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Cleansing the East

StoriesbyJurixe Apr 4th, 2013 44 Never
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  1.  
  2.  
  3. The dying sun's rays filtered through the crimson fog around the City of Evil, providing no more than a faint illumination as the swirling mists smothered most of the light. Towering black mountains added to the general gloomy aura, their dark bulk seeming to suck the brightness out of the air. It was just enough, however, for the curious group of individuals assembled in front of the iron portcullis to see by.
  4.  
  5. There were seven of them, each quite different from the other. In the centre was a pale Rajamala of moderate height and mismatched eyes of deep emerald and milky white, surveying the room as he shuffled a few glowing Tarot cards in his hands. Though appearing physically frail and evidently half-blind, the deferential way that the others stood around him clearly defined him as the leader of the group. On his left was a figure shrouded in black robes, unimposing except for the steed that it rode upon - a powerful black stallion wreathed in flickering, ethereal green flames. Another Rajamala stood on the right, a contrast in black fur and chocolate eyes as he ran a thumb over the gleaming dirk in his hands. A large green Dragon was present, stirring up periodic gusts of wind as he flexed his wings; next to it a frog-like Grook, looking particularly diminutive as he practised forms of Tekura next to the Dragon; and finally a pair of lithe Mhuns, a young male and female that bore an incredibly striking resemblance to each other with their dark hair and distinctive silver-grey eyes.
  6.  
  7. No one spoke as they sharpened and calibrated their weapons, refilled their vials and envenomed their arrows. Finally, the leader straightened and nodded slightly to the group, making a beckoning motion as he spoke in a deep voice.
  8.  
  9. "Finish up the last of your preparations, and follow me now. Be ready to leave."
  10.  
  11. Immediately, most activity ceased as each of them made their final adjustments, falling into step one by one behind the white Rajamala.
  12.  
  13. Green flames flickered in the corner of his vision as the hooded figure cantered up next to him. "I take it we head to the Jewel as per usual, Taranes?"
  14.  
  15. The Rajamala nodded slightly. "As is routine, Syuven." He closed his eyes and concentrated, extending his mind's eye until he could sense the group of gathered people at the edge of the lush valley. Opening his eyes, he frowned. "It seems the heathens of Light expect us."
  16.  
  17. A low laugh issued from within the dark hood, decidedly masculine. "Let them. No amount of preparation will save them now."
  18.  
  19. Taranes's frown disappeared as he grinned, the expression twisted with the same bloodlust that swirled in his one clear emerald eye. "From ashes to ashes. That is the way." He turned to the assembled group behind him, all waiting expectantly with similar looks of anticipation on their faces.
  20.  
  21. "Get ready. We move now."
  22.  
  23. He withdrew his deck of Tarot cards, and selected one decorated with the image of the celestial universe. The card began to glow with energy as he rubbed two fingers on its surface, and he flung it abruptly at the ground. Instantly, a shimmering map of Sapience rose up before him, entire cities, forests and villages visible upon it.
  24.  
  25. Taranes's gaze darted to the pristine buildings of white marble depicted on the southeast corner of the map. Faint, scrawling golden letters floated above them, spelling out a name - Shallam, Jewel of the East. With a sardonic curl of his lip, Taranes pressed his hand against the letters, and the map seemed to melt around the group, enfolding them in a blinding blaze of magic.
  26.  
  27. =======================================================================================================
  28.  
  29. When the brightness faded, the group found themselves standing in the middle of the fertile Pash Valley, lush green hills rolling away from them into the distance as the sparkling Pachacacha river bubbled nearby. With nothing to obscure the sun's rays, the orange light streamed freely over the grass, lending an ethereal red-gold glow to the tranquil backdrop.
  30.  
  31. There was no time to stop and admire the scenery, however. Turning his back to the river, Taranes began barking out orders almost the minute the valley came into focus. "They're coming. Merran, block the east path." The black Rajamala nodded wordlessly and stepped purposefully onto the path, planting himself right in the middle of the road to block the path of the oncoming defenders.
  32.  
