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kaz

The Agas Saga

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Ack, kaz! You're posting too fast. I'm never going to be able to keep up. :lol:

 

@Dis: Awww... that's sweet of you. I'm glad you came back. I know that you've been unhappy about the crash. It's good to see you.

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cherrywine: sorry, i get carried away sometimes. XD

i'll rationalize it this way: my chapters are shorter than most other people's, so if i post more at once, it looks like i did more. :lol:

 

daeva_agas: more, eh?...sure, why not?

 

 

oh, but before i go on, all, this next chapter is that 'hero' stuff that's apparently become necessary to the story. XD in case you don't know, or have forgotten, green text means the 'main' heroes: rhen, lars, teijal, etc. i'll explain the other colors as they come up.

 

 

Ahriman was dead. The daevas were sealed in the Demon Realm. The world was safe.

Yet somehow, it wasn’t important.

“Rhen?” said a hesitant voice from behind her. She recognized it as Lars, but she couldn’t face him. She couldn’t face any of them now. He touched her shoulder, but she quickly pulled away.

“We should go,” she said, in a harsh voice quite unlike her own.

“Rhen—-” Lars said again, but she had already stormed out of the chamber. He looked at the others, and said in an almost pleading voice. “What was I supposed to do?”

“What could you do, mate?” said John. “Even the six of us—-well, five of us, I suppose—-couldn’t have handled all the daevas.”

“No one blames you, Lars,” Tei’jal said quietly.

Elini said nothing. She knew it was her fault, and regardless of what she had believed at the time, it didn’t take away the guilt. What were the druids going to think of her? How could she have so callously sent a friend, the Sun Guardian, no less, off with the most dangerous demons there were? She had a fleeting thought of summoning them again, but she was certain that they would not bring Dameon back with them.

“Elini,” came Tei’jal’s voice from far away. Elini looked up, and Tei’jal said, “Do not blame yourself. The world is safe now. What choice did we have?”

Elini shook her head. She couldn’t stop replaying the scene in her head. “I should have sent him back as soon as I realized I couldn’t control him,” she answered. “He’s a demon; why did I listen to him?”

Tei’jal shrugged. “Well, he’s a nice-looking demon. Which reminds me...you wouldn’t want to summon any...other...daevas, by any chance...?”

Women,” John muttered.

Elini gave Tei’jal a weak smile. “Tei’jal, if I never see another daeva again, it will be too soon.”

“You know,” Tei’jal said thoughtfully, after a short silence, “I don’t believe that the daevas are going to kill the sun priest.” The others looked at her curiously, and she continued, “I think that if their plans were to kill him, they would have done so before they returned to the Demon Realm. I mean, wouldn’t it be more...demon-like...to make sure Dameon’s friends were able to witness his demise?”

“Do you really think so?” said a hopeful voice. Rhen had returned to the chamber, wondering why the others hadn’t followed, and was now looking at Tei’jal, her blue eyes wide and slightly pink around the edges. “You think he might still be alive?”

“I do,” Tei’jal told her. “In fact, I think they may have bigger plans for him than torture and death.”

“Why do you think that?” Lars wondered.

She shrugged. “I’m not sure. It’s just a feeling. Call it...women’s intuition.”

The truth was, Tei’jal, older by far than any of her companions, remembered when the druids had sealed the portal between the Demon Realm and the surface world, hundreds of years earlier. She recalled the druid Rashnu telling her afterward that now only a druid could open the portal. She could envision the consequences if her hunch was correct, and it unsettled her, but only slightly. She knew she should tell her friends, but she could not bring herself to do it now, so soon after all that had already taken place.

Rhen smiled faintly as the floor began to tremble. “Uh, oh,” she said.

“Come on, everyone! Let’s get out of here! This place is collapsing!” Lars shouted, and they all ran, out of the chamber and back through the winding passages of Ahriman’s lair.

The journey back to Aveyond was a very quiet one, each of them lost in their own thoughts, most of them thinking about Dameon. Rhen couldn’t help wondering where he was right now, what was happening to him, and if she would ever see him again. Tei’jal was trying to decide if she should tell the others of her suspicion, and hoping that it was wrong. Elini was dreading facing the druids, especially the Dreamer, and wondering frantically what she was going to tell them had happened to him. Lars was still trying to figure out what Rhen had ever seen in the sun priest. John was wondering how soon it would be before he could return to Veniara, sell his priceless Elven rapier for a ship, and be back on the high seas.

When they arrived at the Sun Temple, the Oracle, King Devin, and the seven remaining druids were all waiting there for them. There was a brief, tense silence as Rhen and her companions entered, and then Rhen announced, rather tonelessly, “Ahriman is dead. The daevas are...sealed in the Demon Realm. It is over.”

At once, a joyous, excited babble broke out all over the room. The druids began congratulating, thanking, and some even hugging the young heroes. They wanted to hear all about how Ahriman had been defeated, and at first, Rhen would tell them that it was the Sword of Shadows that had destroyed him. Finally she was approached by Talia, the Druid of Dreams, and she knew she could hide the truth no longer.

“You have done well, my child. I always knew you would,” Talia said. Rhen smiled and nodded, but could find no words. The priestess scanned the room briefly, and then asked, “I...do not see Dameon. Did he not return with you?”

The buzz in the room seemed to die down quite suddenly. The druids quietly began to question the others as to the whereabouts of the sun priest, and Elini, seeing tears forming in Rhen’s eyes, steeled herself and drew their attention.

“He did not return with us,” she said loudly. All eyes in the room were on her, with the exception of Rhen’s; she was gazing fixedly at the floor, blinking hard. “Dameon...” She swallowed. “Dameon is...Dameon was taken. He—-he was taken...by the daevas.”

Astonished whispers filled the air. Talia stared at Elini wide-eyed, as though willing her to take back what she had said. Elini looked away, and she knew now that she had to tell them the whole truth, regardless of what was to happen.

“It is all my fault,” she announced miserably, and launched into the full story, of how they had sealed all the daevas in the Demon Realm, how she had summoned Agas to show them the way to Ahriman’s lair, how she had lost control over him, and how she had struck an accord with him involving Dameon. She left nothing out, save the fact that Tei’jal was with her when she first summoned Agas, and that Rhen had announced to the daevas that she loved Dameon. She also did not mention that Dameon had been conspiring against them from the start. When she was through, she sank to the floor in despair, and John and Tei’jal hurried to her side.

A heavy silence filled the room. It seemed that no one knew what to do. It was Talia who made the first movement: her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted. As Armaiti and Vohu Manah tended to the fallen Dreamer, Rhen burst into tears and fled from the temple, Lars chasing after her. Rashnu pulled aside Daena and asked her, “Am I the only one who found it odd that the daevas would take only the Druid of Light back to the Demon Realm with them?”

She shook her head slowly. “Ahriman was not the true danger; I can see that now, even without my Sight.”

“Is there any way that you can—-”

”No,” Daena interrupted him. “She will not listen to me.” She laughed bitterly. “She never has. I am beneath her.”

“What is going to happen to the humans?” said a voice. The two druids looked up and saw Tei’jal approaching, a pale pink tinge in her cheeks at their mildly shocked expressions. “I am sorry, I did not mean to eavesdrop...It’s just that...Rashnu, I remember you saying that the demon portal can only be opened by a druid. Do...do you think that the daevas know this?”

“You are very perceptive, child,” he replied, “as you have always been. After hearing this news, I believe I must grudgingly admit that, somehow, the daevas have discovered this fact as well.”

