Category Archives: Instinct

Near Miss

I knocked on the rich cherry wood door. Shuffling and heavy footsteps neared the door and it swung open. An older Caligas man filled the doorway. Thick and sturdy he leaned forward.

“What can I do ya for?”

I was taken aback a moment. I can only remember seeing Caligas here but I’m sure none were this size. They all seemed to be slender like myself not bulky.

“You’re the wild goose I’ve been chasing. I need a chest unlocked and you come recommended,” I put the small chest under his nose.

His eyes darted down for a moment, then they were glued on it. He grabbed the chest and me with it pulling us into his shop. I let go of it preparing myself but he just turned away inspecting it. Looking around I noticed among other things a nasty looking axe sitting just inside the door jam, windows could be seen between the piles of trinkets, junk and various other utilities.

He cleaned off a wooden table with a swipe of his beefy, “So are you a thief or a pillager?”

“Neither as far as I can tell. Why do you ask?”

“This chest and few others like it belonged to high ranking officials or royalty. So which are you boy?” His eyes lifted from the chest scrutinizing me.

“Neither as far as I know.”

“Now quit playing with me!” Suddenly he was standing with his meaty hands planted on each side. “You can take your chest and leave, or tell me the truth.”

I stepped forward let out in a low growl, “I can’t remember anything short of three days ago. Now can you help me or not?”

He mumbled to himself a moment returning his gaze to the chest.

“How am I to know that you’re not a sympathizer? Do you know what punishment is for aiding such a criminal? Public execution if you’re lucky, prison for those Lord Preavus deems still of value,” he let on to mumbling again. “It’s a signature ether lock, so the only people who can open it are the original owner or those he allows.”

“What is an ether signature?”

He looked up with a little surprise and a little disgust, “Whenever ether is used, it let’s off a signature of the person who used it. It’s too slight for any person to sense it but mechanism’s can be build like this that do just that. The craftsman would incorporate the signature of the owner and any others within it. Chances are too, that a box like this was built with a fail safe in case someone tried to force it open. So, get your hands on some ether and try. That’s all I got for you,” He slid the box towards me.

I grabbed the chest, gave him a nod and turned to the door. Suddenly a crash came at the door startling me back a few steps. We both stood in silence unsure of what to do. Then it came again. Someone was knocking impatiently on the door.

“City Guard, open up!”

The words caught in my chest, had Lord Preavus already decided I wasn’t going to take the job? The handy-man stood from his wooden table and headed for the door.

“Hold on a second! I’ll be right there,” He muttered almost to himself.

I stopped him just before the door, “I’m not here.”

“We’ve sighted a known spy within the city walls and we need to search you shop. Open up!” Another barrage followed his words.

The man’s eyes shot over to me with faint surprise, then his eyes caught the glint of my blade in the dull light. I made sure he saw it in hand. I wasn’t going to go down to something so petty as a house search.

“Put that away,” He hissed.

His words were unexpected. He pulled a long cloth from a counter next to the door. Covering his mouth he opened the door and began to caught viciously in the guard’s faces. I stood on the other side of the door, prepared to gut the man if he sold me out.

“My apologies,” He sputtered before another coughing fit. “I haven’t seen any man, just have this damned fever.” He coughed again for good measure. “You’re welcome to come in I just hope I don’t pass this on. Feeling boils spring up too.”

I could see the guard covering his own mouth as he leaned to pear between the man and the door jam.

“Don’t bother, he wasn’t seen too close by. We’re just searching the outer perimeter. Back to your business,” he hurried through a gloved hand.

I slipped the knife away just as the door closed and crossed my arms.

“Not a spy eh?” The man jabbed turning back into his shop.

“If I was I wouldn’t be any use now, now would I? No use for a spy who’s lost his head. Either way, I have need of one more favor, a cloak perhaps you have spare somewhere?” I gestured to the messy room.

He let out a grunt, “Yeah I’ve got one somewhere. But that’s it, you gotta go.”

He handed me a worn rich brown cloak.

After covering myself I slapped two gold coins on the table, “You’ve done me a favor today.”

His eyes widened a bit and he nodded. I slipped out of the shop casually, the crowds were still present and bustling thankfully. Blending in to the flow of traffic I headed back towards the palace. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there, but something wouldn’t let me leave my cloak and sigil.

