The Shadow of Sohbindar

This forum exists for you to share your stories of your characters in the Ruins of Am-Xitha chronicle and surrounding lands. All posts in this forum should be In-Character and Narrative, please keep backups of your stories.
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:16 pm

CHAPTER SIX
Confrontation

From the moment heat washed over his features, Arathys knew this was a trap. He simply didn’t realize the who or the why of it immediately. Few people knew he was heading here and fewer still would have any reason to have him slain. While there was certainly a list of individuals that would have enjoyed seeing the Cambion die, only one of those people knew he would be here.

“A trap that you aren’t even here to see sprung is unlike you, Vajah.” Arathys thought to himself as he descended the first metal staircase to the mine floor. It told him that, despite all her venom, she didn’t trust herself to kill him. In truth, Arathys wasn’t sure if he had the heart to kill her either, but if she was willing to go through all this elaborate scheming, she’d eventually come to it, if Khekis or whatever lurked here didn’t finish the job.

Upon reaching the floor of the foundry, he could see the main tunnel into the mines to the north-east, about three hundred feet away, with the various ore trams, smelting buckets and Dwarvish forges all around him in a very organized spiral The entry from the outside had only been a quarter of the way up on this massive spiral and Arathys found, from the floor, he could not see the ceiling of the foundry, save for a pinpoint of daylight where smoke and steam filtered out.

“So…you are the one the sorceress said would come.” a great voice boomed from all around him. Impossible to tell the direction for the way the sound reverberated through the foundry.

“Perhaps I am.” Arathys replied, in an attempt to stay as neutral as possible, until he could determine where his enemy was. The more the voice he presumed to be Khekis’ talked, the easier it would be for him filter out where the voice was coming from. “Perhaps I am simply a thief who has slipped into these mines.”

“If you were a thief, you would have brought more bags.” Khekis sounded mirthlessly skeptical.

“True enough,” Arathys returned while removing the Etheric Warbrand from his belt, but for the moment, opted to not ignite the blade of it. The other benefit of making the creature talk was getting a mind for his adversary. Being locked away for thousands of years in unbroken silence must certainly have taken its toll. “Then I will speak plainly. I am Lord Arathys Blackthorne and I have come to liberate Sohbindar in the name of Dunar Glantheel, descendant of Dungal.”
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:17 pm

“Strange,” Khekis replied. “You are Half-Demon and you speak like you are a crusader. Have the children of Xos fallen so far that they supplicant to Indarian gods?” It seemed entirely unconcerned about Arathys’ statement that he was here to retake the mines. As far as it was concerned, the Cambion below would be brushed aside like an errant lock of hair from one’s face and with as much effort. Conversation on the other hand, was a bit rare of a commodity. It was nice to speak to somebody, even if it meant to kill the person talking in a few moments.

“No,” Arathys stated while focusing on the uppermost rings of the upward spiral. It was definitely up there, lurking, waiting for him to either move into a position that suited a quick death or perhaps it was merely that sure of itself, that it felt it had all the time in the world to kill him. “I pay homage to gods, but I do not follow them blindly. I have chosen my ideals and those are what guide my actions.”

“You and I are not so different, Arathys Blackthorne.” Khekis said, while prowling the thick Kaalcite railings. Metal scraped metal when it moved. Eons of stillness, combined with its great weight and less than full charge of Mana made the golem body slow and unwieldy, but it didn’t need to be fast. It merely needed to wait for its prey to move out into the open and fall on the Cambion. Gravity would do the rest. “We are both born of darkness yet, you do not embrace it. Why? I would know this before ending your life.”

“We are different because I choose, you accept.” Arathys stated while balancing Aethyria in his left hand. There were several smelting pots that trundled past the upper spiral of the foundry, where the hot Glanthium alloy was poured into various molds for building. Though, the Cambion could not even begin to guess as to the purpose of Khekis building anything. If he survived this fight, perhaps he’d take a look around and investigate what exactly the golem was building in its idle time. “I chose to become something beyond my base primality. You accept what you are and give into the notion. It is simpler to ‘be’ than it is to ‘become’ and that is why, ultimately you are a demon and I am Arathys.”

“No,” Khekis replied with the ominous, thundering monotone of its voice drifting down the spire to Arathys’ ears far below. “You were Arathys, aberration of demonkind and defiler of a sacred darkness. Now? You are a fading memory; a thing I break, then devour. It will be as if you never existed at all.”

