Monday, October 22, 2012

The Island

The Ship rolls on
our only landmark the sun
in the distance we see land
it grows larger on the horizon
our first view of the island

Boxes move in the cargo hold
I am a stowaway, finally released
sneaking away into the trees
I have freedom at last

Close my eyes
trying to forget the past that’s been dragging me down
I shouldn’t be escaping
there is too much left to do
what am I waiting for?
answers lie back at the ship
not on the island

Must act
sneak back
so many stories being told of the island
not by her, she gives orders and they move
I follow her
looking for answers
they venture into the jungle
so that is where I must go

She walks with them, with all her secrets
leading them to who knows what
leading them to their doom
she is more than mystery
she is temptation
I want to know want she knows
not stop her

I could surrender to her
let her show me all
but that would not be how it would work
she would not lead except to lead astray

When all is said and done
my duty must be followed
answers are the goal
not her

But how do I fight temptation
when in the end I know she will undo all

Though she cannot see me
I can still feel her stare
she calls to me to turn myself in, I can almost hear her voice
“Where you wish to go, I will take you there.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Inquisitor

We’re always suspicious when another party try to share our campfire. Tonight, in the hills less than a week from Sandona was no exception. I am called Bedaris, of the elven lands of Turlai. I travel with a party of adventurers, some acquaintances, some friends. They are the Northman Dyergan, a great warrior, the dwarf Wogan, a warrior priest from Khardova, the thief Urda, a woman from the blacktown of Etrak and my apprentice, Meirlaia, also a Turlai elf.
This group who we encountered were all human, so we were immediately suspicious of them and them of us. They exchanged few words apart from their leader speaking softly with Dyergan, warrior to warrior. Each of them wore an unusual symbol that I could not place. Any group travelling under a symbol are even more likely to be quarrelsome.
“Steer clear of this lot,” Wogan whispered to me. “Marks of Almar on them, church folk can’t be trusted.”
“Armers you think,” I asked. The Armers were a radical sect of the Human religion who not only hated outsiders, despised spellcasters like Meirlaia and myself.
“Can’t be sure, not the symbol they wear, can’t be sure.” Wogan spoke in a deep bass, often repeating phases for effect. Most others found him dull and slow but his advice was always right on target. It was his opinion I always valued the highest.
If an Armer suspected someone of spellcasting they could arrest them in the name of the church immediately. That was the law of this land, although we would be unlikely to surrender without a fight any confrontation with armed warriors would result in casualties we could ill afford. Urda was staying well away from the strangers by herself but Meirlaia was talking idly with one of the strangers.
Meirlaia had been my apprentice for only a few months but she had already proved to be foolhardy and naïve at best. At first I let her speak her words, trust her judgement as I was supposed to but after a small while more of the strangers gathered around her. They all still wore their swords and armour, which should have been unnecessary with camp made. I motioned to Dyergan but he was already moving to get his enormous two handed sword, pretending to sharpen it. Urda, in the shadows, no doubt had knives by the cartload hidden in her clothes, she allowed me to see a glint of steel, though I trusted her to be prepared. Wogan was less subtle, taking up his mace and shield and walking over to the strangers.
“Best get your gear off and relax, men of Farah. We don’t wish to be armed all night.” The men looked up and the dwarf and snarled. Meirlaia looked over shocked and took a step back from the man she was talking, not realising she was already surrounded.
I stepped closer, trying to hide the fact that the pole I was holding was not a walking stick but was in fact a javelin ready to be thrown.
“Come over here Meirlaia, help me get dinner started.”
“Two elves travelling in one group. Not often we see your kind here, pointing eared one. Can I ask what your purpose is in our lands?” The man was not the leader who spoke to Dyergan but another, making no secret to the broad sword at his waist.
“Perhaps in good time friend,” I said through clenched teeth, “first we must get our meal started, and you should put away your weapons.”
Meirlaia tried to walk back over to me but she was stopped by another of the strangers.
“No matter, your apprentice here has told us enough already.”
I looked over to Dyergan and he stepped forward holding his two handed claymore threateningly.
“Let her go and be gone, you have overstayed your welcome,” Dyergan said menacingly.
The man merely laughed and motioned to his lackeys who moved on Dyergan and me.
I thrust hard at the first soldier but he parried my blow. Dyergan had two men to fight and was grimacing with effort, swinging his huge blade.
Wogan moved to rescue Meirlaia but he too was outnumbered. Meirlaia was foolishly trying to cast a spell but the man who had her was throwing her round like a rag doll and she could do nothing. The helpless girl had never learned to truly defend herself, as much as I tried to teach her of the need.
I tried to cast a spell of my own in the chaos but the man I fought would not give me the time. Eventually I released a simple fire spell that distracted him enough to stab him in the leg. Although he was still mobile and I was forced to fight on. But moments later he let out a yelp and collapsed. As did one of the men fighting Dyergan, while our leader felled his other adversary immediately.
I launched my Javelin at one of Wogan’s adversaries, seconds before the Dwarf was cleaved in two and Dyergan finished his other. In the chaos I lost track of Meirlaia and the man. Urda, who’s knives had swung the battle was nowhere to be seen either.
Wogan started his best dwarf sprint towards where he knew they went. I followed to find Meirlaia, soaked to the bone, shivering, but standing still, over the body of the man, who also had a knife in his back. She had no doubt finally got a spell to cast, though a clearly crude and ill-advised one. A ball of ice from that range could have killed her.
I went over to Meirlaia, draping my cloak over her shoulders and whispering encouragement in her ears. Urda, who had already gone through the man’s pockets, threw me a small medallion with a sun and a fist on it, the symbol of the Armers. We should have known. Travelling in the lands of men would only get more dangerous.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jack Steel: The Walls

