The Ruffian Encampment (TS)



  • The second mage blinked open his eyes, staring up at the low, packed-earth ceiling above him from his prone position. Dust floated lazily through the air, tickling his throat as he breathed. He coughed, and winced as pain lanced through the back of his head.

    "Hurts, doesn't it," came a voice from the shadows.

    The mage turned his head, saw a man leaning against the dirt wall of the small cave, and cursed. "Sideline! I'll destroy you, for this!" He lunged at Sideline, only then realising he was securely bound. He laughed. "You think this will hold me?" He formulated a simple spell, starting in surprise when the ropes remained securely bound. He looked at Sideline, bewildered.

    Sideline grinned. "What, you don't recognise your own handiwork?" He gestured at one of several crystals distrubuted about the walls of the small cave, the source of the dim light. "You know, I'd have thought you'd have shown more gratitude. After all, I just saved your life. If I hadn't coshed you from behind and dropped you back down that trapdoor of yours, that blast would have ripped you apart."

    The mage scowled. "You don't know what you're meddling with, Sideline. Let me go, and maybe you'll be allowed to live."

    Sideline laughed softly. "You know, in a way I'm grateful to you, Perdeus. I disliked you from the moment Berossus introduced us, and it's gratifying to know that my instincts were accurate."

    Perdeus sneered. "It changes nothing, fool. Release me, or you'll pay the consequences."

    Sideline crossed the room in two quick steps, and slapped Perdeus, hard, across the face. "Berossus trusted you. Didn't that count for anything?" He grabbed Perdus' left wrist, forcibly turning it upwards. There was a black tattoo on the inside of the wrist, a sword bisecting a crescent moon. "Now, tell me about this mark!"

    Perdeus gasped, then slammed his mouth shut. The was a sharp splintering sound. He spasmed once, then fell limp. Sideline felt his throat, shook his head, let the body fall to the ground.

    "Dammit."

    After a moment's reflection, he glanced around the cave. Satori's explosion had done a thorough job of sealing the hidden entrance, and the crystals would be preventing any mages from detecting him - assuming any were actually looking. Only one chance remained.

    Ordinarily, Sideline preferred the dark; but he couldn't suppress a grimace as the last crystal shattered, and the light went out.

    This post has been edited by cache22 : 06 November 2006 - 04:35 AM



  • The group made their way back into the ruins of the Encampement. Some wished to see if somehow Satori or someone else had survived. Others, like Rapierian, were much more concerned about the harpies and their eggs.

    Rapierian strode briskly through the ruins. To his relief, it appeared that the harpies somehow had managed to survive and to shield the distiller containing their eggs from the explosion. Calmly, he tossed the harpy egg that he had taken to one of them and reminded them of their deal.

    Seething, the harpies at last began to head back west over the mountains. All of those had outside the Encampment had apparently arrived, so it would take some time before they were all safely gone over the mountains. As agreed, one remained behind to take the eggs. While Wizard kept on eye on the harpy and the eggs, Rapierian frowned and walked over to the center of Satori's explosion. Both he and Wizard had noted the presence of one of the magic-dampening fields here when they had first entered the remains of the Encampment. Obviously, the field had come from inside one of the secret tunnels under the camp, but it had now dissipated. Rapierian was curious how the field had come to be there and was planning to investigate.

    The trapdoor entrance had been thoroughly sealed. He stared at it, momentarily at a loss. Then, he smiled and hurled another blast of lighting at the debris, blasting most it aside. Then, he heard someone on the other side.

    "Are you crazy or trying to kill me?!"

    "That depends: are you friend or foe? Would it be fun to kill you?" Rapierian replied cheerfully.

    There was a moment's pause on the other side and then, "You must be that dark mage with the group from Cademia."

    "And how would you know?"

    "It's Sideline," announced Wizard, who had come over when he saw Rapierian cast the lightning spell. Being a telepath who had traveled with Sideline Pnyx recently, he could easily identify the man, even though he couldn't see him. "He's a friend—he went with me on an adventure to Pnyx recently."

    With that, Wizard used telekinesis to clear the entrance, and Sideline emerged, shooting a disgruntled look at Rapierian.

    Curious, Wizard asked, "What are you doing here, Sideline?"

    Sideline gave a quick summary of his story, although, always cautious, he didn't tell them everything.