  33. "Taranes, they're stopping at the edge of the valley. Scared of us, no doubt," the green Dragon rumbled scornfully, flexing his claws as his saucer-sized eyes glared at the distant group. "Should we rush them?"
  34.  
  35. "No, Solas." The feline tilted his head slightly, looking thoughtful. As he surveyed his small army, he seemed to come to a conclusion. "No, we won't run straight into them. But we will shoot them from afar."
  36.  
  37. Everyone nodded in acquiescence, some of them sheathing swords and dirks in favour of bows and arrows. "Right. I can see the knight Ilian there. He's likely to be leading them - if we can take him out, they'll scatter like the mindless ants they are." Lips curled and eyes flashed in anticipation at his words, and he smiled in satisfaction, adrenaline humming through his own veins. Raiding the hapless servants of Good was a pastime that never failed to thrill him, even though he had indulged countless times over the two decades he had been Ashtan's Minister of War. There was just...something about watching an entire city be completely, mercilessly crushed under their boot heels that he found impossible to resist.
  38.  
  39. "Syuven, Donec, you have your Baalzadeens?" The hooded figure and the male Mhun both nodded, the latter reaching out to stroke the nightmarish creature of blood-red skin and poisonous black barbs that stood behind him in an almost loving fashion. "Good, you know what to do. If they get close enough, try to beckon them into our group. If not, use your soulspears." Taranes's gaze rested momentarily on the glowing spear in Syvenar's clawed hand before he turned aside, continuing to bark orders.
  40.  
  41. "Solas, breathstream." The green Dragon snorted and stirred a gust of air with his wings. "Jariel, Merran, use those meteor arrows." Sleek bows strung and drawn taut in identical poses, the black Rajamala and the silver-eyed Mhun girl nodded to him. "Mizann, do you have enough kai energy built up?" The Grook concentrated for a moment, then inclined his bulbous head in assent.
  42.  
  43. "Perfect." Taranes turned to face the shadows crowded around the edge of the valley. A smirk curled his lip, revealing the glint of a fang. "Then let the bloodbath...begin."
  44.  
  45. In a swift motion, he selected another card from his deck, this time one printed with the symbol of a star, and threw it high above him in the air with a deafening roar of challenge. The high-flying card caught fire as it flew through the sky, streaking towards the tiger-riding knight at the forefront of the defenders. Joining it were two blazing meteor arrows, a perfectly controlled stream of sizzling green acid, and next to him Mizann crushed the empty air with his fists, grimacing with the effort of mentally crushing the knight.
  46.  
  47. The white Rajamala growled in satisfaction as he watched the combined force of the burning projectiles, acid stream and the mental crush descend on the defending knight all at once. A young Priestess next to him bid her angel surround the knight with a protective aura, but only after he had taken the worst of the blows. Taranes narrowed his eyes slightly in displeasure.
  48.  
  49. He turned back to face the group, still busy attacking the knight. "Right," he shouted, trying to make himself heard over the din of whistling arrows and cries from the opposing force. "I'm going to lust that interfering Priestess here with my doppleganger. You know what to do."
  50.  
  51. Not even waiting for a response, he summoned his doppleganger, a shadow creature that took on his exact appearance, and removed a card from his deck - one with a picture of two lovers drawn upon it. He charged it quickly by rubbing two fingers on it, and handed it to the doppleganger. "The Priestess," he murmured to it, and the doppleganger disappered with a nod of its head.
  52.  
  53. Another meteor arrow flew past him, the heat from it scorching his face as he drew out another star-engraved card and threw it in the knight's general direction, but he was busy concentrating on his link with his doppleganger. He felt the almost silent 'swish' as the doppleganger flicked the card at the unsuspecting Priestess even as he withdrew a card etched with the image of an empress, throwing it to the ground just as her eyes lit up with unnatural lust for him.  
  54.  