Every night they shut down the tournament for an hour.

No Lights, barely air to breath, nothing to do but sit and wait. They did maintenance then, or so we thought.

In the maze everyone felt lost, except Jack. I never knew how he stayed so sure, even when backtracking into dead ends, till he told me.

The walls, they moved them in the night. All of them except the ones too close to shooters. Jack knew the ways so well he knew how the walls would move, which way they swung. Could do all but move them himself.

He took us to the edge of the maze. Waited till dark so he could set to work.

Waiting for dark terrified us all. We never stayed still before then. You couldn't know what would come down a tunnel at you. Every time we hunted, if the prey were still we won. Yet that time we waited. No clock to tell us how long it could be. Even Jack won't speak of the waiting, drove us halfway round the bend.

But the lights slammed off eventually and we went to work. Moving in pitch black, lungs burning for more air, we heard the walls moving. Strained our eyes to find a wall that would open up an exit from the maze. We searched blindly, knew time was against us, till suddenly it all happened and we stood outside the maze.

A man met us. Pale and diseased thing. Said he tried to escape too. But the maze was sealed off here. He could see the way out but couldn't reach it. Nothing to eat but the slime on the walls and the rats on the floor. Nothing to drink but boiled sewer water.

We saw the exit from there. A raising bridge that could move to any position on the mazes edge. We watched as the bridge went down to allow new shooters over a huge cavern and into the maze. It was too far away for us to reach in time, and we could never predict where it'd land next. Each of us stared longingly as it raised back up, closing any chance of escape.

Jack didn't even watch. His eyes just fixated on the ground. The kid looked crushed. The plan didn't work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jack Steel: The Tournament

When the Sky Men came back they brought weapons we'd never dreamed of. We had no answers. Lucky they wanted hostages, not corpses. The first attack, we found out, was just a test. They wanted to know how The Hub stood up to a fight.

Jack and our boys stood just fine.

Soon the place was up and running again. Jack worked showing the money through the tunnels beneath the boilers.

Sky Men took to constructing more tunnels, more boilers, more foundries, and all we built was more weapons.

It didn't feel like we were conquered. Sky Men treated us better than the founding leader of The Hub, for a while at least.

But then the new people came. Mercenaries, hard men, the best gun slingers in the galaxy. They all came for the tournament. We were each given a primitive rifle, they were going to hunt us like game birds. But we were armed to raise the stakes, and give us hope.

Some of the locals split up, I stayed with Jack.

We were stalked for days by two commandos from Kralliss, but Jack Steel knew the tunnels too well and led them into a trap. For one so young Jack had the patience of a chess master.

Soon we'd taken more than our fair share of scalps, and Jack was on top of the tournament's leader-board.
We based ourselves near the boilers, so that's where the best shots in the world wanted to come.

Sometimes it felt like we were dancing puppets though. It was time to escape, because we'd never be released, not from there.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jack Steel: The Hub

Jack Steel was born in The Hub, main colony on the factory world of Clabrius. Jack worked in the boilers, a rough part of town, the power nexus for The Hub. Lived in a dormitory for other lost souls. Didn't school, school was just for the lucky ones.