“If they open the demon portal, they will be able to return to the surface,” Tei’jal said. “But is it possible for seven demons, however powerful they are, to destroy the entire world?”

Rashnu and Daena looked at each other. “I am afraid there is much more at work than you know, my dear,” Daena said.

At the same time, Lars had managed to catch Rhen just as she was descending the temple steps. Breathing heavily, he said, “Where...are you...going?”

“No—-where,” she gasped between sobs. “Leave—-me—-alone.”

He grabbed her shoulder and turned her to face him. Her eyes were red and swollen, and her face flushed and tear-stained. He hated seeing her like this; it was even worse than seeing her with him. He wanted to do something...anything...to fix this. And suddenly, it occurred to him: there was one thing that he could do, the one thing that could very well change everything. He took a deep breath to steady his resolve.

“I’ll find him.”

“Wh-what?” Rhen had stopped sobbing long enough to look at him in mingled confusion and awe. “I—-I don’t understand. You mean...but...how? Where? I—-”

”I don’t know,” he replied. “But if it means this much to you...if...he means this much to you, then I’ll find him. I just hope I won’t be too late.”

“Oh, Lars,” she said breathlessly. “I don’t—-I can’t—-thank you.” She threw her arms around him, and he embraced her tightly for several moments. She never asked his reasons, and he did not admit to her that he thought the quest entirely futile.

When she pulled away from him, she said, “Let me come with you.”

He had not been expecting this. “What? No. What about Thais?”

“My ‘father’ can rule Thais; he was its king, after all.”

“Rhen...it’s too dangerous,” he floundered. She raised her eyebrows, and he added, blushing, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

She giggled. “Don’t be silly. I’ll go explain to everyone; I’m sure they’ll understand.”

As she hurried back up the steps, Lars sighed, thinking, This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.

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OK, you can post some more now... :lol: I still wish I could save Dameon, but... well, I know it's a lost cause. :)

 

I love Uzga and Reezna. Poor Dameon... you never said, did Reezna ah... find some way to keep herself entertained while the daevas were deciding what to do with Dameon?

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why does everyone hate dameon so much?...:) i like him. that's why i made--er, i mean, why the daevas made him a daeva too. (hehe)

 

btw, cherrywine, reezna only kept herself occupied by taunting him through the bars. no physical contact. does that make you feel better?... :D

 

 

Chapter 10 - The Ancient Ritual

 

The first thing we did was assign Dameon a “mentor,” a demon to show him our ways and teach him our language and such. We gave the job to Tirk, a squat, bowlegged, Orkish-looking demon, who rather despised us for it, as was evidenced by the vast amount of spitting and muttering he did as we left him to it.

We, in the meantime, held several councils to discuss the various matters that were now so close at hand. Many things were decided, and many things argued; the most immediate issue became when to perform the transformation to demon on the sun priest.

“It must be done now,” Aesma had said. “The sooner, the better.”

“But if he returns to the surface, the humans will know he is a demon, won’t they?” Zarich asked. “Surely the druids will, at any rate.”

Indra shook her head. “The druids only know demons by sight. Among humans, only the Elves and demon summoners can sense a demonic aura.” She paused. “So long as the sun priest retains his human appearance, they shall never know.”

“But the transformation is bound to change his appearance,” Saurva countered.

“I don’t know about that,” said Nanghaithya thoughtfully. “It did not change Ahriman, after all.”

“Yes, but in all fairness, Ahriman was about as close to a demon as a human can be before his transformation,” I pointed out. “There was not much else to do. This boy—-determined though he may be—-is not nearly as evil as Ahriman was, if he indeed is evil at all.”

“So the issue at hand, then,” Tawrich said, “is whether or not the boy could be trusted on the surface before he becomes a demon. What say you all?”

“Do it now,” Aesma repeated.

We all agreed, with the exception, of course, of Saurva; but I suspected his dissension was due largely to the fact that whichever way I voted, he was determined to vote the opposite. In the end, after all our decisions had been made and plans formulated, we summoned Dameon to the citadel.

“The kid surprises me,” Tirk told us when they arrived. “I thought he’d be the whiny, complainy type. But he isn’t. He’s...I don’t know...determined. Like he wants to do this.”

“Yes, that will do, Tirk,” Tawrich said. “Come, sun priest. There is much to be done.”

After Tirk departed and we reentered the citadel, Dameon asked, “Have you—-are you going to make me a demon now?”

“Hasty, aren’t we?” Saurva said.

But it didn’t strike me as haste. He had shown resolve before, but now, there was something hesitant about his manner.

“Not losing our nerve, are we, boy?” Aesma taunted.

The hesitation vanished, and Dameon narrowed his eyes. “No,” he said defensively. “I am ready.”

We brought Dameon to a large, round chamber on one of the lower floors of the fortress, empty save for some torches in brackets scattered sparsely about the room. He was directed to stand in the center of the room, and we formed a wide circle around him, with Tawrich at the top.

“Dameon Maurva,” Tawrich said solemnly, “you are about to become a demon. It is possible—-nay, probable—-that you will lose all traces of your humanity. The memories of your human existence may disappear. It is likely that you shall not recognize yourself, or anyone you have ever known. It is also possible, as has been explained to you, that you will die during this transformation. Do you understand everything I have told you?”

“Yes,” Dameon replied. It seemed rather useless to have to explain all this to him; really, his only other choice was death, anyway. But as Tawrich was nearly twice as old as Aesma, who was second, I assumed there were ancient niceties that were supposed to be observed.

“Daevas,” Tawrich then said, “let us begin.”

Dameon watched intently as Tawrich raised his arms, and chanted in a slow, rumbling tone, “Za shara kulat maturz, nork tab slaium, larg ta ash izishu-ob.”

A ring of fire surrounded the sun priest, the flames shooting half a dozen feet in the air. He gasped audibly.

Lag tab frum, orsk tab hun, khur-lut tab hosh,” Aesma boomed from Tawrich’s right. The flames turned bright blue, and encased Dameon in a fiery capsule. He let out a brief shout, and was silent once more.

Throqu tab kaal,” came Saurva’s chant, from the other side of Aesma. The fire went blazing red, and collapsed onto Dameon. He yelled again.

Fouth tab usumu gug-ob,” Indra, to Saurva’s right, said quietly. The flames shot up again, turned white, and began to whirl very fast. There was a bit of grunting coming from within the ring of fire, but Dameon seemed determined not to cry out again.

Tab slaium kulat izubu,” grumbled Zarich, who was on Indra’s right side. The flames spun faster, and began to expand outside the small circle. Dameon moaned quietly, but again did not cry out.

Shara kulat nar yonk, adhn dagalur ishi tab stazg,” chanted Nanghaithya, between Zarich and me. The wide circle of fire shot to the ceiling and became a tower, spinning wildly and flashing many colors. Dameon groaned as though there were no worse pain than this.

Ukil ukhubat ishi burgul ulkum-ob,” I said at last. The tower of fire exploded with cataclysmic force throughout the entire chamber. Dameon screamed. The light died, and the chamber was pitch black and deathly silent.

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two-for-one special! XD

 

 

Chapter 11 - Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

 

There was a rustling sound beside me, and the torches on the wall were lit once more. Dameon lay in the center of the room, motionless. Aesma grinned. Indra approached the lifeless body of the sun priest and turned him over. Tawrich shook his head.

“I had a feeling—-” he began.

