Thursday, November 12, 2009

Paladin-Part 12

James led the company deeper into the wilds, following the train of barbarian refugees as they fled from the ruined camp and toward that of another tribal group elsewhere in the area. With Torquil scouting ahead, James and the others avoid contact while they track their quarry.

Meanwhile, far away at Silvertop, a group of high-ranking agents of the infernalist cult gathered at the call of their master. A handful of men and mutants stand about the center of a deep cave at the top of the mountain, some wearing the accoutrements common to spell-casting cultists and some seeming more like warriors or hunters. These six--an obvious magician, a slim masked man, a woman accompanied by a mutant cat, a beastman, a fair armored man and a green-skinned mutant--sat around a dim fire. At last, the master of Silvertop emerged from the recesses of the cave and joined these henchmen at the cave's center. Promptly, the henchmen arose.

"Good, all six of you are here." the master said, "Then I shall dispense with the usual cat-wrangling and get to the point."

With a casual flick of the wrist, a ball of sickly-green flame fell into the space between them and erupted into a fire large enough to illuminate their surroundings.

"The Eight Masters and the Old Man of the White Tower encroach upon our domain." he said, "You saw the plume of smoke rising from the northwest, so you know what that means."

The six henchmen nodded.

"There are a dozen of them." one of them said, "I've encountered them previously, as I attempted to ride past their border fortress."

Another laughed. "Nim, these are the whelps that wrecked your raiding party? That petty wizard and his bodyguard?"

The one called Nim smacked the mocking one upside the back of its head, and the flames revealed that this was one of the mutant beastmen- a tall, armor-clad warrior.

"Quiet you." Nim said, "The objective was to get past the defenders, not to slaughter all resistance."

The others chuckled at Nim's expense, but the master silenced them with a glare.

"The wizard is not to be underestimated, but he is not the most potent threat." the master said, "Neither is the one that hacked and hewed down the warriors of our lost tribe, though he is not to be discounted either. No, the leader is the threat- he's the Old Man's hand-selected protege, and he wears the colors of the elite warriors of the Tower."

A woman amongst them, cradling some weapon of the Old World in her arms, stepped forward.

"I've seen him." she said, "He's got that aura of command that their leaders often possess."

Another man, a slim one wearing a mask, also stepped forward.

"I've talked with our agents within their walls. His father is the one that struck out your eye, master. No doubt that the Old Man's using the son to finish the job. He has his father's stubborn refusal to see reason, and he's said to be able to wield men as well as he wields sword and spear."

The beastman chuckled. "Yet, he is but a man." he said, brandishing a gigantic gore-stained and double-headed battleaxe, "I will crush and smash the son as I did his father, ripping him apart with this very same maul."

The green-skinned, red-eyed mutant laughed heartily. "Not if I bury my axe in his skull first."

Yet another man--fair of face and form, clad in gleaming armor of azure and gold--now stepped forward, resting upon a fanciful large sword half as long as he was tall, and spoke his mind.

"Master, you know this leader's mind?" the fair one said, "Then I also say that I know yours: you mean to set us upon these enemies of ours, lest they raid unanswered and undermine our hold upon these fools."

The master of Silvertop grinned and clapped his hands approvingly.

"Indeed." the master said, "But this shall not be easy. This youth is, as Jaja noted, enjoys the confidence of his men. Nim's previous encounter shows that this company relies on their wizard greatly; he must become the primary target in any encounter, and only after you take the wizard out of the situation must you turn your full attention to this charismatic officer."

"Between the six of us," the masked one said, "we should easily take apart this band of warriors. Being outnumbered two to one means nothing when they're untried youths on against proven champions defending their own domain."

Again, the master grinned.

"This second attempt to wrest control of these lands from us shall meet the same end--the same bloody, horrible end--as the first." the beastman said, "We should call forth the full muster of the horde now, and as the tribes rally we go forth and run these whelps from the White Tower to ground. Once we have them, we can either slay them or bind them for later use as ritual sacrifices."

Everyone pondered the idea, and Jaja was the first to show agreement by nodding her head in approval. Seeing a consensus emerge, the master drew forth a pouch from his robes and handed out small ill-shaped rocks to each of his six henchmen.

"Very well then." the master said, "I have your orders."

The master pointed to the gleeming fair one. "Dezikon, go amongst the tribes and call forth the muster for a horde."

Dezikon the Fair saluted his master and immediately took his leave. The master then turned to the beastman.

"Go forth, Pale One, and bring forth our surprise weapon against our foes. Once ready, go meet Dezikon." the master said, and he followed the Fair One out of the cave.

The master then turned his attention to the remaining four. "Nim, Jaja," he said, pointing first to the masked one and then the mutant, "take Nathan and Red with you. Track them down and drive them towards the others. You are the hammer; they are the anvil. Together, we shall crush them as we did their fathers."

The four of them saluted and departed the cave. Once the master of Silvertop was again alone, he willed his infernal companion back into phaze with the living world.

"Master," the demon said, "there is a concern."

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