Fire Rises

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Smok Taunter

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The cold breath of late autumn was no fair respite. It wasn't a pleasantry, or even so much a blessing. It spoke of change. But it wasn't a profitable change, or a positive one either. The world was graying with storm clouds solid as iron hanging in the open skies. There would be no more openness and no more primordial beauty in perfect clear skies. That much was true with the northern winds blowing off the cold frozen seas.

The land of the Fremennik were hardly friendly to begin with. With so little cozy corners and inhabited naught by a multitude of grizzled barbarian warriors. The sort of spoke of an older age, detached from the current headings of the world. Much like their warmer cousins to the south, their longships sailed to a different wind. An older wind. As dry and dusty as ancient tomes read by the crippled and mumbling wizards of every king's court.

It wasn't important to him. Never much so as he stuffed his hands deeper into the heavy fur-lined coat of his. The heavy length of the cloak dragged against the cold twisted grass at his feet as he paced about. Behind him an airship loomed, emblazoned in golden-green banners of the gnomish race by the chords that anchored it. A hundred of the minute, minuscule humanoids dashed about on the ground below in preparation for what was to come. Or to simply look busy at the heels of the man who towered above him, long messy locks of oily-black hair lashed against his brow as he brooded, his hands stuffed deep in wolf-skin pockets. The collar of a Kandarrin gambeson fluttered against his grizzly shaven neck. Its red and rusty-orange pin-stripping a mere suggestion of color on an otherwise colorless individual. Even his eyes were sapped of their color from the insurmountable weight of waiting.

18-Jun-2015 02:06:00

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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The cold wind that heralded of winter came to a gentle pause. Long enough that in its lapse the man heard in the distance the galloping of hooves over hard earth. He looked up and out, over the rolling mole hills to behold the source of the galloping thunder. In the distance rode a team of riders. Their horses as much a muted brown as the settling world around it as nature passed into hibernation. Their riders dressed in black and dark green cloaks, flying no banners. Each drop of the hoof was the beat of a drum on hard packed earth, already beginning to freeze with frost, even if it were now mid-day.

The sight of the cavalcade warmed the cold heart of the man as they drew closer. The men flew no banners and made no show. They would have been simple travelers, unaffiliated by all means to all things. If it were not for the extra load that rode shotgun behind them on the saddles. Rocking and bouncing with each galloping step the drunken sloped bodies of prisoners leaned against the backs of the mercenaries as they drew close to the man in black.

His shoulders righted and his back straightened as they came closer. The details of their helmets coming to clear view. The iron horns that curled up from the brow of their helms a stoic decoration fit for any viable warrior and man who can get a job done. Their faces obscured behind visors and scarves that beat back the air behind them with each gust of cold wind and throw of the horse against the earth.

The confidence of the end of his mission crawled over him like a warm delight in some tavern room. He drew his hands from his pockets, his fingers looped around the straps of a seethed sword at his hip. The long curved saber as much a threat against undue violence as it was a sign of his overbearing confidence.

18-Jun-2015 02:06:22

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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As they drew close the gnomish mercenaries who attended to his ship shot up and gathered their pikes. The sound of clattering and grinding plate filled the void, cold air as they took up position besides their master. The horsemen drew close.

The first to arrive pulled back on the reigns. Shouting orders to the men behind them. Their horses drew to a thunderous and sudden stop behind him. The beasts drew close. They their hooves nervously and aggressively against the stone and gravel beneath them. Their hooves and their whimpering was an echo of primitive fear, and of hate. The helmed riders looked down at the human there. Shadow and darkness ruled behind the face plates of their helmets.

There was a prisoner among them, not masked or wrapped in linens. His face wild in terror. His wide blue eyes shot between the men on the horses and the man on the ground. His graying hair curled back against his skull in a close knit, made messy by wind and by a hard gallop. His breaths were short and shaky. His captured companions calm and collective.

“Dr. Palman!” the man in black hailed reaching into his pocket, “pleasure you could join us. I'm KIA!” he introduced himself with a wry smile, holding out a sack of gold to the rider as he stepped down from his horse, dragging his prisoner from the saddle.

“He wasn't alone.” sneered the rider, as he took the gold. His voice wispy like that of a wraith's. But he was living all the same.