“He is alive,” Indra gasped, looking around at us in shock.

“Impossible,” Saurva snorted. Nanghaithya joined Indra at her side.

“Darkness take me, she is right,” he murmured.

I went over and examined the body as well. There could be no mistaking it; the slight rising and falling of his chest indicated that Dameon had, indeed, survived. But there was something even more surprising about the situation.

“He...he looks...” Indra said, gazing at him in what might almost have been considered awe.

“The same,” I finished for her. He looked exactly like the sun priest who we had led into this chamber. There had been no change in his appearance at all.

“Remarkable,” Nanghaithya whispered.

There was a loud “tut” from Saurva’s corner, and Aesma said, almost gloomily, “Well, awaken him, already.”

Nanghaithya muttered something, and Dameon’s eyelids fluttered. A moment later he opened them, and we were corrected: there was a change in his appearance. I had not paid close enough attention to know what color his eyes were before, but I was fairly certain that they were not red. He looked up at us with a hazy and bewildered expression.

“He has a demonic aura,” Zarich said, now approaching as well. “It—-it must have worked.”

“Well,” I sighed, “no use leaving him lying here.”

“Right you are, Agas,” said Aesma, who bounded forward and pulled Dameon to his feet by the scruff of his neck. Dameon swayed, but managed to stay upright. Aesma looked over at Tawrich, and then spun Dameon around to face him.

“Can you speak, sun priest?” Tawrich asked him, using the Common Speech. Dameon looked at him curiously. Tawrich said, “Dameon Maurva. I am addressing you. Do you know where you are?”

Dameon looked confused. He looked up at Aesma, and took a step back. Then he looked at me, and his eyes narrowed slightly, as though he was trying to remember something. “Agas,” he said finally.

I raised my eyebrows and nodded. “Very good. You have not forgotten everything.”

He looked around again, still taking in his surroundings. He looked up at Tawrich. “You are...the Daevas. This...this is...the Demon Realm?”

“Indeed,” said Tawrich. “Can you tell me who you are?”

He looked at Aesma, and then at me a second time. After a long pause, he told Tawrich, “I...do not remember.” He paused again, and then said, “I cannot say why, but...I think I feel...different.”

“You are a demon now,” Tawrich told him. “A half-demon, at any rate. You were not one before.”

Dameon was turning his hands over and over, examining them as though he had never seen them before. “Then what—-?”

“A druid,” I told him. “You were the Sun Guardian, the Druid of Light.”

He looked at me briefly, then at his hands again. Something seemed to be coming back to him. “Sunshine,” he said quietly. A bright golden light filled the room, and we all shielded our eyes. The light faded, and Dameon looked mildly surprised. “I...am the Druid of Light.”

“He retains his powers!” Saurva hissed, speaking in Demon.

“That cannot be good,” Zarich mumbled in a warning tone.

But I considered the situation for a moment, and said, “Can’t it?”

“Oh, I cannot wait to hear this,” Saurva said cynically.

“Five seconds, Saurva,” Nanghaithya said angrily. We all stared; Nanghaithya never got angry. “Could you possibly not be so disagreeable for five seconds?” Saurva closed his mouth, and did not open it again.

I nodded appreciatively at Nanghaithya. “He has a demonic aura. There is no doubt that the spell was successful. Yet he retains the appearance and powers of the Sun Priest. If he goes to the surface, what human will recognize him for what he is?”

“That wretched demon summoner would,” Indra muttered.

“I think we can work around that,” Nanghaithya said.

Dameon looked confused. “Forgive me,” he said, “but...are you speaking of sending me to the surface? To the human world?”

“He does not understand?” said a disdainful Saurva.

“The speaking of a language does not come naturally, Saurva,” I told him curtly.

You would know,” he returned sourly.

“Don’t, Agas,” said Aesma, who was making little effort of holding me back to keep me from ripping off Saurva’s face.

“If we could fix his eyes...” Nanghaithya said, clearly not listening to the conversation.

“These are all minor inconveniences,” Tawrich said at last.

Indra, who had been examining Dameon pensively, agreed. “Indeed. Nanghaithya, your concern shall be put to rest. Come here, sun priest.” She spoke in Demon, but Dameon evidently understood, because he approached and stood before her, a slightly nervous expression on his face. Indra put her hands on his shoulders and said, “Look at me.” He flushed furiously, but kept his eyes on her. She looked at him for a moment, and then looked around at us. “What color were his eyes before?”

We exchanged incredulous looks. Zarich turned to me and asked, “She isn’t serious, is she?” I shrugged.

Indra sighed impatiently. “Let us hope our ‘heroes’ are not as observant as you all are.”

You didn’t know,” Nanghaithya returned.

She glared at him, and then looked back at Dameon. She stared into his eyes intently; he blushed again, but did not look away. Finally he flinched, and when he opened his eyes, they looked like ordinary human eyes again.

“There,” said Indra. “He is the sun priest once more.”

Tawrich nodded. Changing again to the Common Speech, he addressed Dameon, “One last thing, I think, before we depart. As the Sun Guardian, and as a human, you went by the name of Dameon Maurva. Since you are now a demon, you shall no longer go by this name, not amongst other demons, anyway. We shall bestow upon you, for the time being, a name more befitting of a demon.”

“Baalak!” Aesma shouted at once.

I laughed. “Yes, very fitting indeed. I second it.”

Tawrich nodded. “Very well, then. Dameon Maurva, you shall henceforth be known as Baalak.

“Many things are about to be set into motion, sun priest. Due to circumstances for which we have not accounted...well, let us proceed to the conference hall. All shall be explained.”

We left the chamber, and returned at once to the throne room. First we had to assess how much of his human life Dameon, or rather Baalak, could recall. Aside from the fact that he had been the Druid of Light, of which he had to be reminded, he could recall nothing; his deeds, his companions, his wretched mother: all remained a mystery to him.

“Perhaps this will be more difficult than we imagined,” Aesma muttered. He was still in a rather foul mood since the transformation had not killed the boy.

“I think he just needs reminding,” said Nanghaithya delicately.

“Things will go a lot smoother this way,” Tawrich said reassuringly. Even Tawrich did not dare to put himself on Aesma’s bad side.

“Besides, there are still the tests,” I reminded Aesma. Aesma grinned, and was a bit less menacing afterward.

Thus began the painstaking task of retelling Baalak’s life story to him, as much of it as we knew. The mention of the Chosen One seemed to stir something of a memory, but not enough of one even to be serviceable. It was not until the mention of Ahriman that anything seemed to come through.

“I remember Ahriman,” he said slowly. “He...he was a demon, a sorcerer, but not a daeva.”

Saurva snickered. “As if he would ever have become a daeva.”

I had to agree, but I was not willing to say so; I was still fuming over his comments in the lower chamber. “What else do you remember about your dealings with him?” I asked Baalak.

“I—-he—-I wanted to become a daeva,” he said, as though it was a great revelation. “He said that...I think...I wanted revenge on...someone...”

“‘Bring me your enemies...lay them before me...and walk away,’” Aesma quoted. “That’s Ahriman, all right. Many humans fell victim to his ‘promises’.”

Tawrich sighed. “I never had much hope that you would remember anything, Baalak. But it may be that it is best this way. Still, you shall need to remember at least what we have told you, and more importantly, what we are about to explain to you. The plan cannot succeed if you do not follow our instructions precisely, and then...” He gave a swift look to Aesma, and then to me, before he continued. “Then, I cannot be responsible for what happens to you.”

