Cythera Chronicles: The Shadow Warriors: Chapter six

  • Ragnar's cabin

    An awkward silence came upon them for a few seconds. Only the wind blowing through the trees could be heard. "Well? Shouldn't we get going?" Gheed broke the silence. "The sooner we get there, the better! This whole thing is starting to freak me out!" He looked at Rogan with raised eyebrows.
    Rogan didn't react at first, but when Gheed said his name again, he looked up at him and answered, "You're right, we must go now and find Ragnar." He looked at Eyolf, who was standing a little further away from the others, looking into the forest.
    Talos walked towards him. "Don't you worry, Eyolf," he said, "we'll find your brother."
    Eyolf nodded, but didn't move one inch. "Yes" he said, "we will find him." Eyolf realized that there was hope for his brother, and that if he was there, they would find him and bring him back, alive and well.

    They gathered their items and started walking, looking for a suitable opening in the pretty dense forest leading to Ragnar's cabin. After walking for about five minutes, they found what they were looking for. A path, leading into the forest. Some stumps near the opening revealed that the trees there had been cut down by someone. This path was probably used by the inhabitants of Kaleeah, for hunting, traveling or other things. "Ragnar must have gone this way," Victor said, taking the lead. Rogan and Talos followed, with Gheed right behind. Eyolf watched their backs.

    The path lead the men further into the forest. A lot of birds singing and other animal sounds told the tale of a rich fauna, although the sun was almost blocked out by the extremely tall trees. There seemed to be no threats whatsoever, and so everyone felt a little safer. Always on guard though, the shrubbery near the path made a great hiding place for orcs, rabid animals, or maybe the warriors who massacred the townsfolk. Naturally, no one wanted to end up like the late people of Kaleeah.

    After roughly two hours of walking, Gheed started moaning and complaining. Although that was quite irritating, it reminded the others of their sore feet as well, so they decided to take a rest. The surroundings weren't really perfect for a long rest, the dense landscape made it possible for enemies to sneak up on an unsuspecting party like themselves. They decided to drink some water and move on.

    Suddenly, Victor got up from the stump he was sitting on. He didn't say a word, just looked ahead. "What..." Rogan said, but Victor raised his hand, a sign for the others to be completely silent. He just stood there. The others looked as well, trying to find out what had gotten Victor's attention. "There's someone there," he finally whispered. "Someone... I saw movement in those bushes." He pointed at some bushes, roughly thirty meters to the northwest. "Too large to be a bird." Rogan approached Victor, so did Eyolf and Gheed. Talos crouched down behind the others, his eyes focused on the bushes.
    "Probably nothing," Eyolf said quietly, "must be a pig or something." Talos got up and was about to approach the others. But when he did, something jumped at him from some bushes close to the path. He shouted, getting everyone's attention. They turned around to see Talos lying in some dirt on the other side of the path, with a man on top of him. He appeared to be very strong, but Rogan jumped at the man from behind in an attempt to wrestle him off Talos. Victor quickly assisted Rogan when the man hit him in the face, forcing him to the ground. Eventually, Talos managed to break loose, Eyolf helped the others holding the man down, and he was out-numbered. Eyolf examined the large man and said, "He's a half-ogre! That explains his brute strength."

