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[[ChronPavis Pavis]]

[[ChronP56Rescue The rescue]]

==== Barefang ====
//Freezeday, Illusion week, Fire season - evening//

"The basic plan is that we're going troll-hunting. Barefang's been behind a lot of the troll harassment we've been dealing with so far, I want him dead before we leave, quite apart from Aelf's oath."

"Let me give you all a quick briefing on Barefang, since most of you weren't there for the last times we encountered him. Aelf could give more detail, he's been sworn tro kill Barefang for years, but basically he's a Death Lord that other Death Lords think goes a bit over the top, and has lead teeth from a heroquest - eating things is his main attack. We first met him on the Cradle - there was an idea that he was supposed to be an ally against the Lunars, but obviously that was never going to work. He got used as the opposition in a "Humakt forms the War Ring" quest, and it took most of the rest of the Cradle defenders to take him down.

"Later, he ambushed us in Hell, on the way to the Hell Hag's lair, and by then he was clearly undead, though still intelligent and self-motivated. My guess would be he called on the Dark Hater for help when we defeated him, and that's what he got. There, his attack on us was darkness and fear again, and raising some skeletons, and again we drove him off. Seems we're even scarier than he is."

"So, he's after revenge, and all we've managed to do in the past is drive him off. This time, I want him dead."

"Assuming we're just dealing with Barefang, we're going to use the guidance I'm getting from base to steer us to his general area, then hope we can spot him before he spots us. We'll be travelling with the wyter Illuminating the Darkness, same as we are now, and since his magic is all about darkness and fear, I'm betting the first clash between us will be ranged. He'll try to put us in the dark, and given his power, he'll probably succeed - he did last time we met, and we fought the next battle blind."

She turns to Kallyr. "I know he managed to overpower your illumination of the battlefield just now, but that was when you were working at half a mile range. What's his chances if you're right there on the spot?"

"No problem," Kallyr says confidently. "For one thing that wasn't my magic, not directly, I'd delegated to one of the daemons. This time I'll do it myself, and do it right."

"Good. Then there's his fear magic - I take it you can counter that, too? He's a lot less terrifying than the Bat, and I'm not likely to forget you convincing us all that we could take that on and win."

Kallyr grins. "And I was right, if you remember. We did win."

"Fine. So, you'll be concentrating on that, and absolutely not getting into any hand-to-hand fighting." Kallyr might have been about to object to that, but the obvious approval from Offir and Insterid stops her, and Dori continues.

"There's a limit to how many of us can hit Barefang at once, but I'm wielding a troll-killer, and Graylor's got powers against undead. If everyone else backs us up, that's probably going to be the best tactics. Anyone in the Legion, if you're not in a physical fight, keep that Illumination going, like we're doing now, but with Landros as the focus rather than me - I'll be busy. And look out for any loose trolls, or skeletons, or zombies - get them off our backs and mopped up."

She turns to where Ernaldesta and Kaylee have been tending to the rescued youngsters. "How are you doing - fit to fight? And what happened, anyway? We only saw from the point where you were surrounded and singing your death song - how did you get into that position?"

Egil bows low, "Foolishness on my part ma'am. I was unprepared for how much noise other people can make and wandered into these trolls. I tried to send everyone back while I held the trolls off but my comrades stayed against my wishes and helped cover the escape. When it became obvious we would be overwhelmed I sang my death song in the hopes of taking as many of them with me as I could. When we get back I will submit my neck to your discipline, I would say do it now but I expect you could use the extra sword for the next little while."

Abul is recovering his strength, discreetly sharing impressions with Yenda. "Egil was here when I swore to Daine to protect the Hum'Akt's servants, how could he expect me to voluntary run away like a chased hare?" Abul mutters to the young warrior. "He can accuse Sextus as much as he wants, venturing into the land of the Darkness Lord can only attract His attention. I'm sure that there is no coincidence here. He felt that we were growing strong, He moved His forces to create this battle... and this is just a new movement in His malignant plan, even if His agents are unaware of His will."

Dori doesn't hear this, or ignores it, answering Egil. "I expect I could, yes. No, I think this is another case where death's too easy an option. I've got a much better punishment for you, when we get back - train them not to make so much noise. Commanding a small group like that, if only in training, will be good practice for when you get your own Ten."

She pauses, thinking. "Wandered into trolls? Was that a random encounter, or a deliberate ambush? If Barefang had his band actively looking for us, that makes the tactics here rather different."

Egil suppresses a smirk, "I doubt I'll be a leader of a ten any time in the near future. I couldn't even order them to get back to the safety of the temple. Training most of them should be all right. It's just that bloody trollkin, whimpering, that gave us away really. I suppose I just need to make it more scared of me than of the trolls. Not sure how to do that yet, I don't want to eat it after all.

"The trolls didn't seem to be in a deliberate ambush, they didn't attack straight away. Maybe they just wanted to see who would happen by and take it from there."

"All right, fine. That keeps this simple, then. It was spontaneous, he hasn't planned it in advance, there won't be any traps to worry about."

