Board Writing :: War of Shadows :: Page 4
As they continued towards the capital, Orson, Hood and Zerrah were struck by feelings of despair. Less than a day out of the swamps, a fraction of the road the Imperial capital, they had already been mercilessly attacked by a creature which utterly outmatched them. The only thing that kept them going were their need for revenge. Even Hood, the normally jovial asassin who had joined Orson for fun, had found a reason to end the Emperor and his otherworldly allies. The Lhuix had done much more than give him a physical battering, it had taken away the one thing in his life which he felt he could control.
As they travelled the road to the heart of the Empire, the three were almost oblivious to the outside world. It was only the sight of a pristine wayside chapel that brought them out of their self imposed silences. After their various encounters with the darker side of the Empire, the spectacle of such an uncorrupted object had a profound affect on them. After a long moment of silence, Zerrah finally spoke. "Who would have thought that such a great evil could have produced such a fine creation?"
Despite the few hours they had slept the previous night, Orson, Zerrah and Hood were in no better state than they were before. The lure of the chance for food and a place to rest was irresistable. At a quickened pace, they headed straight towards the small temple.
As they entered, they saw, to Hood's delight, that the shrine was dedicated to Light. However, the chapel was seemingly empty. There didn't even seem to be a priest in attendance. Nevertheless, the three were not deterred and immediately set about exploring the sanctuary. At the back of the shrine was a large stained glass window. So enraptured by the beauty of it, neither the two asassins nor the Ikmalin were aware of the man until he spoke.
"Wonderful, Isn't it?" he said in a voice which sounded very old.
Startled, Orson and Zerrah jumped at the sound, turning to face the mysterious man. Hood however, was calm. He turned around to look at the man who could only be a disciple of Ra and knelt before him to receive a blessing. Without any prompting, the old priest said, "If you're looking for a place to rest, there are some empty beds downstairs," and pointed at a concealed case of stairs in the corner of the chapel. He then looked at Hood. "You, my son, I would like to talk to."
"So who do you think that Ra guy is?" Zerrah, listening to the few words that fell down the stairwell, questioned. Orson was reclined on one of the few beds, changing the dressing on the wound his ally had given him a few days earlier.
"He's an Immortal -- one of Light," Orson flatly stated, as though the Ikmalin should have already known. "Don't the Ikmali have any of them?"
"I guess not," he responded quietly, trying to keep his voice below the conversation from above. Just then, he spat out "What's that?" The sudden, alarming words for once caught the wounded assassin's concern.
"What did they say?"
"No, not that," Zerrah dismissed, taking in a deep breath. "What is that smell?"
"Oh, that," a disappointed Orson huffed, falling back onto the sheets. "Probably our head," he said, referring to the vile bag which now emitted a thin wisp of smoke. "This place is full of the presence of Light," he explained, waving his hands through the energy only he could sense -- he and the tortured remains of the darkling.
"Taking on the Emperor, you say?" the old priest repeated in disbelief to Alfredore. "Such a feat is foolish."
"Don't gotta tell me, pops," Hood agreed, scratching the coverings over his nose. "They are gonna keep tryin' to kill me, tho', so it only seems polite to return the favor."
"You do not understand the forces at work here, son," the pastor closed his eyes and calmly stated.
"You kidding? We've fought armies and demons and zombies and angels -- well, just one angel, actually," he corrected is his always insincere manner. "I've even had my ass kicked -- me, father. How can you say that I do not understand."
The priest let out a heavy breath and looked with ancient eyes for a place to rest. He backed toward a simple, wooden seat to rest his tired bones and his head into cupped hands. Even arguing with the younger disciple wore down the old man.
"You are not the first to attempt this," told the priest from behind his withered hands.
"Yeah, well, they obviously didn't do a very good job, now did they?" Hood retorted.
"I was in one of these attempts," the priest announced after a pause. "Do you really think you can make a difference?"
"I can kill the bastard," Fred said. "It may not make a difference, but it'll sure make me feel better."