Arathys didn’t bother replying, because he could hear the stressed girders and stairwell straining to support the launch of Khekis’ frame in the air. He could see it sailing down as a blurry spot high above, that quickly began taking form, shape and an idea of its true mass. On the way down, Khekis struck one of the smelting pots, sending molten metal tumbling to the ground as surely as the golem was, in a brillant, glowing line of yellow and orange.

This was simply not going to be a fun fight for Arathys.
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:18 pm

CHAPTER SEVEN
A Dance of Demons

The moment was was a blur of rushing, hot wind, mingled with orange and yellow light. With wave of molten metal that sprayed forth and the deafening crash of Khekis’ mighty frame to the floor of the foundry, there was little chance the noble Half-Fiend could have survived. Still, as the white hot Glanthium hissed, the demon-possessed golem lifted his foot, then the other to check for any remains. He felt that he would at least have the trophy of some charred bit of meat or maybe a ruined weapon to show for his trouble. Alas, nothing. Were the strange, grilled and bulbous-eyed face that was Khekis able to express itself as a person’s face does, he might well have had a frown of mild disappointment.

“Now to contact the Mage.” Khekis rumbled, while shaking a bit of the molten Glanthium off his foot. He was quite ready to get his full charge, then kill this mage for making him agree to crush the foolish Half-Demon and finally set about adding all the nice things he made for himself. Heavier plating, sharp weapons, everything that once his power was fully restored, he’d be able to lug around. So caught up in his daydreaming, Khekis never saw the two hundred and twenty five pounds of Cambion falling from a railing above him.

* * *

Arathys had seconds to act, but had to time his maneuver perfectly, to re-establish an element of surprise. Toe to toe, he knew he would probably never outlast Khekis, even at his state of Mana depletion. Caught off guard however, Arathys expected he could exploit some manner of weakness in the demonic golem and strike him down quickly. Over 10,000 years is a long time for a thing like Khekis to linger unmoving. Guessing Khekis would also be slow, as well as weak from lack of Mana to power the what the demonic spirit within could not, Arathys favored a hit and run strategy to make powerful, efficient strikes to wear him down quickly, then finish him off.

The whole plan hinged on Khekis’ shadow. Arathys needed it to utilize the Shadowstep enchantment on his dark, semi-vaporous cloak. Placing himself right under it, Arathys snapped the brume-like fabric around him and was drawn from visual acuity a half second before Khekis and the molten rain of Glanthium crashed to the ground. He could see the moat of hot metal ringing the demon-possessed golem, as if the whole thing was really a strange tribal ceremony to welcome the Cambion warlord to his doom. All the fiery scene below needed were some Zissah women in grass skirts, chanting to one of the dark gods of their past to complete the picture.

He appeared on the third level walkway that spiraled up to the smoke hole above. Twenty three in total, Arathys estimated he needed this third platform to get above Khekis enough that he could surprise the golem, without falling so far that he’d needlessly injure himself. While the demon within the construct howled in frustration for having no corpse to gloat at, Arathys had to think quickly. His opening attack had to be devastating, enough to cripple the golem at least, otherwise all his flailing around was going to bring the whole place down on both of them.

He had considered magic, but his strongest spell, Bladestorm of Kings, would leave him exposed for the time it took to trace all the runes to complete it. He had other, lesser magics that could be devastating with the proper application, but most of those involved calling forth charged Ether, which would do an amazing job of collapsing the mine. Balancing the blade-less hilt of the Etheric Warbrand, Aethyria in his left hand, Arathys traced the runes necessary to summon a second Etheric Warbrand. The familiar tingle of Ether taking shape in his right hand, Arathys ignited Aethyria as well, surrounding him in the low, droning hum of both Etheric weapons.

Arathys jumped from the platform, somersaulted once, then landed feet first on Khekis’ shoulder. The contrast of pale blue from the permanent Etheric sword, mingled with the lifeblood red of the summoned weapon became as strange comet of motion, as Arathys drove both weapons down into what would have been the clavicles on a person, then vaulted his weight down. The resulting attack had two angry, molten lines of Glanthium forming on Khekis’ back; ones deep enough that the weight of the golem’s massive arms caused the metal to bend outward, as if the torso of the creature was an artichoke, peeled open for the meal to come.