She raises her voice a little, addressing the whole group. "Those of you who just joined the new cohort, remember you've got it to protect you if needed. If you're injured and need to stay safe until the fight's over, use it. I'm sure I can trust you not to use it to ambush, or anything dishonourable like that. Abul, you've got your own methods - again, use them if you have to."

Abul just nods with obedience, but when Dori's attention sweeps on someone else, he looks at Yenda with a blank face and requests softly, "Will you accept me at your side? I'm not as good fighter as you, but who knows if in a near future you will need a trained Ajax near you? I fear this encounter between us and this Champion of the Evil Lord greatly, because I suspect this blow to be a major and well planned assault against the Forces of Truth, but if I don't test my courage here I dread to feel coward for the rest of my life..."

"Sure we can fight side-by-side." Yenda replies. "But I think we would both be better using Santhis' shield. Neither of us are what you might call big!"

"Right, Landros, take over the lighting, those of you who can, support him, and let's move out."

The Illumination of the Darkness that most of those present are already familiar with changes focus, centred around Landros and his Ten. It's still dark, but everyone can see, and see well.

Dori and the quiet voice in her ear guide them in a more-or-less straight-line route along the road, stopping a little way past the junction. "Should be close now. About 20 yards ahead, in those buildings to our right, the one with a bit of wall going up to a second storey. Anyone spot him?"

"Give us a moment ma'am. Irnar, your senses are the best, can you get a line on him?" The two move off quietly to one side to get a different perspective. Irnar sub-vocalises prayers to Yinkin to let him see the hidden enemy and Graylor is mouthing his newly learned spell to find undead blood. In moments Irnar is able to confirm Barefang's location, behind the tallest standing wall. Quickly they return and report.

"If we can get a group behind his position then we can attack on two sides. That's got to make it harder for Barefang," Graylor comments and immediately starts ordering his ten.

"Irnar, Egil take two others and circle round behind that house. Attack Barefang from the rear as soon as he makes his move. The rest of you into your assigned groups. We'll try and keep attacking him on multiple fronts."

Egil nods to Graylor before he beckons over Gerras and Mauvin. "Come on then, let's destroy a zombie. Good to see you again Gerras, I thought we would be in hell when we met again." He grins before leading off as quietly as he can.

"As quietly as he can", now he's no longer burdening with a whimpering trollkin, turns out to be very quiet indeed. They make their way round to the far side of the ruin, and find several possible entrances, and several routes through to the wall Barefang is hiding behind. There's an exit next to him that he's probably planning on using very soon, and they've managed to get within a few yards of him, all from different angles, without him noticing them so far - his attention is very much on the more obvious attackers outside, as his angry snarls make clear. He's wearing lead plate armour, but torn and battered, and the injuries that can be seen under it should have killed him - //had// killed him. He smells of death - the flames around his head are those of corpse-fire, like those over marshes, not the raging, angry fire they may have seen Zorak Zorani wield before. His only weapon is a slender mace, hardly more than a stick - or, as they realise, a javelin. Half a javelin, the half of a Star Javelin that he hasn't yet eaten. The lead teeth, glowing with enchantments, make it clear why any further weaponry would be redundant.

Graylor salutes Dori with one glowing sword and moves, with his men, to one side. No sooner do the various groups move than everything is plunged into darkness once more - and not just the absence of light, but a living - or worse yet, //un-living// Darkness that eats their Light. Something is coming out of that ruin, something dark and terrifying and evil, that hates anything living and you in particular, something that delights in your fear and wants to dominate and hurt and eat and eventually kill anything it encounters, but especially anyone and anything that has challenged it in the past.

Dori, who has done just that, is white and shaking. "And that's why I wanted a counter to him right here. Hold on. Just hold on." Her sword may be glowing and howling its hatred for all things trollish, but she's clutching it in both hands, and her Storms seem to be trying to shelter behind her rather than protect her.

Graylor has never met the incarnation of fear that is Barefang. He retreats under the onslaught of terror that passes wave after wave from the approaching troll. It is only the fact that he backs into Santhis' well planted shield that brings him to his senses. "Stand firm men," he calls rather weakly, then again with more conviction. "Stand firm Legionaries! We do not back down!"

Abul feels flooded by waves of hatred and terror, just the pure expression of his ugliest nocturnal nightmares. It may be the support of the Legion and the presence of his friends, a life-long habit to handle this very precise fear, or the blessing of some superior divinity, but he doesn't die on the spot nor does he run away screaming madly. Simply his back gets wet from sweat and his hands begin to shake while his legs betray him and he falls on his knees.
Somewhere in his head, the Pelandan prayer against fear turns and turns and he grips this chance, like he would be catching a candle in the night. Soon he begins to stand up again slowly, thinking, "The Good God puts me here for a reason: to face Darkness and learn and whatever the lesson, I will learn it."

Kallyr turns to Dori and declares, "I see what you mean - and that's quite enough of that." She sounds calm enough, and her star gem bursts into a blaze of light. "That's a lot of teeth with an ego problem, no more. Come on - he's only undead because you killed him! He's only here at all because he ran away from you last time! If he gets back to camp he might eat a duck or two, but we can handle this easily, you know we can!"