Watchful guards prompted a few detours, but I was finally on track. There were two main bridges leading from each sector to the High Terrace. Both crossed the Falling Delta that the Terrace and the palace sat on. I could see the bridge now, I had chosen the busier of the two bridges to cross unnoticed.

A voice bellowed behind me setting me on edge, “There he is!”

Time slowed. Guards lined each side of the bridge, they were along the path behind me as well. I could fight and hopefully disappear down a side street. I could leap off the bridge into the torrid below and hope to survive the waterfall. Before I made a decision the din returned with a rush at the point of a knife in my back and a steady word in my ear.

“Do not move.”

My mind raced. There weren’t any guards this close to me, nor could they have reached me in a split second. No, it was someone else. My decision was made for me.

I spun around in a flash, reaching for his armed hand and drawing my own blade. He recoiled as I slashed out across his chest. Blades whistled through the air, inches away from nicking and artery or slashing valuable tendons. One false move and one of us would be dead. He ducked, I lunged. We met at every split second just short of dealing a lethal blow. But, I was faster. I feinted back drawing him out and leapt forward, my hood drawing back from the swift movement.
The man hesitated for a moment, only able to utter a single word before we both realized my blade was in his side.

“Elias?”

The crowds fled and the guards swarmed in. I pulled my knife out and prepared to kill as many men as I could. To my surprise they passed right by me and disarmed my dazed foe. Beating him into submission they drug away a limp unconscious body.

An arm slapped onto my shoulder, instinctively my blade found its way towards his armpit.

“Slow down, I wanted to thank you,” The man said with a stunned look on his face, certainly considering how fast he could’ve died.

“What do you mean?” I asked lowering my blade, but keeping it in hand.

“That man you just bested is the spy we’ve been searching for. A Render working within a network here in Prakash. Trying to undermine the Lord’s good works,” He started to walk away. “I’ll make sure you don’t go unnoticed.”

Frustration twisted up inside me. I wiped the blade off on my tunic. Unnoticed is what I wanted to go, there’s no way to infiltrate the system I just openly undermined. Taking out a key player catches people’s attention and there were a lot of people watching.

There was a silver lining I decided as I made my way to my room in the palace; Lord Preavus wasn’t searching to kill me. Just yet that is. I figure I might as well wait around til morning to see if there’s anything left to salvage. A well paying job is hard to come by, working under a lord in process is near unbelievable.

I sat on my bed turning over the dull silver sigil in my hand. It was light, yet resisted any whittling I tried with my knife. The four arms interlocked, surrounding the name I had adopted. The name I was called today by a stranger. Elias. How did he know my name? More importantly who was he?

It was decided. First thing I had to do was get to the prison and speak with him. He knew more than I did, which wasn’t saying much. But, if he knows something about my past we needed to talk.

I pulled my leather armor off, setting it on the chair across from the bed. My tunic stunk from a days worth of running around. It landed on the ground in the corner along with my trousers. Boots next to the bed, and knife under the down pillow. My fingers traced over the raised scar on my shoulder. It had been too long since I’ve been in combat. Second thing to do tomorrow: find someone worth sparring with.

 


Arrangements

Lead to safety, food, furnishings, wounds tended to, and now I’m alone with the Lord of the land. I haven’t done too bad for myself in the few days I’ve been conscious. Granted it’s either a foolishly grave mistake, or he is far too confident. Time will tell.

“You have a useful set of skills, Elias,” His words were cool and smooth.

Conversations have been started in stranger ways.

“Serge has informed me about the circumstance surrounding your encounter,” my stiff body was a reminder of that night, “We tended to your wound when you arrived.”

Lord Preavus gestured to a seat and took one himself on a velvet tufted couch. I wandered around the room examining the simple furnishings, not yet interested in settling in.

“Don’t be concerned with any recompense. I find myself inclined to lending aid when I can.”

“And I am fed and tended to, but what is it you’ve brought me here for?”

“A man of action, I can appreciate that. You want all the pieces on the table, much like myself. You’re here because I may have use of you.”

It can’t seem to do me any harm to make friends with a Lord, at this point.

“What is this need you have?”

His smug posture gave way, he leaned forward with a raised eyebrow and grimace.

“Rest assured, you’re needs would be met generously,” I turned around with a fabricated gleam in my eye. “I require a fresh face.”

“Ah, a spy.”

“You are intuitive, indeed. Now, Serge tells me that you are suffering from some kind of amnesia?”

