Righteous Work (II)

The sons of Ravok mobilize and find their deadly foe (Job Thread)

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

Righteous Work (II)

Postby Elias Caldera on February 27th, 2019, 11:51 pm

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The Commanders regimented their underlings well, and by the time they were halfway across the water, night had already begun to fall. Elias understood quickly that stealth, not speed, were their objectives. They wanted to appear out of nowhere, striking from across the water the Dhani had little reason to pay attention to. The day went by swiftly, leaving the entire company with arms aching and backs sore from the rowing, but with the night came a respite. Slower, quieter strokes from the rough paddles. No sails. No talking. No more barked orders. Just whispers and watchful eyes...

The darkness came at a price however. At least in the day, on the glossy surface of the lake, there was the suggestion of a threat. Maybe two protruding, reptilian eyes. The swish of a tail. A line of bubbles. But at night, there was just an endless, shining blackness under the moon and stars. If you were lucky, you'd catch a glimpse of the gleam of teeth or eyes, but more often than not... it would simply come from nowhere. If their enemy knew they were coming, now would be time they’d strike. They could drown their entire force with little more effort than it would take to squash a bug. Elias knew it because that was what he would have done, as did Valmont who had made sure his feet were dead center in the boat and couldn't give a shyke how many times Taliya and the others rolled their eyes.

"Master Valmont, I’m fairly certain were not going to be attacked," Sabel began to whisper, as if talking to a child, "but if-"

An abrupt and angry bird call from the boat to their left cut the young soldier off; the call for silence from the Falcon that was instantly obeyed.

Elias shook his head.

Woman must have had ears like a bloody bat.

He cast his eyes about in the darkness and saw the vague, flitting shapes of the six other rafts. Three units worth, moving surely and with purpose, nary a sound uttered or made from three dozen Ebonstryfe warriors, save the occasional gentle lap of water on the oars or the prow of a boat brushing aside a floating branch.

Everything seemed to be going alright so far…

Then again…

The Dhani were said to be a cunning people. How long had these snakes been hiding in the swamps? How long had they had to fortify their position or dig their caves? Were there tunnels leading to the shores? Were slitted and serpentine eyes, full of malevolence and amusement, watching them right now, preparing to drag them down to the water-

The male clenched his jaw and forced the thoughts away. Now was definitely not the time to-

Something rose ahead of them. A huge something, long as the horizon and... ah, that would be the shore, then. Vast and black and tall, it was devoid of lights or torches, no docks or civilization to greet them when they landed. Just the night and the terrors it held host to. Elias's heart leaped as he saw it, instinctively jerking around to order his assemblage of troops to the ready.

The beachhead landing that soon followed went… poorly. As they drew nearer the debris in the water grew thicker, the lake shallower, until with a full-body lurch the canoe beached itself onto the muddy bank. Elias gritted his teeth even as he slipped over the side into the knee-deep muck, thinking it would be stunningly stupid to die now, suffocated by mud, after crossing one of the biggest lakes in the world. It was an issue faced by many more than just he alone. Heavy armor and steel plates made suitable chains in the grime, dragging men down and nearly condemning them to a terrible fate had it not been for their tenacity and a little help from a comrade or three to pull them out. Most of Elias’s apprentices made the landing well enough, but Valmont and any other soldier as big or as weighed down as he had been struggled. Ultimately, he gave the order to abandon their gear with the boats. The decision had come down to a matter of mobility or protection, and considering they were crawling into hostile territory against an unknown enemy, surrendering either seemed like suicide. In the end, the landing became an ugly mess, one they quickly sorted through, but it had put a damper on the momentum that had carried them thus far.

Malachai had told him once that the trick to being a leader of men was believing in yourself first and foremost. ‘A man who cannot even follow his own creed cannot expect others to do the same.’ Had been the gist of it. What Elias took away from the lesson was that while doubt was acceptable to have, it would serve no one to put it on display. A leader had to show conviction, and in doing so, inspire conviction in his men. So when Elias gave the command to disarm, he did so with air that left no room to question or complain.

They had seen the wisdom in it, but had not the courage to act as they knew they should have. Well, mostly his unruly band of soldiers did anyway, his apprentices however had learned the value of sacrifice, its doctrine drilled into their pliable minds until it was all they understood. Loss meant nothing to them as long as there was gain to be had at the end. What was a bit of armor now in the face of eternal glory?