Her words are primarily aimed at Dori (or possibly at a point just behind her?) but you can all feel the return of confidence in your own abilities, the grip of fear loosening.

Abul looks at Dori, Graylor and Kallyr, hoping confusedly for some clearer orders, but before any come to his ears, he places a comforting hand on Yenda's shoulder. "Truth will prevail," he tells her with a deep not-so-assured voice. "Darkness is only unexpressed potentialities, our world is true."

Kallyr's leading voice rises again, "And while we're at it, let's have some light on the subject so we can //see// him running away." The battlefield lights up again, this time with the clear starlight you had seen before - but a starlight that wavers, and is apparently being eaten by the darkness at its heart.

"I wish I could be a star champion and knew the names of all the stars like you, my Queen," Abul comments, expressing his admiration for the Heroine's prowess.

She glances towards him for a moment, but her attention remains on Barefang. "Oh, you can," she murmurs. "You can be anything you want to be, plenty of time yet." The light brightens and stabilises, pushing the darkness back and away from him. "Just as long as you stay alive, that is." A quick glance at that towards Landros, who has moved up to join her and, with his Ten, is adding the help of the Legion's wyter to illuminate the darkness.

Landros has formed a screen in front of the Queen, with himself in the centre, and his two most powerful Rigsdali at the flanks, ready to repel any enemy trying to push past. Behind them, by Kallyr's side are her two personal bodyguards.

When the initial fear wave of fear hit them, he almost managed not to whimper, at least he didn't retch like someone to his right did. Probably Caerl.

Above him, Roark fled with a choked squawk.

The magic focused on him wavered, and he barely managed to hold it together in the face of the overwhelming fear, but he would not yield. Here he would stand, be a wall, a tower, a mountain of light against the Night. Then the voice of the Queen rose behind him, and the terrors receded as the light stabilised.

He drew a deep breath, calming and relaxing.

"Focus on me, soldiers. Concentrate on the Light, pray for courage if you do not have it, pray for a strong arm, an unbreakable shield and we'll see this through. The Queen stands behind us, nothing is to touch her with so much as an unkind glance."
He spoke firmly, calmly as if he thought he knew what he was doing. He could only hope he did, but he knew he was unfit for command - he knew he was liable to fail again and see those he was charged with protecting die again. While he couldn't move. Stand still, that he could do. He hoped it would be enough.

The success at bringing Light into his Darkess enrages Barefang further, to the point that he charges out of the building and directly towards Kallyr, throwing the remains of her own javelin back at her, ignoring everything and anyone else in his path, all his attention completely on what he now sees as the main enemy.

Dori's obviously automatic, instinctive move to place herself between Kallyr and the approaching monster says all it needs to about her previous attempts to portray indifference or even hostility. Her fighting style always relies on speed and mobility, but against a troll, her sword moves faster than thought, screaming its hatred in a way that they know from experience is painful to the sensitive hearing of any of the dark folk, and Barefang winces at the sound. Oddus, Kristen and Elendala also block his path, though acting purely defensively, and between them they attact his attention - attract it away from Graylor.

Graylor's first movement isn't to put himself in the path of the charging troll. It is to the side whilst Hilord, Bofrost and Olend provide the blocking. The rest of his ten are still too shocked to provide any meaningful help. Graylor suddenly spins and leaps high, timing his jump and trajectory to perfection, seeming to hover over Barefang's poorly protected shoulder. Both blades descend in a pale blue arc, their light bright due to the proximity of the undead troll. Perhaps the trail of light is what alerts Barefang. He lifts his great shoulder and twists slightly to take the twin blows on some of his good armour. The blades bite deep into the lead, but not deep enough to cause the troll any damage. Barefang allows his twisting to continue bringing his mace swiftly round to the point where Graylor must land. But Graylor has used his swords as a pivot, his legs swing inwards and kick off the troll's powerful thigh and Graylor flips over the mace. However, Barefang pistons out his free fist straight into Graylor's chest. Graylor offers a silent prayer of thanks to Humakt for his magically enhanced armour that takes most of the force of the blow and by rolling backwards he takes the rest of the force without injury. Somewhat fortunately the blow from the Uz sent Graylor back to his ten.

Egil doesn't have much chance to lead his group behind Barefang before the giant troll bursts forth from cover and charges at Kallyr. Fortunately he doesn't spot the group behind a partially collapsed wall. He hold the men, with a raised hand, until Barefang is fully engaged. Then he drops his hand three men emerge from behind the wall and charge at the trolls exposed back.

Irnar, the exception, leaps lightly on top of the wall and from there he has just time to see Graylor being hit. That is enough, hissing and spitting like the enraged alynx he is, Irnar leaps from the wall over Egil's head and onto the back of the troll. Long claws sink into exposed flesh. Barefang roars hugely and shakes Irnar from his back. Who lands lightly, and purrs contentedly to himself as he sees Graylor back on his feet looking better than he rightfully should.

The next instant Egil, Gerras and Mauvin hit with sword, spear and wind each finding gaps in the armour to exploit before Barefang casually swipes behind himself with his mace forcing them to take steps back out of range.

The Far Walker peers through the gloom searching in vain for his dread foe. The calm before the storm. His mind wanders back, to a time before he swore the oath, training with elves.

The great forest in spring, lush, green and blooming with bellflowers. The fey songs of dryads, pixies dashing this way and that, ringing the air with their laughter. He had trained under Koran Oakbiter, copper armour gleaming in the sunlight, waraxe in hand. The Humakti weaponmaster had fallen, chomped and swallowed by Barefang. The Death Lord had terrorized numerous frontier villages that season, his beserker pack slaughtering all that stood before them. The elves counted hundreds lost to this one Zorani and his gang.

It was then he swore the oath. Over the body of his fallen tutor. Surrounded by the corpses of the butchered village.

Barefang must die.

The bright flash and baleful roar abruptly ends his reverie.

It was time.

Loping toward the contact he mouths a forgotten prayer, a meditation learnt from his slaughtered tutor.

I am the leaf caught upon the breeze.
I am the falling stone.
I am the taste of blood in
the mouth of the predator.
I am the rain before it forms into drops.
I am the brother who is not kin
Parent of life, life is child.
I am the taste of water,
the light in sun and moon
the silence between the crashing waves.
I am the murmur of the bellows.
I am the cry of dreams on waking
the name in the hero challenge
white bull in valour
dragon beneath h the hills
blade point in battle.
I am in everything,
and everything springs from me.
Neither revealed nor unrevealed
Neither manifest nor hidden.
Name me.

- The Seventh Meditation on the Blade.

He was close to the battle proper now. His voice rises and falls with strange elven harmonies. The mediation gone. A roar of violence and death in its place.

Tearing into the melee the gladiator attacks like a whirlwind; lighting fast and with terrible fury. The horrific two handed and nine bladed weapon carves a glittering path through the assembled mob.

Closing on his foe he springs, timing the moment with exquisite judgement. The dragon blade bites into the festering Uz as he arcs through the air.

Landing deftly on his feet Aelf squares up to the towering Death Lord.

"Krzant Barefang. This is where it ends."

The giant Uz, reeking of death, barely seems to notice him. He glares over Aelf's head, screaming imprecations at the red-haired source of the Light that's driving back his Darkness - it's in Darktongue, but nothing Abul can understand. Both hands raise, reaching out towards her, beckoning, the screaming becomes chanting, ending in a shriek of triumph.

Abul, far enough away from Barefang to be able to pay attention to something other than immediate danger, feels an otherworldly alert that's new to him, but becoming more familiar: the Legion's wyter, warning of an imminent attack - a //new// attack. He turns slightly to face Kallyr, and sees movement behind her: something is rising from the ground. Several somethings. Things in about the same places, he realises, as the trolls that had died earlier.

At first, the young Carmanian looks with horror at the corpses slowly rising up... then his sense of duty overcomes his feelings and he shouts with a booming voice. "Behind! Undead!"
Putting his warning into practice, he runs to place himself between the new assault and the Kheldon Queen.

"Humakt blesses my sword!" he shouts again to gather all his courage. Holding his shield firmly, weaving the long straight hazar sword in a single hand, he is ready to face the threat, hoping someone will support him, and if not... at least with Ashar's support he will stand alone anyway.

Hearing Abul's shout Egil looks beyond Barefang at the newly risen zombies, he turns to the others "Come on! We need to help protect the rear, there's enough of this lot to sort out that brute. Mav, tangle them up in the mist."

Then he is running, the others close on his heels as he charges round Barefang and on towards his minions.

Mauvin tries to gather mists from the still, dry, air, and finds a source of moisture that's almost ironic, in a way - the pooled blood from where the trolls had died. A red, sticky mist forms and gathers around them, but the zombies' enhanced strength lets them tear through it. Mean while Abul has positioned himself in plenty of time, ready to fight the enemy off alone if he has to. BUt the zombies do not pause in their slow advance.

Standing still while others fight for their life is never easy, no matter how much training you've had do just that. Still, this was his position, his task in this engagement. There was a bit of secret relief to it as well, he would not be put to the test here, Dori, the maniac Aelf and the rest would deal with the undead troll. Especially with Kallyr's magic to boost them.

And then the shouting from behind reached him and even before he knew what had caused it his relief vanished and fear came with the realization his secret would be revealed now. Everyone in his line turned their heads and saw how a group of dead trolls pushed through tendrils of reddish mist.

"Sir?", The voice that of Yrsga and it was worried, uncertain. He'd waited too long, were his troops already losing confidence in him?

"About face! Forward march!", He prayed that Dorinda could keep Barefang at bay. His shield wall performed beautifully, he couldn't help noticing and the little white clasps glinted in the reflected light as they turned as one body to face the new threat. He swallowed, then held his glowing sword high.

Hearing armoured people moving behind him, Abul feels somehow reassured and makes a step forward, challenging the undead. "You cannot pass!" he claims. The zombified trolls stand still, and a dead silence falls. "I'm a servant of Truth, wielder of the Blade of Humakt. You cannot pass. The Lie will not avail you, Servants of Evil. Go back to the Darkness! You cannot pass!"

