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Egil alone


Egil cannot move. Cannot even think about moving. A will far greater than his own dominates him, pushes him back from control of hs own body, back into the recesses of his own mind.

He is lifted easily, carried, and there is a jerk of movement - then they are outside the palisade. How had the vampire moved that fast? Over a hundred yards, including the palisade itself, in a fraction of a second. But now there is no motion at all. Nothing to attract attention. For a long second the vampire freezes, watching for anyone following. The blood still drips from the scalp wound Egil had inflicted earlier - and shines. Glitters against the night, as it drips to the ground, and forms shining puddles once there. It would be childs' play to track, had he any remaining need to do so.

Egil would smile ruefully if he could make his face move, the irony is not lost on him. His soul calls out to Hu to give him succour to overcome this demon, if only he would aid him then his life would belong only to Hu and his blades.

They are behind a ruined wall here, hidden from direct observation. The vampire moves again, fast: lowers Egil to the ground. The vain hope that he might be about to be left behind as an unwanted encumbrance is dashed as the vampire bends over him and teeth sink into his throat. As with Jamal before him, Egil's fear of the injury is nothing to the horror of the expression on that ancient, shrivelled face - partway between longing and joy, turning to a moan of ecstacy as the blood is drained from him. Then the teeth withdraw - reluctantly. The fixed stare is still intense with longing. "Not yet, not yet.... keep him alive..." The vampire's own injury has stopped bleeding now. Egil still cannot summon the will to move, and is conscious of an overwhelming weakness in any case.

Egil's internal smile becomes a grin, the monster wants him alive for now and that shall be his undoing, with Hu's aid the trance he finds himself in will be shattered and when Yelm's rides across the sky a sword shall be sheathed in its black heart.

He is lifted again. And now the vampire is running, fast, silently, carrying him as easily as if he had been a small child. Heading away from any possible rescue, into the darkness.

Egil smiles and waits for Hu.

It is a long way, in the darkness. Egil can see in the dark, when it is lit by the Deathlight, but he is without that, now. The unknown city passes him, bewildering and strange. In part, perhaps, because he is still only half in this world. He sees places as they should be in tales, not as they are. Is this the Rubble at night, or is it the trackless Underworld?

But the moon remains constant, telling him the approximate direction. South, and east. There is movement in the blackness, sounds of things that are not human - all too often, of no animal that he knows, either. They do not approach: not until after a long timeless interval, when he becomes aware of a group ahead of him.

It's hard to see, hanging upside down as he is, but there is some light here. Humanoid, but with horns. And the smell - broo. It's got to be broo. But there's something wrong, even for broo.

As the vampire approaches and slows, the creatures bow low to him, and stand aside to let him enter one of the ruins. Again, there is some light within, if not much. They descend steps: solid, stone steps. Twists and turns. A corridor: more steps. And out into a hall - he has no idea how big this place is, but pillars support the roof. He is dumped unceremoniously at the foot of one of them. In his peripheral vision he can see a body slumped at the foot of the next pillar, but no movement from it.

There are creatures like those above, here, working. Moving piles of equipment from place to place, clearing one of the alcoves. They, too, often have horns, or animal features - but they move at a strange shuffling gait that is unlike any broo he has ever encountered. A sharp order from the vampire in an unknown tongue, and one approaches carrying a chain. Closer, now, Egil can see more, and his worst suspicions are confirmed. The mouth is sewn shut, and part of the ribcage is missing. A zombie.

The vampire takes the chain, and stares at Egil, deep into his eyes. He moves without thought: sits up, places his back to the pillar and his arms back around it. Ready to be chained. "For others, I use rope," comes that soft, evil whisper. "But your friends use the wind to cut. Perhaps you do, as well. You will not cut this, though you may choose to cut your arms off to free yourself, before the end. We will see - see how long your dear friends take to come to your aid and into my power."

The vampire leaves him. Free? Perhaps. He can at least think about movement now, though the chains make doing so difficult. He cannot see much, but can listen. The soft sounds of zombies lifting and carrying. Clearing debris from areas to the sides of the great hall he's in. In some ways it seems right to be here. As Li Phanquann, being in the Underworld, on the trail of a vampire, is the right place. This dislocation between mundane and mythical reality is confusing, disconcerting. And some areas down here seem more mythic than others, more real to Li Phanquann's senses than to his. The chamber that is being cleared, for instance, there's something about it...

A distant rumble interrupts his thoughts. Earthquake? No, it came from above. It seems hard to believe, here in Prax, but it sounded like the start of a storm.

He listens, more intently now. Yes, that next rumble was definitely thunder.

"Ah cous! Very nice of you to summon your god now, only a day or so late I might add but better late than never. Just, please not too much of the wet stuff. Ending my story at the hands of Vivamort or Magasta isn't how I envisioned it, hardly heroic drowning in chains in a cave. Leading a charge across a field and chopping down swathes of Lunars would be better."

And then, a new sound, distorted by the distance and being funneled down cracks in thick rock. Rain. Heavy, torrential rain. The zombies take no more notice of this than they do of anything else except their master, but the vampire pauses, snaps out new orders, and some of them run towards the entrance. The air is heavy, oppressive with moisture. Minutes pass, with that distant hammering never letting up. And then water starts to trickle down from one of the air shafts. Only a trickle. Only a very slow trickle, for now. But Egil's archaelogist' s eye can see the lines in the rock floor where a small stream has run before, years ago. Nowhere near him, but cutting right across the great hall.

More water comes down, the old stream bed has a tiny trickle running down it, perhaps two or three inches wide. And the vampire leaps back from it as if burnt. More frantic orders in that unknown, harsh, tongue, and the zombies drop their tasks for new ones: moving equipment away from the water, piling heaps of stones. If a slow shuffle could be seen as panic, this would be it.

Piles of old junk are dropped hastily nearby: ancient, broken armour, weapons, and bones - the remains of bygone looters, perhaps. A sword, scabbardless, slides to the floor, point first, and the Hu within Li Phanquann within Egil winces at the mistreatment of even such a basic blade. And then the sword stuck in the floor for a moment before toppling sideways. Stuck in. To the stone floor. Had he imagined it? No, there was a chip taken out of the otherwise smooth marble where it had landed. But... it didn't look like a magical sword. It was short, dark and plain. It was a working sword. It had no runes on it. No mystic gleam twinkled on its edge. It was old - not in the sense of "antique", or "full of legendary promise", just well-used. You could believe it was a sword that had been used so much it had ceased to be anything other than a quintessential sword; a long piece of metal with very sharp edges. And it looked that way to Li Phanquann's senses as well as his own. A sword, solid and real.

Egil concentrates totally on the sword, it is the embodiment of his god, his strength and succour ."Maybe a bit more water could wash the blade his way, no that's foolish but what about using that femur there to try and drag the blade across. If it will damage rock then it will at least make a dent in the chains. It might be a Herewardi blade. If not it will be if I can reach it." His arms are chained behind him, but he can stretch out with his feet. Can he reach the sword? Not directly, no. But there are other items that he can reach, just... he strains, pushes. The sword slides sideways, but no closer to him. And the movement, and the sound, has drawn attention. "So you still resist,
foolish child? Even when you can see resistance is useless?" The sword, and the other items, are pushed away from him. "Not yet, I think. That one seems as good as any other - but not yet. Not until I give you a task to do that will require it."

Egil keeps his face impassive even though his anger is boiling inside him, his eyes blaze defiance. He tries the meditation exercises the legion trainers have taught him, to drain away the rage. He must think, think of a way to stop the vampire getting into his mind and
controlling him.
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