Chronicles of Draezoln

Tales of the world of Draezoln

Monthly Archives: March 2014

Chapter 12-7

Garkhen braced himself behind his shield, realizing just as the huge Infernal reached him that such a tactic was unlikely to work this time. The demon’s fist struck his shield with a tremendous crash, and the half-dragon found himself lying near the door of the cathedral, the ruins of his shield hanging limply on his broken arm. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Garkhen murmured a spell-prayer of healing, waiting until his arm felt whole enough to use again, then shook what remained of his shield free.

Only then did he look up to see how the battle was progressing. It seemed his allies knew better than to allow themselves to be struck. Tirel seemed to be baiting the creature, slashing at it then darting back when it struck. Jesil was more wary, striking only when its back was turned, then quickly backing away. Khera and Mirthin stayed well away, firing spells and arrows at the beast. They were doing well… but the creature showed little sign of injury.

With a growl, the half-dragon launched himself back into the fray. With his free hand he seized his holy symbol, lifted it in front of his mouth, and breathed lightning through it. Holy lightning blasted into the Infernal, and for a moment, the spot struck looked… ghostly, somehow. Then the moment was gone, and it whirled and roared at Garkhen.

“Back for more, half-breed?” The demon was smiling, clearly having the time of its life. It swiped at Garkhen, who was wise enough this time was enough to back away.

He grazed its hand with his mace, and again Garkhen noticed the odd, momentary transparency. Then he had to dodge again, though this time there was a screech of claw on metal as he did not quite dodge enough. A roar from behind the Infernal brought his attention again, however, as Tirel slashed at its ankles with his green-glowing claws.

“It does not… seem injured,” Jesil gasped as he came up next to Garkhen. The Warder simply nodded in mute agreement, even as another bolt of lightning from Khera struck it.

Wait… Under the sounds of battle, Garkhen noticed an odd pattering after the strike. It sounded almost like… small stones striking the ground. But he didn’t have time to ponder what it might mean, as the demon whirled again to strike at the two armored figures behind it.

A couple close calls later, and Garkhen was next to Tirel. “It’s like it’s made of stone!” The tiger growled.

Garkhen looked over at him, surprised he could still speak in tiger-shape, but again had no time to consider it. He and his allies were growing weary, and the Infernal showed no signs of fatigue. Indeed, he got the impression it was toying with them, secure in its invulnerability.

Wait… made of stone… the odd moments of transparency…

It was not really here.

In a flash of insight, he realized the reason for its confidence, its seeming invulnerability. Somehow, it was not truly here. Perhaps it was animating a statue, or perhaps a construct of magic, but regardless, the demon was in no physical danger. However, there was a weakness to such an arrangement.

“Help me get close,” Garkhen whispered urgently to Tirel. Then they had to split apart as a huge claw descended between them.

Garkhen began chanting under his breath while the tiger circled behind the Infernal, jumping in to slash at it whenever it seemed it might turn its attention elsewhere, then jumping back before it struck. As soon as he finished his warding spell-prayer, Garkhen began to chant again, this time while charging forward.

The demon whirled, striking out with a claw. Garkhen focused on his ward, and its attack stopped inches from his arm. He clenched his teeth, forcing himself to finish the chant despite the waves of fatigue washing over him from maintaining his ward. He raised his symbol.

“Begone from this place, fiend!” He shouted. “Return to your pit!”

He thrust his symbol forward with one final word of spell-prayer, striking low on the demon’s belly. Bahamut’s power flowed through the young half-dragon, and the demon’s outline began to fade.

“WHAT!” it shouted. It started to raise its arm to strike at Garkhen, but its movements slowed as it became increasingly transparent, revealing a rune-covered statue underneath.

Finally it stopped, one arm held up to strike, as the last traces of demonic shape vanished from the statue. Wearily, Garkhen dropped his hand, and was surprised to find himself shrinking, his spell of strength and size exhausted with his energy. But that was not all… he was slowly falling to his knees. The world around him seemed to be getting darker…

The last thing he saw before unconsciousness was that the statue above him was starting to fall to pieces.