“Insect!” Khekis roared, while purposefully slamming his body hard to the left against a support beam, in an attempt to push the severed metal back together with an ear-splitting wrenching sound. The golem rapidly cocked his hip outward and rotated his leg outward at an angle that would be impossible for any humanoid to wheel out in a fierce backward spinning kick that caught the Blade-Summoner off guard.

The kick landed squarely in Arathys’ chest with a resounding thud that reverberated as much against his frame as it did off the walls of the foundry. Landing hard against one of the stair supports, Arathys barely had time to raise Aethyria to defend against Khekis’ oncoming charge, that flailed his otherwise useless right arm outward. Etheric Warblade met Glanthium in a hissing exchange that had the limb severed at the elbow, but at the cost of the demon-possessed golem slamming the impressive weight of his frame into the Cambion.

The stair support bent further under the brutal impact, crumpling Arathys with such force that he was fairly certain that a few ribs might have broken for the sharp pain garnered from simply breathing. Khekis, who was relentless in his assault, spun on his strange, rotating hips and reverse-flailed his left arm out and down, in an effort to smash Arathys into the ground, presumably to finish the task of destroying the annoying Half-Demon.

The spinning maneuver presented Arathys with his only real chance of escaping being pulverized by the swinging metal arm. Despite the growing pain in his ribs, he lurched forward and dove into a forward roll under the golem’s legs, which were in a wide stance to properly balance against the swing. This brought him up and behind the creature, just as his fist hit the support with a metal-twisting crack. Before Khekis fully realized what had happened, Arathys took both Aethyria and the summoned Etheric Warblade and swiped the weapons in an ‘X’ at the back of Khekis’ knees, causing the joint mechanisms there to fail.

With his fist stuck in the twisted metal of the support frame, and the back of his legs cleaved into interoperability, Khekis began howling in berserk anger with such fury that the strange, growling metallic sound added another pain to Arathys’ growing list of discomforts. Though this anger only lasted but a few moments, before the golem calmed and began to speak.

“I am defeated then.” He said, while wheeling his head around to regard the Cambion, who had just dispelled the summoned Etheric Warblade, but still had the permanent Warblade, Aethyria still in his grasp. “Do what you will. End this existence for me, so I might return to Xos.” All things considered, Khekis presumed that this ‘honorable’ infernal kin would do him at least this one last service.

“Your imprisonment here is penance enough for the destruction you have wrought,” Arathys remarked, while balancing the softly humming, pale blue Etheric weapon in his left hand. I will release y—“

The rest of Arathys’ words were cut off with the sound of crashing metal and sadistic, metallic laughter.
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:18 pm

CHAPTER EIGHT
A Molten Betrayal

Khekis knew that his smaller enemy would never see the deception behind all of his bulk. He knew that he was doomed and for that he was glad, but this fool’s presumption that he would take mercy at the hands of an infernal creature that defies his very nature? The very thought of it filled the demon within the golem with a sort of fantasic, vivid disgust that he had not felt for anything, or anyone in eons. Their mutual destruction here would be his release back into Xos and finally free of this Xos-damned golem-shaped prison.

Khekis pulled. Pulled with everything he had, everything he could draw from this wounded body and its aging gears, cogs and mechanisms. When he pulled, he yanked out not only the entire stair support, but everything above it, including a vat of molten Glanthium he had prepared to build a stronger body, for what he presumed would be a victory over this Cambion. The only chance to defeat his enemy and to eventually hunt down and kill that sorceress was to destroy this body and be free of this mortal imprisonment forever.

Everything became a rain of orange, yellow and white around Arathys. It had been as if somebody had split open the sun, Ka over his head and the flash of heat almost sent his senses swimming. No time to think or even pick a direction, Arathys simply jumped backwards, turned in mid-air and dove into a forward roll as he hit the ground, using his Cloak of Infernal Shadows to protect him from as much of the molten alloy and flying chunks of metal he could manage. The initial jump left him unscathed, but as he rolled, then popped up, a slosh of melted Glanthium came up and peppered the side of his face, shoulder and left leg.

Arathys landed heavily against the opposing wall, with the molten alloy forming burning rivers around him, parted only by the body of Khekis himself. He was laughing, even as his body was being destroyed; it was this awful, grating metallic sound that was tinged with vitriol and malice. His bulbous, hardened glass eyes stared with rabid, red intensity at the wounded Cambion, seeming to take heart that they would both be in Xos soon. The mad, gleeful laughter turned into a defiant, angry howl, as Arathys limped towards Khekis, once more with Aethyria ignited.

