BEYOND THE GATES OF DEATH
First Blade: Blood and Ashes
Somewhere, in a deep tropical jungle, a black and grey wolf was meditating upon a blood soaked patch of soft soil, a saw-toothed dagger near him, his wounded arm letting blood falling slowly on the ground. The wolf was wearing a strange and somewhat disturbing armour, made of different type of bones of several species, reinforced with metallic chains and pieces, tying the whole in tight weaponry. The wolf had his eyes closed, as if dreaming to some distant purpose.
The blood was continuing to fall on the earth, as if made of water. Finally, the blood stopped from falling, and the injury healed itself in an instant. The wolf raised itself, and watched calmly around him, at the jungle. He has found what he was looking for. He had visions of distant places, of distant people. And a name was haunting him, like an obsession
-" By Zukirath and all the Ones Awaiting Beyond, I shall now undergo the Qlaxique. And my prey is one of those that ended life. One of those that are natural enemies of the Tluxa-Quan. So be it "
After those strange sentences, the wolf left the glade, and walked through the heavy jungle. Behind him, flowers began to grow on the soft soil. Flowers that soon blossomed. They were jet black, with a bit of red lining the shapes.
Flowers made of blood and ashes
Second Blade: The Burning Sands
In the keep of Za´ran-jan, a Folf was watching the day-to-day routine of the puny mortals under him: Merchants bartering for their products, clients bargaining for lowering the prices, thieves catching a tax on the exchanges, children trying to look pitiful enough to earn a coin or two, and some passer-by trusting the air of innocence in the faces of the children, and giving them some copper, or, when they feel generous, even gold.
All of that with many, many Furs, Elves and Humans. The Folf grumbled a bit at the sight of a few human beggars, covered in rags. He would have for them a very special kind of mercy The Folf finally turned his back to the window, and walked inside the keep. After all, he had a job to do in Za´ran-jan, after this, he would left this city plagued with so much human presence. After a bit a walking, the Folf arrived in front of a pair of massive wooden doors, guarded by two stouts and sturdy Furs. He calmly approached them, not at all impressed by their large frames. He stood silently in front of them, hidden in a black hood, protecting him from the harsh sun. After a long silence, one of the guard, a bit ill-at-ease, more accustomed to impatient and ranting people, asked him:
-" Hem, who are you, sir? "
The Folf smiled a bit. If they had known who he was, they would have not even dared talking to him He slowly told them his name, in a very confident tone:
-" I am Lomstat Wolf requested here by the Caliph of Za´ran-jan. "
This had obvious effects on the guards, has they jumped a little in surprise. Again, a tiny smile appeared on Lomstats lips. The guards quickly get out of the passage of the Folf, opening the wooden doors, in order to let him enter the throne room. Lomstat confidently enter it, knowing well that the guards would not be able to stop him. But he was no fool, he knew for sure that the Caliph should have some magical ways of protecting himself. After all, the Caliph was the most powerful Fur in the city. Politically speaking, that is Lomstat walked until he reached the middle of the throne room, still keeping his hood on him. He saw a throne made of wood and gold, very ornamented. On this throne, the Caliph was seating, his crown of gold on his head. Considering the Caliph overall frame, Lomstat could not prevent himself from imagining a huge toad sat on a wooden crate At least, the Caliph was a Fur; the natural fur was hiding a bit all his fat. The Folf patiently waited for the Caliph to speak.
-" We have heard of you, Lomstat Wolf. We are pleased enough to see you in our court. "
Lomstat didnt show it, but he was a bit exasperated by the Caliphs use of the we of majesty. He simply waited for the rest.
-" We have called you for a delicate task. A task that only a Master Assassin like you would be able to perform. "
-" Certainly, your majesty. Could you grant me the extreme favour of letting me know more on this topic? "
The Folf smiled inwardly, as he was obviously mocking the pompous ways of the Caliph. But this one seemed to not notice the sarcasm, and, even looked pleased enough by the Folf apparent deference.
-" You sure know, Assassin, that we have a great taste for those beautiful creatures that walked in our palace. We even, sometimes, grant them with a more precious boon by letting them inside our bedroom "
This time, the folf smiled frankly, as he mentally visualised the fat Caliph with one of those beautiful creatures. Fortunately enough, the Caliph misunderstood this smile, taking it as a complacent sign. The Caliph continued:
-" Or, our last bedmate has betrayed us in a way that we cannot tolerate. We ask you that you take care of this situation. "
-" As you wish, your majesty. Can I know who she is? "
-" Her name Ra´sha. We want for her that her Passage through the Darkest Gates to be quick and painful, as we still appreciate her. "
-" Youre a merciful one, your majesty. But exemplar betrayals need exemplar retributions. I may use my time to much profit. If you allow me to do such, your majesty "
-" No. We have decided that she owed a quick Passage. However "
Lomstat waited for the Caliph to continue.
-" We would be pleased to see her liar tongue to be ripped off her muzzle "
The Assassin Folf smiled broadly.
-" As you wish your majesty. As you wish "
With that, the Folf left the throne room, under the icy gaze of the statues, and the smile of contentment of the Caliph.
After nightfall, in another part of the city, a female weasel was looking at the moon. She sighed sadly under the soft breeze of the night. She was appreciating those fresh hours in the desert much, as they tend to be rare. However, tonight, even the cold wind could not help her to get out of her sorrowful thoughts. When she heard a clatter at the door, she turned toward it, all sadness vanished away. As she smiled, she also exclaimed, joyfully:
-" Azbaran! "
But when she saw who was standing in the opened door, she gasped in surprise, and all joy left her again
-" Alas, milady Im not the one you were waiting for "
The Folf entered the room, an evil tiny predatory grin on his lips.
-" W Who are you? "
-" That does not matter much, milady. Im here to accomplish a task given to me. Its as simple as that. "
-" You Youre an Assassin send by the Caliph? "
-" My, my Youre getting it quickly, milady "
The female weasel walked backward a bit, angst plainly visible on his face, she gulped, and then try to convince the Assassin:
-" Listen! Th This man was horrible! He He raped me " She said ending in a pitiful tone. " I had to do his bidding, to tell him I was loving him, although he disgusted me! Ive fled Please "
-" Thats not my problem, milady. Ive been paid heavily for this. So "
The weasel screamed, and ran toward a tapestry on the wall. But in a lightning move, the Folf intercepted her, and, in the same move, took a dagger in one paw. It took only a second to brace the weasel with one arm, in order to prevent her from running away from him. The weasel has started to sob, soaking the Folf arm fur with tears. The Assassin didnt take care of this, and simply cut the throat of the Weasel. She gasped a few times, trying to take breath, although blood was leaving her body, and soaking her whole body with reddish taints. After a while then, her head fell on the side. She was dead. The Folf let the body fell to the ground. He then looked at it. And he raised his dagger again.
-" And now, the Caliphs plight "
Lomstat Wolf bent over the dead body.
A few hours later, Lomstat Wolf was rather happy. He has came to the palace, and disrupted his highness sleep, and deposited a present near his nightstand, with a quick word. Lomstat Wolf was now walking in the dark streets of Za´ran-jan, his reward in one pocket: A few jewels, very easy to bring with you if you have to travel, and each worth a few hundred gold coins. Lomstat Wolf was dreaming about the future, when, after a corner, he nearly bumped into a group of people, gathered here. Three Furs and one Human.