  55. A rectangular gateway opened up in thin air before him, and his laugh echoed through the portal as the hapless Priestess was drawn unresisting into the middle of their group. Instantly, the raiders turned on her, painful Monk combos, poisonous Serpent bites, crushing Dragon claws, before the camus venom in Merran's fangs finally proved too much for her as she turned pale and dropped to the floor, dead.
  56.  
  57. With a growl of triumph, Solas swiped the head clean off the fresh corpse with a wickedly curved claw, tilting his draconic head back and tossing the severed orb into his enormous green maw as he crunched down. Taranes had no time to appreciate the sentiment, though; Jariel cried out in pain and lowered her bow as crackling streams of lightning and fire shot out of the air, thundering through her slender body. "A Cataclysm vibe!" she cried.
  58.  
  59. Quickly, he charged a card emblazoned with the image of a priestess and placed it on top of her head, the card extending into a column of healing golden light that enveloped her completely. However, the streams of fire and lightning continued to strike her through the invisible portal, and even though he was healing her as fast as he could, he could see that she was weakening.
  60.  
  61. Syuven's commanding voice cut through the chaos of battle with the ease of a trained general. "Head to the river, Naga," he told Jariel, and obediently the Mhun dropped her bow with a clatter and dove smoothly into the rippling waters, narrowly escaping another scintilla of burning light.
  62.  
  63. Once Jariel was momentarily out of harm's way, Taranes wheeled around and closed his eyes, searching furiously for the culprits. The Cataclysm vibe was a particularly potent vibration, he knew, one that required three Magi to imbue. If he could just find the Magi that held the vibration...
  64.  
  65. More streaks of lightning rocketed into Mizann now, the Grook grimacing but bearing the pain stoically even as Jariel surfaced from the river, dripping dark hair clinging to her face. Just then, the Rajamala's mind's eye fell upon a white-robed female mage, elemental staff in one hand, silver tuning fork in another. The other mages were grouped around her, staves pointed at some invisible target in the air. It had to be her.
  66.  
  67. He reached behind into the pack slung across his shoulders, withdrawing a large, deep red boomerang. "We're moving!" he shouted behind him. "Pick up your weapons and follow me!"
  68.  
  69. His party followed swiftly behind him, fanned out into an inverse 'V' shape so that they could keep attacking even as they moved. The streaks of elemental power were growing more forceful as the defense group became emboldened, and despite his formidable strength Mizann was clearly deteriorating, every new blast of power searing his mottled skin. When they were close enough, the raiders broke formation, Merran and Jariel running lightly to the front to block the path as Taranes retreated into the group. Quickly, the white Rajamala aimed and flung the boomerang in one smooth motion, headed in the direction of the defense party.
  70.  
  71. The curious weapon spun away from his grasp, and he smiled in satisfaction as it curved around the defenders, hooked the Magi neatly around the waist and dropped the screaming woman right in the middle of the raiders. This time, the ensuing melee ended in a joint effort - Solas swept his thick tail under her legs, causing her to fall; Syuven moved in, urging his daemonic stallion to trample viciously on her limp form, her bones cracking ominously as they shattered under the animal's weight; and finally, with a diabolical laugh, Donec reached down and brutally tore her sternum out of her chest, blood and gore streaming down his fist as he savagely impaled her mutilated corpse upon the bone with a scream of delight.
  72.  
  73. Almost instantly, the elemental assaults upon Mizann ceased as the vibrations dispersed with the death of their spinner, and the Grook breathed a sigh of relief as he gulped down more health elixir. Brief, triumphant smiles were exchanged, but they soon faded as Taranes looked over at the growing defense party.
  74.  
  75. "There are more of them," a raspy voice said, and Taranes nodded to Merran in acknowledgement. "What now?"
  76.  
  77. Just then, Syuven galloped up, the burning emerald flames around his steed throwing an eerie green cast over his face, now free of the hood. "I can have my Baalzadeen beckon them into our party. That way we would be able to fight less people, and on our own terms," he suggested.
  78.  
  79. Before Taranes could reply, a noise at the front made him whip his head around just in time to see Donec trying to force his way past Merran and Jariel, both straining to hold him back. The Mhun's grey eyes were glazed, as if hypnotised, reflecting the angelic white light that hovered above the heads of the defenders.