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Garkhen! Quit knocking yourself out! It’s not good for you! Especially while giant stone statues are crumbling above you.

Chapter 12-6

Garkhen braced himself for its first attack, raising his shield and gripping a seam in the stones of the plaza with the claws of his feet. The demon didn’t even try to slash at him—it simply crashed into him with all its bulk. The noise of the impact was tremendous, with the clash of armor on armor and the screech of Garkhen’s metal-sheathed claws on stone… but he moved only a few inches.
Silently, Garkhen reminded himself that blunt force could still injure him even through his armor. But he was too busy bringing his mace to bear on its arm to think too hard on that point. The demon pulled back, roaring in pain at the injury, and swiped at him with the other hand. Again there was the horrible screech of claw on adamantine, but this time Garkhen replied with a bolt of lightning to the Infernal’s face.
It stumbled backward, shaking its head to try to clear it, and the Warder stepped forward, lashing out again with his mace. He struck a solid blow on its side, but not enough to injure it seriously. The demon raised its claw to attack… and then an arrow sprouted from its throat. Howling in pain, it clutched at it, only for another arrow to bury itself in its cheek, then one final one in its eye. It collapsed, its corpse disintegrating.
He looked to one side, and saw Jesil stab his large sword straight up through the white demon’s chin into its skull. It fell to the ground, also dissolving into dust. As Garkhen looked about him, he could see the last remains of the others doing likewise. Tirel was already sprinting for the doors of the great cathedral, and Garkhen followed. He could hear the others falling in behind him, then catching up to him as they mounted the steps.
When they reached him, Tirel had his ear pressed to the door. “Someone’s chanting,” he reported in a whisper. “Deep voice… sounds like he’s big.”
“We should prepare,” Khera said, then began chanting a spell. Tirel nodded and did likewise, and Garkhen quickly followed suit.
After a few moments, they had protected and strengthened themselves as well as they knew how. Wards against fire and claw, enchantments of strength and holy power, and what more, the half-dragon knew not. Then Jesil stepped forward and pushed open the door.
It swung quietly into darkness, pierced only by a dull red glow from the far end of the great hall beyond. Garkhen could hear the deep voice Tirel spoke of suddenly stop.
“What have I… Oh, mortals.” The voice went suddenly from anger to amusement. “What are you doing here? Come to make a deal with me?”
Jesil stepped into the darkness. “We have come to stop you, demon.”
The deep voice laughed. As Garkhen peered into the darkness, he could make out a huge shape around the glow… huge as Kherkhlan, at least, though it stood on two legs.
“You? Five puny mortals? Well, come on, then. Let’s get this over with.”
Garkhen and his companions advanced forward. The light on the other end of the hall went out, but they could hear solid, heavy footsteps approaching them. Then Khera murmured a spell, and the room lit up bright as day.
Their foe towered above them, a huge, rough figure of black-scaled muscle. His overall form seemed vaguely trollish, but no troll had grown to such huge size. He smiled, showing wickedly pointed teeth.
“Mashano grant me strength,” Jesil murmured.
A spell-prayer he had seen once sprang unbidden to Garkhen’s mind. It was a difficult and draining one, one he had never attempted… but before he could think, he was chanting it. He felt strength flow into him, and he swelled up to twice his normal size, dwarfing his companions. The demon looked unimpressed.
Garkhen heard a growl next to him, and he turned his head slightly to see a huge tiger, nearly as tall at its shoulder as a man, where Tirel had been. He turned to face the huge Infernal in front of him.
It was smiling.
“This might be mildly entertaining,” he rumbled, and then charged.

*********

There’s a reason all the biggest Infernals look like trolls. Maybe sometime I’ll tell you. If you can’t guess.

Chapter 12-5

They moved at a jog, Garkhen’s and Jesil’s heavy armor clashing and clanking as they moved. For a little while they were undisturbed, but soon they came around a corner and found a small group of Infernals racing towards them. When they saw the soldiers, they roared and charged.