-" My, my, my, what we have here? " One of them asked, a malignant smile on his lips, looking at the Folf. " A lofty noble, returning lately at home, maybe his pockets full of gold? Hmmm? Dont you know its dangerous to go outside at night? "
The Assassin smiled, savouring the irony of all of this. Technically, he was one of the reasons it was dangerous to walk lonely at night in the city However, the thugs didnt seem to appreciate this irony as much as he does, and they were growing impatient. The Fur who talk to him first has now a dagger in his hand, and was asking insistently to Lomstat to give him all coinage he might possess.
-" Hmm I dont have any coinage. Maybe some gems, but as you asked for coins, I wont offend you by offering these to you " Lomstat smiled at his own joke.
The Fur seemed quite pissed off by Lomstats humour, and attacked. With a lithe move, the Assassin dodged the graceless assault, and stabbed the thug between the shoulders with his own dagger. One down. The four others looked at him, dumbfounded, and then, driven by anger, they all attacked the Folf. This one dodged the first attacker and stabbed the second in the chest. Moving professionally the blade inside it, Lomstat pierced the heart in no time. Letting the body falling to the ground, Lomstat gave a high kick to another attacker, the Human, which was send, nose-bleeding, hitting a wall hard. The fourth attacker received a thrown dagger between his two eyes. Then, Lomstat turned toward the first attacker, which has now returned, and saw, stunned, the Folf jumping at him. Lomstat broke quickly the neck of the last Fur with his bare hands. The cracking sounds of broken vertebrae echoed in the dark alleyway Finally, Lomstat looked at the Human, still on the ground, shivering, and whining in pure angst. He only managed to utter:
-" Mercy "
The Assassin took another dagger from under his clothes, and cut the throat of the begging human.
-" Mercy What a strange word. " Lomstat smirked. He then took back his dagger and began to walk out of the alleyway. Thats when he perceived a weird presence. He turned immediately back. There were the bodies of the thugs in the middle of the street, and, on the opposite side from where Lomstat was now standing, Lomstat saw another Fur, cloaked in a dark cape. However, Lomstat saw that the shoulders of the stranger were protected with skulls of some kind of animals. One of them had a horn, sprouting from the middle of the skulls forehead. The apparition remained silent, and Lomstat frowned, trying to figure out what was the intentions of the being. To the smell, it was some kind of wolf, but he didnt smelled such an aroma before. After a time of respective contemplation, the stranger raised one paw in the air, opening the cloak that was hiding the strangers body. Lomstat saw an armour made of bone and metal, and he shivered a bit at this gruesome sight. But something else caught his eye: One of the dead bodies was now twitching a bit. Lomstat looked at the corpse in shock. And, to the Assassins horror, the corpse raised slowly itself, awkwardly, but standing up nonetheless Lomstat then saw the four other bodies slowly beginning to move. But Lomstat didnt have much time to watch the scene, as the first corpse was now attacking him with his bare hands. Instinctively, Lomstat dived his dagger in the heart of the creature. Without any other effect than letting the undead to slash him with his claws. Taken by surprise by the sudden pain, Lomstat walked a few steps backward. He passed his paw where he has been slashed by the zombie, and recognised the warm and oozy touch of blood. Now there were four zombies in the street, and the stranger was looking the overall scene, without any hint of passion or interest in it. The Assassin tried another attack, slashing the air with his dagger, so strongly and quickly, that the blade cut right through the flesh and the bone of the arm of the nearest creature, severing its hand. It has no visible result on the undead, even blood seemed to leak from the wound really slowly
Lomstat, now a bit scared by the all of this, stepped backward a bit again. He saw only one way to get rid of the zombies quickly and efficiently. He suddenly called for his magic, and cast a huge fireball. Even if it wasnt as graceful as a good kick, it had the merit of being efficient: The four zombies stopped to move, and fell again to the ground, charred, and this time, definitely dead. After this, Lomstat looked at the stranger. And was taken aghast by this sight. He saw a wolf, with grey fur, and black markings up and down his eyes, drawing fangs. But his eyes were white and blank. As if they were no more soul behind those eyes. A companion Lomstat thought, but this thought send icy shivers down his spine.
-" You did it well, my Lord. " The stranger said in a deep, chilly voice. " My names Darthen Wulf. And I shall kill you "
After that, the whole body of the wolf seemed to vanish in the surrounding darkness. But Lomstat soon saw that, in fact, the wolfs body was changing into shadows, and flying away. Lomstat stayed a bit here, wondering what the whole of that was meaning. He then looked at the four bodies, that were still burning, even though the flames were less powerful. Finally, the Assassin decided to leave the place. Walking quickly toward hid local haven, Lomstat thought again to what the strange wolf has said.
-" My names Darthen Wulf. And I shall kill you "
Seeing how much control Darthen seemed to have over the dead, Lomstat could not prevent a shiver from the mere thought of what would happen to him after dying under those paws
Third Blade: Al-Amaud
The day after
Lomstat Wolf was wandering in the streets of Za´ran-jan, after having spent the night on the sewers, as it was the surest way to escape the strange Fur he encountered last night. Fortunately, he was right, but he was now carrying a definitely unpleasant scent with him... Passers-by, even Humans, despite their poor smelling, tend to avoid him. It suited the Folf just fine, as he wanted to be left alone for a moment. Unfortunately for him, it was a market day in the city, so he had to take the tiniest streets to arrive to his destination: The Caliphs Palace. Lomstat knew perfectly that he wouldnt be allowed to enter the Palace by the main entrance, because, one, he hasnt been invited, two, he smelled too awful at the moment to be granted the access... So, he reached the rear of the Palace, and looked for fissures in the wall. He could have used his wings to simply fly on the top of the wall, but he wanted to remain stealthy, and so has decided to climb rather than to fly. After having climbed the dry, almost burning stones, under the harsh sun of the Burning Sands; Lomstat finally reached an opened window. He leapt inside the Palace, and quickly moved inside a patch of shadows, in order to conceal himself. It was a good move, as, a few seconds later, some guards patrolling the corridors arrived. They didnt notice Lomstat, however. After all, a trained Assassin is supposed to go unnoticed when working... After the guards have left the corridor, Lomstat raised himself, and moved swiftly but silently in the nearly labyrinthine corridors. Lomstat reasoned that, in this hour of the day, the Caliph would surely be in the Inner Pool of the Palace. Lomstat, as a good Assassin has already visited the whole Palace, to discover the secret entrances, the treasure rooms, and so on... After having moved through the well decorated corridors, Lomstat finally reached a great brass door. He glanced at his right, then at his left, and, seeing no one; he opened silently the door and entered swiftly, closing the door behind him, without a noise. The Folf was lucky, as no guards were on the room... The Caliph has always preferred taking his baths alone. The Folf looked around... The Inner Pool was constituted of a huge, circular pool carved in marble. Several columns, za´rani style, were making a kind of stone forest all around the pool. An orange-pink stone forest. Lomstat moved forward, automatically hiding behind each column, until he reached the final line of columns. He quickly glanced toward the pool full of water, and saw the fat Caliph bathing nonchalantly. This image evoked to the Folf some kind of whale lost on a shore... The Assassin approached silently, and kneeled at the edge of the pool, thinking that the smell of the Caliph was really poor...
-"Hello, your majesty..."
The sudden jump of surprise of the Caliph made Lomstat smiling a bit. The bag of fat removed the cloth he had on his eyes, and looked at the Assassin. When he recognised him, the Caliph get really afraid...
-"Whatever they have paid you, Ill offer the double!!!"
Lomstat smiled frankly, and was tempted to play along with the Caliph. But the memory of the wolf made him stopped.
-"You misunderstood, your majesty. Im not here to kill you. If Im here, its to ask your highness to help me..."
The Caliph regained his composure, and tried to restore a bit of his dignity. He even returned to the We of majesty he had dropped before.
-"Yes, sure, we are truly grateful for what youve done. How can we of any help?"
-"Well, your majesty, last night Ive been attacked by some kind of rogue magician..."
-"This is intolerable! We shall call in the Guards and punish this fool that dared to attack a trustworthy citizen of Za´ran-jan!"
-"No, no, no, your majesty, I dont think the Guards could do anything against him. You see, this magician has reanimated the corpses of five thugs Ive killed..."
-"Whatever. The magician, a wolf, by the way, has reanimated their corpses, and they attacked me. Ive succeeded in destroying them definitely, and then, the wolf said that he would kill me. I was wondering, your majesty, if you could allow me to look into your library, in order to find some clues about this magician..."
The Caliph seemed to think about it for a while.
-"Hmmm... A magician Wolf, that raises the dead... We dare to think that it might be a Necromancer..."
-"A rare kind of magician, specialised in death related magic. We are sorry, but our library has no book or scroll on this topic..."
Lomstat was disappointed, he hoped to find at least more info on his opponent.
-"However, we think of a place in which you could find what you wanted to know."
-"Really? What is it?"
-"The Keep of the Order of the Eagle Claw, also known as Al-Amaud, The Eagle
Nest... They have the most famous library concerning Magic in all the Burning Sands. You should go there."
-"Great. Im really grateful, your majesty. How can I reach this Keep?"
-"Its not that simple... The Keep is placed in a no mans land, between multiple kingdoms... The Order of the Eagle Claw has pulled out every one that didnt belong to their Order. Theyre fierce warriors and truly good assassins... Theyre feared in all the Burning Sands... However, they are caravans that go to the Keep, once a month. The next caravan shall quit Za´ran-jan today, we believe. If you want to reach Al-Amaud quickly, you should go now."
-"Thank you. Thank you greatly, your majesty."
With that, Lomstat left the Caliph, and get out of the Inner Pool as he entered it: swiftly, silently and unnoticed. The Caliph reassured to see the Assassin leaving the place, resumed his bath, replacing the black cloth over his eyes. Something like 10 minutes has passed, when the Caliph felt something strange, something that sent chills run down his spine, despite the hot water he was bathing in. Scared to death, he slowly removed the cloth from his eyes. He saw, at first, two black boots. Then, raising his gaze, he saw an armour made of metal and bones, and then, the white and blank gaze of the Necromancer Wolf. The Caliph whined in fear, and moved a bit in his water, splashing drops of water everywhere... He began to scream in order to call the Guards, but the Wolf raised one paw, and closed his fist, and, suddenly, the Caliph took his paws to his throat, his tongue spurting out of his muzzle under the magical strangle.
-"Stop it now, and Ill release my grip. Understood?"
The Caliph nodded in agreement, as best he could. The Wolf opened his fist, but kept his paw raised, just in case of. The Caliph breathed heavily a few times, trying to catch back his breath.
-"An Assassin has visited you. Correct?"
The Caliph nodded again, not because he couldnt speak, but because he didnt dare to.
-"He has left, now. Where will he go?"
The Caliph looked at the Necromancer. And then, finally decided that his life worth much than the one of an Assassin...
-"He departed to Al-Amaud... The next caravan goes today..."
-"Hmmmm... Al-Amaud... Where it is placed?"
-"Somewhere... Somewhere in the Blackrock Mountains... I dont know more..."
The Wolf looked at the Caliph a few moments, before letting his paw rest on his flank.
-"Yes, you said true... So, I shall follow this trail..."
The Wolf then stepped forward, getting closer to the scared to death Caliph, who whimpered violently under the blank gaze of the Necromancer.
-"Caliph, there is someone who wants to talk to you..."
The wolf closed his eyes, and murmured a few incomprehensible words... Suddenly, a cold breeze blew in the Inner Pool, and all lights seemed to get weaker. The Caliph observed this increasing fear. And, out of nowhere, a ghostly face appeared in front of the Caliph.
-"R... R... Ra´sha?" The Caliph muttered.
Soon, the whole body of the weasel appeared, in some ghostly shape. Another one soon followed this first apparition. And another one. And another one... The Caliph looked at each new apparition, letting each time a frightened scream out of his lips. After a while, a whole assembly of ghosts was gathered around the Caliph. And they began to whisper, to mutter, to cackle, although the Caliph could not understand what they were saying. But each word was adding an ounce of angst inside his soul...
-"They have all come, Caliph. All those you murdered, all those you tortured, all those you raped. They have all come... For you."
With that, all the ghosts began to approach the Caliph, who shivered from all his body. And they touched him, with their cold, skeletal hands and paws. The Caliph shrieked in horror, screamed with angst, howled with total fear, as all the ghosts continue to touch him slightly... The guards, hearing the Caliphs screams arrived quickly, but found the bras door closed, and not letting itself being opened By any one. His eyes still closed; the Necromancer was using the help of some ghosts to make the door impossible to open. Then, the Wolf raised his paw, letting his claws to shine a bit at the eerie light of the Inner Pool. And the Wolf dived his paw on the Caliph chest, piercing his heart, his eyes still closed The Caliph gasped, and blood dripped out of his muzzle...
Suddenly, the brass door was opened wide, and a Wolf cloaked in a black hood walked out of the Inner Pool. The cloak was flying in the air, due to a cold wind running through the entire Palace; a wind that made the guards falling away, out of the passage of the Necromancer. The Wolf left the room, and, behind him, could be seen the dead body of the Caliph, on the edge of the pool, as his blood was slowly tainting the waters in red...
Fourth Blade: The Caravan
Lomstat achieved to find a place on the departing caravan, in exchange of one of the gems he earned from the Caliph. The Folf noticed that the price on this caravan was really high, and the gem was enough for a simple place, but he soon knew why: The caravan had several mages with it, and a tremendous amount of soldiers. He guessed that either the goods transported in the caravan were fairly precious, either that the travel in itself was quite dangerous. Or both... Lomstat didnt bother to know more, and simply take his seat in one vardo of the caravan. The vardo on which he climbed was quite large, with cushions, and a brasero. It was obvious that it was built in order to sleep inside. The Folf secretly hoped that no one would climb in the vardo with him, as he wanted to remain alone with his thoughts... To his high displeasure, a few minutes before the departure of the caravan, a Fur whos body and face was hidden under a deep blue robe entered the Vardo, and sat down in front of him, silently. Lomstat said nothing, as he didnt want to engage a discussion with the newcomer, and thought about his plans The Caliph said that the Order of the Eagle Claw was an Order of assassins As an assassin himself, he thought that he might discuss with them more easily than the common mortals might. And, if not, he may try to enter in the Order After all, he might as well learn a few tricks Lomstats train of thoughts was snapped by the newcomer soft voice, a bit twisted by the heavy dark blue robe:
-"Where are you going, sir? Do you follow the White Path?"
A bit puzzled by the question, and as he didnt want to talk too much about himself, he decided to be as unpleasant as possible:
-"None of your business."
-"I see You know, this caravan passes by ten different places, before returning to Za´ran-jan You should better know where to climb down "
Lomstat thought for a while, wondering if he could reveal to this stranger where hell want to arrive He didnt know much about Necromancy, but he suspected the stranger to be a spy for the Wolf. But maybe was he a bit too paranoid?
-"You know the places the caravan might cross during the travel?" Lomstat casually asked to the stranger.
