The one about Tana TorneThe Dream of Tana Torne:
The water of the lake is unseasonably warm. It laps at her bare ankles and seeps into her white gown. Her left arm hangs heavily at her side, weighed down by a shield. In her right hand hangs a sword. It's so heavy that the tip dangles in the water. She's never really thought about these things, these armaments. How do warriors see with such helms tightly locked upon their heads? She shivers and looks back over her shoulder. Her mother and father are hugging each other, weeping. She wants to hold up her hand. She's terrified. The others are weeping and shouting in turns. Some are cursing her. She bites her lip until she tastes blood. Then she bites harder.
"Father of All, Father of Life and Light..." She whispers through sobs. The water is moving unnaturally, rippling away from a single spot about twenty feet out from her. She takes a step closer. The wet creeps up to her knees. "Smile down on this daughter of yours."
Her breath catches. The crowd on the shore moans. The demon has come to claim his reward.
An army has gathered. Several armies. They have arrayed themselves in the ruins of a burned out city. They eye each other warily. But mostly they gaze through the rainy air towards a battered but stoic stone keep built upon a rocky point jutting out into a lake. There are men atop the walls of the keep. They move furtively on their rounds, keeping low and quick so as not to offer an ambitious archers a target.
The armies wait. Their leaders stand before them, eyeing all the enemies they can identify, all around them. They curse the rain, and spit towards the keep. Their defiance is afforded an answer. A man-sized door within the great oaken doors of the keep is opened from within. A man steps out. He is dressed in a simple robe of dark blue. He is hooded. Another dressed exactly as he steps out behind him and then another and another and another. Twenty and five men present themselves upon the field before the keep. They stand in a perfect line, facing all the armies. They keep their hoods drawn.
The soldiers all around start as the mysterious, robed men suddenly drop to their left knees whilst drawing swords and touching the tips to the ground in perfect unison. The rain pours down, and they lower their heads, in respect it would seem.
Some of the warlords nerve themselves up and approach. They demand the surrender of the keep, of the food stores within.
The rain fills the silence afterwards.
The twenty-five raise their heads and let their hoods fall back. They are different faces, but all with eyes closed, all solemn as sleepers. Twenty-five voices speak the same words for answer to the warlords.
"We make way for no false kings. Her sacrifice is remembered. Her life forfeit. Her deed is our creed. You came in war. Leave in peace."
The warlords are stricken with anger and injured pride. They ride back to their lines, their enemies amongst the other armies forgotten. The impudence of this score and five men would be the death of the Sword Maiden's holdfast.
Nearly two thousand men charge inward.
Fifty eyes open and stare blankly back at onrushing death.
She shivers and swallows the coppery tasting blood. The demon rises up, a twisting, hateful column of murky water, with black holes for eyes.
With an effort she raises the shield which she took for Nathaniel. It laughs. It sounds just like a brook. It speaks some fell language and laughs again, almost to itself.
She swallows her fear for a moment, refusing to look back at her parents. She levels the sword she took for Tomas at the demon's chest.
With shakey voice: "I do this for no God. I do this for no gain to myself." The words are hers. The voice is hers. They are only half formed ideas. Hers. She's frightened of how right they feel in her.
"Take of the ugly helm, it does not become such boldness."
The voice is like oil, and a petulant child's whine. She almost obliges it. Then she thinks of that tiny child, Audra, who was tossed into the lake for this thing to savage. And then she spies the discontent in the demon.
"I have come at your demand, vile thing!" she cries. There is only fear and anger in her now. "I am hear by my own will."
It chuckles, and leans foward over her. It is enormous; tall as a young tree; thick as a three hundred year old oak. "A babe clad in a warrior's trappings. Quaint."
"I bring with me a shield for Nathaniel. whom you killed yesterday. A helm for Audra, whom you killed two days past. And a sword for Tomas, whom you killed three days ago." Her arm grew weary of holding the heavy old sword out towards the demon but she refused to waiver or let it down.
"You want to battle with me?" It loomed, looking ready to strike at any moment.
"I am here to destroy you, demon."
It laughed. "Battle."
The Paladins rose and took three steps forward. They raised their swords and met the charging armies. And they they broke them. No man that saw that moment and lived ever forgot what they saw. Without armor, withour archers or shields or even tactics, the twenty-five Paladins of the Sword Maiden raised their unremarkable blades and, shrugging off death blow after death blow, began to hack their way into these armies of cutthroats, savages, rapists, thieves and worse. Hack, smash, pound, bash, kick and slash. Men died. The Paladins did not.
Swords and maces, axes and pikes all cut deep and shattered bone. But nothing seemed to work on those men. Unlike their speech, they fought without harmony. They simply killed anything that came into range.
They gave no ground. The yielded not at all.
Some few lieutenants and leaders saw divine hand in this matter and called their men to retreat, though such was already transpiring.
When no enemies presented themselves for execution the Paladins lowered their swords and touched the tips to the ground. They waited there amidst bodies and weeping, injured men. No one dared come close.