Thankfully things soon found their pace and not without a tick to spare. The units were already separating, no time spent fraternizing by the rank-and-file. The commanders met quickly, their commune resolved in whisper and short, sharp gestures, then it broke apart.

Vargus and his unit were going to be the southern pincer, disappearing into the treeline with the purpose of those desperate to prove themselves. Elias watched them critically for a moment. It made sense, them having that position. If the Dhani panicked and were engaged, he reasoned, they would probably flee north, back towards their stronghold, not deeper into Ravokian controlled lands. So if the Reaver and his fellows were lucky, it would be a pursuit, not a stand-up brawl for them.

The Falcon and her rough-hewn trackers vanished with considerably more stealth, he saw, Vanya herself leading the way. They would be in the center, finding traces of the snakes and chasing them down, flushing them from whatever holes they were hiding in. A slower pursuit, but perhaps the most crucial one.

Which just left...

"We move. Keep pace or be left behind," Elias snapped sharply, already moving for the trees with the sun rising at their backs, "We’ll have this done before the dawn."

Havok squad. He wondered what kind of reputation they’d garnered so far, if any. Whatever the case, Havok had become hard line that the Dhani would crash into should they try and flee back to the shore, crushing them between two other units. That was the idea, anyway. Elias had never engaged a Dhani personally, but the stories he had heard...

The swordsman’s lips moved as he saw the other units vanish into the thick foliage. A silent prayer to the great father of them all whose work they were about that morning.

"Rhysol guide our hands… and mother Ssena, strip us of our doubts."

That done and little else to be said, Elias picked up his feet and dragged himself out of the mud, following his comrades into the woods that would remain in shadow, long after the sun had risen.
Last edited by Elias Caldera on February 28th, 2019, 1:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Righteous Work (II)

Postby Elias Caldera on February 27th, 2019, 11:52 pm

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This place was tainted.

As more than a dozen soldiers moved swiftly and near-silently through the darkened woods, that sense of foreboding pressed down harder on Elias's mind. In the darkness, unable to see the leaves and trees but from where Leth touched them, all he knew was that there was something wrong here.

Havoc had marched for a bell, moving fast and listening intently. Many times they had stopped, a single bird call enough to bring them all still as statues while the lead scout sniffed and peered. Elias felt his ribs rattle as his heart raced... but every time, it came to nothing.

Elias's jaw would tighten in mingled relief and frustration. Waiting, not knowing, mocked by the darkness he knew contained his enemy. That was worse than fear or the horror of battle.

The pale fool would learn shortly that one should be careful what they wished for.

Another series of whistles and calls, the last making his heart skip a beat. Halt. Stand ready.

Close in.

Elias frowned and started moving, hearing the whispers of his comrades feet as they eschewed such careful stealth for speed. The order to close either meant contact or some emergency, and since there were no screams...

With that nagging thought in mind, he drew an arrow and notched it into the string on his bow. Normally his magic was his first and only means of dealing with an issue, but as of late the stryfer had come to realize that all too often he would engage a foe, expend his djed, only to then realize the fight had merely just begun. ‘All things in moderation’ was another one of his master’s sagely advice, and this time, given the circumstances, Elias figured he’d better listen. Now, if only I could remember how a bow worked… you stuck the pointy end towards the bad guys, right-

“God’s blood!”

Something whirled towards that choked whisper as the Ebonstryfe broke into the small clearing, ghostly Leth-light bathing it in a ghastly shroud of silver. Blood shone slick and fresh on eight feet of scaly flesh, topped by a massive head that was caked with crimson gore. Ten more feet of muscled tail snaked behind it, but Elias had only just noticed that.

He saw the eyes first. Yellow lanterns that narrowed in outrage that its meal had been disturbed. It let loose sibilant hiss that seemed to shake the leaves and revealed a massive maw lined with serrated fang, the two most prominent ones almost as long as his forearm.

Its eating… something.

A man, he thought. At least, once it had been a man, anyway. Now the mangled mess of entrails and viscera stared at nothing with dead, rotten eyes, one hand still reaching in death to the bisected corpse lying next to it. Maybe a friend, a lover, or his kin. Elias couldn't tell; so much blood and so much was missing, that he could not even decipher the gender. Had that been one of them?

"Bring it down!" He roared without a second thought

Elias raised his bow and loosed. He was not alone.

A volley of arrows and darts ripped forth from the treeline, Havok squads’ apprentices opening fire all at once. The Dhani shrieked more in outrage than pain as a several hit home, smacking into stinking, blood covered flesh.

"Again!"

They didn't need to be told twice. Elias himself dropped to one knee and notching a fresh arrow as he did so, bringing the bow up and drawing it at the same time. His sights rested the arrow on the Dhani's broad chest just as its tail bunched up.

He fired at the same moment it leaped towards them.

Something so huge should not have been able to move so fast. It actually seemed to outpace the arrows, so quick did its muscles propel it through the air. Arms flung wider, mouth even wider, its horrendous shriek filled the swamps and within a blink of the eye it was among their ranks.

Chaos.

Flashing metal and screams and blood and horror in the darkness was what followed. Elias felt that terror gripping at him but forced it away, burying it deep as his feet rushed forwards despite his mind screaming for him to reconsider.

He tossed aside his bow and his hands found the leather bound hilt of Cinder.

Leaping into the mass of flailing scales, the mage aimed himself for somewhere that seemed like its back. He hacked down as he landed, longsword biting deep into flesh, and those eyes seemed to illuminate his face when they flashed to him.

The stryfer froze. He wanted to move, but he couldn't. His limbs screamed at him, every primal urge tried to tug his muscles into action but-

The teeth. The maw. Reeking of death and-

“Down you go!”

The head of Valmont’s warhammer, thirty pounds of ruinous steel and ill will, slammed into the side of the beast’s head and the sickening crunch that came with it was like a thunderclap in the desert. The snake screeched in absolute agony now, half its skull crushed, even as the rest of it thrashing madly. Already he could tell its rage had numbed the pain.

Elias relented not, hacking madly, yet each blow directed with the power of the flux to ensure the steel sunk as deep as it could. He felt himself gaining the upper hand quickly, felt the strength begin to sap from his gargantuan foe... then he felt a massive arm sweeping himself like a child before crashing onto the forest floor.

The world swam into his eyes through bursts of pain. With every strained blink there came a new frozen moment peering through shadows.

He saw the Dhani rearing back and lashing out with its tail, sweeping two of his men off their feet even as another arrow buried in its neck.

He sawy Valmont swinging again, coming low, under the monster's ribs, but the blow was knocked aside. Only for Dominus to sink both his gladii into its exposed flank.

Taliya herself, in the last flash, leaped from the front of the serpent, impaling it through the chest with enough force to knock the beast back at last.

“Now..." He heard her snarl as his ears finally started working. "Burn!" Her blade burst into flames, half of it still sinking ever deeper into the beast. This time the shrill screech that blanketed the wilds was one of suffering and pain.

The Dhani hissed one last time and every Ravokian still on their feet slashed and hacked and clubbed and stabbed until it was utterly and irrevocably deceased. By the time Valmont lifted Elias back to his feet, the dead beast looked as ravaged as the poor souls he had been feasting on.

Elias would have enjoyed the fitting justice of that, but his ribs were far to bruised for any thought but ‘ugh.’

"These were slaves."

He blinked and saw his unit gather around the corpses of the two, Decima kneeling close, her frown faltering at the inspection.

"They were fleeing." She said again, shaking her head.

He shook his head as he saw pinpricks beyond the treeline. At first he thought they were fireflies, or perhaps just his spotty vision, but they remained even after his eyes regained their balance. They were torches. A perimeter. “There’s a Calico lumber yard not far from here.” Elias groaned, finally finding his footing again.

“Sir?” Sabel rasped urgently, gesturing to them. "The people!"

Havok sqaud peered in his direction, sharp eyes picking out the shadows of long structures now. But where were the people? Why were the lights so dim, not to mention so few in number?

Then they saw the shape of the figures that still moved in the main square and they understood...

Just as the screaming started from the south.
User avatar
Elias Caldera
Playa
 
Posts: 902
Words: 1255874
Joined roleplay: September 14th, 2013, 1:28 am
Location: Ravok
Race: Human
Character sheet
Storyteller secrets
Scrapbook
Journal
Plotnotes
Medals: 7
Featured Character (1) Featured Thread (2)
Overlored (1) One Million Words! (1)
Ravok Seasonal Challenge (1) 2018 Mizahar NaNo Winner (1)


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