-"Oh! Certainly The caravan will cross five villages Lessee Bagdanna, Lyzan-jhor, Razine, Salamatuk, Jinnada Or Salamatuk before Razine? I always forget After that the caravan will cross the Blood Sands, but wont stop there "
-"Why?" Lomstat interrupted, puzzled by the name.
-"Because it was a battlefield ages ago. There was a battle here leaded by two cruel Lords. It is said that the combats were so fierce that the sands remained red for many years You see, here in the Burning Sands, we believe this to be a bad omen We prefer remaining as far as possible from the memories of such hideous bloodsheds After having crossed the Blood Sands, well arrive to the Blackrock Mountains Here, some Ama-iz-jaqtaari will wait for the caravan delivery "
-"Members of the Order of the Eagle Claw. Singular Ama-iz-jaq-taar. Ama. Iz. Jaq. Taar Assassins and warriors. They are also said to be the best scholars in all the Burning Sands." The stranger sniggered a little. "You see, we dislike big bloodsheds, but occasional assassinations isnt as shunned Sometimes, by killing the right person at the right moment, we can prevent wars "
-"Its a good philosophy" Lomstat simply approved.
-"Heh The Ama-iz-jaqtaar, the Order in his whole, approved this, too Well, after the Blackrock Mountains, well stop at the four capitals of the four caliphdoms, that is to say "
Lomstat didnt listen to whats followed, but did his best to look interested. He didnt want the stranger to believe that only the Ama-iz-jaqtaar interested him In the case he would be one of the Necromancers spy. Lomstat tried to remember the name the mage has given, but he had some difficulties The Necromancers name didnt really impress his mind. At one moment, the stranger asked him about his duties and job in the Burning Sands.
-"Hmmm... I offer my services to those that require them... Generally, it involves a high pay at the end..."
-"Youre some kind of mercenary, arent you?"
-"Yes, we could say that."
-"Well... Will you accept a contract for the duration of the travel?"
-"Depends", Lomstat answered suspiciously.
-"Hmmm... Its rather simple. Will you protect a woman in this caravan?"
Lomstat thought about it for a moment. And then:
-"How much will you pay?"
-"Depends" The stranger replied, a hint of irony in his voice. "To be serious, Ill pay 450 gold..."
-"We dont have to continue this discussion..." Lomstat said, turning his head toward the window, showing how ridiculous the offer was.
-"... Plus twice this price once weve reached our destination."
-"Which is?" Lomstat said suddenly interested.
-"A little village at the feet at the Blackrock Mountains. Youll receive your gold, and then, well let you continue your travel to your destination. We wont disturb much more."
-"At the feet of the Blackrock Mountains?"
-"... I accept you offer."
-"Great. Ill send you the woman youll have to protect, with a bag of gold, with the first part of your pay. Shell be here in less than half a hour. Her names Jarana Iz-Azwan."
The stranger then stood up and climbed down the Vardo, closing the wooden door behind him. Lomstat relaxed in his seat, pleased to be alone again. Thats when he noticed he didnt succeed in smelling the scent of the stranger... Actually, he remember the smell, quite pleasant, something like wood, leaves and roses... But he didnt discern any hint of Fur scent... Maybe the stranger was one of the few decadent Furs that was imitating the Humans by covering themselves with heavy non-natural perfumes... Or, he was a spy, hiding his scent behind an odour mask... In both cases, Lomstat cursed himself for having accepted this contract... At this moment, the Vardo door opened again, and a feminine voice said:
-"Oh... This is you my new bodyguard? They have told me to get prepared, but Im tired of dressing with heavy gowns and robes that nearly prevent me from breathing or moving..."
With that, the person sat down in front of Lomstat, her emerald green eyes on him, dressed in a black leather armour, with simple cloth on it. Lomstat stared at her, in disbelief.
She was a human...
Of course, Lomstat screamed, saying that he was now refusing the contract, that he wont never, ever be the bodyguard of any furless freak, and so on... Jarana Iz-Azwan listened to the Folfs argument, and then simply took a bag on her backpack, that she had put on the Vardos ground after entering in, and sent it to Lomstat, who caught it in mid-air.
-"*Sigh* Im disappointed to see that I found a racist Fur... Whatever... If I understood right, youre some kind of mercenary? Okay... I have 1000 gold coins now. And 2000 more when arrived. Ill pay it myself. Youre okay with it, now?"
Lomstat stopped arguing, thinking about it. At the end of it, he may gain 4350 gold coins... Quite an amount... But he didnt really need this money at the moment, as he still had some gems from the Caliph.
-"Go find someone else, Human."
The woman looked at him for moment, angered. And then, she leapt at him, taking the Folf by surprise, pinning him to the ground. In a second, Lomstat felt the coldness of a dagger on his throat...
-"Lets say this in another way: I HAVE to go to the Blackrock Mountains. And youll go with me or you wont go anywhere else. Get it?"
Lomstat looked into the green eyes of the woman, and seeing how determined she was, as another little gleam in it, he finally muttered:
-"I accept the contract."
Jarana took away her dagger, and put it in her pocket, where she could reach it quickly. Lomstat stood up, a bit upset by how easily he has been bested. But he said nothing, sat down on the seat opposite of Jaranas. He was still remembering the little gleam he had seen in her gaze. Something that prevented him from discussing too much with her.
Fifth Blade: The Blood Sands
The travel was rather calm, at the high displeasure of Lomstat, who was craving for a bit of action. One of the many reasons of this situation was the fact that he was really angered by his new contract. Protecting a human... By the way, he was not seeing her much, only at nightfall, when she enters the Vardo to take some rest. He rarely saw her during the day, and he wondered how she spent the rather boring days... When he asked her, she simply smiled a bit, remaining silent. So, he gave up, and tried to find an interesting activity to fill up the dull days... In order to do so, he finally train himself to improve his sword skills, when the caravan would stop for noon or night. Otherwise, he would walk alongside the Vardos; as the caravan was pulled away by oxen-like creatures and it would advance rather slowly... Walking in the hot sands of the desert made him rather meditative. He thought about his situation... A Necromancer was pursuing him for whatever reason, he has now to protect a woman that seems to be quite able to defend herself, and he was now travelling toward a keep of an Order of Assassins, in order to know more about his enemy... Well, his life has become quite interesting recently, to say the least... Someone petting his shoulder interrupted him in his thoughts. He turned himself to see Jarana, smiling like a little girl.
-"How do you do, my friend?"
-"Could have been better..."
-"Awwww, cut it out, you grumpy fluffy Folf..."
-"Dont call me like that!"
-"Ill call you as I want. Im paying you heavy gold..."
With that Jarana wrapped her arms around the Assassins waist, and let her head resting on his back. Lomstat blushed heavily under this contact, and was unable to say anything.
-"Hmmm... Warm and soft... I wonder how and why you let you become a warrior... Youre so cuddly..."
Lomstat wanted her to stop it immediately, and raised his paws in order to unwrap Jaranas arms. But he stopped at last moment, didnt daring to touch her. Finally, she let the Folf go.
-"Heh... Ive always dreamed of a big plushie able to defend me..." Jarana smiled softly while she walked away.
Lomstat was a bit surprised by the womans behaviour, and, for the rest of the day, he tried to wonder why she acted like that...