  80.  
  81. "It seems they thought of it first," Syuven said drily, even as Mizann's eyes clouded over next to them and he joined Donec in trying to push past the two Serpents.
  82.  
  83. The Rajamala frowned, annoyance creasing his brow. "So they want a fight? Fine. We'll give them a fight." He turned to the group. "Listen up, here's what we're going to do. Solas, Syuven, keep Mizann and Donec under control while Merran and I transform. We move on my signal."
  84.  
  85. With a well-practised synchronicity, the team switched roles. Syuven's large demonic stallion easily blocked the path, bolstered by Solas's draconic figure as Merran and Jariel stepped aside. Taranes and Merran then closed their eyes, brows furrowed in concentration as a deep blue light gradually enveloped them, their bodies lengthening and growing dramatically as the transformation began.
  86.  
  87. "Ashaxeiiiiii!" They cried in unison, beseeching the ancient leader of Dragons for her arcane power, and a distant thunderous roar answered them. The two Rajamala were now nearly unrecognisable as their bulk continued to increase, shimmering scales replacing thick fur, serpentine tails sprouting quickly from their hindquarters. As the blue light faded, they lifted their heads and screamed in triumph, the exuberant sound ringing around the valley - the lithe felines were gone, and in their place stood two towering blue Dragons, complementing Solas's green bulk.
  88.  
  89. Mizann and Donec stopped struggling to push past Syuven and Solas, both looking slightly dazed as the faraway Priest abandoned his attempts at beckoning them with his angel. Taranes looked over at them briefly, making sure they were possessed of all their faculties before he spoke. "Now the real fight can begin," he declared, his deep voice resonant with dark power as Merran stretched luxuriantly beside him.
  90.  
  91. "We're going to engage them directly."
  92.  
  93. At his unexpected announcement, his party members stared back at him, disbelief etched on their faces. "Ascendant Taranes...we're outnumbered almost two to one," said Donec hesitantly.
  94.  
  95. "Yeah, Taranes. It's pretty much suicide," rumbled Merran, next to him.
  96.  
  97. Taranes merely smirked, revealing twin rows of serrated, inch-long fangs. "Half of that group are clueless weaklings who don't know one end of a sword - or staff - from another. Besides, I doubt they will engage us directly. It will be to our advantage if we engage them first."
  98.  
  99. Mizann chuckled, stretching his long amphibian fingers. "What's a fight without the risk of death, eh?"
  100.  
  101. Familiar bloodlust gleamed in Taranes's saucer-sized eyes as he snorted in amusement. "Precisely."
  102.  
  103. All business now, he drew his scaly bulk up regally, surveying the assortment of talent before him as he spoke. "We're going to split up, but by extension we will also hopefully split them up, and it will be much worse for them if they do."
  104.  
  105. "I-" He cut himself off mid-sentence as his eyes glazed over slightly, staring into space, and everyone looked at him with concern. A few tense minutes passed before the Dragon's eyes refocused, and his mouth split in a wicked smirk. "Excellent. We have a new contributor to our cause."
  106.  
  107. No sooner had the words left his mouth than a piercing sound was heard cleaving through the air, a precursor to the vibrating sonic portal that materialised before them. Everyone tensed, unsure whether friend or foe would step through; then a tall Tsol'aa emerged, clad in black robes that draped loosely off his lanky frame, elemental staff clutched in one hand.
  108.  
  109. Merran relaxed visibly, uttering a deep, rumbling laugh. "So glad you could join us, Darr."
  110.  
  111. Darr turned to him, his mismatched blue and red eyes gleaming with malevolence. "Any excuse to spill Shallamese blood, my friend."
  112.  
  113. "With Darr here, the plan should work twice as well," Taranes said, and everyone turned their attention back to him. "Syuven, we're going to move forward a little. Lay gravehands down along the path in front of us - that should hinder them a bit." The Apostate inclined his head, one hand on the shoulder of his nightmarish Baalzadeen.
  114.  
  115. "Darr, lay retardation vibrations in those rooms, that'll further slow them down." The mage withdrew an opaque, wine-red crystal disc from the deep sleeve of his robe, and with a twist of his fingers sent it spinning rapidly into the air, where it hovered next to him at shoulder height. "Remember to erect an icewall, too. Donec, Mizann, you two stay with him. Keep doing what you were doing before." The Mhun and the Grook nodded slightly in understanding.
  116.  
  117. The blue wyrm swung his reptilian head to face the other Mhun twin, who was looking up at him with something akin to awe on her face. "Jariel, stay behind them and just snipe with your bow. They will try to kill you first because you're the youngest, and compared to us, relatively weak still." She nodded, accepting his assessment, and drew a red-feathered arrow from her quiver.
  118.  
  119. "Solas, Merran, you're with me. We'll fly above them and rain hellfire on them, make them wish they'd never been born," he snarled, and the two wyrms growled their approval.
  120.  
  121. "When they're trapped, target priority is this: Kill off Ilian, and the rest of the Magi." A corner of Taranes's lip curled, his rows of razor-sharp teeth gleaming wickedly. "After that...fire at will."
  122.  
  123. His words were met with a chorus of approving snickers, bringing a dark smile to his draconic face. "You know what to do. Let's move." Extending his giant wings, he began to flap them quickly, rising effortlessly into the air.
  124.  
  125. Following his lead, Merran and Solas spread their wings and flew up to join him, the three dragons circling high above. Abruptly, they banked and soared in the direction of the defense party. Below them, the rest of the party ran or galloped across the valley, stopping only when the dragons halted above the peak of a sloping hill.
  126.  
  127. Syuven surveyed the area, then nodded in approval. "This is an excellent vantage point. Now hurry. They will come when they see Taranes is not with us." His stallion reared and neighed, green flames flickering about its form before he wheeled it around and cantered on a little way towards the defending group. Darr followed behind him, spinning a few more of the disc-shaped crystals as he went.
  128.  
  129. Jariel stepped back a little way, reaching into a pouch slung at her waist and withdrawing a handful of glittering dust. She threw it over herself, and her body seemed to vanish into thin air as the dust cascaded over her. Muffled footfalls were heard leading away from the group as she searched for a good place to snipe from.
  130.  
  131. Mizann frowned as he furrowed his brow slightly in concentration. "I'm running low on kai energy," he said to Donec, who nodded and reached out a hand to touch him. The Grook gritted his teeth as his flesh withered under Donec's touch, but he felt also the accompanying surge in kai energy derived from the attack. Donec repeated this until Mizann began to tremble with all the pent-up energy, muttering a low "That's enough," as he concentrated, preparing to harness the potent energy. The young Mhun nodded his dark head and stepped back, spinning the glowing soulspear in his other hand a little agitatedly. The waiting was always the worst part.
  132.  
  133. Just then, Syuven galloped up onto the hilltop, Darr close behind him. The minute the Tsol'aa reached the peak, he whirled and muttered an incantation under his breath, summoning a large wall of towering ice spikes between them and the defenders. "They're coming," he announced calmly.
  134.  
  135. Everyone tensed in anticipation. Darr conjured up a pool of clear water, which shimmered and rippled upon his command before it smoothed out, turning into a scrying mirror that revealed the oncoming forces. They were advancing quickly, with the knight Ilian riding in the lead upon a snarling Baarian tiger, brandishing twin rapiers that flashed dangerously in the light.
  136.  
  137. "Remember," Syuven instructed. "If you get the chance, kill him first."
  138.  
  139. "They're almost here. I'm going to join Taranes - drop a few holocausts on them, that should be interesting." With a smirk, the Tsol'aa stepped back and mouthed another incantation. A strong wind whipped up around them, ruffling the hair and clothes of all assembled before it lifted Darr's gaunt form effortlessly into the air, joining the circling Dragons.
  140.  