“Palman! You don't get to bring friends.” the agent sneered bewildered, “Who are these jokers?” he demanded, stepped aside to let the gnomes take control.

“They're not my friends.” Palman corrected detestful as he was shepherded aside.

“It doesn't matter, I only want answers.” the agent called back, turning on the rider, “I'll have the difference delivered to your men if I get good reason to take these men.” he sneered, *I only wanted one other, not five.”

18-Jun-2015 02:06:45

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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“They don't have a choice on this.* the rider spoke, “If you take them or not, it won't matter. We'll execute them here as you leave them. Or maybe you can find the suitable value for them on your way home.”

The agent looked at them. On the way home to Ardougne, provided they had any value. “Why should I take them anyways?” he demanded. He wanted to gauge their value. This was a fickle business. Like buying slaves at the market. The buyer needed to know how fit for service his property was going to be. But it wasn't their bodies he wanted, it was their information.

“They tried to steal your prize.” pointed out the rider, “They came after him as soon as we did.

“They work for him.” he added, emphasizing who their contract was with. “For the Hero. The Adventuring Man.”

Surprised, the agent rose his brow. “Him?” he asked. The rider nodded.

He looked back at the airship. Palman was being stood on the lift to enter the cabin. He and the gnomes waited for their leading officer. Biting his lip he stroked his chin with a calloused finger. “Alright.” he nodded, “I'll take them.”

The rider nodded, and motioned for his men to hand them over. They staggered across the field, taken by the waist towards the lift. “You'll see the gold.” the agent promised as he walked away.

“Full price!” the rider called out after him, “At least that!*

There was an excited flutter in his chest as he boarded the lift. With a groan the wooden platform was risen to the airship. The weight of the men weighed down on it. Below the riders rallied themselves together and cantered off into the wilderness. He was alone with his prize now. Only he and his gnome. Destination: home.

18-Jun-2015 02:07:32

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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Aloft in the air the fires roared into life as the braziers were stoked. With a rattle and a groan the airship was severed from its anchored. A strange tingling washed over the men and the crew as they went skyward. On board masking, they were being hidden. To be what: the agent couldn't say. But his fluttering excitement turned into a rushing joyous dance as he stood up in the middle of the wide empty cabin. The prisoners were thrown down against the ground, Palman was cut loose, and sat in a seat not too far away. He wasn't a threat, he wasn't physically dangerous. And by the look on his eyes he should be relieved...

“The flight plan I issued with The Office lists only me, my men, and one of you!” he roared above the braziers, he throat burned with the passion of a drill sergeant. His hand glowed as he summoned flame to it. A sick smile broke his otherwise unbroken contemptuous face. “So unless you want to live, I demand information!” he boomed.

He motioned to one of the guard gnomes to open the lift gate. The wind whispered as it tore through the break of the otherwise sealed wooden paneling. Then finally filled the cabin with mountainous rush of cold bitter air. The agent's black cloak tore to the side as the wind screamed through. The fire gloving his hand licked to the side as it came through the open door.

“The first who talks get to stay on my airship!” he promised, waving his enchanted hand. A gnome hobbled over to the nearest prisoner kneeling on the floor of the airship. With a swift boot he socked him in the gut with an armored shoe, dropping him with a gasp for air against the ground before he and two other dragged him towards the open lift door.

Throwing himself down besides him, the agent planted his knee into the chest of the incapacitated man. His fiery hand roared with the fierce wind against the side of his face.

18-Jun-2015 02:08:02

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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“You first!” he barked, *Answer me, who paid you to pursue Dr. Palman!” he bellowed. His throat felt as hot as his arm. But it wasn't painful, it was exhilarating. Each moment drove him on wards. He played with the promise of information as he much as he played with the man against his hand with his life.

There was a long silence where the man beneath him did not answer. Only the slow raising and falling of his chest confirmed he was in fact still alive. Finally, his agent wore thin.

Screaming he rose his hand above his head. The rune-inspired magic of his fist glowed brighter. With a explosive shot it roared from his fingers as he threw against the passing landscape beneath him with a whipping pop.

“I guess he can't fly!” he cackled into the cabin as he pulled the still-living body of the captive into the airship, handing him over to his mercenaries as they pulled him aside.

“NOW WHO'S NEXT!” he shouted, pointing to a second captive. His smiled glowed with his eyes and his hand as he broke fire in his fist again.