    "Now, I plan to return to Cademia as soon as possible," he finished.

    "Well, you are welcome to travel with us, although you might make better time on your own. It's up to you," answered Wizard.



  • Sideline pondered for a moment. "There's another stop I have to make before returning to Cademia, so I'll take my leave. Thanks for the rescue."

    Later:

    Berossus Leaned forward in his chair, closely examining the small glass phial that Sideline had placed on the desk between them.

    "So this is the new Kesh, is it?"

    "No," Sideline replied. "It's a substance that was being added to ordinary Kesh, to make something called 'Ulkesh'."

    "Hmm, for 'Ultimate Kesh', I suppose. We'll have to get Palaestra to examine it, and determine its origins."

    "Actually, I just came from Pnyx. Palaestra couldn't figure out much about it. She just kept muttering 'unnatural, unnatural', whatever that means. Personally, I find most of the things you mages do unnatural."

    "Hmm. As do I, with your unnerving ability to come and go unseen. I have a feeling that we're not going to find an answer to this riddle any time soon, my young friend. Most perplexing. Still, at least the current source of Ulkesh has been eliminated."

    "There's more, Berossus. Your apprentice, Perdeus, was the one running the show. When I confronted him, he killed himself rather than be interrogated."

    "Killed himself? Most extraordinary! I had wondered at his absense." Berossus pushed himself to his feet. "I think perhaps it's my turn to show you something." He stepped to the door to an adjoining room, and pushed it open.

    The most striking thing that Sideline noticed in the room was the dark woman, lounging at her ease in an armchair. Even seated, she was tall. However, it was the room's second occupant that captivated his attention.

    "Perdeus!"

    "Indeed yes," Berossus nodded. "Since you were otherwise engaged, I hired miss Katze, here, to look into Perdeus' disappearance."

    Katze waved a greeting. "Found him being held in a cave, beneath Odemia," she commented.

    Sideline's eyebrows reached for his hairline. "You investigated it all by yourself?" he asked Katze.

    Katze grinned. "Must've been hanging out with you too long. I had a little help from some mutual friends, for the dangerous bits."

    Perdeus was visibly emaciated, and wore an expression of perplexed bewilderment.

    Berossus quickly recounted what he and Katze had learned. "It seems Perdeus was snatched some months ago, almost immediately after being appointed my apprentice. The man I worked with, and whom you briefly apprehended, was clearly an imposter. Another Undine shapechanger, do you think?"

    "No, he was human enough." Sideline sighed. "I suspect his identity is another question we may never resolve, just like the source of the Ulkesh reagent."

    Sideline considered sharing his concerns about the imposter's strange tattoo, the sword bisecting a crescent moon. "Better not," he thought. "I don't really know anything, anyway. It's just a gut feeling."

    Besides, Katze and Berossus were both good friends, and that same feeling was telling him that just knowing about that mark could turn out to be very, very dangerous indeed.



  • Earlier:

    Altérius was beginning to get worried. The group had apparently freed the harpies and sent them on a mission to destroy the Ulkesh crystals, because everyone was now casting spells , unrestrained.

    Every time he cast Rally in hopes of steeling his men, something horrific and terrifying would happen. He could feel the morale of his troops weakening. One moment skeletons were charging every which way and whirlwinds were wreaking havoc upon his men, the next, necromancers were literally sucking the life from the ruffians nearby him and giant shards of ice were raining from the sky. In the distance, he began to hear the horrendous shrieking of the harpies—they were joining the fight.

    “Perdius has abandoned me,” he said bitterly. He began to cast spells more vigorously.


    Wizard knocked a ruffian unconscious with the end of his staff and then quickly ducked to avoid a small projection of hatred. At first he assumed it to be Satori, but a quick glance told him otherwise. This is becoming very disturbing, he told himself as he watched Talryn release blasts of hatred continually. There’s something darker in him than I’ve ever noticed before.

    Another ruffian charged up behind him; it was only his quick turn and slice with his sword that prevented him from being pushed on the ground.