During the following days, they passed through Bagdanna, Lyzan-jhor and Razine, without any problems. At each village, Jarana dragged the Folf in the Bazaars and market places. It seemed like she had an endless source of gold coins, and she bought many clothes, jewellery, food, and so on, spending hours choosing such or such piece of fabric, while the merchants of the caravan were bartering, selling and buying stuff they would sell after in the next village. Needless to say, Lomstat found these shopping trips quite boring... But she had a way to smile to him... Even in spite of the fact he could not bear humankind in general, he found that smile wonderful... Arrived at Salamatuk, a village well known for the rare and precious fabrics it weaves and sells, Jarana dragged the Assassin again through the different shops of the village. Lomstat sighed, knowing that the woman will pass hours; choosing clothes. Thats why he was rather surprised when she handed him some well-made green clothes.
-"For you" Jarana simpered.
Hesitating a bit, Lomstat took the clothes, and Jarana guided him to where he could try his new clothes. Lomstat began to unfold the clothes, when he noticed that Jarana was still near him, his ears perked down, and he looks at her, ill-at-ease. She was smiling warmly, but she didnt seem to notice the Folfs embarrassment.
-"Hum... Could let me alone. Please?"
She looked at him, a bit puzzled. Then a wide mischievous grin spread over her lips when she realised the Folf state of mind.
-"Okay. Ill wait outside, my shy fluffy bodyguard..."
While she left, Lomstat looked at her angrily. How does she dare to mock him that way?!? He quickly stripped off his current clothes, in order to put the new ones. It took several minutes for him to figure how to dress all the different parts, as he was not used to wear so rich adornments... After a while, he finally emerged from the tiny room, dressed in his new rich green clothing. Jarana turned her head toward him when she heard the door creaking open, and she smiled warmly. Lomstat felt weird at this time, and he pulled here and there on the clothes... Jarana approached him, and looked at him, from ear tips to toes.
-"Not that bad. But..."
She softly took the large belt of fabric that Lomstat has left hanging; and she wrapped it around Lomstats waist, circling it many times, and finally knotting it on Lomstats flank.
-"Now, you truly look like a Prince of the Burning Sands."
She smiled at him, and softly caressed his cheek. Just after, she grabbed his paw, and nearly ran him out of the shop.
-"Quick! We have plenty other shops to visit!"
For once, Lomstat didnt complain...
After Salamatuk, the caravan travelled once again in the desert, and Lomstat was laid on the floor of the Vardo. Jarana was once again somewhere out. He was thinking about the last few days. It was rather strange... He disliked humans much since a long time, but, with Jarana he found quite difficult to dislike her... And he was not quite sure why... After a few hours, He heard someone knocking at the door of the Vardo. Before he could say anything, the door was opened and Jarana entered. Lomstat straightened himself, and asked her why she entered.
-"Well, well arrive soon at Jinada. Quite in time for the local Festival. The caravan will stay at Jinada for the day and night of the Festival. And I was wondering if you would agree to accompany me at it. We will dance, sing and such..."
-"... I think not. I... Wont accompany you..."
The smile on Jaranas lips disappeared instantly. She was on the point to say something, but the Folf interrupted her.
-"Needless to insist. Its no."
-"Fine." She said, being obviously disappointed.
But she does not insist and get out of the Vardo. Lomstat resumed his former position on the floor of the Vardo, thinking hard. After several hours, the night began to fall on Jinada, a small village lost in the desert. Jarana was already at the well-famed market place of Jinada, famous for its complicated mosaic pavement. A fire has been already set on the middle of the place, on a hole especially made for it. She was dancing around the fire, on the music of the Jinadani instruments, in her most beautiful clothes, bought earlier in the shops of the other villages. After a whirl, she stopped at a strange sight. Here, behind some people, Furs and Humans alike, Lomstat was here watching at her, dressed in the green clothes, the large belt well wrapped around his waist and correctly knotted. She smiled warmly, and invited him to join her by the fire with a wave of her hand. Lomstat approached, and noticed that many other couples were also gathering around the fire. He gently took Jaranas hand in his paw. She smiled at him, and it seems to him that her bright green eyes looked like those of a Feline, by the light of the fire. And he began to lead the dance. He was a crappy dancer, usually, but the music was not meant for any constructed dance. The couples were only moving instinctually, simply following the flow of the music. But even with this, Lomstat was terrible. He even earned a few laughter from the Jinadani. He blushed, his ears perking down, and he began to growl. But soon, Jarana put a hand on his chest, and whispered to him:
-"Dont care about them. Simply follow your heartbeats. Beat, move, beat, move... Jinadani music is built upon heartbeats. Beat, move, beat, move..."
Lomstat follow her advice, and soon, he found that his heartbeats were indeed increasing pace, in order to follow the energetic music. After that, he followed the flow, moving in tune with the music, and with Jarana. It lasted all the night, but Lomstat didnt see it passing. But when they broke the dance, he felt light headed and tired, as after a long run, or an intensive effort. They managed to reach the Vardo, but Lomstat fell to the ground, and, in addition, asleep... Jarana looked at the great assassin at her feet, and smiled a bit, petting the head fur between the ears of the Folf. After a moment, she sighed.
-"If only "
Next morning, Lomstat woke up on the floor of the Vardo. His first reaction was to curse his foolishness for having fallen into slumber without protecting himself. He then remembered the night, and he stopped himself, troubled. On a pure rational point of view, it has been perfectly stupid and dangerous, any thug, assassin, or worse, could have taken advantage of the situation. But on an emotional level, it felt so good Lomstat rarely had such good times before, it was leaving him with a weird feeling His thoughts were interrupted by Jaranas entrance, holding a huge plate, full of coloured fruits.
-"Breakfast!" she happily said loudly, handing the plate toward Lomstat. "Beware, some of them are said to be really addictive, or "
-"Or what?" Lomstat asked, an eyebrow raised, looking suspiciously at the different fruits, none of them were familiar to him.
-"Weeeeeeell There is this fruit called Lovers Sin, that is said to provoke wild desires To say the least "
-"Are you kidding?!?"
Jarana simply smiled in bemusement, spotting the disbelieving expression on the Folfs face.
-"Maybe. Maybe not. Ill let you alone, I have some business to do before we arrive. This way, at worse, youll have only yourself to assault "
With a broad mischievous grin, she was out of the Vardo, leaving a puzzled Folf in front of the plate of fruits. He hesitantly took one, sniffed it, before taking a bite
Lomstat has not seen Jarana after this, for the whole day. Strangely enough, the caravan didnt stop for night, and kept on moving forward, and Lomstat wondered why. Spotting one of the scouts recruited by the caravan chief, Lomstat asked him about this.
-"A Grandmother is arriving on us! Well go get shelter between the rocks of the Blood Sands!"
Before the Folf could ask what a Grandmother was, the scout was away. Puzzled for a moment, he then remembered that Angry Grandmothers was the name given to especially violent sandstorms, those that ravage the Burning Sands regularly. Indeed, a Grandmother was needed to force such superstitious people to get shelter in a place like the Blood Sands Getting a bit annoyed by this, but also somewhat content with that, because it meant that the caravan would go faster; in order to arrive at its destination, hence, making the whole trip shorter. With those thoughts in head, he calmly prepared his stuff, and watched the caravan crew alerting all the others, and getting prepared for the incoming sandstorm.
Soon, the night fell upon the caravan.
Soon, a full moon rose in the sky. Many in the caravan took this as a boon, as the light provided helped them in the really dark night.