Having held the best battle ground possible, Abul launches the assault as the reinforcements arrive.

With the white ten backing him and boosted by the feeling of protecting the great heroine Kallyr, Abul strikes the first zombie with determination. All the advice he received in his short life streams to him in form of automatic reflexes acquired by long-practised movements: Jamal's moral discipline, the Legion's physical training and more recently Daine's consciousness of self-superiority over the Lie merge into a quick and effective attack. Having had the time to fully assess his opponent, Abul strikes first at the left knee where a piece of armour isn't correctly in place any more.

With a destroyed joint, the huge undead troll is slowed to the point that he has to concede total mastery of the battleground. Fast and agile like a dangerous wasp, the young man uses his blessed sword with precision, with the difference that the long straight blade is a real war weapon, much more than a sting. After having avoided a too-slow mace, Abul looks for the next spotted weak point, an exposed shoulder becomes his choice and soon the monster becomes unable to use his heavy weapon. With his shield, Abul then diverts the zombie's working, arm trying to catch him and closing, he strikes at the throat with great strength, nearly chopping the head off. This is apparently enough to dissipate the black magic. The corpse falls in the dirt like a knocked-down mountain. Immediately, Abul instinctively covers his head with his shield and checks the situation around.


Barefang was distracted by the Vingan and her light magicks.

This was Aelfgar's chance. The Death Lord was open. He beseeches the God once more almost gagging at the stink of filth and decay. Running a hand over each twisted burificating blade in turn, his horrific weapon is infused with combat and death magicks.

He drops to one knee: the prayer comes to an end. With a sudden athletic leap he soars through the air. Man and Uz are suddenly close, almost eye to eye now.

The Death Lord snarls malevolently at this interruption. Those huge lead teeth gnashing and grinding just inches away. Just then the the wicked array of glittering blades bite into the tattered remains of Barefang's face.

Aelf leaps lightly down, and the huge Uz stumbles backwards into Dori's group. Her own attack fails to penetrate the lead armour, battered though it is, but Kristen, inspired by Aelf's direct assault on those monstrous fangs, uses her new shield the way she understands best - as an attack. She leaps up and slams the shield boss into the Death Lord's face, swinging her axe overhead at the same time.

Alas, she has underestimated Barefang's powers of Combat Eating, as he munches through not only the shield-boss, but the hand that holds it.

(For a rough idea of what this looks like, see this: )

Kristen falls back, screaming and clutching her wrist with her axe hand, and Dori covers her retreat. "Elendala - get her out of her, keep her alive!" There's no time for any more, but Elendala is the only person here with healing magic, no matter how weak it may be.

//(Missing here - the rest of the fight - Egil//


As the White Shields passed in orderly fashion on either side of Kallyr, on their way to support the young Abul who was already doing damage to the undead, Landros heard the snarling roars and clash of weapons behind him. It felt wrong to have those sorts of sounds at his back, that was a feeling he knew he'd never shake. But it wasn't running away when you went to stop the lesser foe. It was a tactical decision, and the right one.

Then something changed, the Rigsdali thought he could almost sense it in his lingering link to the queen before it happened, a slight hesitation of intent, a wavering of belief and confidence. He recognized that emotion only too well. He was close to her then, only an arm's length but the only sound he heard from her was a faint breath, as if a sigh had escaped her lips. This was followed by a very rude Vingan curse as she staggered against him. He reached out to steady her in the same instant all went dark.