    The fight went on and on without any visible end. Talryn had been casting several whirlwinds and other druidic spells, but then, he seemed to lose his strength. Wizard saw him fall to one knee. He felt Talryn focus very forcibly on a certain spell, “He’s trying to protect us,” Wizard thought aloud as he realized. He looked up and saw thousands of shards of ice whirling high over their heads, ready to kill everything underneath them. Talryn’s arms were trembling; Wizard sensed his desperate desire to stop the ice from falling, but he also detected much distress inside his body. Much of the ice was already falling. One large piece then struck Talryn’s leg, but he had already fallen to the ground unconscious.

    As all of the ice fell to the ground indiscriminately, Wizard did his best to protect the group from it as Talryn had tried. He threw up his arms and a telekinetic shield formed over their heads. The barrier could not hold forever, though. Fortunately, Medoc realized that Wizard needed help and shot as powerful a fireball he could muster into Wizard’s shield. Rather than resisting it, the wall absorbed it. Many of the ice chips began to melt. Wizard held it for as long as he could, but some splinters slipped through. One fell directly for his head; Wizard watched see it slowly descended towards him, but he was too busy trying to destroy the others to stop it. Rapierian acted the quickest and jumped on the old man, pushing him out of the way. The ice tumbled harmlessly into the mud.


    Altérius had been distracted by the storm at first, but when he saw the other side expend a great deal of energy trying to stop it, he knew that it was time for him to push his attack harder.

    He cast Rally again and then summoned several golems to help. They began to push the group back.


    Phaedrus and Toreon were still fighting. Retsy was in the building trying to recover from a wounded leg, and Talryn lay on the ground. Satori was actually terminating several ruffians with her scythe.

    Wizard was getting up out of the mud when a golem flew at him. Rapierian was still beside him, though, and shot the golem into a ruffian with a bolt of lightning.

    “I thought you didn’t’ use light magic,” Wizard teased, truly grateful for Rapierian’s aid.

    “Who said anything about ‘light?’” came the answer before he cast some other enchantment upon the nearest enemy.

    Wizard attacked another ruffian, but he addressed Rapierian as he spoke, “Rapierian, I think we have to deal with the ruffian leader. He is making them win this fight.”

    “How do you intend to get past every single ruffian to kill their leader other than killing them all?”

    Wizard thought for a moment. The magic-dampening crystals were gone now thanks to the harpies, and that opened up hundreds of possibilities—Wizard selected one. “Simple,” he muttered with a gesture of his hand. Suddenly, he and Rapierian flew into the air and out of sight inconceivably fast; a moment later they landed next to Altérius.

    The ruffian leader was surprised, which gave Rapierian time to cast fear on him. “You fool, I am not that susceptible to your power,” Altérius shouted. He was very quick, Wizard admitted, for in the first few seconds he managed to shoot a fireball at both Rapierian and Wizard. He focused on Wizard, who was already very tired from all the spells he had cast within the last few minutes, which was his mistake. Altéius dove on the old mage like a wild animal, shooting fire with one hand and cutting at him with his sword.

    Rapierian had recovered quickly from the fireball and ran at the ruffian leader. He summoned up a skeleton to attack Altérius and stabbed at him with another bolt of lighting. Wizard managed to push the leader off of him. As Rapierian’s skeleton battled the leader, Wizard grabbed three nearby ruffians. With his mind, he convinced them that their leader was actually their enemy: he must be killed. A skeleton, three ruffians, and two mages were now attacking Altérius.

    Altérius shouted a few incantations and raised a fire golem to defend him. The golem dealt with the ruffians easily enough, but when Rapierian and Wizard focused on it, it could not win. Altérius began to desperately cast spells. Lightning, fire, raising golems, and some ice spells, he exhausted them all. Wizard was having the most trouble, but Rapierian pushed nearer and nearer the ruffian leader. When he was in reach, he stretched out his hand toward the leader’s mouth. Altérius could almost feel his life begin to pull out of him and into the necromancer’s hand, but he retreated swiftly.


    Medoc was a little concerned. Neither Rapierian nor Wizard were there to help them. The ruffians were pushing them further and further into the building where the kesh was made.

    “Where’s Satori?” he thought as he looked around. He shrugged, maybe she was killing some ruffians elsewhere; he hoped that to be the case.


    Rapierian shot more lightning at Altérius, who absorbed it. “You think that would kill me so easily?” he laughed. In truth, he was losing his nerve.

    “No,” Wizard replied, letting go of his sword, “but I expect this might.” His sword telekinetically flew forward in Altérius’ direction. Without warning, though, and to Rapierian’s horror, his skeleton pushed its attack harder, stepping between Wizard and Altérius. The sword pierced the skeleton’s head, rather than the ruffian leader’s.