And, soon, the huge rocks announcing the Blood Sands were clearly visible. The landscape was amazing under the moonlight, and Lomstat looked at the twisted rocks in awe. During the travel, he has heard stories about this place, that powerful magicians were also involved in the battle, among the soldiers, and that their powerful spells has blasted and twisted the rocks. Seeing the shapes of said rocks, he could easily believe this Like this one, pointing toward the sky, swirling around itself, or this one looking like the giant muzzle of some giant beast At a moment, however, an odd feeling made the Folfs ear to twitch several times. The caravan was now between the rocks, trying to find a cave large enough to welcome the whole caravan. Many scouts were wandering here and there, with their lit torches, yelling to tell that there was a cave here or there Lomstat kept feeling Weird. Something was utterly wrong with this place It could be the perfect place for an ambush
Thats when a scout shouted something, in a scared voice. Lomstat looked where the shout came from, and saw a scared Fur pointing a finger toward the sky, and more precisely toward the moon. Lomstat followed the direction indicated by the finger And all his body shivered at this sight
There, in front of the moon, with huge skeletal wings, was flying the Necromancer wolf. Despite the distance and the night, Lomstat could felt the white and blank gaze of the Lupine upon him The wolf remained in the air, the wings moving to maintain the Necromancer at this height, but Lomstat suspected some kind of magical trick. The wolf suddenly raised his head, and howled
This sound instilled fear in the hearts of many in the caravan, even the Haschachiyyin shivered. Not long after the wolf has finished howling, the sand between the rocks began Trembling? Here and there, sand seems to move, pulsate and shiver Many scouts watched this weird phenomenon with angst, while many customers that were travelling with the caravan shrieked.
Thats when the first creature came out of the sand A soldier, still wearing a rusty armour and an old, old scimitar. It may have been a Fur, once, but now, it was little more than dry flesh over bones. This first apparition was soon followed by many others, quickly sprouting out of the sand, like some kind of gruesome blossom Warriors fully armed emerged from the sands, skeletal hands wielding ancient weapons, eyes being nothing more than black holes where could be seen green gleams, like horrid balefires. Panic-stricken, scouts and customers alike were fleeing everywhere, while mages and soldiers were preparing their weapons. Lomstat himself took his sword, and prepared to fight.
His waiting wasnt long, as the undead soon attacked, their dead muzzles exhaling dreadful screams. Coming from everywhere at once, emerging sometimes right under the feet of the defenders, the undead soon took the advantage over the living. Lomstat fought like a devil, swirling, dodging the multiple attacks of several undead at once, beheading many of them, but they came back again and again, still fighting, still screaming, still moving forward the Haschachiyyin The other groups of defenders were also overwhelmed by the assault of undead creatures, many fell under the strikes of the zombies, their blood soon colouring the sands in red again Lomstat attacked another creature, slicing it in two, from the shoulder to the flank, then, he turned back to face another group of undead, beheading one and cutting the arm of another in the same strike, before having to step backward to avoid the blow from the scimitar of the last one. One of his ears flicked, and he instinctually ducked the assault of another creature in his back. Glancing toward this new threat, he saw a large group of zombies approaching. Cursing, he kept his sword in one paw, and directed the other toward the incoming monsters, and incinerated them with a fireball, before returning to the undead he was previously fighting
Lomstat knew that it was useless, for the Necromancer would rise dead again and again, even adding the casualties among the caravan to his army, and theyll fight again, and again, until they all fall from exhaustion
Thats when a huge thing crashed near him, provoking a cloud of sand, cloaking his sight for a moment When the sand fell back, Lomstat could see that it was a spear made out of several bones articulated with one another, that was planted inches near him Looking up, guessing the general direction from where it came, the Folf noticed a horrible thing. The wolf pointed an arm toward sky, and a white point sprouted out of his wrist. The point soon grew larger, and the wolf grabbed it, and made it coming whole out of his arm He then twirled it several times in the air, and the new bone spear grew larger and larger When it was long enough to the taste of the wolf, this one threw it with supernatural strength toward the Folf. Lomstats eyes widened at this, but having not totally lost his wits, he quickly stepped aside, and, thus, avoided being hit by the gruesome weapon.
This would, indeed, complicate the things a bit more
Lomstat tried to figure out a way to get rid of the Necromancer as quickly as possible. He fought again against the undead, but, soon, he pointed his hand toward the wolf and cast another fireball, this time, with the wolf as a target. The fireball flew directly toward him, at an incredible speed But the wolf nonchalantly dodged it, as if it was nothing And threw another bone spear toward the Folf. This one, jumping forward managed to barely dodge it. And several zombies fell upon him He tried to slice them with his sword, but they were too numerous And, then, three of them were sliced right through, a strange blue and black wound appearing where they were sliced, said wound growing larger and larger and reducing the undead flesh to black and blue ashes Stunned at first, the Folf quickly get back on his feet, and destroyed with one well-placed strike from his sword the other creatures. Turning his head in order to thank the one who helped him, he stopped right in his tracks, shocked by what he was seeing
Jarana was there, with blades at the end of her arms, her delicate hands wrapped around said blades. She was in her usual black leather armour.
And she had a mad grin on her lips.
Without saying a word, she quickly moved toward another undead, and sliced it efficiently; the blades must have been magical, for they inflict those strange burning wounds to the undead, reducing them to piles of blue and black ashes Lomstat blinked several times impressed by her grace and the efficiency of her attacks. But he soon collected back his wits, and returned to the battle. Lomstat and Jarana were destroying many creatures, but it was obvious the caravan was loosing the battle. Undead were killing soldiers as if they were nothing but rag dolls, and the magicians were soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of creatures, unable to cast their spells fast enough, or getting to low on mana to be of any help. Jarana beheaded another creature, and turned back to Lomstat, while the body of the creature fell on the ground, being burned from the neck down, while the head was soon nothing more than dust When she spotted the Folf involved in a combat with three zombies at once, she also noticed another thing
-"Beware!" She screamed, looking up.
But it was too late. Lomstat only had the time to turn his head to see the bone spear coming. He slightly moved, and the weapon sliced his flank. Fortunately enough, Jaranas warning allowed him to be only wounded, or else, he would have been impaled But it hurt like hell nonetheless. Lomstat fell to the ground, one of his paw on his wound, trying to prevent the blood from flowing away. He was bleeding heavily, the wound was deep Jarana cursed, took a tiny bag at her belt, and threw it to the ground, protecting her eyes. Lomstat spotting that quickly closed his eyes too.
There was a light blue bolt.
When Lomstat opened his eyes again, he saw several piles of consuming and smoking corpses around him and Jarana, slowly turning to blue and black ashes. Then, Jarana ran toward the Folf, took his free paw, and get the Haschachiyyin on his feet.
-"Get up, Folf! We have to get out of here!"
With that, she started dragging the Folf toward a big rock. Soon, they were covered by the shadow of the rock. And soon, many, many undead were running toward them, wielding their rusty weaponry toward the two. Jarana ordered to Lomstat to run faster, and he tried, too much preoccupied by his wound and the incoming monsters to get angry with the woman commanding tone. Adrenaline helping, the Folf quickly moved faster and they manage to reach the entrance of a cave. Jarana, as she was perfectly knowing what she was doing, quickly ran toward it, pressing the Folf to get faster. The cave quickly engulfed them, but Jarana didnt rest, she ran quickly, the Folf still clinging to her shoulder, toward a smaller tunnel in the cave. The creatures were still following them, clinking their armours and weapons, in addition to their dreadful screams, announcing them Jarana ran inside of the tunnel, and after several steps, she turned back and threw another little bag at the entrance of the tunnel. There was an explosion, and Jarana quickly jumped backward, dragging the Folf with her, as tons and tons of stones were quickly blocking the entrance, crushing many creatures in the process
Jarana forced the Folf to walk through a mile or two of stone tunnel before allowing him to get rest. Lomstat, as adrenaline quickly exited his organism, felt terribly tired Pain has came back, too, making his eyes seeing all in a blur. He must have been more severely injured than what he thought But he let no complain exiting his muzzle. He noticed Jarana approaching something from his muzzle, and his first reaction was to jerk his head away of the suspicious thing.