“For better or worse,” I planted myself in the opposite couch

“Well that is fortunate, it would make you more valuable. You see, if you decide to take my offer you will be required to lie, and given liberty to do whatever is necessary to accomplish my goal.”

“What is your goal m’Lord?”

He reclined once more, “I need you to infiltrate a sect within our city walls. They’re sympathizers of the late Caligas kingdom and wish to see my efforts  of restoration uprooted. It will be dangerous, but something tells me you are no stranger to violence. You will be required to listen to their lies, adopt their qualities, and draw out any and all valuable information.”

“Tell me more about how I will be rewarded.”

“We will secure a safe house within the city rather than house you here, to keep up appearances. You will be paid generously, and if you perform well there is potential for security of employment in the future.”

I took in a deep breath and blew it out with a whistle, “Well, let me sleep on it.” Let’s see what my options are.

“Very well. You may retire here for the night. There will be a parcel left outside your room in the morning,” Lord Preavus stood as I followed suit. “But,” he turned as he opened the door, “If you decline I would recommend you not be here in the morning.”

That’s what I wanted to hear. If he intended to kill me, he would never make a sound about it. This way I have options at least. I stepped between the two sentinels outside the room to where Lord Preavus stood waiting.

The smugness returned, “You are free to roam the city, take in what our beautiful capitol has to offer.”

“Lord Preavus,” a messenger approached with a bow, “I wish to remind you of your meeting with the council.”

“Yes thank you, tell them I will not make them wait any longer.”

The messenger anxiously matched Lord Preavus’ slower pace as they walked away with the two guards.

A strange sensation crept over me, that of not having anywhere to be. I wandered through the halls of the palace making use of the time by memorizing different routes and stretching. My chest was still tight and tender, even the hands of a healer can’t put the limber back in muscles and tendons.

Satisfied with my wandering I set out to unlock the chest. I got the chest from my room and crossed the Terrace entering the vivid marketplace. The bright buildings and brightly dressed people surrounded me. It was more color than I cared for, uncomfortable knowing I was trying to blend in with a rainbow. I noticed eyes watched between the white draping of Prakashi uniforms, guards were posted past just about every corner I rounded. I made no effort to avoid their gaze, there was no doubt they had been informed about me and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

After questioning several vendors, one guard and a man selling some exotic birds I found a furniture salesman who led me to a handy-man.


Elias Crouching

This is the lineart I have been working on for Elias, the main character in the Four Sons of the King series I’m writing.

Sinister Smirk


Proving Ground

The thrill of a kill seemed to diminish under the weight of a notched arrow. But, considering the mission a compromise had to be made for Lieutenant Mune directions.

“There are a group of seven bandits that have roamed dangerously close to Prakashi population. As you know our goal is to purge the land of those who seek a lesser existence than we offer. Our priorities have changed considering our preparations.”

“War time preparations sir?” The question was rhetorical.

“Of course Elias. Lord Praevus requested this mission be yours specifically. We are only sending you.”

He nodded.

“It will be a test of sorts. Because of the unique situation, we need to know what of your skills remain.”

Perhaps this would rid their insecurities. An opportunity to prove oneself.

Five hours of tracking brought three of the seven raiders at the end of an arrow. Moonlight peeked through the lush vegetation, speckling their faces with light. Elias led their steps with the short bow through the trees. There were two Caligas, one here and the other ahead with the other four thirty paces off. The others were mixed or Cleland; except one that seemed peculiar. A Northerner, the Vayr were the mighty men of Fray. Those born heroic leaders. It was in their blood to rule and war. This one was a foot taller than all the others and wielded a long sword single handed and a buckler. The others would need to be dispatched first if possible; facing the two Caligas and the Vayr was not ideal.

The arrow loosed silently through the brush and under the arm of the Caligas who took up the rear. Before his body crumpled mid step Elias nocked another arrow and let it fly into the chest of the next raider in line. With two down the third spun around to see his comrades lifeless in the dirt. The other four blazed the trail putting space behind them and the stunned man left behind.

The raider’s wide eyes peered into the brush. He bolted, but another arrow was in the air. Elias cursed as it missed its mark, landing in his target’s shoulder slamming him into a nearby tree. He let out a cry just before Elias drew and thrust his two curved long daggers into his chest.

The quiet rustling from the other raiders was silenced. Without a sound a dark figure slipped onto the path with a glimmering short sword in his hands. He inspected the three corpses from a distance then slipped back into the cover of brush.

