see the burning crater far to his left. The elemental fires still burned among the chunks of fallen warriors. The embers of burnt wooden huts cast on the wind still glimmered at his feet. He would need to draw from this fire to take out this archer before she ended his life.

As soon as Tyverus turned his face to the fires on his left, the fires went out. Flames flowed on the air in rivers toward him as he reached out with his left hand to grasp them. The flames from the embers around him soared to life and raised up like fiery snowflakes to his outstretched hand.

One arrow struck the ground near Tyverus’ feet while two struck him in the armor of his chest. The two that hit him didn’t penetrate through, but the impacts caused him to reaffirm his footing. The fire met with his left hand and roared in his grasp.

Tyverus reached his flaming hand over and let the fires leap to the blade of his sword in his right hand. He still kept the sword pointing before him, and as the flames welled over his blade, he lowered himself and ran forth towards the archer in the trees. He kept his feet moving and he pivoted hard from left to right, swaying to the beat of war-drums in his own mind. He had to keep his steps as erratic as possible.

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