    They gathered around the man. "That's right! Release me, you fools!" he snarled. It was then Victor recognized the armor he was wearing. Shiny metal plate armor with a symbol on the chest: A maul covered in flames.
    "This symbol belongs to a sub-division of the Seventh Legion!" Victor announced, gesturing at his chest, "and he also carries a Legion amulet!"
    The man tried to get up. "That's right, you appear to be brighter than the rest of these people."
    He fell down again when his chest met with Rogan's armored boot. "I don't like your tone, sir," Rogan answered, holding him down with his boot, "what are you doing here?"
    "Reconnaissance," the man answered promptly, "after the recent attacks, we have started patrolling this territory."
    Rogan removed his boot and stretched his hand out. The man hesitated, but grabbed Rogan's hand, allowing Rogan to help him up on his feet.
    "We have to be a little more vigilant nowadays," he said, "you never know what may happen."
    "Indeed," Victor answered, "you said attacks?"
    "Yes. Recently, two of our divisions fell under attack by some sort of hooded, dark warriors," the man said with a sigh, "we lost many men."
    Behind them, on the path, five more soldiers came walking. Two half-orcs and three human men, all clad in Legion armor. Their swords were drawn.
    The man seemed to remember something. "Please, forgive my rudeness. I am Gormadoc, commander of Maul squad, sub-division of the Seventh Legion," he announced with pride.
    "Pleased to make your acquaintance," Rogan said, "You haven't heard about Kaleeah?"
    Gormadoc raised an eyebrow. He shrugged. "Of course. That's a small village about two hours walk from here. Why?"
    "So you haven't heard..." Rogan said with a sad expression, "Kaleeah was attacked today by the very same creatures. I'm sorry to say everybody but a few people died."
    Gormadoc stood still for a moment, saying nothing. "What?" he finally spoke, "who were among the survivors?"
    "The only survivors were an alchemist, the Judge and three assistants," Victor said, "we're on our way to see if Ragnar, his brother is all right." He looked at Eyolf.
    The soldiers stopped on the path, next to Gheed. He anxiously moved a few steps away from them, eyeing their threatening appearance with their full armor and military blades. One of the half-orcs gave him an intimidating look.
    "They're OK," Gormadoc said, looking at the men. He then turned to Victor. "This is my squad," he said. He looked down and sighed. "Or... what's left of it," he continued, "they were formidable fighters... but the dark warriors... they came at us from nowhere, we didn't stand a chance." He took a deep breath before he continued, "we could do nothing but run, or else they would have killed us as well. I think we got one or two of them..."

    "I'm truly sorry to hear that," Victor said, "we managed to kill a few earlier today but it wasn't easy. My commander got severely wounded."
    "At least it is possible to kill them," Gormadoc answered, raising his head again, "and as long as they can be killed, we will kill more of them!" He drew his sword as a confirmation of his statement.
    "And we are prepared to assist you in that process," Rogan said, "but now we need to locate Ragnar."
    Gormadoc looked ahead into the forest. "Yes, I remember seeing a hunter's cabin not far from here," he said, "but we didn't bother checking it out."
    "That's it," Eyolf said with a smile, "let us go now."
    "Good luck," Gormadoc said as he walked past his men, "we have to continue patrolling." He walked down the path with his men following him. Gheed, being quite relieved that the soldiers were gone, strolled happily towards the others. He grunted, "damn half-breeds! You can't trust a single one of them. Never know when one of 'em is gonna rip yer head off."

    For the first time, Eyolf seemed quite eager. He quickly took the lead, walking at a good pace along the path. Talos and Gheed followed right behind. Victor turned to Rogan.
    "There was something about those guys I can't really put my finger on," he whispered nervously.
    "Tell me," Rogan answered, slowing down.
    "First of all, he snuck up on us and attacked..." Victor paused, thinking. Then he continued, "funny he didn't recognize my armor. And then there was his attitude. Arrogant at first, but he changed completely when he found out we knew about the attacks."
    "When you mention it, that was a little strange," Rogan answered, "but then again, people have different ways to react on things like that."
    "Yes, of course," Victor said, "but the weirdest part was... I mean, it's not normal for a half-ogre to be a part of the Legion, especially not in such a high position as what's-his-name was... and the two half-ogre soldiers... three of them in one squad? That doesn't make sense! Every squad needs one strong soldier, so having three in one squad would mean having none in other squads and that's just not tactically smart!" Victor shook his head.
    "I believe he called himself Gormadoc," Rogan answered, "maybe that squad specialized in hand to hand-combat and thus needed more, stronger-than-human soldiers? Besides, a half-ogre - or a half-orc for that matter - wouldn't be a smart addition to a squad specializing in missions where stealth is a high priority."
    Victor thought of Rogan's theory for a while before he answered, "it was probably nothing, just my imagination running a little wild. Or maybe this claustrophobic forest has clouded my judgment, I don't know."
    Realising the others were nearly out of sight, they ran to catch up with them. "Come on, ladies, hurry up!" Gheed said with an attitude.