Aesma and I grinned wickedly at each other; Baalak tensed for a moment, and then said, “I understand.” He fixed Aesma and me with a hard, defiant look through narrowed eyes, and said, “I will not fail.”

“Would anyone care to escort Baalak to the entrance hall for a few moments?” Tawrich asked then. Aesma and I looked at each other again, and Tawrich added, “Anyone who is willing to let him live beyond the threshold?” Aesma’s face fell, and I shrugged resignedly.

“I volunteer Saurva,” I said. Saurva glared at me hatefully.

“Second,” Aesma put in before Saurva could protest.

Saurva leapt from his chair and hissed, “Come, sun priest!” Then he turned on his heel and swept out of the throne room, leading a rather confused Baalak.

“One more item before we adjourn,” Tawrich said once they were gone. “How do we solve the conundrum of the demon summoner?” Tawrich asked.

“Perhaps we won’t have to,” I said after some thought. With the daevas’ attention on me, I continued, “The boy’s demonic powers are still weak at this point. And there is one weapon in his arsenal that humans have great difficulty overcoming: charm.”

“Charm?” Indra scoffed.

“He managed to convince the Dark Lord that the Druid of Light would help him take over the human world,” I pointed out.

“While at the same time convincing the Chosen One that he would help her destroy the Dark Lord,” Nanghaithya added.

Tawrich nodded. “Very good. Then we proceed with the original plan, with perhaps a small amount of embellishment. We have work to do.”

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Ack! You're posting super fast! XD I'm just skimming what I can. Glad I read carefully the first time because I remember lots. :blink:

 

I'm just be annoying and cheer you on to update soon!

 

Update! Update! Update! :D lol

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Yes, Dameon is charming, isn't he. At least I think so. I'm really looking forward to his big scene...

 

As for Reezna, well, I suppose that's a relief. We need to keep him pure for when he finally remembers that he loves Rhen! :lol:

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dis: i'm posting super fast? well...i've got a LONG way to go! :D

 

cherrywine: lol. but...what makes you think he is pure?... :evil:

 

more 'hero' stuff...

 

 

It had been a long, difficult journey back to the Southern Kingdom, especially since John had left without anyone noticing, and taken their dragon besides. By the time Lars and Rhen reached the shore in their small, leaky boat, Lars was sincerely wishing that he had never agreed to this.

But she wasn’t supposed to come with me, he thought as he watched her tie the boat to the dock. She was supposed to be grateful and just let me do this on my own. Then it wouldn’t have mattered if—-

“Reverting back to your old ways, Lars?” Rhen called, interrupting his thought.

He shook his head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means why aren’t you helping me with the boat?” she scolded playfully.

He shook his head again. “Sorry.” He helped finish tying the boat, and Rhen gazed in the direction of Veldt.

“I wonder if Elini ever made it back,” she said sadly.

The last time either of them had seen the strong, proud demon summoner, she had dissolved into guilty, despairing tears. Nothing anyone had said could convince Elini that they did not blame her for what had happened to Dameon. Now, months later, Rhen found herself with a strong desire to travel to the city, to see what had become of her friend.

“I’m sure she must have,” Lars said. “She’s got three husbands who were probably looking for her, doesn’t she?”

“Do you think we could go see her first? Before we look for Dameon?”

Lars shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

When they arrived at Elini’s home, one of her husbands answered the door, and told them, “She is not herself.”

The man had not been exaggerating. Elini was seated at her kitchen table, wearing a vacant, melancholy expression. Her hair was disheveled, and her eyes were puffy and bloodshot. There were half a dozen bottles of liquor on the table before her. When she saw Rhen, tears welled in her eyes.

“Elini, stop blaming yourself,” Rhen told her. “It wasn’t your fault. Besides, we’re going to find him.”

“Why do you torture yourself?” Elini asked. Her speech was slightly slurred.

“What are you doing?” said Lars, exasperated.

“You didn’t see her,” Elini said quietly. “His mother. She was...” She took a long drink from one of the bottles. “She blamed me. I could see it in her eyes.”

Lars shook his head. “That is still no reason for you to—-”

Elini gave him a look so fierce that he stopped mid-sentence. “Do you honestly think that is all that bothers me?” She looked at Rhen, who was alarmed at this sudden change in Elini’s demeanor. “You do not understand. Neither of you do.”

“Under-understand...what, Elini?” said Rhen meekly.

Elini shook her head slowly, staring at a blank space on the wall opposite her. “The Demon Portal. The way between this world and the Demon Realm. Once there were many, but most were destroyed; yet one still remains. The druids sealed it many years ago, and now, only a druid many open it.” Finally she looked at them, and found looks of comprehension dawning on their faces. “The Daevas want nothing more than to return to the surface world. And I sent with them the Key.”

“But...how do you know?” Rhen whispered.

“Eithera,” Elini said solemnly. “Though her temple was destroyed, she was kind enough to return here with me. I believe she wanted to be sure that the portal was still sealed.”

There was a silence, and then Lars said, “But...obviously the druids know all this. Should they not...be prepared?”

“Eithera said that there are certain precautions in place,” Elini said, waving a dismissive hand over the idea. “But I do not see how they can be stopped.”

“Well...we managed to stop them once, didn’t we?” Rhen said bracingly.

“Where is Eithera now?” Lars asked Elini.

Elini took another long drink, then looked at Lars, bleary-eyed. “She has returned to the Sun Temple in Aveyond. In the...absence of...” She stopped, and more tears formed in her eyes.

“Elini...” Rhen said gently.

Elini did not look at her. “If the world falls, I shall be the one to blame.”

Having finally accepted defeat, Rhen and Lars left Elini’s home and traveled south to the site of the Stronghold Temple. Rhen was still possessed of a manic optimism that when they arrived, Dameon would be waiting there for them, worn and beaten, yet none the worse for his harrowing experience, and ready to return home.

He’ll be okay, she kept telling herself. He’s got to be. Elini is wrong. They’re all wrong...

Her optimism was not quelled when they found the passage to the Demon Caves blocked by enormous boulders; Lars could clear that away easily. She was undaunted still when they had finally pushed and clawed their way through to the ruin that had once been the Stronghold Temple; they had made it this far, hadn’t they? Even when they had cleared away the rubble and discovered the Demon Portal, tightly sealed and unforgiving, her hope remained.

“I wonder if what sorts of precautions are in place,” she muttered to herself. “If we could get through here...”

Lars sighed in frustration. “You’re not a druid, Rhen. You heard what Elini said. Besides, even if you could get through, how smart would it be to open the portal to the Demon Realm? Honestly? I mean, the other druids haven’t tried it, have they?”

She glared at him. He just didn’t understand. On the other hand, he had offered to come this far. “Well...I suppose. I guess they’re planning on Dameon opening the portal anyway, right? So we could just wait here...”

Lars had finally had enough. “No, Rhen,” he said firmly. “We are not going to wait here. If—-by some wild stretch of the imagination—-he does open the portal, don’t you think there will be a horde of demons following in his wake? You can’t possibly think it is a good idea to wait around here for that.”

Angry tears began to form in her eyes. “Why did you offer to do this, Lars?” she asked quietly.

He smiled bitterly. “Do you not know?” She gave him a puzzled look; he offered her his hand and said, “Come, Rhen. I cannot let you sit here and wait to be destroyed by a thousand demons.”

“You never had any hope, did you, Lars?” she asked him as they left the Demon Caves.

