Defending Your Life

Pfren continues his battle with the imposters, watching in impotent horror as the false Mirzam seems to slowly recover and reform himself from the baleful polymorph. But he has more important concerns. Trapped within a burning field of entangling and dried vegetation, Pfren summons clouds to rain down upon the scene, quenching the fires. The false druid understands what he is trying to do, and desperately tries to counter Pfren’s magics, pushing back the clouds. But Pfrens magic is greater, and soon the area is soaked with the rains Pfren summons, drowning out the flames. Pfren coaxes more energy from the skies, as forks of lightning begin to dance across the fresh clouds. Again the false druid tries to fight his magics and again fails, his punishment being hit my a small fork in the lightning.

Meanwhile, the false druid yells to the false Jonas to distract Pfren. The monk leaps off of the walls of the fort and runs towards the druid. But, weakened by the fall, his attacks do little to harm Pfren. The druid alters his own shape and assumes the form of a ferocious polar bear. Angered at his inability to stop the druid, the false Pfren also takes the form of a polar bear, himself leaping to the ground to confront the druid. Expecting merely to fight a human druid, the false monk wasn’t prepared to deal with a bear, and tries to flee. His flight is cut short, for as he runs away, he is mauled by Pfren, the druid-bear’s claws tearing out deep groves into his flesh. He runs to his ally seeking safety. But perhaps it is the pain of the lightning blast, or perhaps the smell of fresh blood, but the false druid-bear devours his erstwhile friend who slavers on the false monk’s blood.

Again Pfren calls down lightning to strike at his imposter, as the latter charges him. The two massive beasts collide, locked in a death-struggle. With a swift and perfectly aimed strike, Pfren tears out the false druid’s throat, killing him instantly. When it is over, the false Pfren returns to his human form as the skin melts off the bones like candle-wax, leaving nothing but bones in a pool of gore.

Soon after, Pfren hears a low chanting. He turns towards the forest and sees a procession of druids walking towards him. Rangers crouch at the edges of the clearing, bows ready and aimed at him. Some form a circle around him as others enter into the chieftain’s råth. One speaks to him saying, “If you be the true Pfren Tu’all then you will accompany us, for the hierophant wishes to speak with you. Unbeknownst to Pfren, the other druids are in the råth encircling the false bard and wizard.

Many miles and several hours away, the real bard, wizard and monk are facing Msgr. Gaius Furius Bestia, an infamous blackrobe witch hunter who has been tracking the companions for months, since they had rescued Seth from his clutches. The Justicar toys with them throughout the day, telling them that their deaths will be much easier if they tell him what he wishes to know. He is fully aware that torture would not pry anything from their lips, but he hardly cares. It is his time to gloat, to toy with his victims. They are taken to the commander’s office where he mocks and torments them.

Mirzam attempts to charm him, but the wards in the office are too strong, and Msgr. Gaius laughs as he looks over to see a candle turn colors, indicating that magical energies were present. Seth tries to talk to the commander, who stands behind the blackrobe, looking like a man who has just lost his position of power. The bard, sensing this, tries to open up the fissure he sees, asking the commander who is really in charge. Before the commander can say anything, Msgr. Bestia assures the bard that the Blackrobes are in charge wherever they go. This visibly grates upon the commander, but he remains silent, for there is nothing that he can say. For who would dare speak out against a blackrobe?

Perhaps Gaius sensed what the bard was doing, perhaps he had just tired with them. Either way, he sent them to the holding cells underneath the soldier’s barracks. All except the apostate. He had something special planned for him. The two companions are led away, the door of the commander’s door closing behind them. As they are led away, they can hear the distant cracking of a whip.

Four hours later, they are sitting in the shadowy darkness of their cells, listening to the inane ramblings and frightened half-whispers of their jailors. They are bound hand and foot to the walls, their mouths gagged. The door to the basement jail opens, and two Templar, their tabards smeared in blood, enter dragging a bloody sack between them. It is only as they pass do they realize that it is the monk, beaten so badly as to be barely recognizable as human. The Templar drag Jonas to his cell, and try to shackle him. But so covered in blood is he that they cannot manage the task. Disgusted, they simply drop him in a heap in the corner of the cell, certain that he can do nothing but lie there and suffer. They leave, barely even taking notice of the two Viskothic jailors, standing stiffly at attention, fear evident across their pock-marked faces.

Mirzam, meanwhile is testing the sureness of the shackles on his hands only to find that they are loose, evidently made for thicker human wrists. Within less then a minute, he frees his hands and tries to work on his feet. One of the guards sees the wizard just as he casts an invisibility spell. The guard panics and yells to his companion. They argue about who must stay behind while the other alerts the commander. The elf looks around the dungeon, taking note of his surroundings. He briefly considers using a fireball to kill the guards, but decides against it as he considers the small area of the place, the lack of ventilation and the profuse amount of straw on the floor.

After a game of rock-paper-sheers, the guards decide that the one will run to inform the others and the looser gets to stay and guard the prisoners. The winner takes the keys, rushes up the stairs and out the door. After a moment, the sound of a bolt being slid into place can be heard.

The remaining guard withdraws his sword, waving it as menacing as he can at the companions. But Seth, freeing himself from his gag, talks to the guard soothingly, weaving magic into his words, compelling the guard to listen his words. “Don’t be anxious, go, find us that key and open this door so we can talk some more.” “Yes, yes, the key!” The guard reaches for his belt as he walks to Seth’s cell. He stops and realizes that the other guard took the keys. The bard convinces the soft-minded guard to look for a spare, which he does.

By this time, Mirzam has freed his feet and begins to conjure one of his Phantom Steeds. The sight of the translucent beast is too much for the Viskothic guard and he runs behind a table, overturning it for protection and loads his crossbow. Mirzam grabs the creature’s reigns and ties them to the jail door, urging the phantasmal beast to wrench the door free. This takes a bit of straining from the creature, for it was a riding steed, not a beast of burden. It struggles, but eventually manages to wrench the door free.

Free at last, Mirzam rushes to the jail door, but finds it locked. He moves to the side and waits, readying himself to act as soon as it opens. Seth, still struggling with his manacles, calls the phantom steed over to his cell. The creature looks to Mirzam, who nods in approval. The creature slowly walks over as the bard frees himself from his binds. As he grabs the creatures reigns, Seth can hear moaning coming from the monk’s adjacent cell. He sighs, having hoped the monk would stay down, as it would be easier to leave him then.

The magical steed whinnies, and rears its head, clearly unsettled. Over by the door, Mirzam begins to hear the distant sound of trumpets and warning bells. The guards have been alerted. Seth finishes tying the steed to his door and begins to urge the creature on. The monk, wakened by the noise, drags his broken, bloody body over to his cell door. The phantom steed struggles and jerks, but the bard’s cell door holds fast. It seems like an eternity that the creature struggles with the iron gate, but the lock proves to be well worth the silver spent on it.

The monk grabs hold of the bars in his bleeding palms and desperately tries to rend the bars. He summons up his anger, calling forth the powers he has so recently gained. But to no avail, for he is too wounded. He slumps back down to the floor. Over by the door, Mirzam can hear the stomping of booted feet rushing down a corridor, or whatever is just beyond the door, then silence.

The phantasmal creature continues to struggle, ghostly sweat foaming on its translucent coat. The bard, too, struggles, throwing his weight into the door, hoping to break the deadbolt. But he cannot, and gives out, sliding to the floor, exhausted. At just that moment, the jail-door opens, and a Templar is seen throwing a large canvas sack into the room, black smoke trailing in behind it. Before the man can close the door however, the elf darts past him, running square into the arms of another soldier. The door slams shut and the men brace for the anticipated explosion.

Seth lies at the floor of his cell, looking over at Jonas and notes for the first time how the monk’s blood is seeping into his cell. The Viskoth guard peers over the table, wondering at the strange smoking sack. His unspoken question is answered a moment later as the thing explodes, smashing the guard and his table into the wall, crushing him. The blast also kills the phantom steed, who screams as its form is blown back into the phantasmal realm from which it was summoned. Seth, too, is hit by some of the debris of the blast, but only takes minor scratches. He hears a strange rending noise, and looks up to see his cell door falling down upon him. He deftly moves out of the way as it crashes into the dirt. The air is thick with smoke and dust, and all but one of the torches have been blown out, it lies in its scone, sputtering out uneven light.

Seth gets up, coughing and rushes out of the cell. He walks over to the guard and finds him dead, his brains dashed against the wall and his body shredded from the blast. The cheap pinewood table did little to shield him. The bard grabs the dead man’s sword, withdrawing it from his sheath. He stands their in the murky half-darkness, the thunder of the blast still ringing in his ears contemplating his next move. Again he hears the monk who is moaning out his name, “Seth…Seeeth…Heeeelp me…Don’t…leave…mee….” The bard droops his head as the blade falls from his hand to the dirt. He knows that he could not fight his way out of here. He must find another way…

About the Author

"Warrum willst du dich von uns Allen Und unsrer Meinung entfernen?"-- Ich schreibe nicht euch zu gefallen, Ihr sollt was lernen. Goethe Zahme Xenein, I, 2. Paucis natus est, qui populum aetatis suae cogitate. Seneca [Epist. 79, 17] In endless space countless luminous spheres, round each of which some dozen smaller illuminated ones revolve, hot at the core and covered over with a hard cold crust; on this crust a mouldy film has produced living and knowing beings: this is empirical truth, the real, the world. Yet for a being who thinks, it is a precarious position to stand on one of those numberless spheres freely floating in boundless space, without knowing whence or whither, and to be only one of innumerable similar beings that throng, press, and toil, restlessly and rapidly arising and passing away in beginningless and endless time. Here there is nothing permanent but matter alone, and the recurrence of the same varied organic forms by means of certain ways and channels that inevitably exist as they do. All that empirical science can teach is only the more precise nature and rule of these events. A. Schopenhauer Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, II,1.

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