    Altérius found this hysterical and burst into laughter. He immediately and inexplicably stopped, though. Both Rapierian and Wizard stared at him. His face went pale as he looked down. Through his heart, from the back, the tip of a harpie’s pointed tail protruded. He stared forward again and silently sank to his knees. Harpies began to pour by them; they had arrived with reinforcements and were ready for their revenge.

    Rapierian turned with the harpies and began to push through the ruffians at the rear of their line. Wizard remained for a moment, gazing at Altérius, before he too left. Altérius fell face-first into the mud, dead.


    Toreon and Pheadrus were indescribably relieved when they saw Wizard and Rapierian pushing through the ruffians in their direction. The fight looked as though it had a definite victor now. With the harpies, and the death of the ruffian leader, the group was winning easily now.

    “Rapierian,” Wizard began while everyone was still fighting,” There’s just one thing bothering me.”

    “What would that be?” Rapierian asked as he knocked a ruffian aside.

    “Well, that man. While he was dying, I had enough time to quickly search his mind. He believed himself to be the leader of these ruffians, but don’t you think he was too weak. He didn’t even realize that a harpy was behind him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of any way that I could make that mistake.”

    “Yes, I thought that was odd too. Do you suppose that there is another that is above him?” Rapierian thought for a moment.

    Before Wizard could reply, a small twinge itched at the back of his head and he felt the familiar touch of magic. He looked over, Medoc had felt it, too.

    He turned and threw his hands up as a bolt of lightning came from behind. A mage, the young man who had slapped Altérius earlier and had spent most of the fight inside his cabin, was standing tall behind them, a trapdoor wide open at his side.

    From the left of Wizard came a cry of pain, Retsy lay on the ground with a large wound across her leg. Toreon yelled something about it being serious this time. Wizard was worried. The group was weakening. The mage threw yet another bolt of lightning, Wizard blocked it again. Then he felt it a gnawing force that was intensifying. He spun round just in time to face the wave of palpable hatred, he lost consciousness.


    Wizard awoke. The battle was over. Though he was still a little bewildered about what had happened, he could tell that the harpies had retreated, for he could neither see nor sense them. They had lost, Wizard realized.

    His hands were bound behind his back, and new magic-dampening crystals had been put in place. He looked up and saw Satori standing nearby, not bound. In fact, she seemed almost happy

    “You see I found that your little companion here was a rather angry person.” Wizard’s gaze settled on the man who had spoken. It was the mage who had shot lightning at him.

    “It was you then? The other man, he was just your lieutenant?” Wizard asked.

    The second mage replied, “What? Altérius? Oh, he was just a simpleton who I found to be convenient to recruit. I overestimated him, though. He nearly bungled all my plans; in fact, he would have had I not stepped in, with the help of your friend here.” He gestured towards Satori. “I thought one of your numerous mages would have figured this out by now: she is well in its simplest forms completely consumed by hatred, and as I also know all mages are taught how to at least amplify their emotions to persuade others. So all it took here was a little bit of my own anger to sway her into attacking you, and now all its taking is a lot of happiness to make her passive. Simple eh?” the mage was grinning obviously pleased with himself.

    “Yes, very simple, but when she realizes what you’ve done, you’ll lose control. She’ll come after you with more fiery than you could ever prepare for.”

    “Sadly, you are right. She will overcome this and will have to be executed, but not so soon as the rest of you.” He shouted an order to a burly ruffian wielding an ax. The executioner walked toward Phaedrus. As the ruffian was nearing Phaedrus, the young mage put his hand up, signaling for him to wait, and began to speak again, “You know, you’ve all cost me a lot. Firstly, you freed my personal harpies; fought my men in a battle, and killed many of them, I might add; and then, you kill my second in command; and now, you still hope to kill me.”

    Phaedrus glanced up sharply. “Phaedrus,” the true ruffian leader said, “I don’t have to be a telepath to know that; it’s written on your faces. But yes, it was I who was troubling your sleep those nights when you were still traveling here. My, that seems so long ago now. . . Oh well, I’m sorry to have to kill you all. Had you minded your own business and not meddled in my affairs, I would have let you live.” He waved his hand and the ruffian neared Phaedrus. Suddenly he stopped and clutched his chest, water dribbling from his mouth.