“Taste Mashano’s wrath, fell beasts!” Jesil roared back, white light suddenly blazing from his blade as he moved to meet them.

First to meet demon flesh, however, were Mirthin’s arrows. One, and then a second, appeared in a squat dwarf-like Infernal’s chest and throat, a faint halo of green light fading from them as the beast toppled over mid-step. A clap of thunder startled Garkhen as he ran to join Jesil, matching the lightning that struck another of the charging demons. It stumbled, but shook itself and continued forward.

Then Jesil met the first of the advancing foes, and his blade struck true, slicing through skull and into its head. With a grunt, he pulled his weapon free as the demon fell and started to disintegrate. Garkhen reached him as he was doing so, just in time to block the attack of a taller, hulking Infernal. Its claws shrieked on the metal of his shield, and then it shrieked as Garkhen’s mace shattered its shoulder. It stumbled back, and another the Warder followed up with another mace blow to its chest. Again it staggered, until a third strike to its head finished it.

Garkhen looked about to see the remaining Infernals, or rather their corpses, disappearing. Wordlessly, Jesil motioned forwards, and they began jogging again.

Twice more they encountered small groups of demons, and twice more they quickly dispatched them. It seemed only the least of the Infernals remained within the city. Garkhen thought it a good sign for their distraction, though he hoped they could face the forces that must have mustered against them.

“Up ahead! I see the spires of the cathedral!” Garkhen raised his head at Tirel’s shout. He wondered how the tiger-man had breath to shout, but pushed the thought aside in favor of forcing himself to keep moving. Jesil and Khera seemed to be even worse off than he, struggling to keep up their pace, while Tirel and Mirthin showed no signs of fatigue.

They turned the corner into the plaza in front of the cathedral, and saw that its doors were guarded. Two large troll-like Infernals stood in front of its doors, one red-scaled, the other white-scaled, while a dozen smaller ones stood in front of them. All were watching as the small group came into view.

Tirel grinned and flexed his claws. “Looks like they heard us.”

Jesil nodded, catching his breath. While he did, Tirel brought his hands together and murmured something, and a slight aura of green light appeared around his clawed hands. Garkhen, catching the thought, murmured a spell-prayer of protection, warding his allies against flame and claw. Behind them Khera began to whisper a spell. In front of them, the demons growled, waiting to pounce.

And then Khera finished her spell.

She threw small darts into the air. As they flew, they multiplied and grew, becoming a hail of icy lances that fell amongst the Infernals. They roared in pain and fury, then charged. Arrows sprouted from the lead demon, and he fell. Garkhen moved forward, bracing himself to meet their charge, but was startled to see Tirel sprint past him, leaping upon one of the other Infernals, his claws slashing deep gouges into its face and chest. Another demon fell to a lightning bolt, then another to arrows, but the next reached Garkhen.

By now he was familiar with the pattern. Block the claws. Crush whatever he could with his mace. Press the attack. It occurred to the half-dragon that, for all their savagery, these Infernals were actually rather poor warriors. They had no discipline, and no skill, relying only on pure power.

Another explosion startled Garkhen as he finished off his first foe. Looking up, he saw several dazed Infernals laying on the ground in front of him, and he wondered what Khera had done. Tirel wasted no time, however, tearing into one before it could recover. To his right, Jesil was fighting with the white-scaled larger demon… leaving the red-scaled one that was now charging forward to him.

*******

Hey, look, fighting! And in case you’re wondering, Green is Naishia’s holy color, White is Mashano’s, and Silver/Platinum is Bahamut’s. Other colors are often associated with them, too (dark blue for Bahamut, for example), but these are the colors associated with their holy magic.

Chapter 12-4

So these are the ones I am to carry?” The dragon rumbled as they approached.

We are, sir, Garkhen replied respectfully in Draconic. He could see that this was an old and powerful dragon, nearly as large as Solkh’Tolkharkha. Of course, to carry five armed and armored men, he would have to be large.