    After a short walk, the path split up. A smaller path lead to the northeast, and in the distance they could see a small cabin. "There it is!" Eyolf shouted, running down the path. Talos drew his scimitar and followed, ready for combat if that should be necessary. The others ran to keep pace with Eyolf and Talos, Gheed following dead last as usual.

    The path lead right up to the cabin. They stopped just outside and examined the area: A small opening in the otherwise dense terrain. There was smoke coming out of the pipe of the little log cabin. Eyolf went up to the door and, with great surprise, he noticed no keyhole; just a hole where it should have been. It looked like the door was breached by a stump weapon, and the small cracks around the place where the keyhole should be told him it was most certainly a spiked mace or club. He opened it and went inside, carefully. Looking around, he saw no one. Judging by the loaf of bread on the table and the fireplace that was lit up, Ragnar was either a slob, or had to leave in a hurry. Eyolf opened the door to the only other room in the cabin, the bedroom. There was a single bed, and it wasn't made. The window was open. A black stain was on the bedspread and an inkwell lay on the floor. The others followed Eyolf inside. "Looks like your brother was in a hurry," Rogan said, looking around. Victor grabbed a pail of water and threw it on the fire, extinguishing it. Talos went to the bedroom and had a look around. "If you're interested in my theory, I'd say someone did a little break-and-enter while Ragnar was asleep," he said, gesturing at the bed. Eyolf nodded, "yes, he woke up, grabbed his bow and clothes and managed to escape through the window." Gheed's face showed up outside. "Fresh footprints in the mud out here below the window," he said, "several."

    "What's this?" Rogan said, eyeing something red stashed under the pillow.
    Eyolf removed the pillow and revealed a red book. He opened it. The name "Ragnar" was scribbled on the first page. He leafed through the book. Almost two thirds of the book was full.
    "What does it say?" Rogan and Talos asked simultaneously. Gheed peeked through the window from outside. "Yes, what does it say?" he asked with eagerness.
    "Ragnar's journal," Eyolf answered as he read through the very last pages, "looks like he scribbled down every trip he went on..."
    he stopped as he read the last page. "But this is more interesting!" he said.
    Rogan looked at the last page as well. A short message that appeared to be scribbled in a real hurry. That also explained the ink stains and the empty inkwell on the floor.

    Dark warriors coming. Going west into hiding. Tell brother Eyolf in Cademia, Kaleeah in great danger. Ragnar

    Eyolf closed the book. "So Ragnar was aware of the warriors," he said, "we must find him, and reveal these barbarians' true identity before it's too late for all of us! I have a bad feeling about this..."

    As to herald Eyolf's words, an arrow came through the window and hit him in the chest. Gheed ducked down and, with a scream, he ran towards the front door to get inside. He barely made it, as three more arrows hit the wall right behind him. Eyolf fell to the ground, moaning. The others crouched to get out of the line of fire. Luckily, thanks to his armor, the arrow didn't hit Eyolf bad, bypassing vital organs and blood vessels.

    Gheed closed the front door and threw himself to the floor. Another arrow came through one of the two windows near the door.
    "What the devil was that?" Victor yelled. He moved in a crouched position into the main room where Gheed sat on the floor, shaking like a frightened child. "I don't know, but I almost wet myself!" he shouted back.
    Rogan swore as he made his way to Victor and Gheed. He drew his sword. Talos peeked through the window, but didn't see anything. He quickly ducked as another arrow came through the air, hitting the wall just below the window. "Damn, it looks like we're trapped here," he said, "There's only one way out of this cabin, and it leads us right into the line of fire!"
    "Just great!" Gheed cried, "what the hell are we supposed to do?"

    To be continued...

    (This message has been edited by moderator (edited 11-19-2002).)

  • Good job, Rogan. This is an entertaining series. I can't wait to see how the heroes get out of that jam.

    Slayer's guide to Cythera:

  • This is becoming an extremely intriguing tale. I hope we see more of it before too long!

    "The e-mail of the specious is more dangerous than their mail" - Tom Holt, 'Snow White and the Seven Samurai'

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