Chapter 10: Order from Chaos
Though his own student had been set upon, Butterfly did not throw himself headlong into the fray. He had noticed the gentleness the giant had used in placing MattJ to the ground before advancing on Mr Heretik and the hesitancy in the others. Had these been true foes, they would have attacked with reckless abandon the moment his party was within range, yet that had not been the case. Butterfly cautiously advanced toward Bossman, hands outstretched before him showing no signs of weapons or aggression towards the other man. Bossman responded in turn. Both men stopped about ten paces from one another as Butterfly spoke.
“If you were evil men, your intentions would be known to us by now. I sense no malice from you and seek to avoid an unnecessary confrontation. I have no desire to witness further bloodshed, especially if there is no reason for us to be at odds with one another. We saw an ally and friend in what appeared to be distress. We sought only to keep him from harm. Even as we speak, one of your number appears to be providing aid to him. If this is indeed your intention, then there is no call for conflict between us.”
Bossman studied the man’s words, gestures, and body language all the while. There was nothing to infer dishonesty or treachery. “Very well then, I will heed your words and trust my instinct towards you until I have reason to do otherwise. If we have no qualm with one another, I suggest we separate our allies before the damage is beyond repair.”
“Agreed.” Butterfly motioned to Hedkikr as Bossman simultaneously gestured towards Wristtwister. Across the plain, the two titans were exchanging blows with one another, neither using their full force as if they already knew they were engaged in a fool’s folly. The two giants were easily calmed & separated by their comrades.
Bossman, relieved at the thought of not having to enter into battle so soon after dealing with Raul’s horde extended his hand in a gesture of friendship to Butterfly, who clasped the man’s hand with both of his own and spoke. “To find an ally in such troubled times is a pleasant surprise. I was beginning to think madness had gripped all the world in its clutches. It is good to see my thoughts proven wrong.” Both men proceed to a small rock area nearby and exchange words privately for a bit to return to their respective groups a few moments later, both relieved and comfortable with the company at hand.
Bossman was the first to speak. “My brothers and I shall call you and yours friends as it seems we fight a common foe with similar intentions. Oldman, what is the condition of our would-be rescuer?”
“I have him stabilized enough to travel lightly. Even with the strength of my healing runes and incantations, he would have perished if not for his strength of will. Clearly his reputation has been well earned.” The White Wizard paused for a moment then continued with a different thought. “It occurs to me that we have been expected and that this…diversion was orchestrated to remove us from the arena. I am also convinced that its failure has not gone unnoticed by those same parties. I would suggest we retreat from this location as swiftly as possible. Now that I know my magicks have been tampered with, I can prevent its reoccurrence with a counter spell. Let us off to our destination in the hopes that there are more allies to align ourselves with to face the Dark Lord Perez.”
Both parties formed up along the cliff base, shielded from the heat of the afternoon sun, each exchanging words with their counterpart of the opposite team. During this all to brief period of peace, Oldman worked diligently to prepare a transportation spell which could no longer be tapped or misdirected by some unseen, outside influence. Butterfly had shared with the Bloodguard their mission to meet and join with Fisherman and Taison to protect Grumbleweed, believing strongly that the small coastal village would be Raul Perez’s foothold on the main continent from which to launch his main assault.
Leagues away, seated on a slender rocky outcropping, lost in astral thought, the hermit sorcerer Schanne searched for any signs of the Dark Lord Raul Perez’s advance but found none. Inconceivably, some unimaginably strong force was blocking even his gifted perceptions. What power could be such that it could deny him access to that which he sought? He had taken the measure of Raul’s best sorcerers and found them wanting so clearly this could not be of their doing but what other power could there be? Had Raul allied himself with a force so omnipotent that it could challenge even his might?
Now was time for reflection and careful planning. Few of this world or any other had mastered the level of arcane mysticism Schanne had acquired. Of those few, none were fond of the gentler ways of light and preservation save Schanne. The others were deeply set in the ways of the dark ones. Evil, destruction, and a loathing of all things pure drove these maleficent beings to the heights of their power. Schanne saw himself as the barrier between those beings and the world he so desperately fought to protect over the centuries. If Raul had managed to ally himself with one of these forces, it was a desperate time indeed.
The wind screamed like a banshee as it flew past the tallest spire of the Aesirian king’s castle. Victor had retreated to his library to find some fleeting moment of peace from his troubled thoughts. The library was a huge, domed room with shelves of dust covered tomes elevating as high as the tallest trees in the land during the warm season with naught but long, creaking wooden ladders made weak by the ravages of time and temperature to access the highest levels. The ceiling was painted as the morning sky and the room was lit as well as the closely spaced, pungently smelling, oil filled lanterns which crackled and sputtered as they burned, could light it. This was his refuge. During the few instances in his life where even he need escape from time to time, this was his chosen sanctum.
Lost in his thoughts and his studies, the good king failed to notice the soft hiss of a worn panel near the ceiling being angled ever so gently out of place, creating a tiny opening at its base. Through the opening, a thin, brass colored, tubular rod began to show through. With a noiseless puff, a soft cloud of fine silver mist began to fill the air above the shelves. The mist wafted and danced in manner closely resembling that of a serpent moving across the shifting desert sands. As it moved, it grew in all directions, congealing in some places and growing thinner in others, all unbeknownst to the somber figure engrossed below it. The spectral mist settled in the air a few meters above the king’s brooding head shooting out in all directions toward the lanterns lighting the hushed, halcyon room. In a moment, all save one of the spattering lanterns, whose flame seemed to burned much brighter, were extinguished.
Victor leapt from the sturdy, high backed chair, rolling across the timeworn table, ending in a crouch facing the last lantern, sword drawn and ready. As he scanned the room, the shadows appeared to dance with a life all their own. Was this some trick of the eye? Had he somehow been drugged in his lack of cognizance? No, he was certain he wits were still about him and that what he witnessed was indeed no falsehood rendered by clouded senses. Those baleful shadows did with a certainty, possess some lurking sentience. Victor, remaining low to the polished marble floors, began to laggardly move sideways to the location where the entrance should still be if the laws of this world still applied.
“Why do you wisssssh to flee me oh great warrior king? Have you no desssssire for an audience at thissss hour? Doesss the great king fear an audience with one who merely ssseekssss hissss company? We have traveled far to meet with the king of iccce and sssnow. Oh pleassssse great king, will you not entertain ussss?” The voice was as the grating of steel across rock, hollow, deep, and rasping, echoing as if from the depths of some dank, other worldly abyss. Victor rose, planted his feet firmly, strengthened his grip on the leather wrapped hilt of his double sided broadsword, and braced himself for whatever would come next.
"The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be."