“Hmmm…” The dragon looked them over. “You look competent enough, I suppose. I am Kherkhlan. In addition to putting you somewhere you’re likely going to die, I’ve been asked to provide enough of a distraction for you to maybe not do so.”

He snorted. “Well, I’m no more fond of these Infernals than you, so I suppose I’ll do it. Now, then,” he lay down on the ground, “Get on quickly. I’ll fly carefully enough, but you’d better learn to hold on. I’m not going to catch you if you fall off.”

As they carefully climbed on Kherkhlan’s back, Garkhen watched the other squads heading off, as the army packed up and prepared to march. They would be the first to enter the city, likely, but others would be infiltrating more… quietly.

Once all five were in place as securely as they could manage, Kherkhlan shouted, “Hold on!” and took off. The lurch was a familiar feeling to Garkhen, who had been carried by his mentor many times, but he supposed the others must find it rather uncomfortable.

It was a short flight to the city, but already demons were rising to meet the assault. They seemed surprised by the dragon flying overhead, and Garkhen had a brief glance of their confusion as they tried to determine who would fight the dragon and who would meet the army marching to the gates. Eventually a large, winged Infernal, with a group of smaller ones, rose to chase after them.

Kherkhlan dove suddenly, making his passengers feel as if they would be left behind. Turning, the half-dragon on his back could see the large square that was to be their landing-place below, with a couple small demons looking up at the incoming dragon. Then the land grew close, and there was a sharp jolt as they landed.

With a roar, Kherkhlan lunged forward, biting into one of the Infernals with his huge maw. Quickly his passengers disembarked, before he whirled to rend the other. Jesil quietly indicated the way they were to go, and the group hurried off as the dragon behind them took off to meet his pursuers in the air.

******

Apologies for another short post, but I’ve been distracted writing other characters, and they’ve been crowding poor Garkhen out.

Chapter 12-3

Before anyone could respond, a loud voice cried out from the pavilion. “Everyone, in your squads!”

What followed could only very charitably be called ordered, but somehow the little groups of champions got themselves organized. Once the noise died down somewhat, the voice shouted again.

“We have discovered that the source of this Infernal plague is within the city, in the neighborhood of the great Cathedral of Mashano. We suspect that they have desecrated this holy place, and made it the center of whatever dark rituals are bringing more of their kind here.”

“We have also found that the enemy is thinly stretched to defend the city. It appears they may have sent the bulk of their forces against us yesterday. As such, we think that a strike directly at the heart of their operation will likely destroy their ability to reinforce themselves, after which the remnants here will be comparatively easy to dispatch.”

“Each of your squads has its place in this plan. Couriers are now passing your orders to you. The army itself will seek to draw off as much of the enemy force as we may, but without your success, our chances are poor. Good luck, and may whichever god you follow bless your efforts.”

Soon a courier handed a roll of parchment to Jesil. He unrolled it to find several separate sheets. He motioned to his companions, indicating a spot a few yards away that was a little bit quieter and less crowded.

Once they were gathered, he spread out the sheets of parchment. Most were maps, save for one with orders.

“We are to go to the main entrance of the cathedral,” Jesil read, “and enter if possible.”

They were all quiet for a moment.

“Into the very heart of the foe,” Khera murmured.

Tirel nodded. “Well, I guess that means they think we have the best chance, right? We should be flattered.”

“What of the maps?” Garkhen asked, feeling he would rather not discuss the meaning of their selection for this mission.

“They outline possible routes through the city to our target,” Mirthin replied, quietly. “It seems we are somehow to be placed in this square here, for all routes lead out from it.”

Jesil looked back at the orders, this time reading all the way to the bottom. A certain stiffness entered his pose as he finished. “We are to enter the city by being carried by the dragon.”

Tirel laughed, to the surprise of the others. “Well, I guess they’ll know we’re there!”

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Dragons are not known for subtlety.