Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Dark Prophet (part 4)

It was as Blink had said, no more then an hour, before they crested a low rise and were able to see the hills the beast had spoken of. Dark against the starry night sky, the range stretched on far out of sight of the two humans. Thaellen walked forward, Blink at his side, and peered off into the night.
“I think I can see the cave, just over there.” he waved his hand in a northward direction.
“Would you like me to go ahead, and check it out?” Blink growled warily. It was clear that what ever evil was around, Blink was feeling it more acutely than the others.
“No, I don’t think that will be necessary,” Kennon said after a short pause. “stay with Thaellen.”
Blink sidled up to the elf, and Thaellen tousled the fur on his feline head.
Thaellen had run away from home many years ago, probably before either Kronin or Kennon had been born. From where and why he had left, he had never told the others, in fact they knew very little of him before his meeting with the frelis Blink. From what the elf would say, their meeting had come about long after leaving his home.
He had been sitting on the banks of a fast moving stream in the quite hours before dawn when he heard a soft whimper. At first, though his hearing was keen as any elf’s, he thought he had imagined it. He continued refreshing himself in the stream when he heard it again. It was clearly the sound of some young creature in trouble. Thaellen followed the sounds, to a shallow valley not far from the stream. There, incased in a thick web of spider silk, was a young frelis. The giant spider that had spun the web was lying on its back, all eight legs grotesquely splayed in the air. Thaellen approached with care, not wanting to frighten the beast any more then was necessary. It was so young, it clearly had not grown into any of the properties that frelis where known for; such as their ability to phase in and out of reality, allowing them to move anywhere they wish on this plane of existence. It was not a newborn, evidenced by the poison that was in it’s sharp teeth that had laid the aggressing spider low, but it clearly could not free itself. Thaellen had never seen a frelis in this region, in fact, he could not remember seeing one for over a hundred years. However this little creature had gotten here, he was not going to leave it to die. Thaellen set aside is bow and pack and proceeded to use his long hunting knife to cut away the spider bonds.
They had been friends and companions ever since.
Thaellen and Blink met Kennon years later, many years later. Blink had matured into a full grown and very articulate frelis, and he and Thaellen were acting as scouts for the army of a lowly baron who was serving the Silver Order. The three became fast friends, and when Kennon left to begin his life as a wandering vagabond, he first searched them out. Their current profession as “holy men for hire” had been Thaellen’s idea, and it had worked wonderfully for some time.
Now Thaellen looked at Blink, the beast’s amber eyes spoke volumes. They both were very aware that this job was not going to be like the others.
“ready?” Kennon asked.
“Of course” Thaellen answered.
Kronin simply nodded.
They moved down from the rise into a short trench that lead roughly in the direction they wished to go. It took less then twenty minutes before Blink said that they should move out of the gully and head a little more eastward.
The climbed out, and started off again.
Before long, Kennon stopped.
“I think we are here, or at least very close. I can feel it now.” Indeed the Paladin felt as though the oppressive sense of evil was going to make him pass out.
Kronin, on the other hand looked quite strange. His usually grim expression was alight with a weird glow. He removed his pack from his shoulders and began rummaging through it. After a few seconds he withdrew four amulets.
“Here, each of you should wear one of these. I am not sure what we are about to face, but I think it is safe to say that there is more than thieves putting on a good show in that cave.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dark Prophet (part 3)

The last light of the setting sun fell gently across the path of Kennon and his companions as they followed a small dirt trail deeper into the forest. It was well over an hour since they had left the camp, and the forest seemed not to have changed at all. The trees were old, and there was a smattering of underbrush everywhere they looked, and hardly any sounds of wild life.
“I am beginning to have an uneasy feeling about this.” Thaellen said after awhile, his keen eyes piercing the shadows that the others could not. “I have never been in a forest this devoid of living things. As if something has frightened them all off.”
Kennon looked side long at the elf. “Are you suggesting that there is some truth to all the rumors we have heard since arriving in this little hamlet?”
Kronin, who was walking behind the other two, said. “There is certainly an aura of evil like I have not felt in many years, I am surprised you can not feel it too, Kennon.”
Kennon winced at the comment.
Kennon had been a holy knight known as a Paladin of the Silver Order almost fifteen years ago. He had begun at a young age and had risen in the ranks quickly. His faith had been strong as a younger man, and because of that he had been able to pass all the Holy Rights a year earlier then was usual. After his official induction as a fully ordained Knight, he had been sent to the Valley of Orin, where the Silver Order was campaigning against a vile incursion of the northern barbarians. During the campaign, later known as the War of Rights, Kennon won great renown and was hailed a great champion of the Order. Then a tragedy overcame the Silver Order. Their leader, High Marshall Roth, was murdered, and the Order was never able to recover. Three years later, it was disbanded. Kennon had been devastated, not just by the loss of his blooming career, but because of the abject wickedness that was demonstrated by his fellow Paladins in light of their dismissal. His faith shattered and every thing he had worked for gone, he left his homeland, rather than join the royal army like most of his comrades had done. He wandered far and wide and became a mercenary, rejecting the tenants that he had clung to so fiercely as a Paladin.
Now he was a part of a band whose purpose was to weed out “monsters” for a hefty price. The trend of terrorizing small villages with the pretext of ghouls and goblins had started a few years ago, when rumors trickled down from the north of an ancient evil stirring in the vast uncharted wastelands of the northern tundra. Kennon and his group would masquerade as men of holy power who could rid the village or town of their haunting apparition for a price. It almost always turned out to be nothing more then profit seeking hooligans using showmanship to cause panic and distress.
Though as Thaellen had said, this felt different. For the first time in years a small tendril of doubt crept in to the paladins heart.
He had fallen so very low.
Kennon looked back at Kronin, whose shifty eyes just glared back.
“I am not surprised that I can not feel anything. It has been a long time since those days, and I would thank you not to bring it up.”
Kronin shrugged.
They had stopped in a small clearing, the thin moon casting very little light on the three of them. Thaellen was gazing off into the darkness of the forest.
“Blink is returning.” He whispered.
Sure enough, a few seconds after he said this there was a soft pop, and the huge beast appeared in their midst.
“I have found something. Not far ahead, maybe another hour or so, there is a low range of small hills that cut across this forest. There is an evil feel around those hills, and as far as I can tell it all seems to be originating from a small cave on the northern side