Truly Dark.
""<div style="background-color:#aaaaaa;">
In the half-embrace he made out her smell, not like other women he had been close to, but a warrior's smell - and her own. He was still for a half-beat then gently pushed her away. The assault was on her, everything else mattered little in comparison he knew. No one else would die when he could protect them he told himself.
In the faint glimmer from the star on her brow he could see her face, as she no doubt could see his and for a moment he thought she looked confused as she regarded him. "What...", she began then shook her head at something. She let go of him rather brusquely in turn.
<br /><br />
"Boss? You all right?" That was the younger Vingan with her, her voice sharp with concern.
<br /><br />
"Fine. No problem. Ye gods, he's strong!"
<br /><br />
But she wasn't all right, he could feel that, and from Insterid's expression, so could she.
<br /><br />
"Khan! Take the ten and stop the zombies. I'm needed here." His tone was soft but somehow carried over the din of battle. He wasn't sure why he'd chosen Khan, but he had seemed confident in training, perhaps more champion material than officer but if they lived he might make the man his second.
<br /><br />
"Right!" the business-like voice was Kallyr's, but he thought it lacked some of its earlier crispness and self-assurance. "The bastard won't get away with that again," she continued. He could almost see her holding her sword out and heard her bodyguards calling out to her and moving even closer. One of them almost pushed him away from the queen then stopped - this close, almost touching, they could just see each others faces. Offir, and looking at him with an odd sort of recognition.
<br /><br />
"If you hurt her..." He stopped, leaving the thought uncompleted, but Landros' warriors' instincts registered that as possibly the most deadly threat he was ever likely to receive.
<br /><br />
Landros opened his mouth to reply but thought better of it. There was no point in antagonizing the man further, though he didn't understand what Offir was afraid of. He managed a measured look and a curt nod.
<br /><br />
Offir glanced at his charge, back at Landros. "Go on, then."
<br /><br />
An odd sort of permission, granted almost like a father's permission to woo a daughter, which either made no sense at all or far too much.
<br /><br />
He did without comment, but with an unsettled, very uncomfortable feeling. With a deep breath he moved past the Orlanthi and followed the queen.
<br /><br />
Kallyr hadn't noticed, or ignored it. "I'm fine, time to get back to work." She was Vinga again, or more Vinga than Rigsdal as that would be more natural to her. Which was part of the problem he guessed.
<br /><br />
"Right. We're fighting trolls, and some of those kids out there are... well, kids." Insterid again, and while she was trying to help, that wasn't the right way, he knew that. He looked at the young woman and wondered what she was thinking. More pressure was not how to deal with Kallyr now, he was convinced of that. Support her yes but not by reminding her of the stakes in that way. That was something he doubted she needed reminding of anyway. He couldn't tell her that though, but why didn't Insterid see it for herself?
<br /><br />
She looked up then, he could see the light from the gem point skywards, and began to gather her resources again.
<br /><br />
"Lord," he said, using the male honorific intentionally and hoping it was the right choice. Another tactical decision. Improvising. "Lord", he repeated more confidently than he felt to catch her attention. "The Land is covered in Darkness and the enemy assails us on all sides, but this is where we must stand. This is where we shine our light on their hiding places and reveal them, this is where we want them so we can see them and defeat them. This is where we win." The words, improvised from an old prayer to Rigsdal, the God she must now be.
<br /><br />
He lifted his sword just below the hilt, it also glimmered faintly with the god's light echoing her gem. "Lord, bless thy servant's sword. Let it be your beacon today." She heard him, he thought for she suddenly looked into his face and nodded.
<br /><br />
Could she do this again? If she couldn't they would all join their gods soon, and that might not be a bad thing if it wasn't for those left behind. Not friends or family, or in his case the legion itself, but the enemies. The trolls, this Barefang that had to be stopped, and it was their task to do. The task was not their choice, but the how of it was.
<br /><br />
His own ten had moved away from them now, he'd left them under the command of someone untrained and sent them into battle. Their deaths would be his. It wasn't just inaction that killed, bad actions did too. Bad decisions.
<br /><br />
Had she made bad decisions? Yes, she probably had he decided, as he looked up at her face where he was kneeling before her, waiting while thoughts ran rampant. Were the same thoughts running through her head, the same doubts and fears? Was this why she hesitated, if that was what she was doing. Had bad choices killed friends? For someone in her position it was almost inevitable to have happened at some point.
<br /><br />
He lowered his sword fractionally and touched her hand with his free one. To someone else, under other circumstances it might look like he was about to swear allegiance, or propose marriage. It was a little of both perhaps, but not really. He wasn't free to do either. There was something in him that demanded, yearned for both though. This was a woman any man, or indeed any other woman would willingly follow anywhere.
<br /><br />
"If we wait too long..", he began gently, hesitantly and broke off. "You have strong and loyal friends with you, who love you. You have a strong force of Humakti with you, who better to face undeath and darkness? You have the love and support of you tribe behind you. You have the gift of gods on your brow and the blessings of others. You are graced with beauty and wisdom, and the abilities to defeat your foes. Use them. You have before, do it again. Do it now. Only in Darkness, Light."
<br /><br />
"The last light in the darkness..." she echoed softly. "And the watch isn't over yet. Third time lucky, perhaps. I can do this - <i>we</i> can do this." She suddenly smiles at him, dawn breaking through the mental darkness if not yet through its physical manifestation. "I'm not alone - he is. Let's get him!"


Graylor realised that all the lights were going out, first the battlefield illumination then the deathlight from their swords. The manner of the extinguishing was strange: instead of a gradual fading it seemed, for all the world, that some great, invisible being was eating the light in great mouthfuls.
<br /><br />
"Close ranks and form shieldwall," he orders. "At least you now know where your friends are. For now anything else is an enemy."
<br /><br />
Irnar fares somewhat better. He is used to the dark and Yinkin's blessings have given him the ability to see, even in the blackest of nights. He also has a sense of smell, not that you needed much of one for Barefang, and other senses equally sharp. He leaps forward to attack again and steps into the shade surrounding Barefang.
<br />
Offering a quick prayer to Hu and to his new sword Egil now concentrates on the blade, "Make this white stone gleam and shine across the night." he calls gently to the sword. At first it only glimmers gently but seeing this small success encourages Egil and it feeds back into the sword making the glow stronger and brighter until the area is bathed in a pale white light. The light fades until it reaches a region of blackness where he assumes the undead troll to be.
<br />
Where there was light it was suddenly dark, a billowing inky blackness. The Far Walker was worried; he and the other Legionnaires are wide open. Aelf had fought blindfolded back in Furthest, in the arena, one a few occasional. The moon fawning toadies thought it great sport. But this was different, no single foe, but a pitch battle, in the darkness, against a mob of trolls and their creations.
<br /><br />
He tries to focus on Barefang; listening intently for the tell tale growling, stomping and biting of the Death Lord. It was those teeth, the grinding and gnashing, that stood out in the battle din. He could hear them now; splitting amour, chomping flesh and cracking bone. Disgusting.
<br /><br />
But then he had a rather odd thought. Why keep his distance from those teeth? What would Barefang be without those great lead tombstones? But how could he be disarmed?
<br /><br />
The answer, and was often the case, was in his hands.
<br /><br />
To most the sinister looking Dragon Blade was perhaps some nightmare instrument of torture but to his mind it could not a faulted, a perfect union of sword, spear, staff and trident. Having the poking and snaring capabilities of the trident, the ripping, slicing, and thrusting ability of the bladed spear, the cutting of the sword, the block and strike hit of a staff, and pull slice of a hook sword. The blades twist and bifurcation, razor sharp points, with strange runes carved deep into the ebony and ivory that run the length of the haft.
<br /><br />
Aelf could not see Barefang but the troll was not too far away. He could hear the all too familiar sound of a limb, perhaps an arm, being severed and swallowed.
<br /><br />
He needed to act quickly and to lure his foe. Turning his back on the screaming he stumbles about; feigning blindness and disorientation. As anticipated the Death Lord stomps over growling unpleasantly in dark tongue. A monstrously foul and nauseating stench assailed his nostrils. Barefang was real close now.
<br /><br />
Turning half circle the Far Walker lunges forward and strikes into the gloom. The Zorak Zorani was about to attack but instead got a mouthful of razor sharp blades. Instinctively it bites down with those great metal gnashers and cuts its own maw to ribbons.
<br /><br />
The Karganite swiftly puts boot to jaw trying to recover the weapon for all his worth. There is a sickening screech of metal on metal. Then deafening cracks and a wildfire magical discharge. The Dragon Blade suddenly pulls free and with it comes a shower of lead. Those terrible tombstone teeth are no more. There shattered and smoking remains land in the dirt with a dull thud.
<br /><br />
There is a terrible roar from the Death Lord. Different than before; rage certainly and perhaps the slightest hint of doubt.

""<div style="background-color:#cccccc;">
When the light seems to die, Abul is still standing next to the wriggling remains of his first zombie, with great disgust, he cautiously makes a step aside and from below his shield, checks for the next threat. Before he can feel the first symptoms of panic, Abul reassures himself, "Nothing surprising, nothing unexpected: one of His agents destroyed, Evil Ganesatarus blows the light away in response... how predictible... perhaps I can counter him."
<br /><br />
In a fervent prayer to Idovanus he then tries to cast his preferred feat "Light in Dark" on the area, but too much emotion and lack of time ruins his prayer. Even the Legion's wyter seems unable to hear him.
<br /><br />
Now panic is near but the sounds of the cautious approach of Khan and the white ten in shieldwall formation give him an unexpected relief. He calls to the swordsmaster in a low voice, then when he's icily ignored, goes over to him. Anticipating his better's requests, he informs him quickly "The rest of the pack was just behind a ruined wall a few steps ahead. They should be here in a few seconds. If I may suggest if you separate in two groups and follow the wall, I'm pretty sure that we will find enough enemies at each end. This way, we will cover our backs and be sure to have a safe distance between us..."
<br /><br />
With some apprehension, he requests, "May I join your ranks?"
<br /><br />
As usual, the cold Humakti doesn't answer vocally but immediately separates with an hand sign the ten in to two groups, each keeping the shieldwall formation. Taking the lead, the Ralian swordmaster chooses the right part of the wall from where the most noise of the undead seems to come. The other group turns toward Abul, trusting his scout report.
<br /><br />
The young Carmanian takes the left direction without question. Marching in one single front line but hiding behind the ruined wall the group progresses carefully. Abul guides somehow relying on his good memory.
<br /><br />
He can still feel the wyter Braveheart supporting him and in addition mentally he is now praying against fear and darkness. "Remember that darkness creatures can't spot you... Mother's magic should protect you, Lady Jakkanna has said." His hands holding his sword and shield, Abul is unable to grip his Spolite medallion but feeling it against his chest reassures him somehow as it always does in the night.
<br />
He faces the stench of Terror as much as he can, but Abul's courage is broken. Trying to save his face the best he can, he stays among the other legionnaires trying to support them as much as he is able.
<br />
As the light falls from the battlefield, such that even Ashar can't illuminate it. Egil changes his plan once more. "You lot try to keep the beast busy." Then he heads to where the wall was a moment ago and swings Barzaad's Tooth in a powerful arc, shearing off a lump of the dirty white stone to reveal fresh, clean stone.


Kallyr concentrates again, and more light appears - but uneven, patchy, concentrated on the remains of those lead teeth on the ground. "What the....? that's changed! All right, new battlefield, new target, no, make that targets..." Landros, still partly connected, can feel her wrenching the aim to a new direction and spread in mid-cast. The result isn't perfect, but there's now a clearly defined sphere near Barefang that's darker than the rest (and moving away), and the rest of the general area around all of them is more or less lit.

