Wandering Through Terran–Chapter 09

January 11, 2010

Revised

Links

Chapter Nine: Battle In the Forest

Where the Hunted Start

Working on Their Own Plans…

Merf built a small fire as the night grew colder and the forest grew darker. Knowing it was too dangerous for him to use magics without making himself visible to Urza and the other traitors, he started a blaze in the clearing he had chosen with his flint and steel, finding a decent amount of tinder to work with on the forest floor around him. He carefully warmed his hands, keenly aware of every shadow around him.

The forest was considered by most to be haunted, the souls of those who willingly served the whims of the dragons trapped there as penance for their deeds. Though he did not turn his ear to them, Merf knew that the spirits of the dead were wailing their pleas for any salvation they might be able to garner. But there were sounds on the air that he did not need to attune himself to and warranted more attention.

Standing, he looked into the shadows.

I know your kind and their ways,” he said calmly. “I bear no fear for your tricks. Come out and stand.”

The lanky and pale creature in the shape of a man stepped into the clearing. Dressed all in black, the man had a crooked nose and angular features, looking sickly but menacing with ghastly features. Merf regarded the man calmly, not speaking as the creature shaped like a man sat on a stump. Merf sat back on his rock, watching the other closely.

What do you call yourself, shade?” Merf asked.

A traveler through this world,” the man replied. His tone was smooth and relaxing, designed to ensnare victims. “I know you comprehend my nature and what that entails. Events in Aven have drawn my interest and I found my way here.”

What is your purpose?”

In truth? I’m a parasite. I see an open wound, I’m going to run over and crawl right in. Such is my nature.”

I see. I suppose you and other Shadowlings have reached an accord with Urza and his faction?”

As much as we intend to take advantage of the ensuing carnage and chaos your people will sew, a bit of guaranteed monetary profit is nothing to turn our noses at. You stole something from your fellow wizard. Not very polite of you. A very valuable item, or so I gather from his frantic tone in regards to it. He wants it back.”

Merf nodded. There was little information to be gained from the creature. He knew that and had expected it. He figured he should end things quickly. The creature was not alone, did not have any reason to let the wizard live and had accomplished his goal in finding the wizard.

I suppose we’ve come to that point then,” Merf stated reluctantly. He stood up, steeling his mind and preparing to do battle. “You’ve put me a bit of a spot. You found me and I can’t escape, not without a battle. And therein lies the quagmire. I can defeat you, but doing so means tapping into powers that make me visible to your masters. Either way, my battle won’t it does not bode well for me.”

And we do have numbers,” the Shadowling added. “We will easily overcome you.”

Advantages in numbers are an illusion,” Merf chided. He summoned forth a fireball in his hand. “An illusion worth noting, but still an illusion.”

puup

Zev closed his eyes and began to listen to the forest. Sleep eluded the pair as they camped, both taking leave to reflect in their own manners. Looking at his older brother, Patracolus had to laugh. Even in their younger days, Zev had a knack for being able to just sit and listen—reaching a state of disconcerting calm. It was an annoying habit to just about everybody else, usually a cause for some great concern.

How do we get in touch with your friends?” Zev asked. He did not open his eyes as he asked the question.

Not sure yet,” Patracolus replied. “Chances are that the Knights of Duramar are patrolling the city for us, so we can’t go back without a fight. They’ll probably start with the forest at first light. And I’m not sure we’d be able to get to Merf.”

We should definitely discuss the sequence of events with your wizard. Provided he’s on our side, of course. Either way, he could at least give us the lay of the land and help us in knowing what the goblins have done thus far.”

There’s something you’re not telling me.”

There’s a lot I’m not telling you. Some things I don’t know, and some things I can’t tell you. Anything that I hold back, knowing will either make it more likely you’ll die, or you don’t need to know it for a similar reason. I’ve said all of this before. If you need to know something that I know, I’ll tell you.”

Don’t need to know?” Patracolus jumped to his feet and glared down at his brother. “You’ve made me the second most wanted man in Aven behind you. Unless we prove our innocence, you’ve destroyed my life. You think I shouldn’t know everything?”

Boom! Crack, crack! Boom!

The thundering strike shook through the trees, cutting off Zev’s retort. He opened his eyes, looking off into the trees. Rolling up to his feet, he studied the darkness with an intense gaze. After a moment both he and Patracolus saw the flashes of light through the trees.

A battle in the woods,” Zev said. “I don’t think we’re the only ones who fled from Aven. Come on, let’s go check it out.”

Patracolus nodded as he picked up his sword, following Zev as they bounded through the forest. Using the flashes of light and booming thunder as a guide, they drew closer and closer. As they arrived on the clearing, Patracolus smiled as he recognized the combatant.

It’s Merf,” he informed Zev. “But what is he fighting?”

Shadowlings,” Zev replied. “Wraiths that move about the shadows. They feed on the living whenever they can. Be careful, they’re very dangerous.”

Swords work on them?”

Just make sure you take the head with a solid blow. Only way to be certain.”

Patracolus nodded as they drew swords, clearing a path to the wizard’s side. Each got back to back to back, forming a three sided defensive formation.

Oh sweet luck indeed!” Merf exclaimed. “I take it this is your brother?”

That’s right,” Patracolus replied.

Name’s Zev,” the Ranger added. He decapitated a Shadowling with ease, sliding forward and back with the stroke. “You know a thing or two about what’s happening?”

I’ve indeed learned a thing or two,” Merf confirmed. “We’ll discuss it after we’ve dispatched this rabble and moved to safer ground. Have at thee!”

They battled the creatures with ruthless skill, taking down one after the other. Wave after wave of Shadowlings descended on them, nearly overwhelming the three. With a combination of skilled blade work, magic and simple trickery the three kept their attackers at bay. When the initial wave was held, they spun to see themselves surrounded by the ghastly visages of the wraiths. Zev frowned as he realized how outnumbered they were.

There must be a legion of them here!” he shouted. “We need to hold out until sunrise!”

Agreed,” Merf said. “Stay formed up! They’re not coordinated enough to overcome a basic defense!”

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