In the boilers you don't care about the noises above. When the sky opened he didn't even flinch, just kept working. Wasn't till warning told them he took up arms. Fought the Skymen in the boilers, but it wasn't enough, they had to fight back.

Jack was a leader, commanded the resistance. The boilers never fell and they won back the foundry and part of the forge, nearly half the whole Hub.

But they were outmatched. The Skymen came harder. It was a slaughter. Only the most skilled survived. Sure enough one was Jack Steel.

But the Skymen never finished them. Holed up in the boilers we all wondered why. Was it mercy, or something else, that stayed their hand.

We waited, day after day. Boilers ran dry, air would soon be unfit to breathe. Jack went out alone. The Hub was deserted, expect for the dead. Skymen couldn't live without the boilers running.

Now there's water in the boilers and the ventilator works again. We try to rebuild but so much has been lost. We would have lost everything if not for Jack Steel.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Howling

Howling, unintelligible, the man chasing was insane but he wouldn’t stop. I jumped a fence and still the man followed. He landed flat on the ground with a crunch but rose and chased on unperturbed, all the while howling away.

To my right, down another street, I could hear horses’ hooves pounding away, along with equine screams of terror. The fire that had started this whole thing was still spreading. Perhaps that was the source of the horses’ panic. But not even I was naïve enough to believe that. I looked back to see not one but three men chasing me. It was becoming clear that they were no longer really men.

Ahead a bus had overturned, blocking the entirety of the narrow street. The men were approaching fast, their howls more desperate than ever. A quick look around showed a small supermarket had its door open, even though the lights were off. If I’d had my time again I would never have gone in there. But I had no idea then how dangerous an enclosed space could be.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the Grey Stone

Looking out
standing on grey stone
searching desperately
scanning fields of green
tiny ants run
silver sticks of death approaching
voice sings out
grey stone comes alive
defend the walls
the red flag of war is upon us

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Gift of Magic

“Can you hear me? Don’t be afraid.”
Chula scrambled away from the thicket. Where had the voice come from? It was deep and stern. Not boisterous like another ogre’s.
“What are you?” Chula asked.
“I am the power to make impossible into reality. I am magic. For you,” the voice said.
Chula was an ogre. Ogres were not magical. Though they appeared to be dim-witted monsters they were much like any other mortal race. But they were never wizards.
“You are not for me,” Chula said. “Ogres don’t use magic.”
Then she fled to her camp. At this time of year when the sun rose early and set late her family led buffalo through the plateaus. When the days turned dark they would retreat to the caves.
Her father was making arrows for the day’s hunt and Chula ran to his arms. She did not speak. Words weren’t needed. Her fear was obvious to him. Ogres usually had nothing to fear. His arms were enough comfort that she could return to her duties.
Plants infested the plateau. Many were poisonous, some were delicious. Chula knew how to spot each one. Today she searched for food. Another day she could be searching for medicines or even weapons.
“You return,” the voice said.
Chula looked around. It was not the same bush. The spirit was following her.
“Go away.”
“Ogres are not magical,” Chula said.
“No mortal is magic. My kind are magic,” the voice said. “My kind are afraid of the Ogres. That is why you are never our wizards. But you are different. I overcame my fear to speak to you. I ask that you do the same.”
Magic had fears?
“What do you want?” Chula asked.
“You,” the voice said. “To be my wizard,”
Chula looked around. She couldn’t run away. The spirit would always follow. Her only hope was to reason with it.
“I don’t want power.”
“Yes you do,” the voice said. “Why do you study the plants if not to gain power from them? Why do you follow the animals and learn their instincts if not to gain their power? You have gained so much power already that other mortals could not dream of. Take this final gift from me. Be my wizard.”
The voice was closer now. It pleaded to her. She could almost feel herself becoming a wizard then and there. She could raise mountains and summon storms. She had true power at her fingertips.
But to what end? She had no use for this gift. With that thought the spirit retreated.
“I will wait,” it said.
Chula returned home much later in the day with all the food she could carry but the camp was not its usual buzz of activity. The Ogres were huddled together around something and Chula rushed over to see her father lying on his back with a huge spear in his stomach.
“The hill men attacked us on the hunt,” Cousin Bran said. “Can you help him?”
The spear was in deep. Her father was dying. No amount of medical skill could save him. Chula reached for her knife so she could end his suffering, but she hesitated. The voice was closer than ever.
“I am waiting.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Return of a cursed one