Elias knew if either of them had Ether it would be near impossible to hide if they knew how to use it. Along with several other restrictions, the use of Ether had been among them. Whether this was a test of pure skill, or another check and balance was irrelevant. After this there would be no feasible reason to be baby sat.

Elias waited above in a tree. The Vayr stood facing ahead still, but readied. The other had panned out in each direction and the Caligas was still missing. A slight whir sounded before a thud behind Elias’ head just as he ducked out of the way. His hand found a throwing dagger and pulled it out of the tree. His eyes traced the line where the dagger was thrown. A form darted away and two other daggers whirred past. He dropped down a branch and spun around the tree.

A clicking sound betrayed the Caligas’ presence. Before Elias could close in on him the other raiders regrouped towards their position. The massive Vayr worked as a spearhead for the group as they pierced the forest.

Elias leapt through the trees forcing the other Caligas back. His one short sword couldn’t work fast enough to fend off both of his long daggers. The Caligas’ hand went down for another throwing dagger to and Elias locked his sword with both blades. He cast the sword out from his body and plunged one long dagger into his chest. It hit light armor and the sword came frantically to fend off Elias’ attacks but it was repelled again. He pushed the Caligas back against the tree and buried the dagger through the armor. Elias cocked back and pushed his other blade in to secure the Caligas’ fate.

His body slumped forward and Elias loosed his long daggers sending him down through the branches to the ground. The others were on top of him now. He thew the throwing dagger and the first man who climbed up towards him. It punched into his shoulder causing him to lose his grip and fall back down. The Vayr pulled him on his feet with one hand and started laying into the tree with his sword.

The tree shook violently as they tried to uproot Elias from his perch. The other two stood on the other side swinging at the base of the tree as well. The Vayre cocked back and swung hard. His blade stuck in the tree sending sending it shaking all the way up. Elias took his opportunity. He stepped off the branch and fell directly over the Vayre raider.

Elias landed on his shoulder putting both long daggers halfway into his flesh then launching off into the brush. The Vayr howled ripping his sword free and spinning half circle trying to slash at Elias. He was already hidden amongst the vegetation. The other raiders moved to each side of the giant and started clearing ahead of them. The Vayr’s heavy breathing and growling, along with the swoosh of vines and branches under their blade’s colored the night sounds.

Darting around to the flank, the fifth fell under the subtle edge of his long dagger. The raider coughed and gurgled as he collapsed next to the Vayr. His growl turned into a roar as a smokey blue light erupted out from within him. Everything within ten feet was leveled. Elias and the other raider were caught in the blast. The raider hit a tree in the center of his back and crumpled on the ground dead. Elias flew further before hitting a tree with his shoulders spinning him into the dirt and knocking the wind out of him.

The Vayr growled, charging towards Elias’ prone form. Elias rolled away from a downward slash. He rolled backwards onto his feet with both weapons in hand. The brute’s buckler met him as he caught his bearings slamming him back against a tree. Trying to regain some ground Elias slashed a shallow cut across his opponent’s stomach. A grunt game in reply.

His long sword chopped at Elias’ neck, just missing over his duck. The sword was stuck again and Elias lashed out. Anticipating a kick he thrust one of his long daggers into the Vayr’s thigh and the other into his forearm. Another howl came in reply. His grip loosened on the sword and Elias twisted his blade. He withdrew the long dagger in his thigh and ran it all the way through his forearm

The Vayr wrenched his arm free, pulling one long dagger clean out and the other one pulled from Elias’ grip. Blood poured out of the Vayr’s shoulder wounds and his arm onto the debris below. They say a Vayr has ten times the amount of blood as a normal man. That they can fight til there’s no blood left. Elias had no intention of finding out.

The giant was in a blind rage. He threw his buckler off his arm and ripped the long dagger out of his other arm. He was going to tear Elias apart with his bear hands it appeared. He charged in again, rippling muscles bulging like a crazed bull. Missing Elias, he nearly toppled the tree crashing into it. Elias ducks out of the way and punched his long dagger in twice into the Vayr’s side. He backed away wary of what he might do next. The raider’s breaths were ragged and blood dripped down both sides of his mouth. There was internal bleeding, he was slowing down.

In a final effort the Vayr lurched forward reaching his arms out. Elias leapt back and slashed his long dagger across his throat. He crashed to the ground like big game tired to fighting death. Elias knelt just out of arms reach listening to the last haggard breaths of the massive man, and catching his own.