Once again the process resumed. He pressed him against the floor, pushing his covered head out of the side of the moving airship. He asked him again: “WHO IS HE? WHY IS HE THE HERO!?” he screamed.

The fire on his fingers glowed against his face, never scorching the wrap that bound him. But no doubt he could feel the heat, and hear the magical crackling against his ear like a fierce inferno. The agent was growing impatient. “A lot of loyalty for a hired sword!” he spat.

And then someone spoke. But not him. “Or perhaps he's wondering why somebody would incinerate a man and then throw him out of a moving platform.” it said. Calm, collected. Muffled by something. Not just the bag that was pulled over his head.

18-Jun-2015 02:08:17

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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The agent looked up, at the largest of the captives that had been delivered to him. The wool that bound him could do little to contain the size of the man. He doubted even gags could restrain the strength of his voice either. The captive was pulled back in, and the door sealed as the KIA agent staggered over to where the big man sat crouched.

“At least you can talk.” he said, pointing down at him. “Who are you?”

“It doesn't matter who we are.* the captive replied. He sounded almost promising, like he was to offer a great wisdom, “It never did. What matters is what we intend to do.”

Kneeling down the captive reached out. Caution bit back the rabid excitement that had captured his soul. He wasn't free however, not from one state. But he was now a prisoner of another, as much as the men here were of his. He was cautious now. Afraid. Paranoid, perhaps more accurately.

Grabbing the roped that bound the wool wrapping to him the black blanket fell lose from his head. Free from the wool, the captive could stare straight on at the agent. Hidden behind a shining blue helmet. A torn crown of feathers sagged atop his helmet. The Hero. The Adventurer. A man with no identity and hidden behind runite so battered and scarred with the years he was much like any of the earthly warrior monsters who prowled the many deep dungeons in such armor.

“No one cared until I was stuck in the helmet.” he crooned between heavy breaths. The agent could feel him watching from the great emptiness under neath. Could hear the troubling smile that broke his phantom face.

*What'll happen if I remove that helmet?” the agent asked, “Will you die?”

“Perhaps.* answered the Adventurer, “It'll be extremely painful.”

“You're a big guy.” the agent pointed out, with faltering confidence.

“For you.” the Adventurer laughed.

“So, was getting caught part of your plan?”

18-Jun-2015 02:08:42

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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“Of course.” the Adventurer talked confidently. It puzzled the agent more. Made his gun spin and squirm. He had to remind himself, his sword was at his side. And this man was bound and tied. Surely if anything happened he could end it fast. Arrive with two unrelated objectives finished. Have a commission.

“Dr. Palman refused our original offer in favor of Kandarrin's.” he continued to talk, “So we had to do something. To act.

“And we had to find out what he told you.*

*Nothing!” Palman shouted, almost on the verge of panicked tears, *I told them nothing!”

The Adventurer paused to consider. His head turning to the side as the wood began to groan. But the agent didn't hear it. He was too transfixed on the two. “Well congratulations then! So you're caught, you got to Dr. Palman.” said he, “So what not, what's the next stage of your master plan!*

*Smashing this airship.* the Adventurer said.

There was a bump and a rattle. A roar pierced the air and the sound of hammers smashed against the side of the hull. In the narrow windows armored soldiers appeared, as faceless as their master as the clung to the cold shell of the airship cabin. The force of the fire sputtered and softened as the overhead canopy was no doubt opened. “No survivors!” the Adventurer roared as he rocketed to his feet. The agent spiraled back, drawing his sword as magical energy pierced the interior. The gnomes screamed as bolts of runic energy spun through the air. Tearing through the hull and breaking apart the cabin wall. Fabric sheered as the overhead balloon tore in too.

The agent felt is world loose weight as he spun back. He parried a fist of the Adventurer with his saber, but it did not stop the falling. His world went empty and weightless as he spun backwards. Everything fell apart just then. Blown aside like a house built of playing cards. Or bursting into flame like that of straw.

18-Jun-2015 02:09:11

Smok Taunter

Smok Taunter

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Like a sack of onions he hit the far wall. His head rocked against the wood. His vision spun and fell out of focus. He saw double as a armored gnome fell limp towards him. *The fire rises!” he heard the adventurer laugh in the agent's last moments of consciousness.



18-Jun-2015 02:09:25

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