"You're right; it won't make a difference," the old man finally stated. He lifted his faded stare up into the blank void of Hood with a most pitiful expression. "It didn't when I killed him.
Hood stared at the old man, and he stared back at the cloaked one. Silence hung between them.
"You... you killed him?" Alfred questioned, unsure if he heard correctly.
"And I was not the first," added the priest, "or so I was told." He rubbed his aged hand against his wrinkled forehead, massaging the ache that had come. "The reign of the Emperor has lasted longer than you or I. It transcends generations." Hood staggered back, his mind overwhelmed.
"Are you sure you delivered the final blow correctly," Fred sought, "or that it wasn't an imposter?"
"I know that I killed him," the venerable man confirmed, "for I laid his body out in pieces and turned them to ash only to see him rise from the embers."
"The fire," grasped Hood while cowering into a ball, "did that have something to with it?"
"I only set him aflame when I saw the pieces mend themselves," informed the fellow disciple, not even rising his head to respond, "and he was only in pieces since all other forms of injury did little to stop him."
"What," Alfred demanded, "what is he? Is he one of ... those things? Or is it something else?"
"You are dealing with forces you cannot begin to understand," the priest told, choosing to ignore the question. "You are merely fighting shadows, glimpses of the true forces at work. Even if you could succeed, which you cannot, the effects would mean nothing. It would be wiser for you to see that fact now while young. I wasted my years in this futile war, seeking to change things that will always be. His reign will endure, the Emperor will live on, but so can you. Survival is victory enough, my lad, and keeping alive when your death is his aim will be challenge enough."
"Answer me," Hood yelled, rising back to his feet. "You never told me what he is. What is his secret? Does he have some sort of magic protecting him? There might be a way around it." The priest shook his head to all of the allegations. "Why will he not die?" The assassin stared directly into the holy man's face, the impenetrable black face hanging in front of him. The aged one never lifted his eyes.
"It never was a matter of what he is," he expounded with a heavy and reluctant sigh. "It only matters what he was..." Hood once again backed away from the holy man. "... Fallen... Lost... Descended... Forsaken... Abandoned... Outcast..." Alfred had rejected the notion of someone who could not be killed. Any man could be slain, as he had more than proven, but, as the priest went on, the cloaked assassin returned to his cringed state. His massive body folded its long, lanky limbs into a protruding ball as if it would shield him from the truth. "The Emperor will not die for he was an Immortal.
"What?" asked Zerrah incredulously as he and Orson ran up the stairs after overhearing the conversation, "an Immortal? Just like this Ra guy? But that means..."
"That your quest is a hopeless one." filled in the priest, "Better to return to your homes and live out the remains of your life."
Orson, Alfred and Zerrah had all absorbed the words of the priest and realized just how hopeless their task was. Killing a man who cannot be killed. One who was once a God. Suddenly, the priest fell to his knees and clutched his chest.
"Lhuix...attacking...keep...the light." said the servant of Ra in a quiet, choking voice before passing out. His sudden unconciousness coinciding with an instant dimming of the light in the temple.
"What do you mean old man?" Asked Orson, accompanied by a loud crack from the door.
"I think that's our cue," answered Hood who seemed to have added years to his age in just a few moments.
As the three men readied themselves, the doors burst open and revealed the Lhuix. The creature was instantly recognisable as the one which had almost felled them at the Inn. Even without it's wing guards and clothing the angel was an intimidating figure. However, possibly the most horrifying aspect of the being was it's mask. After their previous battle with the monster it had left with a large cut in it's mask. Now, the gash was little more than a hole showing a fraction of the creature's eye. The mask had somehow regenerated, as if it were a living part of the foul being.
"I'm back," it said, raising it's hand. "And I have a little present for you."
Moving too fast for even Orson to follow, the Lhuix fired a concentrated blast of light at Hood. Surprisingly, the blast didn't knock the assasin down. Alfred, rather than being harmed by the light seemed to be enrgised by it. For the first time, the angel actually showed a flicker of fear. However, it didn't last long.
"Disappointing, I suppose I'll just have to resort on more conventional methods," the creature said as it moved into a fighting stance and slowly stepped towards it's targets.
"Try your magic Orson, it's our only hope," whispered Hood
"We'll buy you some time," added Zerrah as the two stepped forward, moving defensively towards the Lhuix.
The angel was unbelievebly powerful. Not even Zerrah and Hood together, were a match for the creature. However, together the two could withstand the furious onslaught. After a few minutes of intense fighting the angel finally made a breakthrough. The powerful punch hit Zerrah in the sternum and, with a sickening crunch, threw him across the room. However, Hood used the Ikmali's sacrifice to land a solid blow on the creature. For a moment it looked like it might have been enough. The creature staggered under the blow of the asassin who was still feeling the energy from the Lhuix's first, failed attack. Unfortunately, not even that was enough.
"Got ya," shouted Orson who had seemingly been forgotten in the confusion of the fighting. The angel whirled around to defend against the new attacker. However, all it saw was the crossbow bolt enveloped in Shadow magic right before it went throught the tiny hole in the angel's mask and buried itself in the creature's single eye
The thing's head was flung back by the arrow's force. Small, short-lived specks of solid light bled from out the mask. The angel stumbled but did not fall. Its arm quickly locked against a wide sweep by the robed giant, and in a swift roll, launched the gaunt heliomancer near the aching Ikmalin, prone, flipped over himself.
Hood discovered the hard way that the Lhuix anatomy differed from that of humans. Even with its eye an eminating mess, it could still sense their motions in the space surrounding it. Orson, while not anticipating this exactly, was far too experienced to know a clean shot was enough to end the fight. He hurried in his preparation of his second bolt, but he did not knock it. As the angel saw his movements, it smoothly approached, lifelessly staring from the gaping wound behind its mask. It shined brighter as it readied to smite its one standing foe, but the shadow slayer was already finished.
The same eerie, dark aura surrounded the crossbow bolt he thrust into the ground, tail first, magically boring through the temple floor. He honed his focus away from a charging foe, impending death. Orson poured all his mind downward to the blade he held steady with both hands. In a guided thrust past his extended digits, the sword hit true to the very point of the shadowy bolt. Simultaneous to the splitting of the arrow, the poised alien clutched a wrenching glove to its mask, sprawling to the floor. A mass of tendrils dripped through the gap, tearing apart the mask where it had just regenerated.
A sadistic streak returned to Orson. The dark assassin suddenly felt at peace in a way he had not for what seemed like ages. Small curls crawled on the corners of his lips as he examined his tortured victim, desperately attempting to rip out the bolt. Orson stomped upon the remainder of the enchanted shaft, linked across the shadow world to the bolt currently embedded within the angel. For each fragment of arrow, the shadow slayer could hear a tangible scream emitting from the being that now bled more of the sweet, pristine light than ever.
And there he stood and watched and nothing else. They were certainly powerful, but not immune to pain. No one was.
The throws of pain came to an end as a second arrow buried itself into the thing's chest, shot by Zerrah, who had finally found enough strength to sit upright despite his repeated injuries. Orson never flinched; he just stared downcast as the angel slowly bled away, disappearing into the air.
Alfredore was recovering thanks to the unwitting aid of the departed, but was largely unaware of recent events. The Ikmalin had witnessed terrible things in his time; it was the expression of Orson's that Zerrah saw which disturbed him deeply. He saw nothing.
He meant to mention something of this, but the dark killer raised a hushing hand before his ally could speak. His arm then glided around him, his eyes fixed before it, passing through the drifting, luminous gore. He sensed a new source, like its magic. The assassin shot a look at Zerrah. There were more Lhuix, and the grip on his blade told the Ikmalin that they were nearby
** There is still more to this story.
Continue to the next page