  141. The remaining members of the party watched eagerly as the defending troops rushed towards them. When they reached an innocuous-looking piece of grassland, rotten, skeletal hands burst abruptly from the ground, clawing and grasping wildly for the feet of the adventurers, successfully hindering many of the surprised defenders.
  142.  
  143. Those who were not trapped by the clutching hands found that they seemed to move slower than usual, as if time itself had decided to slow down. To the eyes of the raiders, it looked as if the defenders were moving in exaggerated slow motion as they attempted valiantly to press on. Some decided to tumble in the direction of the hill instead, but found no respite from both the retardation vibrations and the gravehands, for Syuven and Darr had been thorough in their preparations.
  144.  
  145. "It's working," Donec said with barely suppressed glee, his dark head bent over the pool. "Look! There they are now."
  146.  
  147. And indeed, even as the raiders watched, three massive shadows began to circle above the troubled party, some of the Shallamese pausing in their futile struggles to peer upwards at the looming figures. Seconds later, a potent rain of ice-infused droplets and streams of acidic venom cascaded from the sky upon the hapless defenders, a combination of both the special breath properties of the blue and green Dragons. The fighters grimaced and writhed in agony, throwing their shields up and attempting to move out of range, but the gravehands and the retardation vibe made that an exceedingly difficult task. Several of the weaker fighters perished under the brutal assault, but the priests in their group quickly gathered up the corpses of their fallen comrades and embraced them gently, breathing new life into their bodies.
  148.  
  149. And then it happened.
  150.  
  151. Large globes of pure, swirling elemental fire fell out of the sky upon the Shallamese, pulsing madly with angry red light before they exploded one by one into a fiery conflagration, setting ablaze all who were unlucky enough to be standing close by. Horrifying screams of agony rent the air as the overwhelming heat melted the flesh right off the bones of the victims, the assault too sudden and too intense to defend against; the group of raiders atop the hill exulted as their deathsenses tingled wildly, feeling the lives of the defenders snuffed out en masse.
  152.  
  153. Utter chaos reigned as the remaining Good fighters abandoned all pretense of attack and scrambled madly to get out of the way, terror in their eyes as they struggled to escape the doubly-effective grip of the gravehands and the retardation vibration.
  154.  
  155. Syuven pointed a gold ring at the wall of ice that separated them from the Shallamese, and a lash of fire sped out from the innocent-looking accessory, striking the wall and melting it instantly.
  156.  
  157. "Now it's our turn."
  158.  
  159. Upon command, his Baalzadeen turned and began beckoning in all directions, and sure enough two Paladins wandered up to them, their eyes glazed. A red-feathered arrow whistled past and struck one in the throat, causing him to crumple in a paralysed heap before Mizann picked his limp form up triumphantly and brought his knee up harshly against the small of his back, shattering his spine and killing him instantly.
  160.  
  161. In the next breath, the Grook spun fluidly to face the second Paladin, raising his arms above his head. A strange blue light began to emanate from between his palms, crackling with wild power. Before the poor Paladin could react, Mizann channeled the light energy towards him and struck him down, proceeding to snap all four of his limbs as easily as if they were dry twigs and eliciting a scream of agony. Then it was Syuven's turn; once more the Apostate reached down towards the victim's prone form, brutally ripping his sternum clear out of his chest and impaling the broken corpse upon it with a laugh of pure malevolence.
  162.  
  163. Already the rest of his team were busy felling the remaining defenders, Donec hurling a soulspear into the chest of a helpless Magi, the glowing tip burying itself deep in the Magi's chest; another Runewarden stabbing wildly at Merran with his toothpick-like rapiers, which the Dragon lazily flicked away with a swipe of his wicked claws; and there, a Priest trying to creep away unseen, only to have Jariel materialise out of nowhere to plunge her needle-pointed dirk deep into his back.
  164.  
  165. The slaughter was relentless even as night crept slowly upon the Pash Valley. By the time all was silent, opportunistic vultures were already beginning to land around the stomach-churning carnage strewn across the valley, the darkness helping to hide the worst of the blood and gore.
  166.  
  167. Taranes landed with a 'thud' next to the bloodied form of a knight, followed by Merran, Solas and Darr as the raiders congregated. He glanced over at the crumpled form, and frowned slightly as he looked back at his group.
  168.  
  169. "Ilian yet lives. Did I not say to kill him first?" he asked, his voice kept carefully neutral.
  170.  
  171. Donec coughed slightly and shuffled his feet, looking uncomfortable. "Apologies, Ascendant, it appears the soulspear I threw was not quite sufficient to slay him." His twin shot him a disgruntled glance, but said nothing.
  172.  
  173. "It doesn't matter, he's nearly dead anyway. Look at him," said Mizann dismissively, and indeed, the knight was a hair's breadth away from succumbing to the embrace of Lord Thoth. "I can deal with him if you want."
  174.  
  175. Taranes considered for a moment, then shook his head. "No. Let me."
  176.  
  177. His body glowed for a brief instant as the hulking form of the blue Dragon melted away, leaving behind his old Rajamala self. He bent down to the knight, withdrawing three Tarot cards inscribed with an image of the moon from his tarot deck. Charging them quickly with a two-fingered rub, he threw them one by one towards the Rajamalan knight, the gesture almost gentle. Ilian groaned feebly and convulsed slightly in response, his head thrashing from side to side.
  178.  
  179. Jariel and Donec watched intently, but the older members merely shook their heads. "Really, Taranes...a single stab is all it would take," said Merran.
  180.  
  181. "I know, but there's no fun in that," Taranes replied, a small smirk curving his lips as he passed his hand slowly over the feline's eyes. The choked howl that issued from the wounded knight's throat was a little louder this time, his body jerking and twitching weakly as he fought to stave off the whispers of madness.
  182.  
  183. "No...no...damn you...you bastards...you...will never win..." he gasped.
  184.  
  185. At this, Taranes chuckled. "Look around you, proud knight. It does not take a scholar to see the winner here."
  186.  
  187. "Fools..." the knight choked, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. "Death is but fleeting...our spirit...you...will never crush..."
  188.  
  189. The smirk on Taranes's face widened. "Ironically, that is precisely what I intend to do by killing you."
  190.  
  191. Leaning forward slightly, he put both hands on either side of Ilian's head, staring intently into his eyes with his one good emerald eye. Summoning all his learning of the occult mysteries, a ghostly ocher light shot from his eye into Ilian's as he channeled the forbidden knowledge straight into the knight's mind, weak from savage afflictions and heavy blood loss.
  192.  
  193. Ilian's head jerked backwards as his entire body arched violently upwards, his helpless cry magnified by some strange occult power, resounding for the world to hear. "No! It cannot be true! I cannot accept it! I beg of you to make it stop!"
  194.  
  195. Taranes's green eye gleamed with dark amusement. "As you wish, sir Knight."
  196.  
  197. Forcefully, he thrust the palm of his hand towards Ilian's head, a brilliant orange light bursting forth from his hand. Ilian threw his head back in one long, anguished scream, the high-pitched sound of pure agony making even the normally unflappable Syuven wince a little before the knight's body seized up, and he exhaled his last, slumping upon the grass and moving no more.
  198.  
  199. The white Rajamala picked up one of the knight's winged rapiers as he straightened, briefly admiring its razor edge before he swung it down to hack at the neck of the corpse. Again and again he swung, until finally steel cut through flesh and he held the bloodied head up triumphantly by one pointed ear. A chorus of appreciative laughs and chuckles from the assembled group echoed in response.
  200.  
  201. "And thus," he intoned, "Sapience shall know the futility of the East in resisting the dominance of the North and West. Well done, all of you."
  202.  
  203. He bent his head slightly to them, and as if on cue, each of them bowed respectfully back to him. Without another word, the group dispersed, some of them heading North, some of them heading West, yet all savoured the same memory as they begun their long trip home - the lush greenery of the Pash Valley, stained an intoxicating crimson by spilt heathen blood; decorated by the rotting corpses of all who would dare oppose the combined wills of Evil and Chaos.
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