Leaving the wall glowing behind him, Egil charges after his friends, "We kill the shade, let the others kill the mummy." he calls to them.

Gerras's Mean and Meaner spirits help him in his fight against this foe from another world, but as he rushes into the dark sphere his foot finds a rabbit hole and with a yell he twists his ankle and tumbles to the ground.
Egil charges at the centre of the darkness, Barzaad's Tooth sweeps in a great arc, its gleaming, sharp edge irrelevant, as it channels Hu's power in a strike against the Darkness being. Death's power overwhelms it and if it can feel fear it shows it as it shifts quickly away seeking shelter shade and darkness away from the fight. Mauvin's cutting wind howls through but has as much effect as a gale against the night. Irnar leaping after bounds into the fray, slashing at the dark enemy.

Graylor calls to his ten. "We want containment lads. This unholy, monster has escaped before. We won't let it happen again today."
As the men spread out to surround Barefang, Graylor takes the opportunity to attack again. He spins under the troll's flailing free arm and blocks upwards with Enjou spreading fire into the forearm of Barefang. His trajectory takes him behind the agonised troll where Graylor plants Kogoeshinu deep into the exposed back of Barefang's knee. Kogoeshinu's magic immediately freezing the joint and crippling the troll's movements. Graylor dances free leaving Kogoeshinu embedded where it can continue to work its magic.

Mouthing the words of the God Aelfwyrd faces Krzant Barefang with ritual grace. The Death Lord, garbed in tattered crimson, roars his challenge with brazen contempt. The mountainous aberration was a nightmare and terrible to behold. The Hater, the Destroyer, was strong with this one, more so after death. The dark and fearful divinity of Zorak Zoran bound within the mundane shell.

Barefang bellows blood vengeance but staggers uncertainly. The blade wedged into its knee joint made even walking difficult. But the Death Lord still manages to assault first, savage and deadly accurate. The troll rains down crushing blows with what must have once been a troll kin.

Aelf desperately dodges and feints but cannot stop a final lunging bite. Barefang instinctively chomps but with an empty maw, those lead teeth now shattered. But those jaws still lock around an arm and for a moment come close to tearing it free.

The two combatants break, and for a few moments circle, eyeing each other in silence.

The Death Lord spits an obscene and guttural curse. The Legions of Death would come for him and from beyond the grave. The Far Walker closes fast like a snake. He darts left and right as the huge corpse tries in vein to claw off his head.

As powerful as the Death Lord was it would make a mistake. All he need do is wait it out. Patience in a duel - after all - was a virtue.

Barefang tires on the dance, throws a huge hay-maker punch. It is a long time coming and Aelf feints left with ease. The Uz tumbles forward and those glittering blades rake into the beast's flank. Krzant lurches to halt as stinking ropes of intestine flop to the floor. Maggots, flies and other filth pour from the grinning wound.

The Death Lord responds immediately with a crunching backhand. The impact is so hard it sends Aelf flying into the air. He lands about ten feet away in crumpled heap on the dirt.

The God within him demands more. Aelf is unfazed about his bloodied face, nor the dark blue gashes and ripped flesh. Slowly he rises.

Barefang lumbers towards the Far Walker but too slowly. Aelf hurls himself into the air once more, cart wheeling over and over till he was behind the monster. The towering undead tries to turn but falters with a deafening crack. The beas's knee shatters. Kogoeshinu had done its job well.

Aelf seizes this opening and his own blade flashes brightly in the gloom. The troll's arm, severed at the elbow, hits the dirt with a wet sloppy sound.

The Death Lord bellows with rage and crashes into the young Kargani. The Far Walker hits the deck flat on his back. Barefang, all one thousand pounds of rotting flesh, lands right on top of him a heartbeat later. Aelf feels ribs crack, internal organs burst and a shoulder pop out of the socket. He is stunned but conscious.

The two are eye to eye now, the troll's stinking breath and gaping maw only inches from his face. Barefang snarls triumphantly. The monster's one good claw locks around his throat and begins to squeeze.

The Legionnaire could hear the boots of his sword brothers closing fast. The Legionnaires beseech their God and cleave the undead monstrosity as one. But Barefang did not notice and not did he stop.

Time seemed to slow and the battle became silent and serene. There would be no defeat - not today. Jonrol has blessed him. He could feel a presence. Was the saint with him now?

Aelf smiles and murmurs his oath for the last time. He recalls those defiled and slaughtered in gratuitous and berserker frenzy.

They would know his truth. Their time was now.

His one good arm locates the Seven Dragon Blade and with a short prayer stabs at the troll's head. The sinister looking weapon has many blades, barbs and spikes. But it is the long bladed spear that punches through Barefang's skull.

The Death Lord's expression as one of complete disbelief.

A foul and greasy black fire consumes the festering husk, fetid flames flooding from both eyes. The divine essence crackles and spits like wildfire and then it is gone. All that is left are sparks and a pile of ash in the cool night air.

Aelfwyrd lies bloodied and broken, surrounded by Legionaries.

It is done. His oath honoured.

Krzant Barefang is dead.

[[ChronP57 They think it's all over]]

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