-"Drink this" Jarana ordered. "Dont be foolish, will you?"
With that, the woman forced a flask of potion inside his muzzle, making sure the Folf was swallowing the liquor. The strong scent of the potion invaded Lomstats snout, as its taste spread over his tongue and down his throat. It was pleasant. Soft and warm
-"Sleep, now, Haschachiyyin. Youll need all your strength "
With that, the Folf fell asleep
Sixth Blade: At the feet of the Blackrock Mountains
Lomstat made weird dreams Dreams of fire and darkness Dreams of ancient things coming back He saw a silhouette nearly visible behind veils of ashes and flames A somewhat feline shape
Lomstat opened his eyes. He saw nothing but the black stone of the tunnel in which Jarana has thrown the both of them. Jarana was near him, on the opposite side of the fire camp she has just made, wiping clean her blades with a piece of cloth. She seemed quite absorbed in her task. Lomstat looked at her for a moment, not letting her know that he was awake, observing how she was working After a while, however:
-"Did you have a good sleep, Lomstat?"
The Folf blinked a few times. She was, indeed, quite an observer
-"Yes, I had What did you give me as a drink?"
-"A simple healing potion. But as I do not have plenty of them, well have to be careful from now "
-" You didnt tell me you were such a good fighter."
Jarana looked at the Folf for the first time since he was awake. Her gaze was impossible to decipher.
-"There are a lot of things I didnt tell you "
-"Such as ?"
Jarana smirked, and finally put away her blade and the piece of cloth, before standing up.
-"We should depart soon. The place isnt safe, you know. The sooner we arrive at the Blackrock Mountains, the better "
-"For YOU its a good place to be. What can tell you I want to go there, too?"
A smirking grin spread over Jaranas lips.
-"If I wasnt knowing you, I could say that the allure of gold could be an enough motivation. To be serious, you have things to do at the Blackrock Mountains and me too. Better for the two of us to help one another, rather than fighting each other. Dont you think so?"
Lomstat nodded. That wasnt truly an answer to his question; but for the moment, he was more concerned by his immediate survival. If they manage to get out of here, he would have plenty of time to question her more After those thoughts, the Folf stands up, with ease. His wound had scarred rather quickly, surely with the help of the healing potion he drank earlier. He passed a finger through his fur, where the bone spear has ripped through his flank.
-"A rather potent healing potion "
-"Actually, I didnt think you would be in good shape that quickly "
-"Forget about it. Its a chance; we wont let it out. We have an advantage over the Necromancer that attacked us: The Grandmother."
-"Oh, yeah Hey! Wait a minute! How do you know hes a Necromancer?!?"
Jarana has walked a bit forward, but immediately froze, as she understood that she had committed an error.
-"I Ive studied Magick. But well talk about this later, okay?" She said, watching him with this blank gaze that let no feeling or emotion coming out.
Lomstat found this sudden change in the woman that has accompanied him so far alarming. As if nothing was left of the ever smiling, ever cheerful girl he has known. He wondered if the whole of that was nothing more but a comedy If it was the case, he could not trust her
-"No. I wont move without an explanation. Who are you?"
-"Lomstat, its me, Jarana "
-"No. The Jarana I know has not this feelingless gaze of yours. The gaze of a killer. You managed to deceive me so far. How can I trust you now?"
Lomstat spotted a hint of feeling quickly passing through her face: Sorrow? Disappointment?
-"Right" She said. "I guess its only fair My names his Jarana, its true. But Im not a simple traveller, nor a princess. Im an Undead Hunter."
Lomstats ears flicked at this. Disbelief was invading him, as his eyes widened. It does, indeed, explain her awesome fighting skills and weapons
-"And Why having asked for a bodyguard?"
-"Undead arent the only creatures to be feared in the Burning Sands. My mentor believed it was surer to travel by your side than alone. "
This explanation didnt satisfy the Folf entirely, but Jarana cut through his thoughts with a rather angry tone in her voice:
-"Listen, Folf, were both in this Situation. We should get out of here quickly, before the Grandmother falls back. With the sandstorm raging above us, the Necromancer wont be able to attack us. And the longer we stay there, the fewer chances are to get out during the sandstorm. Get it?"
The Haschachiyyin had to admit that Jaranas reasoning was making sense Despite the fact that coming out of the caves in the middle of a sand storm sounded like a really weird idea to him
-"Okay, Ill follow you. But youll have to give explanations, later!"
-"I promise. Now, can we move on?"
Lomstat nodded, and the both of them soon walked forward, with their equipment, carrying lit magical blue Glasstorches, a magical device that somewhat looked like a bulb of glass with intricate threads of black steel, that was carried by a short rod of metal on the downside of the bulb. Glasstorches emit a pale blue light, but providing enough light to be able to see long ahead, without blinding. The fact that Jarana did possess such artefacts was another subject of wondering, but the Folf decided to keep his questions for later For the moment, he simply followed the Undead Hunter in front of him. Jarana seemed to know this stone labyrinth quite well, hesitating only a bit at each intersection. Sometimes, the two could hear sounds like howling coming from a tunnel or another
-"Its the wind roaring outside" Jarana explained. "It enters through some pipes, and create those sounds. Many travellers passing through these tunnels think that they are the mourning of the soldiers killed long ago, before this place was called the Blood Sands "
-"Many travellers?" Lomstat noticed. "Does it mean those tunnels are frequently used?"
-"Only by those who know their existence " Jarana added without even looking at the Folf.
-"And They are numerous?"
Jarana didnt answer to this. She kept moving forward with grace and efficiency, surely guiding the Folf through the tunnels. After several hours, however, Jarana stopped and started taking food out of her backpack.
-"Pause, Lomstat. We eat. We rest. Well continue after."
Although Lomstat didnt feel especially tired, he saw the wisdom in Jaranas decision. No warriors can fight forever, after all So, he crouched near Jarana, and took some food, eating in silence. The silence between them was making him ill-at-ease. For some weird reason, he missed the cheerful and somewhat crazy woman he knew He looked at her. She was silent, cold, and distant. Something was broken between them, and he found that sad
-"Hem, do you still have those fruits with you?"
-"You know Lovers Sin " Lomstat added with a grin.
For a moment, there was no reaction from Jarana. But soon, a shy smile spread on her lips, and she then burst in laughter. The Folfs ears flattened on his skull, as embarrassment was invading his face, but he kept smiling, relieved that there was still something of Jarana inside this cold shell of flesh. Wiping a tear with her finger, Jarana managed to stutter a few words:
-"Heh, heh, heh, if we get out of here, Ill make you eat one of those fruits, promised!"
Lomstat sheepishly smiled at this. He had found back the Jarana he liked. This thought immediately made his smile to vanish. She was Human, damnit! How he could like such a freakish creature?! However He didnt have time to think further about it, as the woman told him that they would depart any time soon. After that, they both remained silent, walking through the dim lit, silent and fresh tunnels. It was smelling old stone, water and dust
-"There" Jarana pointed toward a tunnel that was slightly climbing up. "This way leads to the exit. You hear that sound?"
Lomstat raised one of his ears. He was hearing for a moment, actually, but until now, he didnt know what it was meaning. Jarana soon explained:
-"The wind. The Grandmother is still raging outside. Were lucky."
Jarana then took several pieces of fabric, even tearing some of the clothes she had bought. She then covered her head with those pieces of fabric, protecting here eyes, ears, and nose. She then handed the other torn clothes to Lomstat, inviting him to do the same. The Folf, understanding the purpose of this soon imitated the woman, covering his head and snout with protective fabric. Then, she handed him some little bags. Lomstat recognised the bags Jarana used to close the cave to escape the undead After that, they both resumed their walking toward the exit.
The more they approached from the exit, the louder the wind was. Soon, it became a constant and loud roaring, nearly deafening the two travellers. Jarana indicated by hand signs what they should do then. Lomstat quickly understood, and, as Jarana did, he get flat on the stone wall, walking with tiny side steps. Soon, he understood the necessity of this: The wind was blowing really strong, being so close to the wall was making the trip a bit easier, but, furthermore, it helped the two using less energy to move. Soon, they exited the tunnels
And Lomstat stayed a moment motionless, in awe
They had exited at the flank of a mountain, in the middle of the sandstorm. Huge clouds of sand were carried away by the furious winds at really high speed transforming the whole landscape into a moving sea of sand, sky indistinguishable in that storming fury. The wind was carrying sand, but also pieces of rock, sometimes as big as his head Lomstat was mesmerised by this sight for a long moment, until Jarana urgently nudged him into continuing their slow ascension. So, like crawling insects, they move on the flank of the mountain, made of a very black stone. Lomstat supposed that it was the Blackrock Mountains Soon, they managed to reach a haven constituted by a kind of cave in the way, protecting them a bit from the wrathful winds. There, they were able to take some rest. But, although the wind nearly rendered the Folf deaf, his ears twitched as he thought to have recognised a really odd noise Then, it became louder and clearer. A sudden fit of angst filling him, he urged Jarana to continue the trip immediately. She frowned at him, not understanding That is, until she heard too
A wolfs howl
The two quickly look at one another, and then, scurried away in the direction of the path they were following earlier, with renewed vigour, walking faster, although the renewed efforts was tiring. The feeling of emergency rose by another notch when they heard another wolf howl, closer this time. They move quicker, until they reach a kind of larger piece of rock at the flank of the mountain, although there was no more wall of rock to get support to. They would have to walk really carefully and slowly in order to pass this But they also have to move swiftly to escape the Necromancer. Before they would put their feet on the platform, Jarana pointed a finger toward the huge entrance of a cave, on the flank of the mountain, right after the platform.
-"This one leads to Al-Amaud." She shouted in the Folfs ears, in order to be heard from him. "There, well receive help."
Lomstat nodded. All in all, he has managed to reach his destination He swiftly moved on the platform, impressing Jarana with his dexterity. Arrived at the stone wall, he turned back, and handed his paw over, toward Jarana, inviting her to cross the platform, too. She took a deep breath, collect back her courage, and advanced on the platform, slower than the Folf, but with confidence, resisting to the force of the winds She nearly managed to pass it, she just had to grab Lomstats paw to arrive at destination
Thats when a huge winged silhouette appeared just behind Jarana, coming out of the raging walls of sand
A silhouette with a bone spear in one hand
A bone spear that was thrown at Jarana
Jarana who could not avoid it.
-"NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Lomstat howled, as the spear rip right through her body, soaking the platform with blood.
Disbelief passed through the womans eyes. She handed her hand toward the Folfs paw, nearly brushing his claws with her fingers And she fell out of the edge of the platform, in silent, disappearing in the winds
Lomstat immediately run toward the edge, looking over it, trying to spot the falling form of the woman For a moment, nothing else existed for the Folf Until he heard another howl. He quickly turned his head toward the origin of the sound, and saw the wolf with his skeletal dragon wings, approaching. Lomstat cursed and seriously considered attacking the Necromancer here and there Reason, however, soon regained his mind, and, instead of, he ran toward the cave, using all his energy and the might of his legs, running like the wind. He heard another howl, and, led by pure instinct, he leaped the last feet, falling inside the cave. The Folf distinctly heard the crash of a bone spear immediately behind him In one smooth move, the Folf get up on his feet, turn toward the entrance of the cave, and, spotting the wolf beginning to enter the cave, he cast a fireball at the Lupine The wolf had absolutely no chance to avoid it, and it exploded right on him, reducing his winds to ashes, and knocking him out cold The wolf fell on the ground; and the scent of charred flesh and fur invaded Lomstats nostrils.
Lomstat remained still for a moment, not believing it was that simple He approached the remnants of the wolf. The body was smoking; the armour didnt look really damaged however. The Folf stayed inside the cave however, not approaching to close from the charred corpse, covered by the wolfs cloak, that was cracking in the wind.
The body twitched.
The Folf jerked in surprise and quickly get shelter inside the cave. He then saw with horror the wolf getting up on his feet, as if nothing happened, not hindered at all by the furious winds roaring outside. Once stood up, the wolf even took time to dust himself He looked intact. Then the wolf raised his white and blank gaze toward the Haschachiyyin
-"Okaaaaay Youre one tough guy "
The wolf didnt react, and start walking toward the cave, not at all slowed down by the wind. The Folf suddenly remembered the bags given to him by Jarana, so he took one of them, and threw it at the ground of the entrance, provoking a loud and big explosion, causing half the flank of the mountain to fall The violence of the explosion threw the Folf away, hitting the ground real hard. He stood up, groaning and rubbing his head. He then looked up at the ex-entrance, now blocked by tons and tons of rock. Now in safety, the Folf allowed himself to express his feelings.
After a long moment, the Folf curled up near a wall, having stopped crying, meditated over his situation He sincerely doubted that the wolf was killed. His instincts told him so, and, during the many years he has lived as a Haschachiyyin, he has learned to trust his instincts for such things. So, despite his sorrow and exhaustion, he raised his bones, and forced himself into walking in the tunnel. Jarana told him that this tunnel was leading toward Al-Amaud. He just hoped that it would be no intersection
After what seemed hours, the Folf had to admit that he was lost. He had passed in front of dozens of intersections, each time he has let his instincts guiding him To no avail. Despair began to invade him again But, instead of falling back to the ground, he cursed, punched the wall (getting a bruise on his paw), and walked forward again
That is to say, until a kriss wielded by a hissing creature was put on his throat from behind him. The Folf immediately froze, opening his paws to show that he had no weapons at all At the scent, Lomstat recognised a reptilian Fur, the musky and unmistakable slightly disgusting scent was telling him so. The Folf was impressed: He didnt saw his opponent coming until it was too late. Soon, the tunnel was filled with lots of cloaked figures; hissing and walking silently toward the Folf.
-"Mazra, let him go"
The kriss was removed from his throat, and the reptile that trapped him soon walked away. Cornered by those creatures, the Folf didnt even dare to flinch. Then, the one who told Mazra to let the Folf go approached, getting really close to the Folf. Lomstat considered assaulting this one who seemed to be the chief, but the confidence with which the reptile has moved himself invited the Folf to more carefulness After a moment of silent gaze crossing, the reptile took back the hood that was hiding his face. The Folf saw that the reptilian was a grey-scaled snake, with bright violet eyes.
-"Salutations, Haschachiyyin. We were waiting for you. Im Kuei from the Ama-Iz-Jaqtaari."
With that, the snake bowed a little. The Folf blinked a little, before bowing a little too. This meeting promised to be Interesting.
Seventh Blade: The Ama-Iz-Jaqtaar.