    The mage raised his eyebrow in question and walked toward Phaedrus. “That must be a powerful spell indeed to still be cast in the presence of this crystal.” He stared at the group for a moment before he addressed another ruffian, “Go, see if you can find any more crystals. I fear that those harpies have destroyed most of my stash.”

    Wizard turned his head back to Satori, Satori! Satori, listen to me! I understand. We need you; please help us.

    I...am...no...lo...nger

    Please. Please, don’t let this happen. You can stop it. You know that one crystal can not stop you if you focus on it. You know that he is controlling you, and you know that we need your help.

    For the first time since he had regained consciousness, Satori stared him in the face. “Run. . .”she whispered.

    The bands that had been about his hands loosened, along with everyone else’s. Satori slowly raised her hands and a white light gradually began to emanate from around her. The ruffian leader snapped his head around, “What are you doing. No!” In vain, he shot lightning at her, but she absorbed it, the light growing larger and larger.

    The group stood transfixed. Satori, completely enclosed in a shield of light, seemed to float a few yards from the ground due to the force of the spell she was preparing. Wizard finally came to his senses, “Run!”

    As everyone else fled, Wizard took one moment to glance back at Satori. Her face held sorrow and anger in an odd mix. He didn’t linger long, but he did see one tear form over her eye before it softly rolled down her cheek, leaving a watery streak behind it. Run, he heard her mind thinking quietly. He turned and ran, sorrow on his own face.

    The ruffian leader, Perdius, was too busy trying to stop Satori to be preoccupied by the group. “Satori, they have tricked you. They are your enemies. Satori. Listen to me!” He shouted louder and louder before he gave up. He turned to run; many of his men had already done so.

    Satori gathered all of her power, all of her hatred. The force soon became too powerful to be contained inside her body and began to grow around her.

    The group had reached the front gate and were running outside with all haste.

    Satori now drifted in an aura of hatred and enmity. She turned her eyes skyward, her face filled with anguish, as she let it consume her. Her body became, in essence, a pure vessel of energy, of hatred. It overcame her completely.

    Perdius took one look back, in utter horrification.

    Satori relaxed her will. . . she let go of all the power she had amass. It was unleashed, everything, in an immense explosion. The intensity was so great that it flew out as a nova in every direction. The group had barely reached the edge of the wood when they heard the thunderous explosion.

    It erupted outwards, incinerating everything. Fortunately for Perdius, Sideline dove on him, pushing him down the trap door he had come out of earlier. The force of her hatred was so great that it seemed to happen very fast, but Wizard sensed it as it worked its way outward. It infested every body, living or dead, every building, structure, blade of grass,or particle of dirt in its way. It tore everything apart so fast and moved on to the next that it appeared almost was unstoppable. All the ruffians that were running vanished behind the light, nothing left of them. The buildings were completely dismantled as the people had been.

    In a second it had grown to the full size of the encampment, a sphere stretching high into the sky, and in the next, it was gone, along with everything that had been near it. Some of the trees on the outskirts of the forest had been pulled from their roots and been completely demolished into nothingness.

    Though the explosion had destroyed much, there was some debris that was sent flying in every direction, whatever small amount had not been torn apart.

    The group scrambled to its feet and gazed back in shock. They made their way back into the encampment amidst some rubble that lie about. Wizard walked to where Satori had stood and looked around. Medoc came up next to him. “It was a very noble gesture. There was more emotion left in her than I had thought.”

    Wizard nodded, “Yes, there was.”

    “Do you think she survived?”

    He paused before shaking his head and speaking in a deeply sober voice , “I truly don’t know.”


    Not long after, the harpies returned for their eggs, which miraculously had survived. As the harpies began to travel west again, one remained behind to collect the eggs. During this time, Rapierian found Sideline. Sideline set out on his own to wherever he planned to go.

    Finally, the last of the harpies had left the ruins save one. The rest of the group had been waiting, Medoc treating wounds. Wizard gave the harpy the last egg. It’s been a pleasure, my friend, he told it as he handed the precious object to the creature.

    Weary and sore, the group prepared to leave as well. “Ohh, it’s been a long day,” Wizard said with a sigh as they took their first step toward home.


Log in to reply