Lebogan Shah peered through the slit in his door at the streets that were growing darker by the second. Soon the Parson's voices would be heard through the city of Dalasca, declaring the streets safe for the 'cursed ones'. That was what Lebogan Shah was called.
It had been that way for centuries in Dalasca. The blessed walk the streets by day, the cursed by night. Always separated.
"Retreat now blessed ones," the Parsons' song could be heard. "Lest the cursed corrupt your soul. Return now cursed ones, if you've the will to leave your hole."
A foolish chant, but it had been sung each day for centuries. The blessed would return to their homes and the cursed would emerge.
Shah's door opened. Dalasca was dirty and smelled of squalor and poverty but compared to his house the air felt cool and fresh. Other cursed were emerging, snarling at any blessed ones who remained in the streets. The blessed ones, the Altari, would be gone from the streets in minutes. The night belonged to the Krull, the cursed.
The streets and alleys were unlit and no moon graced the sky but Shah could see clearly. He walked amongst the cursed Krull, their skin like coal. A few gave him strange glances but most were used to his ghostly complexion in these streets. The night began like any other, until he saw a face he thought he knew, before it disappeared. Shah moved to follow. To find one who escaped his presence.
He knew the face, if his eyes did not deceive. Veska Ayari, one of the cursed maidens, a daughter of the Kingdom of Krull. Shah had not seen her in years and thought he'd never see her again. The sight of her alone nearly warmed the blood in his veins.
Shah had not always been cursed. As a child he walked by day among the blessed. A child of the Altari Empire. But he was forever curious and took to leaving his house at night, to spy on the cursed ones.
He had seen Veska, a girl with such passion and beauty couldn't exist among the blessed. He spoke with her and won her heart, but they could never be together. He was blessed, she was cursed.
Shah had left the city, not yet a grown man, to find a solution and he though he found it in the far off city of Mazanad. A man with ghostly white skin, cursed as teh Krull were to never see the light of the sun. Shah had asked the man to share his curse and the man bit into his neck, nearly killing him. But when he woke the curse had already begun.
Shah returned to Dalasca but Veska was horrified at him. She screamed he had given up his mortality. That he could no longer feel, no longer love. His curse was a thousand times worse than hers and she ran away, never to be seen or heard of by Shah again.
He ran through the streets. Trying to feel excitement, like those days so many years ago when he tried to feel heart broken, but could only feel emptiness. With thoughts of Veska so close Shah could almost remember how to be passionate. He tried to focus on thoughts of her eyes, her lips, her breasts. But his mind could only rest on her neck.
Shah froze. Something sharp was being held at the back of his heart.
"Lebogan Shah," Veska's voice was unmistakable. "It has been a long time."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Broken Bottle

Joe lay on his dirty old couch on his back porch. He'd spent the night there, although he couldn't remember falling asleep.
His friends had come for a party to celebrate his escape from his vile marriage. That was the night before. Now there was just the usual devestation of the morning after.
Joe stared blankly at the unpolished deck. Tooheys cans and bundy cans everywhere. And the bottle of Smirnoff, smashed, broken shards all over the place.
It was not broken in clumsy drunkedness. It was in anger. All nights ended in anger for Joe. She was not the problem, he was. No wonder no friends had stayed to help clean up. Joe drove everyone away.
They had been so happy to begin with but the pressure of life had changed Joe. And after that he had changed her. Changed her into the witch she became, before she finally ended it with that piece of paper.
His friends had seen it all. They would support him but they also blamed him. All the jokes in the world didn't change their judging eys. He drove them away when he drove her away. Soon he would have nothing.
If only he could go back. To a time when he was not broken. But just like that bottle he could not go back.

Monday, February 27, 2012


A single drip and then a patter, so begins the rain
I watch it with an aire of dread out through my window pane
The night is fast approaching and the day will soon refrain
And all the while there's water flowing quickly down the drain

The rain's mystique in my mind is anything but inane
Its origins could only be the work of the arcane
So high and far its world is impossible to attain
Out of reach and understanding no matter how hard we strain

Tonight the rain will surely bring another type of pain
I try to not think thoughts that are easy to entertain
Perhaps there is a way, a sort of injury to feign
Alas I can't avoid it, hockey training in the rain

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Between the Shelves

Nebba scurried back to his hiding place as the dusty Dickens was taken. He felt a pang of regret, why choose that copy? The readers usually wanted the new editions with the shiny pages. But Nebba loved the smell of the old ones. There was work to do so Nebba slid down the back of the shelves to find his next vessel.
Books held amazing power, they could transfer a reader into another world for hours to safely return when they put the book down. Creatures like Nebba gave the books power.
Nebba did not like being in the open air, he dashed across the carpet and leaped into a new volume, Huxley this time, weaving through each page like deer through a forest. He delighted in every word, every syllable and every letter. The book was now ready for an eager reader to enjoy.
It broke Nebba's heart to see books taken that he had not prepared. The reader would struggle through lifeless pages and no doubt put the book down. With good fortune they may return and take another but many didn't. Readers lost for Nebba's shortcomings.
If it were possible Nebba would enchant every book, but he was only one and there was not enough time. Leaping out of Huxley and back to the carpet, skipping between the eager readers shoes and into an Eddings.
His life was always under threat. The books were powerful objects and became even more dangerous after he brought the pages to life. He could take join in their words but never their stories. For when one of his kind was drawn into the story they could not escape like the readers could. They would be trapped and become a part of the story.
So many had fallen in this way, becoming characters in narratives, slaves in paper and ink. It was the constant threat to Nebba's kind. So curious to know the world they sent readers to they needed a will of cast iron to resist.
Nebba knew that one day he too would succumb. He too would become a character in an amazing narrative, drawing readers into every scene. But for now he could still take joy in the simple things. Words, letters, suffixes and similes. And the smell of old books.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Krull Assassin, Part 2

Kekai followed the elf servant girl through the labyrinth that was the palace of King Baredah. The other Krull Assassins and the Arcaner Mardai followed. The went up and down different flights of stairs, made as many left turns as they did right turns. There was no direct way to navigate this place. Only perfect knowledge of every corridor would ensure correct navigation.
Despite being a humble servant the elf moved with the quiet grace of one trained in stealth. It was true that elves possessed a natural control of their body that most members of other races could only dream of but Kekai was still intrigued.
At the back of the group Mardai could be heard muttering away again. If any other member of his squad was to act that way Kekai would murder them where they stood, but Mardai was not a Krull Assassin and he was essential to completing their mission. And they were so close.
They approached a strange door that looked more like a giant’s long shield, made from solid brass. The girl looked back at them. She could lead them no further. The Krull Assassins were ready for this eventuality. Kekai signalled to two of his brothers to go to work. They produced a number of strange tools, normally the arsenal or the master thief, today another weapon of the assassins.
"Just look at her," Mardai whispered, Kekai tried to shoo him away but the Arcaner wouldn't be denied. "The silent treatment won't work on me now. What do you think? Should I see if that lovely complexion stretches over her whole body? Or would you like to do the honour?"
"You won't touch a hair on her head," Kekai hissed at barely a whisper, though he felt like he was shouting to the sky at Dursa herself.
"It's not the hair I'm interested in," Mardai sneered back. Kekai stroked the blade in his sleeve with the tips of his fingers, if he wished Mardai would already be dead. But Mardai knew Kekai had to stay his blade. They could not complete the mission without the Arcaner's powers.
The girl was less than a pace ahead of the Assassin leader, her face was now turned, watching the Assassins work to open the door. Kekai begged silently to her not to overhear the Arcaner's words. She was already terrified, he wanted to protect her. Mardai would do nothing but harm.
After much work the door clicked open, the assassins were all positioned along the walls of the corridor as Kekai peered into the room with a tiny mirror, so as not to expose himself to a waiting attack. The room had two elven soldiers armed with bows pointed at the door waiting for Krull to enter the room. Kekai gave a signal to another assassin who used a similar mirror to also survey the room inside. Then they drew throwing stars and sent them slicing into the ribs of both archers. Two other assassins followed the stars and finished the elves, who had started to moan in pain. The star could never be as accurate as the bow, but its ability to turn corners made it a useful tool.
They entered the treasury, Kekai making sure to keep himself between the girl and Mardai at all times. The Arcaner had work to do here, then Kekai's blades could contemplate work. The Arcaner walked to the middle of the treasury room and closed his eyes, slowly turning in a circle before he stopped and his eyes shot open. "There it is," he said wide eyed in his usual slimy tone.
The Arcaner stepped nimbly through mountains of elven treasure. His eyes on one thing, the magical weapon of the elves. None of the Krull before now knew what it looked like. Only Mardai's talent to identify objects of power allowed him to find it.
Mardai knelt in front of a chest of solid gold, looking up helplessly as it was locked. Kekai motioned to his assassin's to get to work with their lock picks.
"What is your name?" it was the girl. Her voice broken and hoarse, but still the hint of lyrical beauty was there.
"I am called Kekai," he whispered back. "What do they call you?"
"Meila," the girl looked to the ground. It was such a beautiful name, why did she look down. Kekai could not speak more. Mardai was muttering Arcaner spells. Nonsense words to any but one trained in magic. He held in his hand the object of power, a small statue of a tree. It no doubt represented the Olarea, the Tree of Life, source of much of the world’s power so the elders said. The elves' lands lay closest to where the tree was said to grow. Maybe this statue was linked to the tree itself. If so it would hold devastating power.
As Mardai raised the tree it began to glow, its cold silver surface changing, so the tree almost looked real. Mardai's eyes stared straight at Kekai, and he the assassin felt he could almost hear the Arcaner's thoughts. Almost see his magic.
I know what you would do when my task is done assassin. My life means nothing to you, just like your fellow assassin's lives mean nothing. But your heart is not so cold. Your lovely elfling I have put under a curse. Her blood now flows with mine. If you kill me you doom her. It is already done. You'd best stay your blade.
Kekai's eyes bulged in horror as he saw the spell leave Mardai's hand and enter Meila, the magic spreading to every part of her body, as it already was through Mardai. And then it was gone. Kekai saw nothing but what his normal sight could grant. Mardai had shown him that spell, and now Kekai could do nothing but wait for the second spell to be cast.
This spell would win the great war for the Krull and doom the elves of Alfeira. After this spell was cast the Krull race could recover and rebuild and their land could become beautiful again. But Kekai swore a silent oath. He would never again set foot in Krua. He would escape the Arcaner's influence with Meila and start a new life. And if the snake came after him he would find a way to break that curse and then take his revenge.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