“You have something I require.” Arathys declared as he hobbled his way atop the warbling, shrieking demon-possessed golem, with his Etheric Warblade held high, then sliced across the chest-plate that served to protect the gem otherwise known as the Heart of Khekis. With molten metal pooling around the room, there was damned little time to retrieve the gem and get out.

The mind-numbing heat was nearly enough to make Arathys pass out, if it wasn’t for the searing pain of the burning, molten metal smoldering across his flesh like thousands of claws of living flame, tearing apart skin, and boiling blood. In the whirlwind of super-heated air, he could still make out the initial tunnel he came in from. Most of the scaffolding was still there, but getting to that ledge would be an exercise in expediency, since the molten Glanthium was splashing up against the lowermost parts of it. His Cloak of Infernal Shadows still had another Shadowstep left to his disposal, but he wanted to save that in case of a tight spot (as if being surrounded by molten Glanthium, while standing on a melting golem wasn’t tight enough).

Just as he was about to utilize the spectral cloak, a piece of railing fell directly in front of Arathys’ already moving feet, thanks to the rapidly decreasing real estate he had to stand upon. As it clanged down and the end began to singe, smolder and glow orange, Arathys scrambled up it, with clumsily claimed hand holds and foot holds; the latter of which proved especially difficult, given the damage to the Cambion Warlord’s leg. The constant hiss of melting metal was enough of a reminder however, that no matter how painful or difficult, the alternative would be much more immediately lethal.

Just as he reached the final hand hold to scramble up the last of the fallen railing and climb back into the main tunnel, the mid portion gave way, sending one half into the glowing white-orange pit of flame below and leaving Arathys dangling by a warping piece of the railing.

With the sharp snap of support bolts however, it became clear Arathys probably wouldn’t be hanging around for much longer.
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:22 pm

CHAPTER NINE
Worth Its Weight in Gold

Arathys was certain he was going to die here, and for what? This gem in his hand, clutched as if it was the rope that was going to save him. Possibly seconds to live, and he was holding on to this stupid gem, because it was for Her. He wanted this most unique of treasures to be for Thairoa’s wedding band, so she could see how he saw her. Despite the fact that there was another her in the world, thanks to the Mirror of Multiplicity, Thairoa was as unique, special and important as the gem that looked as though the whole universe swam within it.

Of course, when she finally discovered that he died, trying to get her the Heart of Khekis for the ring he would propose to her with, it rather suddenly occurred to him that she would find no value in such a thing. She would despise it, and despise him for dying in the act of doing such a thing. As he stared down at the bubbling molten metal he was plummeting towards, he almost felt ashamed that he never realized why it made no sense. She valued life, not the risking of it to prove anything. Not his strength and not his love. Of course, none of that mattered if he didn’t do something right now to save his own hide.

Just as Arathys shook the mind-haze from the heat long enough to channel mana for a spell, he felt his descent suddenly stop with a sharp tug on the etheric straps of his armor. Forcing himself to stay conscious, he looked up long enough to see the Golden Scarab shooting skywards again, while simultaneously manipulating his form into the rear stow, with gestures that reminded him of a cricket moving its legs together. From all the warbling, chirping and other assorted noises it was making at the half-dazed Cambion, Arathys expected the life-saving stunt was perhaps not the simplest thing the little sentient craft has ever done!

* * *

The trip home was one spent drifting in and out of consciousness for Arathys. Having managed to douse himself with one of the remaining jugs of water and then drink his fill from what remained, there was little else he could do for these sorts of wounds. Normally, he’d just cut the metal out and let regeneration take its course. Glanthium, as an alloy had Divinium in it however, a metal all Half-Demons are quite allergic to. This prevented Arathys from healing the damage through his normal means. Worse, Glanthium also regenerated damage to it, once it cooled and took a form, which meant it would be exceedingly difficult to cut out. Though, before drifting off into an exhausted sleep in the pilot’s chair, Arathys tried to picture Dunar’s face when he walked in, literally wearing a sample of his clansmen’s alloy. The image that formed made the Cambion rasp out a single chortle, before fading into unconsciousness.

As he slept, he dreamed of Am-Xitha, what it might look like when it was finally rebuilt. He had always envisioned that he would see it restored brick by brick, marble column by marble column, but he knew it had to be better than it was before. While promoting its original values of tolerance and understanding, there was also a need to make it safe, and make it prosper. Am-Xitha fell because she couldn’t defend herself. He imagined men and women wearing his house’s colors of black and gold, that had the training of the Warriors of Miroa, but had basic respect for human life and civility. A moral compass those for fought for Miroa found merely at the tip of a sword.

The meandering heat-exhaustion sleep was deep, allowing the Cambion to remain unaware of the bouncing, shuddering flight as the Golden Scarab lost flight control for a harrowing few moments, from a strange disruption in the very mana it drew power from. It had been another one of those reality breaches that had been popping up here and there; Arathys might have been concerned if he wasn’t busy being consumed in such a deep sleep, the proud former Warrior of Miroa was drooling on himself a bit.

The dream had grown more personal in nature, focusing on him and Thairoa standing together, with their hands held, with the Queen and the Queen-Consort, Corwyn Greenthorn. They were at the south spire, and the rays of Ka warmed an otherwise crisp morning, sometime in Miro if he had to guess. The Queen was addressing her subjects to great applause, and riotous cheer. It almost reminded Arathys of a call to war, for the fervor of the crowd.

Just as the skies over the spire had darkened, Arathys woke with a start. The Scarab hand landed in the hotel’s lobby, thanks to its use of his master rune-key. The sleep had done little to refresh him, but at least, gave him energy enough to trudge down the gang way and hope he could stumble his way to the Infirmary. This far gone, he’d even trust some of Annora’s odd biomancy if it would help get this damned metal out of his body.

If nothing else, he’d have a fantastic story to tell Thairoa when, invariably she asked him where he went off to, this time.
T.A.Saunders
Posts: 136
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:00 pm
Contact:

The Shadow of Sohbindar

Post by T.A.Saunders » Wed Nov 09, 2016 1:23 pm

EPILOGUE

“The woman, Thairoa is beyond our reach. Whatever plot you had to for killing her will be impossible to execute, without drastic measures. Measures, our current forces cannot withstand without stepping into a wider confrontation that would reveal the true nature of plans, Mistress.”

“My plan has changed, Malisar. We no longer need her. While killing her again, killing her in this reality would bring me great amusement, we have a much easier way to drive your brother to our way of thinking, Malisar. Wouldn’t you like having your brother back?”

Malisar didn’t answer, because Synri already knew the answer to that question. He despised Arathys. He despised the fact that he somehow escaped their father’s wrath, by openly defying him, rather than simply leaving. Who in their right mind went before Nilharys Blackthorne and told him he was wrong? No, his father had been weak, sympathetic. And while the auburn-haired Prince of Miroa could not call himself the paragon of courage, he never made a claim to be anything of the sort. Arathys, the Warrior, Arathys the model commander. If he had to suffer hearing any more of his brother’s accolades, despite the fact he threw aside the right to be a Prince of Miroa, Malisar might consider driving a corkscrew into the meat of the speaker’s chin, to bring silence on the matter.

“After a long chat with our general, my sister tells me that she and Arathys had a son, a bastard he isn’t even aware of. While we are short a general now…again, the gain of this information is quite useful, Malisar. “ Syni had this smile, that her Avatar host, Xala Jann couldn’t mimick when she was in control of her own body, that told Malisar the Goddess of Deception was present. It was this wide, savage smile on full lips that looked too hungry to be slaked by any manner of mortal cuisine. “I would consider letting you play with this body again, if you sent somebody to bring me the boy. You seemed to enjoy it so much the last time.”

It was Malisar’s turn to smile. The two had been seated in his study, in the eastern most of his apartments. His bedroom was just across the hall. If this was going to turn into a game of work for pleasure, he wouldn’t have far to go to have his way. The warlock took a sip of the wine he and his Avatar-bound goddess had been drinking, even though he wasn’t particularly thirsty. It was a means to make it seem as though he was considering not taking the task, which would not only be foolish for a continued life expectancy, but more in line with promoting her sister, Siru’s values if he denied himself another bout of love-making with Xala/Synri.

“It will be done.” He said at last. “Is there else, you require of me, Mistress?”

“Yes,” She replied, while leaning over his desk, to hook the lapel of his robe with her fingertips. “Bring me, perhaps seventy nine other children as well. I don’t want to just break your brother. I want to make him hate me so much, he won’t be able to think about anybody else, but me.”

END
Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest