Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paladin-Part 22

James, Thomas, the Hamilton twins and the rest of the host of warriors from the White Tower stood ready and prepared as they saw the mutant barbarian horde and their brutal masters--the Champions of Kogone--come out of the dense forest and into the clearing. The misshapen, bestial mockeries of men hooted and howled as they spread themselves into a rough line of men approximately forming a great shield wall. At the center of this line stood the great green-skinned monstrosity known as Red, reincarnated in new flesh, again wielding his signature arms and wearing his iconic armor. In the rear, atop a thing that might've been a flightless bird, is Jaja.

"Nim is not here." Thomas said to James, "Torquil is in danger."

"I suspect that, even if our enemies don't know our plan, they still suspect some sort of treachery. Nim is either the means to stop it, or the agent of it. Either way, we can do nothing for our man nor against our foe. It's up to them. We have to focus on what is before us."

Just then, behind him, a runner came to James.

"Sir! Permission to remove the enemy's primary asset."

James glanced over at a concealed man, armed with a bow, and nodded. Then he turned to Thomas, who already knew what question James had on his mind.

"Yes, I've done what I can for him. As my attention shall be occupied elsewhere, it is all I am able to do. The rest relies on you and him."

"A fact of which I am painfully aware."

James turned to the runner and whispered into his ear. The man then swiftly ran down to the men about the palisade and repeated instructions to each man there. All of them took note of Jaja's position and shifted their stance such that they made the most of the cover offered by the palisade.

Red, now atop some thing that might've been a bear or other canine once, rode up and down the line stoking the fires of fury within the barbarian horde at his command; in that same time, Thomas noted that Jaja slipped away towards the right flank and again dipped into the woods. Without anyone noticing, he fixed a mark to the woman hidden to all sight but those versed in magic; without Nim around, again he could dominate the field.

The mutant horde, as one, raised their arms to the sky and bellowed a warcry that put the men of the White Tower ill at ease. Then the horde charged forward, headless of all that clear ground between the break in the treeline and the crude hill-fort where the men made their stand. Archers behind the palisade, and hidden from sight from without, fired flaming arrows high into the air in volley after volley; some struck home, but most hit the ground instead- and sparking the open ground to burst into flame.

Immediately after the walls of flame erupted, Thomas ascended the one tower at the center of the fort. Eyeing groups of barbarians splintering away from the broken charge, he brought down one frozen icestorm after another upon them. Fixed in place just long enough, scores of mutants died a horrific and ignoble death through inhaling flames. Some, rallied by Red, negotiated their way through the fires and the flames to near the palisade; again, archers winnowed away at this already reduced group, but not nearly enough slumped into the soot-suffused dirt with shafts sunk into their deformed breasts and through their degenerate hearts.

Just then, the magical mark blinked into Thomas's view; Jaja appeared his view, with her lethal longarm leveled at his head. With a mightly clap of his hands, Thomas put forth a prepared countermeasure; a palm-sized icicle manifested into his hand, a hand that threw that icicle towards Jaja's position and landed so far that clearly magic assisted the youth's throw. Where it struck, it melted and out from the mouse-sized drop erupted a massive form of water that assumed a vaguely man-like form; malice in its eyes, it rushed the girlish gunfighter while firing a hose-like cascade of water at her.

The water monster channeled Jaja towards her fellow and his remaining henchman, but it was not easy. Swift on her feet, and supremely proficient with her weapon, Jaja's resistance took its toll upon Thomas' summon subordinate. Yet, knowing well what ill end would befall her if it fixed her, she saved her skin and yet lost her battle; she fell victim to the trap and ended up pressed against the palisade- as soon as she got into range, the assigned archer fixed upon her and shot away her swiftness with arrows skewering her legs and pinning her arms; she fled to the safety of her kind. The men, wielding spears and stabbing swords, held their foes in place thereafter as James looked to Thomas to finish the battle.

"Now, Thomas!" James said, "Call down the hammer!"

Atop the tower, Thomas again held forth his hands. This time, he called down a great and terrible blizzard. His magical minion soaked them all with watery blasts, taking away what warmth they had; his spell froze the foes and chilled them so swiftly that, again, they froze solid within moments. Resistance stopped. Thomas looked towards the sky.

"Lord of Winter, I renew the ancient pact. Take their essence as our gift."

The frozen forms shattered, the shards shot into the sky and seemed to dissipate as drops of rain on the wind.

Within the mage's mind, Thomas heard the answer: "I am pleased. I acknowledge our bond, mortal, and I shall answer your calls once more."

An hour passed. The flames died down, then went out. Smoldering around them lay a flame-scoured clearing occasionally soaked by supernatural means. No casualties, this time, and a lasting victory over the Cult after many inconclusive ones.

"It worked?" James said.

"He accepted their essence. None of them shall return to life. This is good, for we shall need the aid of the Lord of Winter when we make the final push."

"Why didn't you say so before?"

"I was not certain as to how the Cult of Kogone preserved its members until recently, and that realization is what got me thinking of the ancients our ancestors once knew and made pacts with."

"Dangerous, isn't it?"

"Forces of nature aren't anywhere near demons from beyond the natural world."

"You're certain about this?"

"No, but it's the best option we have."

James sighed. He knew the truth, but he didn't have to like it.

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