"Wait," her melodic voice sang.

I could have turned around.

She would promise so much.

Hot nights of December passion.

Cold mornings of August loneliness.

Long walks in the rain.

A body to hold tight.

Love, obsession, pain, loss, betrayal.

I stepped onto the train.

This time she could wait.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dalsakesh Manor

At night the streets of Red Rock were just a dark orange blur, especially from this height. Daneski Vilton climbed carefully up the side of the Dalsakesh Manor. It was one of the tallest buildings in Red Rock and housed one of the wealthiest men there. Hasha Dalsakesh was the owner of more Red Rock horses than any other man except Lord Faralay himself and unlike Faralay he was obsessed with foreign luxuries and decorations. Nobody had dared to scale the Dalsakesh Manor in the past, but Daneski had worked out how to do it.
There was a guard keeping watch on the top of the tower, but unless he looked straight down at the wall, and he would have to lean a long way over his barrier to do so, he would never see Daneski. This meant Daneski had to be quiet as flea in the dirt as he climbed, which was why he moved so slowly.
There was also a soldier on the ground walking circuits of the tower. Each circuit took four minutes, after which Daneski would need to be hidden behind one of the drapes that decorated the tower. If he had to hurry to the next drape then the guard above would hear, if he didn’t make it in time the one below would see. Most saw this task as impossible, for a master like Daneski it was simply a challenge.
The only unlocked window was the highest in the Manor, at least eight stories up, and Daneski was almost there. If he were to look down now he would see the entire city, its flat topped roofs and grid of streets and alleyways, fading into the gloom. Many would hear of the great heist he was about to pull in the days to come, it was his most ambitious job yet.
Daneski once again carefully positioned himself behind one of the drapes that covered the tower as the soldier below made his circuit once more. The drapes were decorated with pictures of mountains and forests unlike anything in the Faran Badlands that Red Rock was surrounded by. Daneski always wondered how much of the world there was. He had been read stories as a child about heroes and wizards travelling through incredible lands but could barely believe anywhere could really be so different. Dalsakesh’s treasures were some proof however.
He was within reach of the window now, the guards above and below still oblivious. Somewhere nearby on the ground were Milosh and Grendic, two of the toughs in the gang that Daneski was also in. Jeneal, their leader, would be with them, she was running the show. Everything needed to work perfectly.
Daneski had with him a stone, which he would throw from the window when he was ready to make his escape. When they saw the signal Milosh and Grendic would start a diversion, drawing the attention of both guards, so Daneski could make a speed descent down the wall with as much treasure as he could carry, which would hopefully be a lot. Then Jeneal would meet him at the bottom and they would make for their safe house, Mad Naric’s.
The guard passed by, oblivious once more, and Daneski made his move, still being careful with every movement he glided up the wall and onto the windowsill. The room he saw was filled with all kinds of golden artefacts but it was not these that caught Daneski’s eye. A man in an armchair holding a crossbow was staring straight at him, Hasha Dalsakesh. Or would have been staring at him, had he not been sound asleep. Daneski breathed a sigh of relief. He had been about to risk the huge fall and jump from the building. Either way though this man was sure to complicate matters.
Daneski felt for his knife, but he carried nothing except the warning stone. He could not risk carrying the treasure he wanted while the sleeping man was armed and ungagged. On one of the tables in the room the aristocrat had been eating something with a silver knife and fork. That would have to do. The thief took the knife and crept behind the sleeping man’s chair. With the blade on his neck Daneski carefully removed the bolt from the crossbow before covering Dalsakesh’s mouth with his hand.
The man woke immediately and tried to called for help but only the tiniest mumble was able to escape.
“If you want to live, stand up and stay quiet.”
Daneski tried to keep his voice calm and authoritative, praying to Almar that the man would fail to see through the bluff. This knife was so dull it would barely draw blood, he could never kill with it.
“Even if you scream now I could kill you and be gone before anyone could intervene,” Daneski whispered, thankful to see his hostage tense with fear at the words. Meanwhile Daneski’s eyes scanned the room like a sprinting wolf, desperately looking for something highly valuable to sneak away with. He would not be taking a sackful of loot home with him today.
In this light what looked gold could be brass, silver could be polished iron, jewels could be real or fake. He needed a sure thing, something that was guaranteed to be valuable. Then he saw it.
Daneski grew up around horses in Red Rock. He had ridden in the races as a child until he became too tall and heavy. He had even ridden Dalsakesh’s horses for a short time and had won a highly prestigious trophy as well. As the rider Daneski had been given a small painted wooden replica of the trophy but Dalsakesh had received the real, solid gold version. Daneski would never forget it, and he was looking at it now. He just needed enough time to throw his stone, wait for the diversion, then grab it and leave. He turned Dalsakesh away from the window to face the middle of the room then moved his hand from the man’s mouth to go into his pocket for the stone to throw.
“You know,” said Dalsakesh. “You won’t cut much with a serving knife. Guards!”
Dalaskesh spun and Daneski had to duck the rich man’s fist. Daneski responded with a slash of the knife but it was blocked by a forearm and sent sliding to the floor, without leaving even a mark. Daneski realised what a fool he’d been, he’d faced his hostage directly in front on the table he took the knife from. The guards would be here soon, Daneski needed to get that prize or this would all be for nothing, but he also needed to escape. Milosh and Grendic would have heard the commotion, they would be doing their best on the ground to make an escape route but that would only be open for a short time. Daneski had to act fast.
He dodged two more punches and responded with a strike to the man’s jaw that sent him reeling back. Daneski took his chance and grabbed the trophy before leaping from the window, catching a drape as he did.
Climbing down was an exercise in speed, not stealth. For any other to climb that wall with the heavy trophy in hand would be near suicide, but Daneski was a master escape artist. In moments he had both feet on the ground and was running into the side streets with Jeneal, Dalsakesh screaming incoherently from the windowsill.
“So you finally got your hands on that trophy after all these years,” Jeneal chuckled. “Get any trouble from the old boss?”
“Nothing a good right hook couldn’t solve,” Daneski joked back.
“You idiot,” Jeneal laughed. “We wanted you to break into his house, not break his jaw.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Krull Assassin, part 1

