Friday, November 6, 2009

Paladin-Part 11

"You expect Cavil to successfully masquerade as a beastman?" Thomas said, as James fit the now-cleaned and emptied head atop the hot-tempered warrior, and continued "This is a mixture of cunning and trust that I never saw in you before."

James draped the hide of the beastman about his subordinate like a tunic, tying it off with a length of rope. Then he turned to Thomas, and the wizard understood James's mind by his smile.

"Oh ho! You think that some spell of mine can finish the disguise then?"

"Of course he does!" Cavil said, albeit muffled by the skull-come-helm atop his head, "Why else would he order the thing slain, skinned and scooped?"

"Correct." James said as he wrapped Cavil's limbs in the beastman's hairy hide, "This alone is just macabre dressings. We need a bit of magic to make this work, and as I recall these infernalists aren't keen on the more subtle forms of magic."

"You recall correctly." Thomas said, "Am I correct that you intend for this illusion spell to provide the majority of the visual element, while the bits you're using are to handle actual contact?"

James nodded his head, and then went about inspecting Cavil's disguise.

"With your spell, it should work." James said, handing Cavil the slain foe's club, "We let Cavil and Torquil go ahead, leading the way, and then once we're close we prepare for infiltration and then a swift attack. Cavil, already inside, will be able to distract the enemy enough for us to gain the gate and then swiftly take the camp."

Thomas sighed. "Not subtle at all, strategically."

James turned again to Thomas. "No, not at all, because that's not the objective. We know that the infernalists are out there, and that they dominate these barbarians, so by raiding and destroying this camp--and others thereafter--we demonstrate that it is we, and not they, that are most powerful to these barbarians. The infernalists will be forced to come to us to regain face and control, and once we've drawn them out we can put them in turn to the sword. Those that flee we follow back to their lairs, to do this again until we finally reach the master at Silver Top."

Thomas and Cavil both stood there, shocked at the ruthlessness of this strategy.

"You've some fire after all!" Cavil said, approvingly, and Thomas in turn said "No, not fire, Cavil, but iron- no, steel."

"Am I wrong?" James said, "Or do you two not want to destroy, forever, this threat to our people?"

Cavil and Thomas shook their heads, and James smiled. "On with it then!"

Thomas, having taken the time to prepare, placed the spell of illusion over Cavil; he then left the camp, with Torquil shadowing him and the rest of the company some ways behind. This they did for a few days, following winding paths through wilderness and ruins, up and down the hills of the lands once claimed by the civilization that lived here before the Azure Flames scoured the world. Then, as James foresaw, they come to the barbarian camp.

Cavil strides into the camp, not only unchallenged but also with fanfare. Torquil, observing from the treeline, signals for the rest of the company to advance and in ones and twos they do so. Cavil, inside, meets the elders of the tribe and plays his part as best he can.

"Apparently this beastman can't speak their tongue." Cavil notes silently, "I wonder if James realized that before he hit upon this scheme?"

The elders motioned for Cavil to describe his deeds, and Cavil pantomimed his answer; he danced about the inside of the elders' hut, trying to show that he engaged the foes of the tribe and--one by one--rent then asunder with his claws or smashed them into bloody pulps with his gore-stained club. Then Cavil, thinking the elders did not think well of civilized behavior, mimed the devouring of the slain enemies to sate his rage and hunger.

A moment passed. The elders eyed him carefully, and Cavil in turn took quick note of which one to slay first should his true face come through (the scrawny woman seemed most threatening, as the others all seemed to be aged warriors; that she held equal power implied that she possessed supernatural power- and thus had to die first), but instead the elders applauded him.

Cavil followed the elders back outside, where they gathered the tribe together about the central fire. It seemed apparent to him that the elders wanted Cavil to retell the story of his slaughter to all around. Cavil looked about the area; he had his club in hand, and he saw that many of the barbarians left other weapons lying about the central fire- this was a well-trafficked common area. Cavil also noticed that many of these barbarians were drunk, boisterous and already they seemed to regard him as both beast and fool- and disrespect him accordingly. This, Cavil saw, would be their undoing.

With greater exaggeration, Cavil repeated his pantomime of the false slaughter and subsequent devouring of the slain. As he cavorted about the flames, he heard their howling and hearty laughter; they seemed to think that dying at this beastman's claws was a most dishonorable death. He made wide, sweeping motions with his arms as he signaled to the waiting company that he was ready, all without anyone noticing his deception. He made the dance of death into a performance that kept his enemies' eyes on him, and away from the gate; as a hawk dives upon his prey, so did the company fall upon the gate and what clamor arose diffused into the din of drunken droogs within.

The gate taken, James and the others immediately dispersed and set the camp's houses and stores aflame. As they did so, one of the drunken men, so carried away with what rotgut passes for proper drink in this wilderness, got up and grasped Cavil by the shoulder. Without thought, Cavil spun about and punched the doomed drunkard square in the jaw; the crunch didn't hush the crowd, but the fool's fall into the fire did. Instantly, another arose and just as fast Cavil smashed his club into his skull and splattered that man's skull as if it were a ripe melon.

For a moment, Cavil pitied the mutant whose skin he wore, and in that moment pity turned to rage. His blood got up, and a misty haze fell over his eyes; the crowd, now in a panic, scattered at Cavil's righteous roar of rage. A third man attacked him, shattering the club, but Cavil ripped the axe out of that man's hands and threw him through the fire and into the first one- only to be cut down immediately thereafter. Cavil slew a fourth, and then a fifth, before one of the elders attacked him- as expected, the old woman!

James and Thomas saw the bolt of lightning strike Cavil, and despite his berserk state they decided to intervene briefly. Thomas, without thinking, threw a spell at the old woman that dismantled her invisible protections; he quickly followed with the silence spell that crippled Nim previously, and that one-two punch gave Cavil enough time to cleave the cunning crone in half with a single stroke. The company struck at will, cutting down the panicked and disorganized tribesmen without mercy or pause; they drove the men towards Cavil, while letting the women and children flee into the night. Within an hour, the entire camp blazed without end and the men of the tribe all lay dead about an exhausted Cavil's feet.

The Hamilton twins took up Cavil and carried him as James lead the company out of the destroyed camp. Once back into the treeline, Thomas and Torquil stood before James.

"No going back now." Thomas said, "I hope that this plan of yours works, James."

"It will." Torquil said, "I found this on the old woman's corpse."

Torquil produced a crude disc, with the mark of the infernalist cult upon it, kept in a cloth sack. He handed it to Thomas.

"This is similar to what we use, and I expect that it has similar enchantments upon it. Well done, Torquil." Thomas said, and he turned to James.

"We move to shadow the refugees; they will lead us to the next target." James said, "But for now, we need only gain distance from this place. Let's go."

With that, the company of young warriors--having struck their first great blow for the People of the White Tower--retired away from the ruined camp filled with fire and slaughter. The master of Silver Top did not fail to notice this challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment