Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lived Earth

The alarm screamed, dragging him out of his deep slumber. With a groan he reached out to it, fumbling to switch it off, and knocking it to the floor in the process. It lapsed into silence. He closed his eyes.
His head was still pounding from last night's party when he opened his eyes again. The clock showed 10.30. F*ck, he cursed softly. Late again. The light from the tube-light blinded him as he sat up. Something flashed across his computer screen, off to his right. Someone had pinged him on gtalk, U der?. He ignored it, no time for that.
The tv was on in the living room. The words 'Live Earth' flashed across it. S.O.S. Answer the call of the Earth. Conserve water, switch off electrical devices when not in use. A packet of chips lay on the floor. He picked it up, dumped the remaining contents into his mouth and dropped the packet back onto the floor.
He splashed water from the tap in the bathroom onto his face. It was cold but he was used to it. The tap ran as he brushed his teeth and shaved. Pulling a bucket under it, he let it fill and went back into the living room. The Live Earth concert was still running on tv. Solemn music drifted from it, with pictures of animals being slaughtered, and forests being cut down. There was a cow locked up in a cage, and a man outside with a scalding hot brand. The animal screamed in agony at its touch. The scene moved on to show the man assaulting it from behind with large pliers. He cut at its testicles, brutally savaging it, while the animal struggled with debilitating pain inside its confines.
He pulled out a beer can from the fridge and sat down in front of the tv. A joint lay on the table, a lighter conveniently placed next to him. Drugs and beer, and live music. He sat back in peace, eyes closed, letting his head spin. Pale smoke billowed from his mouth. Tossing the beer can and stub aside, when he was done, he went back to the bathroom. Water was flowing from the bucket, large amounts running down the drain. A glance at the clock told him it was already 11. Too late for a bath. He could always come back and have one. He tossed the cold water down the drain and switched the heater on. He went back to his room, sprayed copious amounts of deo on him, pulled a shirt over him and left.
It was cloudy outside. Clouds of vapor filled the sky, and clouds of smoke filled whatever was between the sky and the roads. To his right stood a towering building, a few blocks away. Work, he sighed, damn internship. What work has a kid got in a huge building like that. It seemed a nice day to walk, no sun in the sky, a cool breeze blowing across. He looked at his watch, and then at the car parked near the gate.
Live Earth was running on the radio. He blared his horn and then sat back. A gust of smoke billowing into his car made him wind up the windows and switch on the a/c. The road outside was packed with cars. He saw a man on the side walk. Old and decayed, he lay across it. Flies covered his face and naked body, forming a moving carpet over him. The man rolled over to his side, but the flies hung on, delving into his wrinkled skin, entering his ears and nose. A sharp knock on his window caused him to start. He turned to it with an irritated expression. A woman stood outside, holding a crying child against her. One of her arms ended abruptly in a stump, and the other was held out towards him, the palm cupped, in askance for money. The child had no clothes, and was screaming, clutching its mother. Her eyes widened with expectation as his hand reached into his pocket. With a mocking grin, he pulled out a cigarette from it, lit it and drove off. His hands worked busily at the keyboard. Everytime someone important walked by, he quickly minimized the gtalk windows. He glanced impatiently at the clock every five minutes. Three minutes to one o clock. Two minutes. Aah, screw it. He walked to the office canteen, dumped a bunch of chicken pieces onto his plate and sat down at an empty table. His phone beeped. The message read - Hey man. Chung's. Comin? He replied - sure gimme 5 mins. Dumping the plate in the wastebin, he left the building.
They sat back, completely sated. Bowls of noodles and rice still remained on the table, but their bulging bellies couldn't take more. It was almost 4 by then. He looked around at his friends with an impish grin. They all knew what it meant. They grinned back.
All four windows were open, wind whipping their hair, Live Earth blaring from the stereo, as he sped down the road. An old man was walking slowly on the side, off to his right. He slowed down, just enough for someone to lob an egg from behind, out of the car and onto the man's bald head. He accelerated after that, all of them roaring with laughter.
It was 7 when they stopped by at 'stones'. The pub was playing heavy metal. Drugs filled the air, along with the smell of chicken and beer. They sat down on sofas, taking in the atmosphere and reveling in it. Rounds of drinks came and went, and their mind flew on clouds off smoke and liquor.
It was past midnight when he got back home. The tv was still alive. The light in his room was on, and gtalk messages kept coming in. Head spinning, he dropped onto his bed and drifted off into sleep, lips curled in a smile. Earth was a fun place to be in.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

High Hopes

"Are you sure you can ride me back?" he asked.
"Of course, I'm perfectly alright. And the roads are empty. It's 2am now," replied Shriek.
"Well you're obviously feeling something, I mean, how many did you have?" he inquired.
"9 shots or so. I'v done more and gone at 100kmph before."
"It's not only the liquor that has an affect you know. How many-"
"As many as you did," Shriek cut him off. "Why is that so bad?"
"I'm not the one driving."
He sat behind Shriek. It wasn't anything fancy that Shriek rode. He picked up speed quickly on the deserted streets. The engine roared, shouting out louder as Shriek switched gears. Faster and faster they went, and faster yet as he switched. Shriek had a helmet on, but he didn't. The wind whipped through his long hair, and he could see the shadow it threw on the streets, flying back and waving madly. He was feeling it, floating in space. The myriad colours of the street lights blurred and bounced. It was chilly in the night, and the cold wind bit through his t-shirt. That was even more exhilirating. He felt cold fingers reach up under his shirt, trying to lift him off. There were goose bumps on his skin. Slowly he raised his arms on either side, letting himself go. A scream of joy broke through his lips. Was that smoke coming out of his mouth? He screamed again, trying to clear out his lungs, and remove the stuff from them. Drops of liquid formed at the corner of his eyes, as the wind stung them. Bending forward, he looked into the speedometer.
"You're doing 60? It sounds like 120!" he screamed into Shriek's ear.
"Give me a better bike," Shriek yelled back. "Like that!"
A black motorbike pulled up at the signal next to them. Majestic and sleek, it made Shriek's look like a pony. Across it, in huge golden letters were written the words- Royal Enfield. It shot ahead like a bullet as the signal changed.
"Nice pick up," he said grinning.
"It's not just about pick up. It's about control," Shriek said, hot after it's trail.
They drew closer, winding through the occasional truck, just behind the Enfield. Everything was a blurry streak to him, he could see only the Enfield. The speedometer was alive, clocking well past 70.
They touched 80. He could feel his heart beating fast.
90. Blood pumped through his arteries, rushing to his head, carrying copious amounts of alcohol.
100. He tilted his head back, closing his eyes. Colours swirled around inside him.
110...120...He could feel the road beneath, as the wheels flew over tar. Every bump, every depression.
"Why is he stopp- FUCK! That's a speed breaker." Shriek's screech was barely a whisper to him. He felt the brakes being applied, and then the wheels skidding. They tilted to the right. WHAM Pain lanced up his groin...
And then they flew. He opened his eyes then, and the whole world had turned. Open sky was on his left, road on his right. For a moment things seemed content to stay like that. And then gravity took over.
The road sped towards them. Shriek fell off on the bounce, but he was still on. An insane grin broke across his face. The bike landed again, trapping a leg under it. Momentum carried it forwards, tearing across the ground, pulling him with it. The sickening sound of metal screaming filled his head, and sparks shot off from the bike. His body bounced uselessy behind like a rag doll, blood sprouting from various parts. His leg was shredded to bits, chunks of skin torn off by the rough road. Heat seared through him, debilitating. A hysterical laughter took him, even as he coughed up thick blood. A stone rushed towards his face, impaling his eye, and pulling it free. Pain, screaming, piercing pain wracked him. The flesh had been completely peeled off his leg and bone remained under, scraping against road. And then he was free, rolling across tarmac, as the bike kept going. His trapped leg had given, and all that remained was a bloody stump. Raw bone jutted out from it's end, covered in pus and blood. His body was torn everywhere, a hundred bloody smiles painted all over him. And all he could do was laugh and enjoy the experience.
"Here you go," announced Shriek.
They had stopped in front of his gate. He tried getting off, but there was a sharp, shooting pain through his leg. Suddenly he felt like he was on fire, and his body felt like it had been sliced in several places.
"Told you i would get you home," Shriek was saying, "safe and sou-" he paused, staring wide eyed. "Is that blood on your face? What's going on? Why are you grinning like that. You're friggin bleeding man!"
"It's nothing. Just enjoying the high!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Her dress was exquisite, red and silky, cut low around her bosom, leaving very little to the imagination. It was a bare-back, but her long, lustrous, black hair covered it. She sipped her wine as she talked to the host, bringing the glass to her lips slowly, and gently tasting the liquid. He sauntered up to them, looking impeccable in his suit, with his bronze hair combed back neatly. She was sharing a joke with the host as he approached, laughing with her head thrown back. The perfect time to join in the conversation. He laughed too, not knowing what the joke was about.
She whipped her head about, her face still full of mirth, and looked at him. Her beauty struck him hard, and for a moment he forgot what he was supposed to say.
"I'm sorry, i hope I'm not interrupting anything. I just couldn't help but overhear," he said, a sardonic smile playing on his lips.
"Oh, that's alright," she gave him a quick look, and turned back.
"I'm Icarus by the way," he said quickly, holding his hand out. It was her turn to smile now. She took the hand.
"Interesting name. I'm Natalie."
"I should have expected that of someone so pretty as yourself." It was a cheesy line, but at least he had got her attention now. The gambit had played off. They started talking and he couldn't help but regard her. She was so perfect, everything a man could ask for. Pale blue coloured eyes looked back at him, captivating. Her pouty lips danced seductively as she talked. With great difficulty, he managed to pull his eyes off her face, and they wandered downwards. Her dress hugged her, stretched taut around her curves. Around her neck was a chain, with a miniature carving of an obelisk hanging from it, nestled protectively in her breasts.
"I got that in a flea market," she said, her voice snapping him out of his reverie. He berated himself for the slip-up. He looked back up at her face, at those eyes again, eyes that seemed to be looking right into him, studying his reaction.
"It looks like its worth a fortune though," he remarked, his face impassive. Her gaze still held him, and she smirked. A hint of doubt crept into him. Maybe she did know how to harness the power of the obelisk talisman. It was an ancient artifact, capable of imparting to its wielder the ability to predict the future, if used correctly. He should have been more careful, he had let her read too much into him and predict his actions. But he still had a few tricks of his own up his sleeve.
"Let me fill that up for you," he offered, taking her empty wine glass.
She was standing when he came back, tall and slim. As he walked up to her, with a glass of wine in each hand, she drifted forward, slipping her hand around his waist, and pressing her lips to his. He tried to concentrate, and not lose himself in her, but he relented as he felt her tongue probe the inside of his mouth. Setting the glasses down, he slipped his hands around her as well, one hand losing itself in her soft hair, and the other slowly sliding down her back. Their tongues intertwined, dancing around each other. She pulled out of it just as his hand reached the soft mounds down on her backside.
"Let's go inside," she whispered. A smile flickered across his face as he watched pick up her wine and down it in one go. He could indulge himself before relieving her off the talisman. Gulping his wine down too, he followed her into a room.
It hit him like a hailstone. Everything started spinning, and he reached out to grab a wall to stop himself from falling. Sharp pain lanced through his head, as the poison started taking effect. She had switched the glasses. He looked at her, his anger showing on his face. He could see three of her, standing near three beds, with her dress sliding off her and falling to the floor. His manhood pressed against his pants, and adrenaline surged through him, as he beheld her in all her naked beauty. The chain was still around her neck, the talisman placed between smooth, rounded breasts, calling to him. He had to get it off her, he shouldn't let it fall into the wrong hands. He stepped forwards, lurching towards her. Objects floated up in front of him, shooting towards him and then darting away. His legs tangled themselves, and he crashed to the floor, dizzy. Loud piercing laughter filled his head. He looked up at her, growling with anger and trying to focus, trying to fight off the drug. After the hallucinations, it was death. She was sitting on the bed, her head thrown back in laughter, and her legs spread wide. He concentrated on the obelisk, ignoring the shapes floating around him, the spinning room, the laughter and the blinding pain. Slowly he dragged himself forwards towards the bed.
"Your a strong one. The poison should have done you in by now. But you can't fight off lust." She pulled his head and pressed it between her legs as he reached the bed. His mouth touched her lower lips, course hair covering his face. His tongue came out, brushing past into her and tasting the wetness inside.
NO, he screamed to himself, pulling away from her. The talisman lay there, just ahead. He snatched it from her neck, and rushed unsteadily to the nearest window. Pushing it open, he propped himself up and dropped onto the ground on the other side. The pain had grown worse, and she was screaming out in rage. There as a road ahead, blurred and shaking. He crawled to it, and a car pulled up in front of him. The door opened and a pair of strong hands pulled him in.
"The antidote," he gasped at the faces looking down on him, blurred beyond recognition. He could feel the life drain out of him, as he fought to hold onto to it. A hand pulled the artifact from his grasp.
"Well done," a voice whispered into his ears. Sadistic laughter followed, echoing in his head.
And then the darkness came.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Change of Seasons

A brown leaf floated in the wind, gently meandering through the air, before it hit his cheek and stuck on to his tear moistened skin. He brushed it off and rubbed his eyes, all the time looking at the little town in the valley below. He sat at the edge of the forest, a place he had found which commanded an unobstructed view of the town, yet, unless you knew the secret path, directly inaccessible from the town. The orcs were going about their days activities as usual, training in the barracks and rebuilding the ruined parts of the town. The gates and walls on the east had been reinforced completely, and almost all the watch towers had been repaired except for the North Tower. Most of the northern regions of the town were still burnt down. He could see the hamlet where he had lived, its charred remains bringing back painful memories. He shut his eyes hard, and gritted his teeth.
"Why did you bring me here?" he asked, voice quivering.
"Because this is your destiny. And it's about time you faced it. No matter what has passed," came the reply.
He could see it like it happened only
yesterday. No one had expected the orcs to strike from the treacherous rocky passes out of the North. They had been quick and brutally efficient. His mother had carried him out as the fire arrows struck their house. His father had stood against them, a handful of men with him against the might of a thousand blooded orcs, while the rest of the defences were still being organized in the barracks towards the south.
More tears flowed out, and he pushed the painful memories away. He breathed hard, shaking his head.
"It still hurts, after all this time."
"And it should," said the old man, standing a few feet behind him, "because that's what separates you from them." He pointed towards the
orcs. "That's what makes you human. If it didn't hurt, then why live on. You will have nothing to drive you on, nothing to fight for. It's our love for one another, and the pain of loss that gives us a reason to continue."
"But the pain is too much to bear. And it's going to hurt me for as long as i live."
"Stand up to it, and fight it. You have to be strong. Do not ever shirk away from it."
I'm too young," he snapped back. "I'm not meant to bear this much pain."
"Young!" the old man exclaimed. "You're older then your brother was. Do you remember your brother?"
He remembered. His mother had screamed for his brother to come out, while she held him in her arms. And when he did emerge from the house, he was dressed fully in mail, with a bronze shield in one hand, and a sword in the other. "I must stay mother. I have to fight," he had told her. "No
Baelor. You are too young, son. You're only thirteen years old," she had pleaded, not needing to add the unspoken thought - i don't want to lose you too. But the look he had given her didn't allow for any reasoning. Baelor had turned to him then, and in his eyes he could see uncertainty. "I want you to take care of mother, do you understand me Balron? You're in charge now little one." Tears were running down Baelor's eyes, and he had stretched out his hand to wipe them off. He didn't understand what was happening, but he knew it wasn't good. "Go now!" Baelor had shouted to Mother, "Run!" And as she had run, he had turned back to watch the thin line of defence that had formed up. In the centre stood Baelor and Father, swords at the ready. As the orcs made their charge, they turned towards each other, and embraced each other fiercely.
"You owe it to them
at least," said the old man.
He nodded his head, slowly. "And to Mother."
It hadn't taken them long to cut through the meagre resistance. They caught up with mother and yanked her hair back as she ran. He had fallen from her hands, and amidst all the chaos managed to escape the burning town. But he had seen what they had done to her. The way they gutted her, it was too horrific for a child so young.
His blue eyes stared into space, imagining. "Why did this have to happen? Things would have been so much simpler if everything was the way it had been."
"Then where would the fun be? If nothing changed there would be no excitement in life. Variance and change are essential. It keeps us on our toes, it gives us our urgency with which we do things. Everything is changing constantly, and we need to keep up with that change and adapt to it. It could be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but no matter what, there will always be change, wherever you look. You say that things would have been better without change, and you may be right. But do you expect that your family would have lived on forever, immortal and unchanging. They died, and now things aren't the same, and that is something you will have to accept. People keep changing too. One day you think you know someone, and the next day, that very same person, who you have done so much for turns a cold eye towards you, and acts like you're a complete stranger. You would give your life to a person, and maybe that person would to you too, but then before you know, there is a change in that person, and they take your life away as readily as you would have given it to them. Attach some importance to people, feel for them, but don't get too close to anyone. Because someday your closest friend will change over to another side, and that can hurt more than any sword. You'll change too, for better or for worse."
"Never," hissed Balron.
"That's not a choice for you to make."

A brown leaf floated in the wind, gently meandering through the air, before it was grabbed by a mailed fist. Blue eyes regarded it, through a plumed helmet, and then looked at the town below. Everything had changed, and the orcs seemed to have grown in number. The town was totally different. Yet he could see the fires burning, as if it was real. He could hear the cries of his mother, the determination in his brother, and the clash of steel on steel when the orcs collided with his father. He raised his clenched fist high, and then swung it downwards towards the town. Horses rushed past him on either side, down into the valley, waves upon waves of them with armed riders on their backs.
"It's time to change things back." Drawing out his sword from its scabbard, he kicked his horse into motion.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tears of the Dragon

An alien nation awaited him. A new start, almost. Excitement coursed through his veins. Picking his bags up, and with a large grin across his face, he started towards the gates. Just as he reached them, he stopped. A sudden emptiness filled him, and he realized there was no one by his side. Slowly, he turned around. His parents stood there, some distance away, with smiling countenances. But there were tears, little drops of transparent liquid, making rivulets down their faces. Suddenly he felt lonely. Suddenly, contrary to what he had always been thinking, he knew he didn't belong in that place. Everyone around him was alien, and the only faces he could recognize, the only ones he could ever live with, were those of his parents, but they were going away. He wondered what he was doing there. This was the path he had chosen, and he had been supported by everyone. They said he would be in a great place. They said he would enjoy it. It was something he had come to believe, but now those beliefs seemed to be unstable. Now, he just wanted things to be the way they were. He wanted to go back. He looked at his parents again, but they seemed to be drifting away.
"Wait, don't go. Not just yet. Please," he cried out. He took a step towards them, and then another.
"We can't son. You'll be alright. Don't worry, we will wait for you. We will see you soon." They were still smiling, but the tears came down in torrents.
But how long was 'soon'? When would he see those familiar faces again? When would he see his home? Emotions welled up in him. He fought them, just like always, and suppressed them.
His parents had gone. With stoic resolve, he turned around and walked through the gates, plunging into the alien land.
Decrepit buildings rose around him, decayed over the years by the harsh weather. Home was so much more beautiful than this. He navigated the unknown streets, guided only by a map. There were groups of people everywhere, talking, joking and laughing with each other. He couldn't understand what they were saying. Their speech was totally different from his. For some reason, he felt they were talking about him, and laughing at him. He hurried on, blocking out the sounds of mirth that filled the air.
It was growing steadily darker, and he could feel unfriendly eyes watching him go by, all alone. Every sound seemed to be magnified by the emptiness. Clutching his bags close to him, he closed his eyes, trying to remember the good times, the days of old. Tears welled up inside again, and again he held them back. He wanted to scream out, hoping against hope that things would return to normal if he screamed loud enough. With his emotions still locked up, all that came out was a growl through gritted teeth. His eyes were wide open, and red. He quickened his steps, until he broke into a run. He sprinted as fast as his legs would allow, trying to outrun the loneliness.
Finally, at long last, he reached his destination. A worn down shack, large enough for two people. A lantern burned inside, its flickering light casting eerie shadows on the windows. Stepping up to the door, he pushed it open. He was greeted by the sight of another person, with his two parents. They started talking to him, in a guttural tongue he could not comprehend, and then they stopped when they saw the confused look on his face. He paid them no attention, as he looked around the room. It was dull, with meagre possessions. A dusty cot lay by the corner, old and disused. Dropping his bags, he sat down on it. The other occupants of the room were having a meal, talking and laughing as they ate it. There were fruits and fowl, sweets and juices, all laid out neatly on a cloth. One of them offered him a leg of chicken, and he realised he was very hungry. He declined though, taking out a sandwich from one of his bags, something that his mother had made for him. The noises of happiness from the others played in his head. But he couldn't see anyone. The blank walls glared at him. Everything was so empty. He closed is eyes and bit into the sandwich. When he opened them again, there was no light. The candles had been snuffed out. Two of them slept on the floor, and the third slept on the other cot in the room. Everything was shrouded in darkness. He reached out to hold some one's hand, hoping against hope that someone would be there, someone to reassure him, but there was just emptiness. The sandwich fell from his fingers, and he lay back down on the cot.
Their smiling faces flashed before him, his parents watching him run around when he was a child. The good times came rushing back, the nights of wonder.
And this time he let the tears flow.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bring your daughter to the slaughter house

In a world torn apart by communal differences and blatant mistrust, wars are commonplace. Tyrants and dictators order their men into battle, yet do not directly take active part in it. A soldier may kill five people from the enemy camp, before he himself gets gunned down, yet the men he kills are armed and are looking to kill him as well. Still, to start a war is unpardonable. But somethings are more unpardonable than others. To slaughter and mutilate the bodies of dozens of unarmed, innocent children is an act so unforgivable that its very occurrence heralds an era darker than any.
And yet, in the face of adversity, in the midst of the most darkest hour, there is always a little pinprick of light, a wick bursting into flames, a hero rising. But for what cost?
A story based on a true incident.

Iledan enjoyed spending the evening under the trees at the edge of the forest, relaxing, and watching the bustling activities of the people of the village below wane away with the sun. The peace and quiet comforted him, and the soft wind that ruffled through his dark hair, and caressed his fair skin clouded his mind with thoughts of a short repose. Slowly, his eye-lids started to droop, and he let out a yawn. Then suddenly, a rap on his head made him start.
"Tag, you're it!" shouted Leyenna, as she ran into the woods, laughing loudly. She glanced back to see if Iledan was giving chase.
Muttering under his breath, Iledan brushed the dust off his black leggings, and ran after Leyenna. Her diminutive frame darted around trees and through bushes, always well ahead of him. She kept glancing back, and when she did, her long red-gold hair whipped across her laughing face, and he had a reason to catch up with her, and hold her. Her screams of joy filled the air, and he shouted out too, and put on a burst of speed. They went on, shouting, laughing, zig-zagging through trees, and jumping over bushes. The sun had almost set, and the forest took on a deep red hue.
They entered the deeper regions of the forest, and Iledan realized that it was steadily becoming darker. He stopped to catch his breath, and looked about to assess his surroundings. He had never been this deep into the forest before, and he knew it was a mistake to be there. The trees were closer here, and looked demonic in the fading light. Massive, gnarled shapes stood sentinel all around him, terrifying and intimidating. But there was something else that was more worrying.
There was absolute silence.
And suddenly Iledan felt scared and alone. He couldn't see Leyenna anywhere. He tried calling out to her, but fear had tied a rope around his neck, and her name came out like a whisper. The image of her face sprang up in his mind, red-gold hair streaking across it. He couldn't turn back, not without her. Slowly and warily, he moved forward, the thought of her keeping him company. Every deliberate step he took sounded as if it would wake up all the shapes around him, and he thought that at any moment they would pounce on him, and consume him alive. Then, after what seemed an eternity, he saw lights up ahead. A large shack came into view, old and antiquated. Flickering pale light emanated from its windows, giving it a ghostly appearance. He edged closer, wondering if the residents of the shack could help him. The dirty walls were scarred and a decayed wooden door, barely hanging on to its hinges, barred the way in. There were cracks in the door, and through them, he could see the room inside. Candles were laid in a circle on the floor, their flames flickering weakly. He couldn't see much in the dim light, but he could discern the silhouette of a large man. Across the room were doors leading off to other rooms. As he laid his hand on the door, to push it open, a shriek of absolute terror filled the air and Iledan recoiled in horror. More cries followed, all coming from within the shack. Cries of pain and fear, and Iledan stood rooted to the spot.

He knew that voice.
He wanted to run back and get help, but he also knew that it would take too long. The cries kept coming, louder and louder. And then, suddenly, the fear within him melted away. He wouldn't stand and wait, nor would he run away. Crouching low, he moved ahead, going around the side of the shack, towards the back. There was a window on the side, dirty and fogged up, and he couldn't see anything through it, but he could see the shadows that played across it, a large one moving back and forth across it, vigorously. And the screams still went on incessantly. Shutting it out of his mind, he ducked under it, and reached the other end of the shack.
The fetid stench hit him hard, almost overpowering. Everything seemed to be spinning, and bile rose to Iledan's mouth. Steadying himself against the wall, he vomited onto the hard earth. He looked around for the source of the foul smell, but all he could see were bags strewn all over the place, small irregular shapes. There was a door leading into the house, and he moved towards it silently.
Iledan started. He bent down to pick up the hard object he had stepped on. In the pale moonlight, he could clearly see the object, and his eyes opened wide as disgusting realization dawned on him. Sticky crimson marks stained the corroded bone, and violet arteries wove webs around it, embedded in its rough white surface. Quickly he dropped it, his heart beating faster, and then it seemed as if his surroundings had grown brighter. Again he looked around him, and this time he saw what he hadn't seen before. Hideously mangled bodies lay everywhere, the tiny limbs twisted at abnormal angles. They were mutilated beyond recognition, but he knew that they were the children who had gone missing from the surrounding villages, children of his age. Strangely immune, and emotionless, he took in the horrific scenes around him. It was like he was in hell, and the desecrated bodies were the souls of the inhabitants of hell. Only that these were innocent when they were still alive. In some of the bodies, there were gaping holes in the chest and stomach. Intestines leaked out of the dark emptiness inside, long and slimy tendrils. Huge, black rats scurried around in and out of the bodies, gnawing at the dead and dried skin, making abhorrent squishy noises. Some of the bodies had been completely scavenged, and all that was left was the skeleton, dark because of the thin crimson film smeared over it. The empty sockets in the skulls, where the eyes should have been, stared back at him, and white maggots emerged from them. Remnants of the brain could be seen through the sockets, a mass of purple flesh plastered against the inside of the skull. Hands and legs decorated the earth, looking as if they had been forcefully ripped of their respective bodies, and torn muscles and tissues stuck out from the joints. Ants crawled everywhere, boring holes into the flesh of the bodies that still had it, giving them a terrifying cratered look. The screaming in the background added to the horror, and he thought that the bodies would suddenly come back to life, the devil's minions in the flesh, and take him with them into the blood-soaked earth. Leaning against the wall and breathing deeply, he closed his eyes and shut out the scenes, leaving him in darkness with only the screams.
Then he opened them wide.
The screams had stopped.
With grim determination, he hurried to the door and yanked it open. He didn't think there could be anything worse than what he had just witnessed, but when he walked into the room, he knew he was wrong. Dull flickering light from candles cast eerie shadows everywhere. Long chains hung from the ceiling, wicked hooks at it's end glowing red in the dim light. Some of the hooks had bodies impaled on them, drops of semi-coagulated blood dropping from where the hooks had violated the body. On one of them, the torso had separated itself from the neck, possibly due to its weight, and the head remained spiked on the hook. The defiled torso lay below in a pool of viscous blood, part of the spinal cord jutting out of the severed neck. Numerous organs decorated the red floor, livers with green bile oozing out, and stomachs with acid dripping from the holes in them. Deflated lungs lay amongst the decaying organs, and crimson hearts that looked like they were still beating in the inconsistent light. Across the room was the door that he had seen from the front of the shack. He made his way to it, trying hard to avoid the organs that littered the floor.
The door banged open, and a huge figure emerged from the room beyond. It stopped abruptly, and Iledan froze in his tracks, staring at the massive man. Low, rumbling laughter from the man sent shivers own Iledan's spine.
"What a lovely surprise," the man said, his hideous face breaking into a smile, revealing bloody teeth. "Unfortunately, i am done for the day. I will have to save you for later." He put on an apologetic look.
Iledan's eyes darted around the room, searching for a weapon. All emotions had died away, and now he was filled with a desire to extract revenge. He wanted to kill the savage standing before him, and he wanted to see the look in his eyes when he did. He wanted the man to scream, for all the screams he had extracted from his numerous victims. He wanted to hear the man pleading for the life that he did not deserve, an he wanted to stand there in front of the man, and laugh as the man died.
In one of the corners of the room, he saw a bloodied axe, old and blunt. He sprinted across to it, before the man could react. But the axe was too heavy for him, and as he struggled to lift it, the large shadow of the man loomed over him.
"Tsk, tsk. Such disobedience. Didn't your mother ever teach you how to behave nicely?" Massive hands caught hold of the axe and yanked it from Iledan's frail grip. He backed into the corner, suddenly afraid again. The man raised the axe high above his head, and Iledan closed his eyes and covered his face with his arms. The scenes outside flashed before him, and he knew that he would join those dead bodies. He waited for the end, for the axe to crash down on his skull, and kill him. But he wouldn't plead for life, he wouldn't give the man that satisfaction. He wouldn't make a sound.
And then painful screams filled the air.
But they weren't coming from him.
Fire erupted from his hands, dark blue flames striking the man in the chest, and burning a hole right through it. Skin, liquefied by the heat, dropped to the floor, sizzling. Flames sprang up over the man, reaching his face. He continued screaming, clawing at his face, and desperately trying to cover the hole in his chest with his hands. The axe dropped to the floor and he fell down with it.
Iledan stepped back from the flames, staring at his hands with horror. The fear came back, debilitating. Everything he had just witnessed, the blood, the pain, the screams and the deaths, was just too much for him, a thirteen year old. Faces flashed up before him, blood-stained expressions, brutally damaged. He saw a child walk towards him, innocent and untouched. And then suddenly the child started falling apart, pieces of flesh falling off, and blood gushing out of perforations in the child's body. The torso burst open, throwing out ruddy organs, an the face disintegrated. And all the while, there was frightening laughter in the background, and a huge shape overshadowed everything. Then flames sprang up everywhere, and the laughter turned into hideous shrieking. and through the flames a face came into view again, red hair whipping across it.
The man was completely incinerated, and the walls were starting to catch fire. Blinded by tears, Iledan stumbled through the room towards the door. Everything was spinning, and smoke filled the air. He couldn't see clearly, everything was blurred and red. The visions kept playing in front of him, over and over again, and every time, it ended with the red hair.
And then he saw Leyenna on the floor. Her clothes were torn and bloodied. Dropping to the floor beside her, he picked her head up. It was covered in blood, and her eyes stared back at him expressionlessly. The tears were flowing freely now, and he lay down on the ground. Flames crept up all around them, and the heat was intolerable, yet her body was so cold, so lifeless. The visions came back to Iledan again, but this time, the child walking to him was Leyenna. Painfully, he witnessed her destruction.
The room was almost completely burned up.
And then everything went white.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dungeons & Dragons - The Temple Of The Thing

Tierim walked apart from the Naztharunes, feeling the changes taking place within him, as they always did every evening. The light of day slowly faded away as the red sun sunk behind the long mountain ranges off to the west. His white skin wavered, as if it was insubstantial, and slowly turned dark and smoky. Pain gripped his body, and he writhed about as he walked, as if he was being pierced by a hundred spears of ice. He felt like his heart was being encased in a block of solid ice, and he shuddered. Suddenly the land around him became brighter, as his vision increased ten-fold, and the transformation from Human to Shade was over.
Reapyr watched Tierim warily, still very unsure of what was going on and how they had landed up with the Shade. The last few days had gone terribly wrong. What was supposed to be a simple retrieval mission had turned into an inconceivable disaster. They hadn't even found what they were looking for before they were attacked by a bunch of Shades. And then Tierim turned up out of no-where and saved them from their quandary. Most of the humans under their command had died, the rest had fled. Through no fault of the Shades', Tierim included. But Reapyr still thought that Tierim was the ulterior cause of their tribulation. Why else would Jarx send him along with them? They had been nonplussed when Tierim turned up at Jarx's side. If Jarx had been angry when Reapyr and Adorno had returned to Waterdeep without the artefact, or any of his soldiers for that matter, then he was livid when Reapyr lied to him about Shades stealing the artefact. Reapyr could still remember the Rakshasa sitting upon his bronze throne, his furry tiger-like face contorted in fury. His voice, on the other hand, had been utterly calm as he called Tierim out from an adjoining room. "Are you sure you don't want to change that statement?" he had asked. And then he had sent them back without any soldiers, but with Tierim, instead, to watch over them.
The temple is up ahead, beyond the rise. Three orcs patrolling outside, pulsed his raven, shaking him out of his reverie. It circled above them as they stealthily topped the rise, weapons in hand. The temple stood before them, a dilapidated ruin of stone structures and pillars from the outside. It was surrounded by trees and foliage, creepers covering every inch of it. It was all but invisible if you didn't look hard enough. Reapyr and Adorno, with two arrows nocked in his bow, waited till Tierim could get closer to the orcs. Adorno let his arrows fly just as Tierim flung a knife under-arm into the eye of an orc. The three orcs dropped like logs, making no noise as they died. Beyond the orcs was the entrance to the temple, barely discernable amidst the greenery, and the darkness of night.
Cloz swooped inside to take a better look. With it's enhanced vision it could see the entrance clearly even though the sun had set. Inside though, the level of light was considerably higher. A long hallway extended in front of Cloz, lit up by fires burning in sconces along the stone walls. Orcs lined the walls, bows in hand, and at the end of the corridor were giant bronze double-doors, gleaming softly. The doors were guarded by two orc sentries. Suddenly an arrow flew past Cloz, scraping past it's right wing, shot by a startled orc. Letting out a short shriek, Cloz flew back outside to inform Reapyr.
"So how do we do this?" queried Adorno, as they stood outside the entrance, aware that even though they were facing only orcs, the odds were still very much against them.
"We will need to use stealth. There's no need to kill them all. We just have to find a way to get through unseen," replied Reapyr, carefully peering into the corridor beyond. Standing at an angle to the entry, he could only see part of one wall of the hallway.
Suddenly the light inside dropped drastically, the fires along the walls diminishing into mere pinpricks of yellow. Intense coldness wracked his body as a figure of thick, swilrling smoke walked straight through Reapyr and into the corridor, it's pale white eyes emphasized by the blackness of the figure. Reapyr spun around and stared at Tierim, who was standing absolutely still, white light glowing under the hood of his blue cloak. The Shade had reduced the intensity of light and had formed a replica of itself. Reapyr turned to watch the wraith walked down the length of the hallway. The orcs standing guard exchanged furtive glances with each other, wondering at the sudden drop in light intensity. They didn't notice the wraith at all, as it headed straight to the doors on the other side and disintegrated as it hit them.
"Neat trick you got there," admired Adorno
"We can go through now. We'll have to be fast and quiet. The orcs have realized that something is amiss, so we will have to get through those doors before they react,"said Tierim.
The three sprinted across the corridor, making absolutely no noise, with Cloz flying overhead. The orcs were beginning to panic, and the two that stood sentinel at the doors began moving forward blindly. Tierim flung two knives at them, taking one in the eye, and the other in the throat. He grabbed them by their leather armour as they fell, and slowly laid them on the floor. Dimming the light in the room beyond, the Shade opened the great doors slightly, and they quickly slipped through.
They found themselves in a large circular room, tiny pinpricks of light along its curved wall signalling where the fires burnt in their brackets. Right across the room from them stood a small wooden door, brand new and polished. All around the room were huge statues, of heroes past, and creatures unknown. In the centre of the room was the largest of them all, a creature with legs sprouting out of it from every possible part of its body. It seemed to be carved to perfection, almost as if it was real. The three slowly moved towards it, as Cloz circled the room, and the subtle changes in light reflecting off the behemoth made it look as if it was moving.
And then they froze.
It was moving.
"Ortyugh!" exclaimed Tierim as it turned slowly, making noises.
"Shut up, you idiot," hissed Reapyr. "It'll hear us."
The sounds coming from the creature were similar to sniffing sounds.
"Oh don't worry. It can't hear us, or see us," said Tierim casually.
The creature stopped turning, and it's legs spread revealing a hideous maw, flanked by giant pincers.
"But there is something else that i can't quite recollect." Tierim rubbed his head, trying to remember what it was. "Oh yeah, it has an extraordinary sense of smell."
And then the thing charged at them.
Reapyr and Tierim dived to either side as the thing collided head-on with Adorno, sending him flying back towards the double doors. Bolts of crimson fire leapt from Reapyr's fingers, peppering the creature's legs and burning holes into them. Shying away from the deadly barrage, the thing turned towards Tierim, pincers clacking, and a few of it's feet being consumed by fire. But Tierim was ready with two knives in his hand. The first one plunged straight into the creature's mouth, stopping it in it's tracks. The second found an exposed part of it's flesh, and buried itself there, extracting thick green blood. Mortally wounded now, it's vulnerable body exposing itself from the sudden lack of legs, the creature slumped to the floor. Four arrows, in quick succesion from a furious Adorno, put paid to it's slim hopes of survival.
"Cloz says there is a box over there." Reapyr pointed to a huge, stone likeness of a legendary warrior, holding a massive, double-edged battle axe over it's head. A small box lay under it's spread feet, it's gilted edged glowing dully.
"Well, even a bat can see that," growled Adorno, squinting at it. "Stupid, talking bird," he grumbled as he stalked off towards the statue. "Let's see it shoot arrows."
"Wait," shouted Tierim, just as Adorno bent down to pick up the box. "Step aside." Adorno edged back as Tierim stood to the side of the statue. Bending down, he stretched his hand around the foot of the statue, his fingers just about getting hold of the box.
Suddenly the giant axe crashed downwards, lodging itself hard into the stony floor with a resounding crash, exactly where Adorno's head was moments ago.
Adorno stared in shock, his jaw dropping low, while Tierim calmly pulled out the box.
"There's a trap on this too," he said as he procured a few tools from his cloak, and started working on the catch. "It looks like som-"
Long and thin spikes sprung out from the box, puncturing Tierim's hands, and then fires lit up the box, consuming it entirely within moments. Holes riddled Tierim's palms, and the Naztharunes could see light filtering through the holes, from one side of the palm to the other. They stared in awe as the holes slowly reduced in size, giving out thin wisps of black smoke.
"Maybe we should just stick to doors," Adorno said pointing to the small, polished wooden door. And then he looked at Tierim. "Unless that has a trap too."
Tierim walked upto it and examined it carefully. "No."
Then they entered.
A small antechamber greeted them, the only light in the room radiating softly from a blue crystal suspended in air a few paces in front of them. Its beauty and brilliance captivated the three adventurers, holding their gaze. Soft pale blue light pulsated within, giving it a depth that mesmerised. Immense power emanated from it, so much that the three could feel it's magic within them. Unable to tear their eyes away from the gem, they didn't notice the two huge minotaur statues that stood sentinel on either side of it. And then a screech from Cloz pierced the air.
The minotaurs weren't statues.
They were alive.
And they had weapons.
Adorno and Reapyr jumped backwards, avoiding the swinging axes that the minotaurs heaved. Clinging to the shadows, Tierim circled the minotaur on the left, wicked knives at ready, while Adorno strung two arrows and aimed at it. They left Reapyr to deal with the other minotaur.
Two arrows struck the minotaur on the left, in the chest, while knives collided into the back of it's head. Simultaneously, brilliant blue light lit up the room, as a bolt of lightning leapt from Reapyr's fingers, melting the flesh of the other minotaur. Both minotaurs staggering in pain, they turned on Tierim, who was closest to them. Barely being able to lift their axes, they advanced menacingly onto Tierim. Reapyr watched helplessly, as Tierim backed away, hesitating to finish off the minotaurs with another bolt of lightning for fear that it might melt through them and strike Tierim.
But an arrow in the back of each of their necks, from Adorno, was enough to drop them dead in their tracks.
"Now we are square," Adorno said with a grin, walking towards the suspended crystal. His hand reached out to pluck it out of the air, and then he hesitated. The ball hung there, teasing him and enticing him to grab it. "It's rigged. I think i can handle this one though. Wait."
Reapyr, Cloz and Tierim watched as Adorno closed his eyes and stretched his hands out towards the gem. His palms were just inches from the crystal, not touching it even slightly.
Then suddenly his eyes sprang open. "INCOMING!"
With a puff he disappeared in a cloud of curling smoke, just as thick spears of crystal shot out of the ball. Reapyr dived to a side, one of the spears grazing his shoulder, extracting thick, viscous blood. Adorno apppeared at his side, as suddenly as he had disappeared.
"It's off now," he said as he reached out and held it. It glowed brighter, responding to his touch.
"Now i know why Jarx is so keen on obtaining this." Cradling it carefully, they walked back into the circular chamber.
"Those orcs are still out there. The crystal will give us away," warned Reapyr, just as they reached the huge double-doors.
Then they stopped.
Right in front of them, the air wavered slightly, and then a thin column of light appeared, like as if there was a tear in the fabric of the air. Slowly the column thickened, becoming a hole and growing larger. Dazzling white light came from it, blinding the adventurers.
Then a shadow fell across their faces, as a figure stepped out of the portal.
"Well, well. Where do you think you are going with that?"

Dungeons & Dragons - Ambush

The low crackling of the fire broke through the silence of the cave, it's tiny flames producing little light and barely any heat. The humans huddled together, at the back of the cave, oppresive cold seeping through their breastplates and biting into their skin. They watched the two Naztharunes sitting around the fire, at the mouth of the caves, staring into it's depths, their fearsome leonine faces giving away no emotions. Their gaunt shadows, thrown by the flickering flames onto the cave walls, were accenuated by the blackness outside. A black raven sat atop the broad shoulder of one of the Naztharunes, ruffling it's feathers. Then suddenly the bird took flight, the Naztharune sitting up and exchanging glances.
Reapyr's ears pricked up, and he looked towards Adorno. The look on Adorno's face told him he had heard it too. Clutching his spear, Reapyr stood up and nodded to his bird. Adorno, with bow at ready, came up beside him at the mouth of the cave, watching Cloz fly out into the night. Clouds covered the sky, dark and threatening, and there was no moon. Darkness shrouded everything, and the Naztharunes, even with their prodigious eye-sight, were hard-pressed to see anything past 30 feet.
"Where is that damn bird?" growled Adorno, tensing.
"Right here," replied Reapyr, as the bird emerged from the darkness. Suddenly the fire flickered out of existence, and the darkness was complete. "We have got company. Pikemen, form up on the flanks. Archers behind me. Fire at will on my command," ordered Reapyr, tiny crimson flames dancing on his fingertips. Adorno melted into the shadows, two arrows notched in his yew bow. Reapyr waited at the mouth of the cave, straining his eyes, searching for signs of movement. Sounds of creaking bows and drawn strings broke the eerie silence. And then another sound floated through, cold and remorseless - Now how about that artefact you stole.
Reapyr spun around...
... and the ten archers stood in front of him, notched bows trained on him. A humanoid figure stood behind them, cloaked in black, it's face a misty shadow.
"Well. I don't have all day, or night," it rasped.
"You are too late. We sent the artefact ahead of us, with a battalion of human soldiers," said Reapyr, unsure of what to do under the sudden turn of events.
"We?" asked the creature.
"That includes me, Shade." Adorno appeared out of the shadows behind the Shade, holding an arrow up to the Shade's neck like a dagger.
The Shade laughed softly. "Did you really think i would come alone?".
The darkness behind Adorno slowly condensed and curled, materializing into five more cloaked figures, all carrying swords. The Shade turned around to Adorno, daggers flashing into it's hands. "Naztharunes always act without thinking."
"I'm not just any Naztharune," Adorno replied with a smirk.
And then everything seemed to happen at once.
Puff. A column of thick smoke dissipated into nothingness where Adorno had been.
Five objects flew past Reapyr, plunging into the cloaked figures at the back of the cave, dropping them instantly. The Shade spun around, and six bolts of crimson fire collided with it, burning holes into it. It screamed execrably, it's shadowy face taking the form of a human's, and then smouldering. The flames on it's scorching body lit up the cave, alleviating the darkness, and illuminating the archers, their bows still trained on Reapyr. Six more fire bolts leapt from Reapyr's hand, consuming six archers. The remaining archers stood transfixed, staring in horror at their burning companions, before four arrows soared from the shadows, piercing their throats.
"Never trust humans," said Adorno with a shake of his head, as he appeared from the shadows, nocking two arrows into his bow. "What should we do with those?" He pointed at the pikemen with his bow.
The pikemen stood across the cave mouth, shaking visibly, pikes levelled towards the Naztharunes. Completely unaware of what had happened, and driven by fear and trepidation, they advanced on the Naztharunes. Twenty humans taking on two Naztharunes. The humans didn't stand a chance.
Adorno let fly his two arrows, and before they even reached their targets, nocked and released two more. Reapyr extended his free hand, and a streak of lightning exploded from it, hitting the pikemen on their breastplates, boiling it and frying the men alive. Sense and pure logic prevailed in the remaining pikemen, and they fled into the night.
The two Naztharunes surveyed the carnage in front of them. Twelve human lay sprawled in front of them, some bristling with arrows, others burnt beyond recognition. And then they noticed the lone figure standing outside the cave, throwing knives in it's hand, and its blue cloak flapping in the wind.
"You Shades do enjoy appearing out of nowhere, don't you," said Adorno through gritted teeth, ready to loose two more arrows.
Reapyr held out his hand, stopping Adorno. "It was you who killed the other Shades wasn't it?"
The Shade nodded slowly.
"Why? Who are you and what do you want from us?"
"My name is Tierim. That's all you need to know. I don't want anything from you. I just came here to kill them, for my own reasons," he nodded towards the Shades at the back of the cave.
"Well, you're not wanted here. Leave now and don't return." said Adorno gruffly.
The crimson flames on the archers slowly died down as Tierim slipped into the night, leaving the Naztharunes alone in total darkness and deathly silence.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Sunlight glinted off the huge spires that stood atop the palace, making it look like it was made of gold. The marble walls of the palace had yellowed a bit, and the South Tower was crumbling, but the rest was as it had been when she was last there. The memories came rushing back again, flooding her mind. She saw the Royal Gardens and she remembered how she had run about there when she was a child. The careless laughter rang in her ears. She thought of her pony when she saw the stables beyond, and how many times she had ridden it, cool wind whipping her red hair. The streets outside the palace compounds were deserted, the shops empty. She remembered trying to make her way through those streets when they were crowded, visiting shops, and talking to the different people that thronged the area. After all, a princess needed to know the people she was going to rule over. And now those people cowered in fear, hiding behind their pitifull wooden structures.
Hadn't they seen her power? The Outer City lay in ruins, people lying bloodied and dismembered amongst pieces of jagged rocks and splintered wood, remnants of their homes. Craters dotted the land, grim reminders of the annihilation that had occured. Fires still burned from the structures that had mysteriously survived the devastation. The Outer Wall had been completely levelled, it's very foundation torn apart and flung miles across the surrounding land. But the people of Drede were as proud and haughty as the city had been. They wouldn't run. Not while the men of the city stood outside, garbed in burnished breastplates and plumed helmets. They had been arranged hastily in battle formations, following the destruction of the Outer City. Archers stood at the back of the formations holding longbows nocked with feathered arrows, ready to let fly when the signal came. Pikemen surrounded them, conical helmets on their heads, and long shafted pike at the ready by their side. Then came the legendary Dredean Centurions, resplendant in their golden breastplates and billowing cloaks, huge broadswords in their hands. Her eyes scanned their gritty faces, resolute and emotionless, like as if they were carved from stone. Then she saw her father, standing in the middle of the Centurions, a jewelled crown on his head. His face was stern, just as it had always been.
The harsh words came back stonger than ever. You are supposed to be a princess. Not some servant to a priest. How he had ridiculed her after all the hard work she had put in being an apprentice to a priestess. And now it had paid off. The power she had, it was exhilerating. And she wanted her father to see her wield it, and demolish his army. She wanted to see the look on his face when her father realized it was her. I am so ashamed of you.
Why can't you be like your sisters? Why...
The list went on, his words repeating over and over again in her head. And then a new set of words made their way into her head, from a different voice. She turned to see Krodar, standing beside her in a richly decorated black tunic, poining towards the army confronting them, and more importantly the huge rock trolls that stood amongst the Black Cavalry. The trolls wore boiled leather, but she knew that their skin was as strong as any metal. Standing over 30 feet tall, the rock trolls were undoubtedly the finest fighting unit in the entire world. She could handle one, maybe even two, but three rock trolls along with an entire army would be a challenge. Possibly the toughest she had ever faced, compounded by the fact that she had no one to fight beside her, except 20 riders, wielding worthless swords, that Krodar had brought with him.
"It's time," he whispered in her ears. "Show them the error of their ways, the penalty for standing against Helyna. Kill them all."
Kill them all.
The words stood out in her head. Yes, she would kill them all, she would destroy them, hear them scream. And yet a part inside her screamed out, trying to stop her. The ground trembled slightly, and up ahead her father's army had begun their march. The Black Cavalry separated from the main army, soaring ahead, warriors in black armour and plumed helmets urging their war-horses on. Closer and closer they came, and she waited.
"Now," said Krodar, fear showing in his eyes.
The Cavalry kept approaching, faster. The voice inside her head grew louder. Stop this madness. Then the memories came back again. She was running across the lawns.
"Kill them, quickly." Krodar's voice was fraught with fear.
The cavalry were 400 feet away, trolls following just behind, cradling massive spiked clubs.
Kill them. NO. She was running, careless laughter in the air.
300 feet. Sweat streamed down Krodak's face. She could feel his heart fluttering like a candle in the wind.
She was running, and someone was running with her, laughing as well.
200 feet. Tiny stones on the ground jumped about as the trembling grew. "What are you doing," screamed Krodak.
The person running with her caught her and lifted her up. She looked at him, at her father's smiling face. More memories followed, like water breaking through a dam, flooding her, overwhelming her.
100 feet. A barrage of arrows shot up into the air from the archers, turning the sky dark. "Kill them, foolish woman. NOW", roared Krodak, shaking visibly.
And then a new entity entered her mind, clouding every other sense. Anger. It grew inside her like a huge beast, breaking free from it's chains.
And all hell broke loose.
A wave of pure energy burst out from her, slamming into everything around her, flinging them back like particles of sand. The arrows reached the pinnacle of their arc, and then disintegrated. The earth around her shook, and then ruptured. Huge walls of fire exploded from the fissures, instantly burning everything that passed through it. The cavalry was torn apart, their screams piercing the air, and their chargers running madly, flames dancing on them. Beyond them, Centurions lay writhing about on the fragmented earth, breastplates melted over them, slowly burning them alive. Their hideous screams filled the air, giving Helyna a sense of satisfaction. The pikemen and archers were motionless, their skin burnt to a crisp. Huge, black clouds of smoke rose ominously in the sky, permeated with the sickening stench of burnt flesh.
Helyna dropped to her knees, exhaustion taking over her. She covered her eyes against the stinging smoke, waiting for it to clear. And then she saw them.
The three rock trolls stood amidst the carnage, tendrils of smoke curling upwards from their thick skins. They charged at her, clubs raised over their heads. It was time for more drastic measures, but Helyna hesitated for a moment, not sure if she had the energy for another onslaught. Krodar's body lay mangled beside her, and her father lay amongst the Centurions, his body encased in a metal cuccoon. Anger flared inside her again, more than it ever had. Dark clouds formed in the sky. Then the storm followed.
Lightning rained down from the heavens, striking randomly, destroying everything it hit. Almost everything. A troll lay unconscious on the earth, struck on his back by the lightning. Twisters followed, massive columns of twirling air, sucking everything under it into the air, tearing them apart. It picked up two trolls, including the unconscious one, lifting them high up, contorting their bodies into grotesque shapes, and then hurling them miles away.
Helyna was sprawled against the earth, unable to control her powers. Her energy had been used up, and now her life slowly drained away, being used up in sustaining the massacre. Meteors were called down from the sky, against her will, peppering the earth, annihilating everything, including the ravaged city beyond. Her breathing came in short gasps, and her sight was dimming. She saw the third troll batting away a meteor with his club, only to be pummeled into a pulp by two others. The entire city was razed now, and everything around it had vanished, replaced by large craters. Helyna's breathing stopped, her lungs collapsing, pain wracking her body. She thought of her father hugging her in the lawns.
And then darkness finally came.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Serpak dropped onto the ledge beneath his window, trying hard not to look down. He could manage a height of two stories, maybe even three, but four was a little too scary. He edged along the ledge, towards the corner where the wall he was on met with the wall facing the palace, hugging the rough wall of the inn. It would have been much easier if he had been in the room facing the palace, instead of the one adjacent. That way he wouldn't have had to walk on this treacherous ledge as much as he was doing now. Reaching the corner, he placed a tentative foot on the ledge attached to that wall, and gently tested it for strength. Satisfied, he transfered his weight onto it, and pulled himself fully onto the ledge. His back was facing the palace now, the palace walls running just a few feet behind him. He continued along the ledge, so that he was directly across the royal stables. He could hear noises floating out through an open window ahead of him. Peering slowly into the room, he could see a man sitting on a bed with his back to him, and a woman in front of him, slowly removing her bodice. Serpak paused, and watched with interest. The palace guards would be patrolling the walls on the inside soon, and he had to time his jump across so that they didn't see him, but he decided a few seconds wouldn't hurt. A knock on the door of the room sent the girl scurrying away, out of sight, and the man and Serpak cursed softly. He pulled his mind back to his mission and the ledge in front of him. He needed to get across the window to be directly across the stables, but it was too wide and he didn't want to be seen by the people inside the room. Bending his knees slightly, he turned to face the ledge, holding the edge of the window with one hand, and then he jumped. He landed on the other side of the window, on his toes, paused, and heaved a sigh of relief.
Then he fell, the fragile ledge crumbling under the force of his impact. His arms flailed about, desperately trying to latch onto something, anything. The third-storey window flashed past him to his right. Then his fingers hooked onto the ledge that ran under the third-storey window. His fall stopped abruptly, feet dangling wildly, and his heart pounding against his chest. Making a mental note never to stay in that inn ever again, he hauled himself onto the ledge. He was in level with the top of the palace wall now. The ledge he was on before would have given him the height he needed to reach the wall, but now he wasn't sure if he would make it across. He would need an extra push to propell him forwards...
Or backwards. Turning around so that his back was to the palace wall again, he placed one foot on the wall of the inn, keeping the other firmly on the ledge. He bent his legs, readying himself for another jump, and then pushed hard with all his strength. He flew backwards, rotating at the same time. The world spun around him, and one moment, he was upside down, looking at the palace and the roof of the stables, and in the next he was on the palace wall, facing the inn. He turned, his arms spread out to balance himself, and saw the tiled roof of the stables directly in front of him. Beyond it, he could see the palace lawns, and past that sat the palace, grim and daunting in the darkness of night. He heard a pair of guards coming on their rounds, and he leapt quickly to stable's roof. He ran to the other side and plunged softly into a bush beneath.
Now was the hard part. The lawns were expansive, and at the far end were bushes and trees surrounding the palace. Between, there was nothing but grass. And patrolling guards. Serpak held his breath as two guards, in conical helmets, and breastplates with the royal sigil stamped on them, swords hanging from their sides, walked by. They were on time. He had been watching the guards every night, for five nights, from the top of a tower in the city, and their routine was always the same. Four pairs of guards patrolled the lawns, their paths parallel to each other, spanning the length of the lawns. While two pairs reached opposite ends of the lawns, the other two were at the centre, walking in different directions. That was when he had to cross.
He waited for two pairs to reach the ends, and just before they turned he sprinted across the lawns, passing behind the guards at the centre, a whisper's distance from their backs. His footfalls barely made a sound as he flew across the grounds. Just 20 feet to the bushes and trees.
The guards reached the ends and stopped.
10 feet.
The guards started turning.
And then he reached the bushes, diving into them, his heart in his mouth. Crouching low behind the bushes, Serpak made his way to the kitchens. The kitchen door was sunken into wall, shrouded in darkness, and the guards that stood sentinel beside it were barely visibly. Serpak reached the door, and paused behind a bush next to it, just in time to see the guards walk out to greet the next shift. He was just in time. A few minutes late and he would have had to wait six hours for the next shift and his chance to get in. He slipped quietly into the doorway as the guards conversed with each other, and without making a sound, he let himself into the kitchens.
Long tables occupied most of the kitchens, with pots and pans, goblets and glasses, spoons and ladels, and other utensils Serpak wasn't bothered to identify. Flickering light from a candle flame made the knives and other cutting tools, hanging from hooks, look eery and foreboding. Serpak cautiously made his way to a door at the other end of the room, unsure about his surroundings. He had visited the palace many times in the past few days, under the pretense of being a petitioner to the king. He had explored the entire palace, pretending to be lost when guards approached him, but he had never been allowed to enter the kitchens.
The door opened into a dark and empty hallway which Serpak recognized instantly. It led to the servants' quarters on the right, but Serpak headed left, towards the dining hall.
The dining hall was richly decorated, a sudden contrast to the dreary hallway Serpak emerged from. The stony walls were festooned with thick tapestries, with intricate designs on them, and long silk curtains. Dining tables were arranged head-to-head along the walls, interrupted in three places by doors. One set of doors led to the main atrium, where the king held his audiences, and another led to the private quarters of the royal family and their guests. The third set, to which Serpak headed, led to the trophy room. They were large, iron double-doors, inlaid with bronze. Just as Serpak started to push them open, he heard voices. They came from the other side of the doors, and they were coming closer. Without thinking, Serpak dived behind a tapestry next to him, just as the doors opened, letting a pair of guards out. He waited till the guards left the room before slipping into the trophy room. Then, he froze.
The throne room was a large, elongated hall. The wall to Serpak's right was adorned with stuffed heads of wild animals, decorated masks, and shields with sigils printed on them, and sconces with fires burning in them. Against the wall to his left stood a row of statues, marble likenesses of past kings and monsters, and armour suits. But Serpak hadn't noticed any of it, his eyes rivetted, instead, on the two soldiers at the other end of the room, guarding a door, chatting idly.

Jin stifled a yawn, and nodded vigorously at his friend, barely hearing what he was saying. His eyes wandered to the statues lining the wall behind his friend. The life sized figure of King Gorn V held his interest more than his friend's quips about how to bake buns, or some such thing. A fleeting movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention.
"Did you see that, Tag?" he asked his friend, interrupting his narrative on how to date mums.
"What?" said Tag, looking at the door leading to the dining hall. "I don't see anything. I think the drink has gotten to you. So as i was saying, a -"
"I could have sworn i saw something dart into the statues," Jin cut him off, slowly advancing towards the door and the statues.
"You must cut down on that ale. Wait, let me lock this door, and then i will bring a torch."
The two men proceeded slowly, Tag holding the torch high in the air. Shadows shrunk away as they reached the door.
"See. Nothing here. It was pro-"
Tag was cut off, yet again, this time by a dull thud coming from the cellar door. Running towards the door, they found the source of the sound, a rounded padlock.
"Guess i didn't lock it properly," Tag said with a shrug.

Serpak found himself inside the cellar, breathing deeply. That had been too close, and he berated himself for the slip-up. The cellar was dark, and Serpak could barely see the giant silhoutes of wine and ale barrels. He had been down here once before, and he knew that there was a door at the other end leading to the dungeons below. This time he was more cautious as he made his way down the winding steps into a circular room. A fat guard was sleeping on a rotten chair, snoring loudly. The candle light cast gaunt shadows on the rough walls as Serpak crawled towards the guard. A bundle of rings hung from his belt, along with a short sword. Gently, Serpak tried to ease the bundle out of the belt. The guard grunted and shifted in his seat, and Serpak snatched his hand back. He gave it another shot, but this time the guard turned over, and the keys were lost under the copious amounts of fat.
Deciding he could continue without them, Serpak made his way towards a hallway, with prison cells on either side of it. His shadow preceded him as he entered the hallway, and then he noticed the shadow was growing steadily larger. He dropped himself, spinning around at the same time, to see a short sword slicing through the air his head had occupied moments ago. Knives flashed into his hands, and he flung them underarm, towards the guard's face. The guard crashed into a heap, hilts sticking out from his eyes, blood bubbling out from them. Retrieving the knives, Serpak continued into the hallway. He found the cell he was searching for. He drew out a knife with a long sinuous blade, and with it he picked the lock of the cell.
"Who's there?" came a trembling voice.
"It's me, Vidyrk. How could you forget so quickly?" Serpak rasped.
"Oh. Bless you, Serpak. Quick, get me out of these chains. This place makes me sick."
If it was cold in the dungeon, then Serpak's laugh was freezing. "I don't think you understand, my friend. I don't do rescues."
The look of confusion on Vidyrk's face slowly contorted into a look of pure trepidation when he noticed the curved blade still in Serpak's hands.
"No. Please no. I tried, i swear. You can't do this to me," Vidyrk pleaded, the pitch of his voice steadily rising.
"Watch me." The blade found his heart.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Birth of the Dead

He watched them from the shadows, saw them run around and play. The sweet sound of their laughter filled his head, and a sense of melancholy washed over him. He longed to go out there, to be among them, to be part of them. He wanted to jump, and hide, and shout, and do everything that they did, with them. Slowly, his feet started shuffling forward, dragging him out from his dark sanctuary, towards the cavorting boys and girls. He brought his hand up to shield his face from the sunlight, suddenly realizing he had gone too far. Quickly, he turned around and started scuttling back to his refuge.
"Look, everyone. Look who decided to join us," a shout came from behind. "Do you want to join us?"
He turned around slowly, a smile growing on his pale, white face, and nodded. Then sharp pain lanced through his head, and he fell down hard on the stony earth. A bloodied stone glistened next to him. He looked up and saw them, pointing at him, laughing haughtily. Anger welled up inside him, and his eyes burned red. He tried sitting up, but a shadow fell across him, and a shiny boot pressed down on his chest, pinning him to the ground. He looked up and saw a boy in a black tunic, worked with silver lace, standing over him, staring smugly.
The boy bent down, and grabbed him roughly by his torn, patched coat. "Did we hurt you?" he asked with feigned concern. More laughter filled the air, mocking him, chafing him. His blood boiled and suddenly he hated them. He hated all of them, standing there in their fancy clothes, deriving pleasure out of his humiliation. He wanted them to suffer for putting him through all this shit. He wanted them to burn alive. He wanted their skin to melt and scald their bones. And he wanted to hear them screaming, begging for death.
The boy hauled him to his feet, jerking him back to reality. "You are not wanted here, street rat. Go back to the sty where you come from."

It was the words, and not the cold look that the boy had given him, that hurt him most. Tears
stung his eyes, and he stumbled as he made his way back to his home. He remembered the happy times he had had with the boy, how many years they had spent playing together. And then the boy's parents had hit upon a fortune, and they had shifted into a large house, next to other rich families. Even then they had remained best of friends, the boy confiding in him, seeking advice about his problems, when he had everything but problems. Over the days, the visits had grown rarer, and the boy had made new friends. And now the boy had completely forgotten who he was. He wiped his eyes, and his home came into view, a medium-sized wooden structure, with a thatched roof, and a shaded porch. He rushed in, calling out to his mother, but no reply came. Then he heard a scream originating from his parents' room. Pulling back the thin sheet that served as a screen to their room, he stepped inside.
"Mother!" he shrieked, when he saw her lying on the floor, blood issuing from her multiple wounds in waves.
"Get out of here, you little freak," his father roared, swinging a broken bottle of ale, it's sharp edges wet with blood.
"What have you done?" he said, fists clenched.
"She got what was coming to her, and so will you," the man growled, advancing towards the boy menacingly.
Without warning, the boy charged into the man, and with all his strength, drove his fist into the man's stomach. Man and boy stared in horror, as the white fist sank slowly into the man's belly. He couldn't feel his father's flesh, or blood, or muscle, or organs, but he could feel the bones, calling out to him, asking to be realeased. Then his prying fingers felt something else, cold, yet at the same time, radiating power. His palm curled around it, and slowly, he pulled his hand out. His father tensed, and stood rigidly, eyes losing focus. He looked at his clenched fist and saw a smoky, insubstantial figure struggled to break free from his grip. And suddenly he knew he was looking at his father's soul. He looked at his father, knowing what would come next, as if he had known it his entire life. The colour drained from his father's face, the skin become cold and hard. Then the skin cracked, like glass, and blood seeped out through the cracks. The soul started shaking vigorously now, and the skin fell away like dust, revealing the bloodied bone structure beneath, along with muscles and organs. The soul was vivaciously trying to escape, but he knew that if he let it go, it would enter him. Organs and muscle detached themselves from the bones, leaving behind the standing skeleton of his father. It stood there dully, like a sentinel, without life. He raised his clenched fist towards the skeleton, and released the soul. Suddenly, the skeleton came to life, red light glowing in it's eye sockets, as the soul entered it. He could feel a new entity in his mind. He could see through it's eyes. He could control it.
"Fayne," his mother's voice whispered softly from behind. "Where are you my son?"
"I hate that name," he growled, irritated at being interrupted from his revelation. He bent down beside her, and noted, with satisfaction, the incomprehension on her face. Her breathing was shallow and her vision was blurring. She strained her eyes and looked at her son's face. It was dead, and cold, and his eyes burned red. She couldn't recognize him anymore. The blurring became worse, and it started becoming dark. She couldn't see her son's emotionless face, but his rasping voice floated in her head.
"My name is Ghost."

Troubled Waters - Part III

This June look out for the thrilling conclusion to the epic series "Troubled Waters".

Monday, June 12, 2006

Troubled Waters - Part II

Kahl watched The Water Fist lurch upwards, it's bow in the air, pause for a brief instant, and then with a sickening groan that carried all the way to him, fall hard, impaling itself on the jagged rock before it. The hull shattered under the impact, and shock waves emanated outwards from it, carrying with it splinters of wood and drops of water. He could feel the deck under his boots vibrate softly, water and wood striking his breastplate. He cursed softly, wiping his breastplate clean. The plate was heavy enough to drag him to a watery grave, should he fall into the sea. He hated it, hated the mere sight of it, and what it symbolized. Some said that the plates were not red with paint, but with blood. Kahl knew it to be partly true. The Blood Knights were called so because of their bloody armour, and that was why, against pure logic, he wore it today. It was what instilled fear into their opponents, a trademark of the indomitable Blood Knights. He wondered, though, if there was anyone left to instill fear into, after what he had just seen. Through the fog, he could see shapes sprawled across the deck of The Water Fist, but he was unable to tell if they were moving.
"Looks like our job is already done, general", Jorr grinned, coming up to stand beside him.
The look of pure loathing and disgust that Kahl shot at him wiped the grin of his face.
"Do you find it amusing that some of the best warriors in the world may have died in a ship wreck that we just caused, lieutenant?"" Kahl's voice robbed Jorr of every bit of warmth he had in him. "Terwyn and his group do not deserve to die like this. In fact i'll place a wager that they are still alive. And if they are, i would like to keep it that way. If they attack, then defend yourselves, but do not initite an attack. Is that understood, lieutenant?"
"As you say", Jorr said gruffly, saluting, clenched fist touching his right eye. Almost as an after-thought, he added a "General". Then with the flick of his hand, he signaled the advance. Fifty Blood Knights followed.

Of all the parts of the deck of The Water Fist, the helm was the most protected. It was here that Katryn and Haadro had braced themselves for the collision. Haadro was still dizzy and disoriented from his fall. His deck hadn't ruptured, but he couldn't even begin to think about what had happened below it.
Katryn picked up her quarterstaff and watched the first of the Blood Knights board the ship, throwing grappling hooks onto the gunwale and crossing over. Tears stung her eyes, as her thoughts kept going to Terwyn, possibly lying dead in his room two decks below. She saw a lieutenant stand in front of her, with Blood Knights milling around behind him, and a corporal next to him, reading a declaration from the Emperor. His words didn't register in her mind, rage filling her head instead. For too long she had been running, but now she didn't care. Now she was going to show them her true power. Her eyes glowed, a soft blue light, and she stretched her hands outwards, palms facing the corporal. A blood-curling shriek interrupted his speech, as his head burst into flames. He clawed at his face, running about madly, blindly. The nauseating smell of burnt flesh filled the air, but no one took notice, eyes instead rivetted on the flailing man. The corporal stumbled, and fell headlong into the main-mast, and flames instantly sprung up along the polished mast. It teetered slowly, it's base consumed by the fire, then it fell, right into the midst of the Blood Knights, scattering them like flies. The crash and the oppresive heat from the spreading fire brought Katryn back to her senses. A line of fire cut the helm and bow off from the stern. To her left, on the bow, Ghost stood up groggily, recovering from the collision with the rock. And in front of her stood the Blood Knights, in no mood to negotiate, ready to kill.

The twins had regained consciousness just in time to see Katryn set a Blood Knight's face ablaze. They had lost almost all their arrows. Evandred had two left, Elandred one. It wasn't enough though. Ten Blood Knights had dived onto the stern, trying to escape the falling main-mast. The knights advanced on the twins and the two sailors with them, drawing out their swords. The sailors ran forward, pulling out short swords, and engaged the knights. Simultaneously, the twins nocked arrows, pulled back the drawstrings to their cheeks, and let fly. Two knights dropped dead, feathered shafts sticking out from their necks.
I'm out, pulsed Elandred.
Evandred felled another knight. Time to improvise. He pointed towards the railing, and in particular, it's wooden props.
I like your style. Elandred grabbed a prop, yanked hard, and broke it loose. It was heavier and thicker than a normal arrow, but the length was right, and it's ends were splintered. And it did a satisfactory job of killing knights.
The sailors were dead now, and the remaining six knights charged towards the twins, looking like demons with the fire raging behind them. They dropped two, but the rest were closing in fast, too fast to nock and fire. Their minds combined, pulling in energy from their bodies, concentrating it, and lashing out hard at the minds of the incoming knights. The knights stopped suddenly in mid-stride, momentarily stunned. The delay gave the twins all the time they needed to dispatch them.

Rom, with a sword in one hand, and a dagger in the other, stormed into the approaching Blood Knights. Eight were just too many for him, though, and he was cut down instantaneously. Eight pairs of eyes looked down on the mangled body with satisfaction, then up at Ghost and the five sailors with him, watched Ghost raise his hands, palms facing the sky, and then opened wide in horror as the dead body in front of them started writhing about vigorously. Fissures formed, on the skin along the centre of the face, torso and limbs. Then, as if by some unseen force, the flesh on either side of the fissures burst apart, spewing out blood and an assortment of organs, revealing the bones beneath. Slowly, the skull raised itself up, the scalp falling down like loose cloth. The rib-cage and backbone moved upwards, into a sitting position, shoulder blades shrugging off the skin. Bony appendages picked up the sword and dagger, and then, like some hideous monster rising up to earth from the Hells, it stood in front of the petrified Blood Knights. Crimson, coagulated blood stuck to it, nerves and arteries embedded in the sticky, semi-solid blood. The diaphragm separated from the ribs and fell to the ground, lungs and heart following immediately after, making abhorrent sounds as it slapped to the deck. The eye sockets glowed red, and the horror-stricken Blood Knights could see the brains beyond it, part of it slowly leaking out through the hollow nose. Lifting the sword up, it calmly decapitated the knight in front of it.