“No. I am afraid I didn’t.” He smiled. “And I was hard-put to curb your enthusiasm, as well.”

There was a silence, and then Rhen asked, “Do you think...they’re going to kill him, aren’t they?”

“I have to assume so.”

She sighed. “I suppose it was foolish of me to come here. I should have gone to Thais.”

He hated to see her so crestfallen. “It wasn’t foolish,” he told her, though to himself he agreed whole-heartedly. “I suppose...well, I suppose anything is possible.” He shrugged. “Maybe...maybe they won’t kill him. Maybe...he could even escape. If you—-” He paused, knowing full well that he would regret with every fiber of his being what he was about to say. “If you really wanted to...I mean, maybe...maybe we could...wait. Just—-just not right here. You know, someplace...safe.”

Her optimism returned, and brought her smile back with it. “You are wonderful, Lars. I could kiss you!”

“Please—don’t,” he said quickly. We both might regret it.

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I love this chapter, kaz. Elini should feel bad. *mumble mumble *what kind of self-respecting demon summoner makes deals with demons *mumble mumble* :)

 

And I love the last line!

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yeah, i remember everyone liking that last line. :)

and in elini's defense...wait. why am i defending elini? this is 'the agas saga', not 'the elini saga'. nevermind. you're absolutely right, cherry. :lol:

 

 

Chapter 12 - Baalak Remembers

 

We did have quite a bit of work ahead of us. Nanghaithya, enlisting the aid of Indra and Zarich, set about preparing Baalak for the critical tasks that he had to perform; and Tawrich, Saurva, Aesma and I all had our own tasks to accomplish.

Saurva, having an excellent rapport with the race of Dragons, set out to search the entire Demon Realm for those that might have had the misfortune to be sent there; dragons, as it happens, have telepathic powers, though only between each other. Saurva was to ask them to communicate our plans with their brethren on the surface. A daunting task, to be sure, but it kept him well out of sight for a long time.

Aesma’s mission was to rally the lesser demons, explain what was happening, and prepare them for the impending...let’s call it a “journey”. This would be easy for Aesma, by whom all demons were relatively intimidated; but as there were so many of them spread out over such a vast space, he would be gone a long time as well.

None of us were quite sure what Tawrich was up to; but as he had existed for nearly eight thousand years, and had been a daeva longer than any of the rest of us had even been alive, we assumed that he knew what he was doing, and did not question him.

My task, for all intents and purposes, had been completed long before. I only had to make a few minor adjustments, which included rounding up a small band of unassuming-looking demons to send to the surface. To each I entrusted a message, to be sent to various locations on the surface world, and then sent them off to find the former sun priest.

Once I had completed this task, I decided to seek out Nanghaithya and see how his plan was progressing. I found him in the throne room of the citadel, seated at the long table with Zarich and Indra, a large glass orb on the table before him.

“Finished already, Agas?” he said without looking up from the orb.

“Yes, Father,” I returned sardonically as I took a seat beside Indra.

He finally looked up, his eyebrows raised and a smirk on his face. Zarich laughed, and Indra said, “You are so arrogant, Agas,” in a disapproving sort of way, but there was a tiny smile on her face as well.

“Indeed,” Nanghaithya agreed. “Thus we expect this plan to go off without a hitch.”

“Nanghaithya, how many times have I done this before? Besides...this one, I’ve been planning for centuries. And, of course, there isn’t much more I can do while we are in the Demon Realm.”

“Very well,” Nanghaithya sighed. “I suppose we should let your past successes speak for you. Now...” He turned his attention back to the glass ball and murmured, “Traum-izish baalak dagalur.” At once, the orb came to life with a misty silver light. I turned to Indra and asked, “What is this?”

“Nanghaithya has placed an enchantment upon Baalak,” she explained, “so that he might...keep an eye on him. The boy doesn’t know about it, of course.”

“Brilliant,” I said. “What about his demonic powers?”

“Still no stronger,” Nanghaithya said, his attention still on the glass. “Fortunately.”

“We taught him a simple Relocation spell,” Zarich said, “but nothing more.”

At that moment, the picture inside the glass orb became clear. It showed Baalak and the demons to whom I had given the messages inside the ruined temple of the Druid of Strength. The demons fled almost immediately, leaving Baalak to chant a complicated spell over the Demon Portal. He was sporting a spectacular black eye, and winced whenever he took a deep breath.

“That was me,” Zarich said proudly, indicating Baalak’s injuries.

“The Portal is sealed,” said Nanghaithya. “Expertly, by the looks of it. There is no escape.”

“On to Phase Two?” I sighed. Nanghaithya nodded. The four of us watched in silence as Baalak chanted the spell he had been taught, vanished, and reappeared outside the city of Veldt. I noticed then that he walked with a pronounced limp, as made his way to the first dwelling in his path, a large stone building which appeared to serve as an inn. He approached the innkeeper, who backed away from him slightly, and croaked, “El—-ini,” before collapsing onto the floor. The innkeeper gasped, dragged Baalak to the nearest bed, and then ran from the inn as though it were on fire.

When she returned several minutes later, there were two people with her: a red-haired man, and the demon summoner who had sentenced us to the Demon Realm. The innkeeper pointed at the bed containing the apparently unconscious Baalak, and the summoner flew over, dropping beside the bed and practically weeping with what looked like relief. She muttered his name—-or his human name, rather—-several times, to no response. She turned quickly to the red-haired man. “Husband, fetch me some elixir. Quickly!” The man left, and she turned her attention back to Baalak. “Dameon?” she said quietly. “Can you hear me?”

Baalak finally stirred, and opened his eyes halfway. He looked at the summoner for a few moments, and then said, “Elini?”

She smiled, tears leaving her eyes in narrow streams. “Yes. I am here. Are you all right?”

He tried, unsuccessfully, to sit up, but she gently pushed him back down. The red-haired man Elini had addressed as “Husband” returned, and handed her a small bottle. She made Baalak drink its contents. He coughed, and then said, very weakly, “Sun...Temple...”

“Relax,” she said. “We’ll get there. You are still very weak. When you are ready, I’d like to know what happened.”

He rested quietly for a few minutes, then opened his eyes and sat up slowly, wincing. “I...I escaped the Daevas. They wanted me to open the Demon Portal for them.”

“How did you escape?”

“A spell. They thought me weak, and I let them. They did not expect that I would know Sun Fury. I got to the portal as fast as I could, and sealed it before they could follow.”

“So they are still sealed in the Demon Realm?” she asked.

He nodded. “But they are still powerful. I fear that sealing the portal will not be enough. There is something important that I need to do, to be sure of. Can you take me to Aveyond?”

Her indecisiveness was wearing, even to watch. Finally she said, “Are you certain you feel well enough for such a journey?”

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand, but his legs gave out underneath him. He sighed in frustration. “Perhaps a bit more rest. What’s happened to the others?”

“Others?”

“Rhen...Lars...Tei’jal...” he said slowly; it was difficult to tell whether he was struggling to remember, or he thought she had gone a bit thick since he had last seen her.

“Oh. Tei’jal returned to Ghed’ahre. Rhen and Lars...as a matter of fact, they were here a couple of weeks ago, though I am not sure where they have got to now. They...they said they were going to look for you.”

“They were?” Baalak said, taken aback. “Even though—-”

She nodded. “I told them—-well, I thought—-that there was no hope.”

“No matter,” he assured her. “I hope they have not gone too far. I...should like to see Rhen again.”

“Of course you would,” Elini said with a smile.

She managed to convince him to rest a while longer, and told him an exceedingly boring tale of what happened after we had taken him to the Demon Realm. Not once did either one of them make mention of Baalak’s demonic aura. He looked most concerned when she told him that Rhen, who evidently was the rightful queen of Thais, had not returned to her kingdom.

“Instead of taking her place as queen, she came looking for me?” he said, appalled. “That was reckless. Foolish. Elini, we really must get to the Sun Shrine now. As soon as possible.”

She still looked doubtful, but finally she relented. She promised to have a ship made ready immediately, explaining that the pirate John had stolen their dragon. He implored her for a faster way, but she claimed not to know of one.

“What of a Traveling Rune?” he asked desperately. “Are there none that could be spared?”

She slapped herself in the forehead, and left without a word. When she returned ten minutes later, she was carrying a large jade stone, and shaking her head.

“I cannot believe I’ve forgotten about it all this time,” she said. “This will take us directly to Aveyond.”

Part of me wondered if he had known about the Rune the whole time, and if he was actually beginning to remember his past. Something, somehow, seemed wrong.

“What is he doing?” I asked Indra.

She merely shook her head; her expression was one of concern and bemusement. We both looked at Nanghaithya, but he was gazing intently at the scene inside the glass ball, his face unreadable.

The scene faded briefly, and when it returned, Baalak and Elini were outside the Sun Temple in Aveyond. He hurried inside, not bothering to explain his motives, and she followed bewilderedly.

Within were Eithera and the Oracle, an ancient woman who apparently held dominion over the druids. There seemed to be a few other humans present as well, but no one of importance. There was a shocked silence when the pair entered the shrine, and then the Oracle said, “Sun Priest? Can it be?”

“Yes,” he said. “It is I. I have escaped the daevas and sealed the Demon Portal. But I shall explain later. First I must know the fate of the Sword of Shadows.”

Everyone, including the daevas who watched from afar, looked stunned, confused, or anxious. Zarich was slowly shaking his head. Indra was mouthing wordlessly, her eyes still wide. Something was gnawing at me as well; I wanted to ask if this was part of the plan, but Nanghaithya was so absorbed in the scene that he did not appear to realize any of us were still there.

“It is here,” the Oracle said. “I assure you, Dameon, Eithera has kept it safe in your...absence.”

“Are you certain?” He sounded frantic. “The Daevas are not our only enemies. There are creatures—-”

”No one has entered this temple without my leave,” Eithera said firmly.

We just did,” Baalak returned, waving a hand behind him at Elini. “Please. I must know that it is safe.”

The Oracle nodded, and disappeared through a door that looked as though it normally was hidden. When she returned, she carried a sword-shaped object wrapped in black cloth.

“Here it is, sun priest,” she said, pulling back the cloth to reveal the long blade with its blue-black light glowing at the edges. “I fear there is something you have not told us. You say it must be kept—-”

”Safe,” Eithera finished. “Safe from whom, Dameon?”

Baalak ignored her. He took the Sword of Shadows gently in his hands, and relief swept over his face.

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Great chapter, kaz. I love how you build the suspense in this one. I love Dameon/Baalak in this chapter. "Safe from whom" indeed! :)

 

Anyway, yeah, that last line in the last hero chapter is almost (and note I only said almost) enough to bring me over to the RhenXLars camp. :D

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cherrywine: almost, eh?...wow, i'm good. :lol:

 

daeva_agas: sarcasm. agas sensed a lecture coming, so he was making fun of nanghaithya. that's all. :)

 

 

Chapter 13 - The Sword of Shadows

 

The sword began to glow with a white-hot light. He looked up at them darkly. “Me.”

With one swift motion, he swung the sword over his head, and brought it crashing to the stone floor. The combination of the force of the blow and the effect of whatever Light magic he had used on it caused it to shatter into many splintered pieces. There was a fraction of a second in which time stood still. Then there was a flash of blue-white light, and a sound like an enormous explosion, which shook the foundation of the earth, and which even we could feel in the Demon Realm. The light began to fade, and a cacophony of sounds followed: women screaming, men shouting, an unearthly moaning and wailing, and the furious shrieking of thousands of demons who had been freed from a terrible prison. When the light finally died, the humans were running or cowering, and the roof of the shrine had been completely disintegrated. Baalak disappeared, and the glass orb grew dark once more.

There was a brief silence at the table, and finally Zarich said, “I can’t believe he did it.”

“I had not much hope, either,” Indra agreed, her eyes wide. “I am very impressed.”

I looked at Nanghaithya, who looked pensive as usual, and said, “Phase Three.” I then took my leave immediately, pausing only briefly in the entrance hall as Aesma and Saurva, who had both clearly just arrived, bombarded me with questions.

“It is done,” was my only reply as I hurried out of the citadel and to the Demon Portal, where Tawrich was already waiting.

“I assume you are ready,” he said when he saw me.

“I was born ready,” I said with a grin.

He nodded. “We shall look to your leadership. Agas...” He paused. “I still think he would have been proud of you.”

“‘Would have been’ and ‘was’ are two very different things,” I muttered. The portal flashed, and then opened, and Baalak passed through, breathing heavily and shaking slightly.

“Did any humans follow you?” Tawrich asked at once.

“No,” he replied. “I think it will be long before they recover from this.”

“That’s the idea,” I said. “Well done, Baalak.”

He looked up at me, but apparently was lost for words. Finally he half-grinned, and then said, “There is an orc by the name of Gubash waiting for you just outside.”

“Outstanding. There, ah...there should be no need to reseal the portal.”

He laughed tremulously, and Tawrich told me, “Aesma should be following you shortly.”

As I stepped back into the human world, I was greeted by a short, crooked-limbed creature with black skin, pointed yellow teeth, and a rather flat nose. This was Gubash, the ‘leader’, if you will, of the orcs and goblins of the Western Isle.

“My lord,” he said in Orkish with a slight bow, “I’ve only just received your message.”

“Things are progressing faster than we expected,” I replied, also in Orkish. “But no matter. I assume your men are ready?” Yes, I am aware of the irony of the term “men” when referring to orcs and goblins.

“Always, my lord. Though...I am not altogether certain there is need for it.” An evil grin broke across his hideous face. “The world is...changed...”

Changed? I thought. It had been a matter of minutes. How could the world have changed that much? We departed the ruin of the Stronghold Temple, which had stood around the Demon Portal, and which had been destroyed after Ahriman was defeated, and made our way outside to the desert that covered most of the Southern Isle. A fierce wind blew from the east, creating a sandstorm effect throughout the entire desert. There was also a distinct lack of the brutal sunlight that was ever-present in the south; I looked up, and found that there were gray clouds blotting out the entire sky. There were also dark shapes zooming past overhead, howling and cackling with fiendish delight. I supposed thousands of years of pent-up aggression and rage at the human world really shouldn’t have taken all that long to express.

We Relocated to the Western Isle, just outside the city of Sedona; orcs are not generally given to magic, which probably explained why Gubash was their leader. The lands here were in complete chaos. Demons of all shapes and sizes were rampaging through the forests, sending the humans and animals they had not caught running and shrieking with terror. Thick smoke issued from blazing fires in the trees and on the hillsides. The ground beneath us shook, and large fissures appeared, tearing the earth asunder. Our presence was not noticed.

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” Gubash breathed.

It was, for such a brief span of time. “We cannot be complacent,” I told him. “Send Turog and his men this way. Take your own south, and send the rest to the Highlands. Make haste! And Gubash...do not fail me.”

He bowed low, and was gone in an instant. I climbed a nearby hill and surveyed the land. Ruin was rampant; the fall of the human world seemed imminent. But it would not be enough. The demons who had been freed from the Sword of Shadows were powerful, but reckless and self-absorbed. Their primary concern was vengeance, and once they had had their fill, the havoc would stop, and the humans would turn this to their advantage. And we could not let that happen.

I turned my attention to the southeast, but from this distance, I could see nothing of the Lowlands. I could imagine one place where damage had not yet been done, and it unsettled me. My only hope was that once our plan had succeeded and the race of Men had been defeated, the other races would soon follow.

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Chapter 14 - Doubt and Weakness

 

Ylisfar—-the greatest city in all of Elvendom. At the height of its power, it enveloped nearly all of the Oldwoods. There was a time when a demon was hardly safe anywhere on the Western Isle. But even as the power of the demons grew and that of the Elves waned, they were always a threat to us. And something needed to be done about it, once and for all.

That was why I was there. It was true, a demon could not enter the realm of the Elves; but I didn’t necessarily need to go in, if I could draw them out. And I knew that if I created enough chaos and destruction on their borders, they would have no choice but to respond.

And I was not disappointed. I had gathered a host of orcs and goblins from the peninsula and sent them thundering off toward Ylisfar, following at some distance to track their progerss. The Elves must have caught wind of my plan, because archers were waiting hidden in the trees for my company. What they didn’t know was that the surface rabble were merely a diversion, a way to bring the Elves within striking distance of the demons that I had lying in wait just outside the Oldwoods. Many lives were spent in the battle, Demon, Elvish, and Orkish. I had taken many myself. It did not wipe out the Elves entirely, but it did decrease their numbers, and that was a start.

Of course, I thought as I searched the battle site for wounded Elves who had not been slain, in order to finish the job, it will not work a second time. Not soon after, anyway. They would be on their guard now, and would not come to battle so quickly as this time. I immediately began to ponder what my next strategy would be.

It happened very suddenly. I had let my guard down, thinking the battle over, when an arrow struck me from behind, knocking off my helmet. I spun around and drew my sword, scanning the trees for the one I had missed. There was a rustle of movement to my left; I turned and shot a fireball, and the shooter did not move quickly enough, except in firing another arrow at me, which narrowly missed my left ear. The Elf fell to the ground with a burning cloak, but quicker than I could see she was on her feet again, the fire extinguished, another arrow fitted to her bow.

She was the most stunning creature I had ever seen. She had waist-length hair the color of rosewood, pale silver-blue eyes, and her fair skin shone like the moon. But it didn’t make sense: demons have no use for things of beauty and the natural world; we crave darkness, and pain, and torment. For the first time in my entire existence, doubt and weakness stole over me, though for the briefest moment. We stood staring at each other for a long while, and it seemed that she was unable to decide if she should kill me or not.

“I suppose you mistook me for a human,” I said finally. It was not a difficult mistake to make, admittedly; an entirely human appearance was extremely rare for a demon, and among the daevas one only Nanghaithya and I shared. (Well, Indra, too, but as her skin and hair were flame blue, I suppose the only human she might have been mistaken for would have been a frozen one.)

“And why would you assume such a thing, demon?” she said in a clear, almost musical voice, though her tone was somewhat less than friendly.

“Because it is widely known that an Elven arrow never misses its mark,” I replied. Then I added with a smirk, “Unless there is another reason you chose to fire a mere warning shot?”

She didn’t respond right away, as though she didn’t know the reason herself. “And yet you have not retaliated,” she said at last. “I did not kill you, and you have not taken advantage of this.” She looked around at the bodies littering the forest floor. “You did not show the same courtesy to my kin.” Her eyes flashed dangerously.

“Nor did you with mine,” I returned. “Nor have your people ever done with my people. Which begs the question, why am I standing here, allowing you to continue living?”

She raised her bow again, but still did not shoot. “Do not tempt me, demon. You would die before you could take another breath.”

At that moment there came the sound of Elvish voices, calling the name “Liya”. She bit her lip, and fixed me with an indecisive stare.

“Leave this place,” she said quickly in a hushed voice. “Leave now and never return.” Then she turned and fled toward the sound of the voices, disappearing almost instantly into the trees.

I did leave then, though I could not explain my motivation. I made my way back to the Demon Realm, shaking my head vigorously and trying to forget...

“My lord?” a voice was saying. “My lord, what is it?”

I shook my head. The voice belonged to Turog, a large, gorilla-ish night orc, who was standing beside me, looking at me anxiously.

Merely a distant memory, I thought. That battle in the Oldwoods had happened over 700 years ago, before the druids had sealed the final demon portal...when demons could move more freely about the surface world. It was before Ahriman had grown to his full power, though he was indeed powerful then. It would also not be the last time I saw Liya; but Ahriman would find out, and I would be hard-put to regain his trust.

Now, however, I was far from that place. I and the troops Turog had gathered were stationed outside the walls of the city of Sedona. The orcs were waiting for my command, and I was waiting for precisely the right moment.

“My lord?” Turog said again.

“Silence!” I hissed. “There is a battalion of paladins just inside the city walls. Do not alert them to our position before there is need.”

“Forgive me,” he mumbled.

“How many have we?”

“Three thousand swords and spears,” he said, speaking more quietly now, “and six hundred archers.”

“We should match them well,” I told him. “The weakest spots in the walls are at the southeastern end of the city, near the shore. Send one of your lieutenants there with three hundred men. Another thousand and half the archers shall keep watch along the other walls.”

“And the others, my lord?”

I glanced up at the gates to the city, looking for any sign of movement. “Hold their positions. We let them make the first move.”

Evidently the humans were thinking along the same lines, because even after Turog had gone to carry out my orders and returned, we remained at a standstill for hours upon hours. We had them at a disadvantage, however; the paladins of Sedona were waiting not for us, but for another horde of demons to fly in and wreak more havoc. They would be quite unprepared for a ground assault by thousands of armored orcs, who fought more fiercely than most demons, and goblin archers, whose skills were second only to those of the Elves. At least, that was my theory.

I was never disappointed by the carelessness of humans. When the onslaught of demons freed from the Sword of Shadows began to subside or the creatures to be subdued, the soldiers of the city were bound to leave its walls; and that, after hours of waiting, is precisely what they did. The massive gates creaked open, and the paladins slowly and warily began to file out into the quiet forest, looks of dread or unease on most of their faces. I held my forces off until the soldiers, a good thousand of them, had exited the city and sealed the gates.

“Kill only at need,” I said to Turog. He nodded, and waved his hand to launch the first attack.

Hundreds of arrows came whining through the trees, wounding some of the paladins but killing none. The humans only had about fifty archers, who immediately began to fire blindly into the trees around them. The apparent leader was shouting orders, and his men held ranks, even though they could not see their assailants.

I waved to signal the second assault.

KHUR-BO ULUB RIIP!!” Turog cried, and hundreds of orcs sprang from hiding and surrounded the tightening circle of paladins. The human soldiers stood together and, admittedly, fought valiantly; but their efforts were, ironically, thwarted by the fact that they stood together, allowing themselves to be walled in by their enemies.

Still, though outnumbered more than two-to-one, the paladins fought with the kind of determination and strength that dark creatures could never achieve. While the orcs and goblins fought to the death, the humans were fighting to live. I only became concerned when the men began to break ranks and filter out around my troops. That was when I knew I had to step in.

“Time Storm!” I shouted at a nearby cluster of paladins, who immediately began to wither into elderly men. I was still determined not to take any lives at this point; and I didn’t, until one paladin spied me and charged at me, sword raised and yelling, “DEEEEAAAAATH!!” He reminded me distinctly of another paladin I had met once. But instead of taking his soul, like I had with the other paladin, I quickly drew my sword and stilled him in his tracks. He fell backward, his sword still raised and a gaping wounded in his chest.

A number of other paladins took notice of this, and with a renewed sense of urgency began to slay the orcs as though they were deer, fighting to get at me. I had to laugh as I stood there, waiting for them to get through. Magic, of course, would have been far easier; but it wasn’t nearly as much fun. As the first pair of soldiers broke through the line and ran at me, I raised my sword again, and quickly felled them both with one stroke. The others paused in their fighting for the briefest moment, as though no longer certain this was a good idea. Still others, however, continued to rush forward. I cast Motion Freeze, stopping them where they stood and allowing my soldiers to move through their diminishing formation. The paladins’ panic swept through the ranks like a virus, and it wasn’t long before they were fighting their way back to the city gates.

“Stand your ground!” the human general ordered his terrified troops.

“Surrender or perish!” Turog shouted.

“Never! Death first!” the general bellowed, his eyes fixed in a deadly glare upon me. The general lopped off the heads of half a dozen orcs before he reached me, nostrils flaring and sword at the ready. He swung his weapon heavily at me, but I leapt lightly out of the way.

“I didn’t want to have to kill you, paladin,” I told him as I dodged another attack. “You would serve far better as a slave.”

“Roast in Hell, demon!!” he screamed, and this time he landed his sword, piercing my left shoulder. He withdrew his weapon and raised it for another blow. Before his stroke fell, I ran my sword through his gut. He dropped his sword, and blood began to pour from the wound down the front of his armor. His eyes were wide, and his mouth half-open.

“Funny you should say that,” I said quietly, “because I’ve chosen to bring it here.” I drove my sword in further. Blood dripped from his open mouth, and his eyes rolled back in his head. I pushed his carcass off my sword with my foot, and he collapsed in a heap at the feet of a group of soldiers who had pushed forward to come to his aid. They looked from him to me with horrified expressions.

I looked them over with a wry smile. “Anyone else care to dance?”

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I do love Dameon's big scene -- even if I wish he weren't a demon. But, we've been through all that before. :D Great chapters! I love all of it. The whole scene with the paladin general at the end is terrific.

 

Oh and I did stress almost right? It is a great moment for Lars. But he still doesn't deserve Rhen. ;)

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cherry: 'almost' is practically there. (hehe)besides, what makes you think rhen deserves him? :lol:

 

daeva_agas: i know! me too! but i'm not even halfway there...*groans impatiently* i wish i would hurry up already. XD

 

bryan_pasa: thanks! i'm so glad you're enjoying it! :)

 

 

Chapter 15 - Victory at Hand

 

The half-dozen paladins stared at me blankly; one might have thought I had cast Motion Freeze on them. The sight of their captain lying dead at their feet had unnerved them to the point that they could no longer decide what to do. Finally I said, “Come now, surely you realize that standing there gawking at me is not a good idea?”

They came to their senses and charged forward as one. In one fluid motion, I swiped off the head of the nearest with my sword, and then plunged my weapon into a second’s chest. A third managed to drive his sword between my ribs, and quickly lost his weapon, along with his entire right arm. As I pulled the blade out of my side, another paladin took an exaggerated swing at me, aiming for my head. I ducked under the blow and stabbed him with his comrade’s sword.

Two more came at me at once; one sliced my right hand, causing me to drop my sword, while the other ran behind me, evidently to catch me by surprise. The latter received an elbow to the gut, and before either could react, I reached around, lifted him over my head and threw him squarely at the first soldier. They flew back several feet and landed in a pile, taking a few more paladins down with them. The remaining paladins nearest me, having seen the fight, remained where they stood, finally realizing that they did not stand a chance. They dropped their weapons to the ground and hung their heads.

“I’m glad to see we’ve finally got this sorted out,” I said. “To be perfectly frank, had you all done this from the beginning, none of your comrades would have needed to die.” I looked up, and found that the paladins’ surrender was causing a ripple effect amongst the other soldiers. The men began dropping their weapons, some looking defiant, others collapsing to the ground with them. Their numbers had been drastically reduced, easily by half; but there were at least as many orcs lying there beside them.

“Turog!” I shouted. He bounded toward me, two arrows sticking out of his right shoulder and a wide gash across his forehead, and panted, “My lord?”

“Collect the humans’ weapons and destroy them,” I said. “Or keep them. Do whatever you wish as long as they do not fall into men’s hands again.”

“And the men?”

“Return them whence they came.” I smirked. “It is time to take the city.”

“Yes, my lord!” he said excitedly. As he started off again, I grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Kill only at need,” I reminded him firmly. “The humans are no good to us dead. Do not let them escape, either. And the king: I shall return shortly; leave him for me.”

He nodded his understanding, and after I reminded him once again not to kill unless it was absolutely necessary, I sent the defeated paladins and my troops back into Sedona. I was fairly confident that they needed no further direction, and so I left Turog to it, and headed south to the area that concerned me most.

I found several thousand of Gubash’s men spread across a wide area surrounding a large building that served, if I recalled correctly, as a school for wealthy human children. There were still demons wandering the countryside, most of which was charred and smoking. The Orkish troops were behaving as though nothing of great importance was happening.

“Where is Gubash?” I demanded of one of the lieutenants.

He pointed east, quailing, and then hurried away to tell off his troops for appearing idle. I spotted Gubash exiting a cave beneath a large hill, not far from where I stood. He saw me and immediately rushed over, bowing his head when he reached me.

“My lord, you’re hurt!” he said, indicating the mess at my side.

“Wounded,” I said, “not hurt. Now what is this?” I asked shortly, indicating the lounging orcs around me.

“Victory,” he replied with a crooked grin.

“I see. Casualties?”

“None, my lord. Well, no humans, anyway.” He shook his head, still grinning. “The men were not prepared for us. No weapons, no armor, no soldiers...simple farm folk with neither the means nor the desire to fight. They surrendered immediately.”

“I assumed as much, or I would have come here myself,” I said. “And what of the Elves?”

“They...were a bit more prepared,” he said uncomfortably. “And the demons did no damage—-”

”As I told you they wouldn’t,” I cut in.

“Of course, my lord,” he said with a nod. “But they came and fought. I lost a good number of my men, but...I should be very surprised if the Elves ever leave that place again.”

“Casualties?” I asked again.

“Some,” he said. “But they have seen the strength of the armies of Darkness. If they try to stand against us, they will fall.”

I sighed. “I suppose. Well done, then. Do not let your guard down, however. An animal is most dangerous when it is wounded.”

“I shall have constant surveillance in and around the Oldwoods,” he said. “I assure you, my lord, they will not trouble us.”

I looked up, narrowed my eyes at the dark trees in the distance, and thought, Not you, perhaps.

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Well, at least Rhen didn't fall over herself in her eagerness to hand Dameon off to the bad guys! ;) But I suppose you may be right... :)

 

Ah Agas, he's getting all sweet and romantic again. I love that story line.

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