Kekai paused, bow steady, and released the shaft. His aim was true as another elf sentry fell. His unit of highly trained Krull Assassins continued their progress through the elf city of Alfeira, to the royal palace. Just as other identical groups moved to different locations inside the borders of Turlai, the land of the elves.
Kekai was part of the great Krull counter attack. Casualties in the battles on the Plain of Altar were said to be catastrophic, but the war that could not be won face to face could still be won by more cunning means.
Again Kekai motioned his assassin brothers to stop as he raised his bow, placing an arrow in the neck of another elf sentry. It was almost inconceivable how easily the task was turning out to be. With the best elven warriors away at war the city was all but defenceless. The elves foolishly believed the Krull would not attack civilian targets.
Mardai, an Arcaner in the group nodded his approval at the kill. Arcaners were spell casters, wizards that could us magic as a weapon. Mardai’s task would come later, using the elves own enchanted weapons to destroy their city. Kekai’s assassins were Mardai’s escort.
The city of Alfeira was a bleak place now. The elves once boasted of its beauty, The Jewel of the East. Under King Baredah’s rule it had been scarred. Windows filled with cobwebs, waste littering the street, houses about to collapse having been stripped for spare wood and metal to help the war effort. The deserted streets only enhanced the feeling of a city that could never return to its former splendour.
Yet no Krull would ever feel sympathy for the plight of the elves. Krua lay in complete ruin. Alfeira had lost some of its beauty but Krua had lost everything. Buildings were reduced to rubble, forests had been burned to the ground and entire populations left homeless and starving. The stench of death coated the nation, bodies lay rotting in streets as those left had nowhere to take them. The blow that was struck this day would be fully justified. The elves could not hide behind their biased views of a just war any longer.
Five elven soldiers patrolled in front of the palace of King Baredah. The King was absent so the security was bare. If not for spies reporting of the elves weapons of magic being locked in the treasury here then this raid would be all but meaningless.
Kekai assigned four of his assassins a separate target with a series of hand movements and then raised his own bow. His tongue would click, five times in tempo, to ensure all assassins fired in unison. The result was perfect, five elves toppled, arrows to the neck. You could not scream in your last seconds and sound an alarm when an arrow pierced your throat.
Mardai the Arcaner let out a chuckle and Kekai glared at him. It was true that to someone untrained in the Krull Assassin techniques that such a feat of coordination would appear lucky or even magical and that the Arcaner was right to be awed. But the assassins operated in complete silence, anything less than that standard and they risked discovery. The Arcaner was not an assassin but he was just as likely to reveal their position.
They crept past the five bodies, drawing their blades as they opened the palace doors. The treasury would be on the lower levels, but they needed a hostage to confirm its location.
The halls of Baredah’s palace were dark and completely deserted. With the royal family away at the front line there was no need for servants to be roaming every corridor. Still it was essential that someone be found and made to talk.
The palace featured finery from across the civilised world. Dwarven cabinets housed human silver and elven gold. Weapons from every culture, even orc, hung from the walls. Even the flooring was Krullian carpet. The wealth of the world was on display for a King who cared for no culture, not even his own.
The palace moved from one grand room to the next, not a soul in sight. All that could be seen were shadows, any but a krull, with their superior night vision, would be blind.
But ears were better than eyes. Above the heartbeats of his assassin brothers Kekai could hear the softest whimpering from a side room. He peered into the undecorated storage room and saw the first person they had encountered since entering the palace.
“Have you found something?” Mardai whispered. Kekai didn’t bother to glare back. The figure in the corner of the room could not escape now. Behind a barrel of aromatic spices there sat an elf servant girl. Although she looked no more than sixteen, as an elf she would be nearly forty years old. Yet it was said that elves matured slowly both in body and mind, and this girl had childlike eyes, full of fear.
“Oh she’s exquisite,” Mardai spoke softly but his words were like knives. Kekai motioned to Aznas to keep Mardai away from the girl. They would get nothing from her with him salivated everywhere.
“Don’t be afraid,” Kekai said, barely whispering, but the girl’s pale blue eyes responded to meet his own as if he had bellowed the words from the top of his lungs. Her skin was soft and fair, almost white, her cheeks only imperfection were the tears that stained them. She wore simple white robes over her tiny frame.
“Did you come to set us free?” she responded in her lyrical elven voice. “Because he is not here, you are too late.”
“We did not come for the King,” Kekai whispered back. “But if you help me, I can take you from this place.” Baredah’s crimes cut deeper than Kekai could ever have believed, if this girl saw the krull as a means of escape. “Can you take us to the treasury?”
The girl did not respond, but she stood up and walked to the doorway, leading the group of assassins back through the palace, her eyes never leaving Kekai for an instant.