Finally, the marched inside, leaving a trail of blood, a mix of their own and their enemies. They gates were secured behind them. They trudged through the muddy yard, past dozens of women, children and aged men, past stores of half rotten food and an overflowing potters field. At last they stopped, all in a line, within a stone hall. Their blood puddled at their feet. They knelt, eyes closed, swords sheathed. The healers went to work.
No one ever challenged the keep again.
She braced, knowing nothing of fighting. The demon lunged at her, frightfully inhuman arms of water reaching for her throat. She slashed with the weapon and then raised Nathaniel. The demon's face smashed into it, water cascading over it and splashing across Audra.
She lifted Tomas onto her shoulder, feeling such a fierce burn in her shoulder. She felt sharp claws digging into her sides, smelled something foul. Her feet left the ground.
"You foolish little meat. You think steel and resolve will stop us?"
She screamed. The talons wriggled into her, sinking between ribs. Her body convulsed, she kicked. It dropped her, laughing at her. She landed hard, on her side, mostly underwater. Nathaniel was wedged into the dirt. Audra was crooked, blinding her. Tomas...
She writhed as a great weight was pressed down on her, keeping her from coming up for air.
"No air!" she heard it clearly through the water. "No air. Die in pain."
She struggled, her free right hand groping for Tomas.
-Please... Please be there for me. For them all. -
"Eshar'Ektote." It laughed again. The water filling her mouth, nostrils and throat grew thick with silt or something like it. She gagged and fought the blackness creeping in from the edges of her obscured vision.
With a horrible, muted shriek she yanked him free of the mud and the grip. Something slipped. Her shoulder was an agony fit to teach her sides a lesson. The demon made a sound like a curse. It tried to wrench the shield off her arm, but only succeeded in pulled her up to the surface. She gasped, caught Audra in her free hand. Straightening the helm, she climbed to her feet and gazed back at her enemy. The demon was circling her, a pillar of water winding around her.
"Let me see you eyes, child."
She touched Audra. "I do not fear you." She could smell her blood intermingling with the filthy water.
She recoiled, throwing Nathaniel up just in time to catch the terrible claws from raking down her chest.
A glint of metal in the demon, a whirling blade. Tomas.
"I do not fear you," she repeated. "For so long as there are those like me you cannot win."
"Another drubbing, perhaps." It lunged at her again, and she jumped forward at it, thrusting her hand into the demon even as poisonous claws tore her back open. She grasped the blade by the hilt and turned it upwards, slicing through water.
It roared in anger or pain.
"My sacrifice is your weakness," she cried. She tore Tomas free of the demon's body, and swung it in a wide arc that severed one of its arms. It leapt back from her, diminishing to barely more than a man-sized thing of water, missing an arm.
She stabbed Tomas through its warding armand stopped the blade point just above the face.
It smiled at her.
"You can't win. You know that, don't you?"
She knew she was dying, her life's blood pouring out of her even as poison made it's way into her. "I know you won't live to see my failure."
"Ahh, that's what we like to see. Ignorant defiance."
She blinked at it from the safety of Audra.
It turned to look at the terrified onlookers on the shore of the lake. "I am but the first," it cried out loud. "Your precious world is corrupted."
"I will slay your kind to the last drop of your filthy hide and my blood," she promised.
It looked back at her, shaking its head in mock sadness. "Your kind kill their own for a chance to live but a day. You have not won. You cannot win. You have already lost."
"Liar!" she spat. "Deceiver and defiler."
"We are these things. We are these things because you are these things."
"Silence!" She pressed Tomas closer. It looked mildly unhappy with this.
"We have already won."
"No." She felt her knees shaking. Soon she would not be able to hold Tomas and Nathaniel up.
"Yes," it whispered.
"You and your kind will never harm any of my people again, is that understood?"
It laughed. "Kill me. Or don't. We'll never make such a promise."
She spat on it. For a moment, the spittle hung clear in the daylight; crimson with her blood. Then it impacted on the demon's chest. It writhed, nearly yanking Tomas from her hand as it tried to wipe the spittle away.
"And if I yield to you this day, will you go and never return to harm my people, nor any of your kind come here to harm them ever?"
It looked from where she spat upon it to her. Something unreadable in its eyes. It nodded.
"We will never come to this holy ground again. We will never harm your people here. For that, you must yield to me."
She yanked the sword free of its arm and stepped back. She stared at the thing for a second, and then sank to her knees, as much because she could no longer stand as because she had made her choice.
"I yield." She Tomas down and hugged Nathanield to her chest with the sword against the outside of the shield. Her head drooped, the bottom of Audra resting on Nathaniel and Tomas's pommel.
"We will honor this pact," the demon said from above her. "But there are many other kinds than mine." It laughed.
She nodded, wearily.
Created by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:29 AM
Last Modified by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:29 AM
Last Modified by Janna Oakfellow-Pushee at 05-28-14 10:29 AM