Friday, August 01, 2014

The Golden Familiar

The battle raged mercilessly along the ramparts and amidst the ruins of Kulmer's Gate. The brave band of stalwarts had fought their way up the winding road against grievous odds, overwhelming the guards and driving them back, gate after gate. Sometimes they fought with guile, at other times brute force. Two of their comrades lay behind them, coiled in death, wrapped in the horror of their own blood stained last moments amidst the dirt and stone of ruined Castle Aucherwitch. But Ielda and his band plunged on, determined to deliver the golden familiar to the ancient temple. Thirteen gates lay behind, only one stood before them.

At last their efforts availed them and they came with cold steel, iron shields and sorceries to batter down the Kulmer's Gate, the last guarding Ottokar Vanek’s castle. They fought over the dry moat and forced their way into the guardhouse. With blood born grit and determination they drove back the orcs and broke into the courtyard beyond. Their goal in sight, the tide turned, and the enemy fell upon them with a lust born of certain death. Archers on the walls fired into the hapless band, a wall of iron shields rushed from the yard, and a huge monstrous ogre leapt from the wave of orc tyranny. In desperation the party fought on but Ortu the mage fell, the barbed shaft of an orc arrow buried deep in his chest, where it broke his ribs and punctured his lung. Blood foamed from his mouth as his great love, Elisa, warrior of renown, pulled his body from the fray and back across the dry moat.

The others held on, but the orcs proved too many and the ogre too powerful. They were driven back into the guard house there to fight out their last desperate moments. In the end Ielda and his servant, Hera, fled with the Cup back across the moat where they saw the punctured bodies of Ortu and Elisa wrapped in each others arms. A virtual carpet of arrows, shot from on high, told the tale of their horrible demise. In grief, Ielda and Hera fled back down the path. But the day’s horror was not yet finished. The path snaked down the mountain through the various gates, so that the defenders could see and fire upon any that came or went. And the going was long.

An arrow took Ielda in the leg and he fell, tumbling across the stony path. Hera turned to aid her friend only to be struck herself. The first arrow struck her and she threw her arm back, staggering from the impact so that the second caught her off guard and she fell back, her head cracking on the rocky wall. Two more arrows pierced her still form. Ielda staggered to his feet, saw that Hera too was dead but swore that Vanek would not have the Cup. He began to run, dragging his limp leg behind him. The orcs on high shouted derisively, catcalls and insults. He struggled on.

One orc on the heights watched him in silence. A minion and confidant of Ottokar Vanek, an old hlobane, seasoned from many campaigns. He saw the cup and knew what it was. Indeed, he knew the Cup in his pack bore a magic so potent it could destroy Ottokar instantly. He raised his great crossbow, setting the staggering form in his sights. A slight breath, pushed gingerly from his lungs, rolled down the shaft as his whole body settled into the familiar motion. With a clack and thud the bolt sliced the air and with a thud drove deep into the warrior’s back. As flesh parted and bone cracked, he fell, and the orcs shouted and called into the deepening night.

~ The Golden Familiar (the Black Box)

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