In a whoosh of air the man was dead. Elias leaned back against a tree looking up into the Miasma filled sky. Now the trek back.


The Calm

“I’m saying the world is falling apart- you heard about Talice just falling off the map, GONE just gone!” The General hunched over his littered desk.

“I understand that, but… we can’t just send out our agents in every direction looking for ways to help-”

“Look, the Creature has a grip on this land and if we don’t loosen that or remove it altogether I would place bets the next time the ground opens it will be under us.”

“There’s no denying the Psalmanir’s foresight; the land will cry out, groaning and weeping. I do fear we are nearing grave times indeed,” the Younger placed his hand gently on the ancient tome, the Psalmanir.

“Indeed,” the General responded, distant in his thoughts.

“We are at a loss here brother, is this not unlike Him? Lead His followers until they’re weary and beaten only to rescue them for His glory?”

“Indeed- we must pray Younger. I want you to gather the others, we need His blessing before we can move forward, with anything.”

Younger showed a subtle smile and left the tent. General prayed, he had always prayed; but not always ready to accept those prayers being answered. Had that Caligas man not arrive, more over had Sendiil not answered, they wouldn’t be faced with this decision. Oh how he had been lulled into that deceptive sleep, actually believing they should simply sit by and watch the world decay; awaiting their reward with Him. Nothing short of Remnant liturgy!

Sendiil never called His children to be pacified robed fools. He was a God of action, and that was what General was called to now. They would pray, he thought, and if Sendiil gave them no answer they would move forward with the only plan they have.

He had asked for a desperate faith, but now he had no other option than desperation. The land was groaning, had been for years, but now the signs of the Creature’s infection were boiling across the land and it’s people. Now all there was to pray for was the chance to reverse these effects, more time to spread the Truth, spread the hope they had to offer.

***


Elias

Insert brilliant green eyes and tan skin and you have Elias. Continue reading

Blitz

The Keep Itsten, long abandoned had rustled the dust off and from its belly spawned a darkness no one could have anticipated. The land was falling, Kincaid knew that; but it was falling faster still. The Veran, demons he had only encountered on two occasions in his life; once as a child and again when one attacked his father, were now wildly aggressive and pouring out of the ancient fortress. Kincaid tried to plea with his mother, convince her of the impending danger but she had lost her will when the king died. Then, under the urgency of recent reports of attacks and the people looking to her she allowed Kincaid a meager unit to explore the threat.

Kincaid lost four of his five men at the Keep, and the fifth from grievous wounds after they returned. He clenched his teeth thinking back on it. If his father were here this would never have happened. But he wasn’t. There is nothing that can be done, she said. Though even now, he regretted his decision; and even more so if it was his last moments with her.

This was it, he thought. Whatever occurred tonight would change the path of everything.

Kincaid knelt before the din of battle, the reflection of shadows and men played on his blade. The ground was trampled and soaked with blood and sweat. He intended to give his fair share of sweat and blood before the night was over.

His father’s blade had fit perfectly in his hands, a master crafted longsword with balance and speed unlike any other he had held. He stood gripping it with both hands and marched towards the fray.

The attack occurred the night Kincaid returned. The Veran were using blitz tactics; strike, retreat, ambush, retreat. The archers stood with arrows knocked and pointing towards the entrance of the city. Since the Veran couldn’t be seen they would have to pierce them with arrows in order to have any idea where they were. Those defending the front line knelt to give the archers full view and rest even if for only a moment. Heavy breathing and the moans of men being frantically, and most often hopelessly treated for grievous wounds patterned the otherwise quiet night. They all waited.

Whispers spread as soon as Kincaid reached the front lines. Men squared their shoulders and tightened their grip on their weapons; moral was lifting. He gave a reassuring look to the soldier next to him, who he recognized immediately and returned a grim smile.

Kincaid whispered, “You’re our eyes archers, hit them with as many arrows as you can and we’ll do the rest.”

A hushed response came in unison.

Suddenly sharp scratches could be heard just outside the gates, everyone was tense. Kincaid leaned to the soldier he recognized and asked, “Do we know how many there are this time?”

“No sir, the first few attacks were all new after they retreated; but the last one we noticed they had already been hit with arrows. So we’re assuming they’re almost out if they’re sending their wounded in.”

“We can’t assume anything,” Kincaid said. “Is the Captain or Lieutenant here?”

“Yes sir, there is a team of archers in that building with him. He’s getting a birds eye view, an the Captain is assembling more troops.