The caravan was making its way across the dry cracked earth. Not much to see in these parts except dust, sand and rock. Occasionally an inhabitant of the desert could be seen skittering across the ground and into a burrow or underneath a rock as the beat of hooves pass them.
The nomads of the caravan were used to the heat and knew the desert was filled with more than sand. Their journeys took them far and wide, however they were heading somewhere special this time. The Festival of Travelling Lights. The Festival marked the choosing of the new Master of Caravans.
Many were curious about who would be chosen. The previous Master of Caravans wasn’t in the position for long and many had some trepidation for the coming choice.
Blint was walking alongside some of the pack animals deep in thought. His mind was thinking of the festival and the things he might see there. So many different things to eat and drink, so many things to do. He wanted to try them all! As he walked he occasionally kicked rocks to the side of the path they were following. As he put some more force into another kick to see how far one would travel, he noticed something moving in the distance, parallel to their own path. It formed a large line, much like a caravan. Colours of grey purple and black seemed to shimmer in the distance like a mirage before collecting into a more solid image. It seemed to be a caravan much like their own but far bigger, containing many wagons pulled along by big bulky animals.
Blint wondered if there were normally such big caravans at the Festival, but before he could show the line of travellers to someone else, the figures shimmered again and were gone.
Blint stared after the line of travellers before blinking a few times and going to get a few sips of water. It was obviously a mirage.
– Written by Rushka Venter –
June 26, 104AV
5am, a large dale near Trishden
Rusty axles creaked and overladen wagons groaned in the crisp morning mist. Oxen bellowed, whips cracked and banners snapped in the wind. From all the cardinal points they had come; adventurers, mercenaries and the armies of the noble duchies of Meadal. Thousands of soldiers, servants and engineers made up the multi-racial throng. Though they clustered into groups by race or faction their goal was the same. Whether for financial gain or honour or simply for the good of Meadal all had come to ensure the fall of the Von Rindembanes.
The mountainous borders of Bleakmire loomed ahead shrouded in dark and foreboding forests. Within the day they would be in that nightmarish tangle. New paths would have to be cut for the siege train and the endless supply wagons. A solitary horn blast echoed across the gathered host, soon echoed by countless other horns and pipes. With the sound of thousands of pounds of metal grating armoured soldiers rose into their marching positions. Faction heads rallied their troops and mercenaries shouldered arms as they joined into the rag-tag army. Nested in its centre like precious treasures was the siege train itself; 15 battering rams with heads of steel and iron, 24 ballista to hew down the men of Bleakmire and towering above it all like Colossi were 3 massive trebuchets.
They had been assembled in the previous days so as to be ready for battle at the end of the final slog. These trebuchets would be the anvil on which the army would break Bleakmire’s citadels. The rams could break down lesser gates, the ballista could cut swathes of bloody destruction through armies but only the three wooden giants could hurl boulders weighing as much as a ton almost a mile through the sky and send them hurtling into walls to shatter them like flimsy straw. The Trebuchet had been divided along with other siege weapons between the Vanguard, Main Body and Rear-guard. They would have to be protected if the force was to be successful.
By the time all the forces had gathered, assorted Faction Leaders, Dukes, Duchesses, War chiefs and Mercenary Captains all vying for the most forward position the column stretched for nearly two miles; solid living mass of flesh and steel. The sun broke over the horizon, its rays glittering off over 30 000 Spearheads, Swords and suits of armour. Nearly 10 000 supply wagons, piled with feed for the livestock, weapons for soldiers and tools and wood for the sappers and siege engineers trailed behind the soldiers. Further back yet the bellowing of thousands of heads of cattle and the bleating of nearly double that amount of goats and sheep was nearly deafening. This was an army like none gathered during the lifetime of those present. It drank rivers dry and ate entire fields. This was the might of Meadal gathered. This was Bleakmire’s doom.
(Written by Duane Havenga)
Grubb set down a plate before Bismark, a Bleakmire noble, laden with so much food that he would not even be able to finish it all. The nobility and other desecrated citizens ate so well while the peasants starved or caught the plague. It infuriated Grubb, but he hid that emotion from his “masters” while he posed as a servant.
Those who did not bear the marks of desecration were treated as little more than dirt if you were lucky. Then there were those unfortunate enough to catch the plague. They would soon be covered in a bright red itchy rash. After that it’s a slow descent into the depths of pain before you die.The desecrated nobility did nothing about it, because they were mysteriously immune to its sinister infections.
Acting as servant for the nobility often got his true masters good information when the noble lips were loose due to large amounts of drink.
“I’ve even been to one of the 13’s towers on an investment venture! We’ve got quite a lot of investmentments across Bleakmire.” Bismark boasted to his guest. “That’s extraordinary!” the young women replied. She was clearly looking to court this young man to marry into a rich family.
“I heard that the 13 do all sorts of interesting research. Did you see anything interesting whilst you were in there?” she asked, trying to pry out some interesting tidbit of information she could boast about to her friends.
“Well,” Bismark said after taking another swig of his drink and lowering his voice, “they were making some amazing things down in the catacombs below the tower.” They both laughed loudly as if it was an inside-joke.
After Grubb’s duties as a servant he went out into town. He approached a hooded figure in the downtown area of the city handed the figure a note and continued out of town. He was heading toward one of the 13’s towers. He needed to confirm what they were making inside the catacombs. Luckily for Grubb, he knew of a few ways into the tower.
He approached the tower with caution. The guards and slaves usually found around the towers were moving big carts into the tower. Grubb couldn’t make out the cargo from his hiding spot near the tower in the dark. Deciding he didn’t have much time, he sneaks around to a side entrance. Moving quietly, he makes his way inside and down some flights of stairs.
He finally reaches a chamber that widens and leads into catacombs under the tower. Hiding just out of sight, he sees figures carrying large items from a large entrance to the catacombs. Wanting a closer look, he waits for an opportune moment and moves closer, behind some crates.
Grubb peered out from behind his hiding spot only to gasp suddenly in horror and retreat back behind the crates. He covers his mouth with a piece of loose cloth he always keeps in his pocket. The figures carrying the items were skeletal undead or zombies. What’s more, they were carrying dead plague victims into the catacombs. They were creating an enormous army of undead!
He had to get back and relay this information. People had to be warned! He was about to make a run for the stairs when a large hand grabbed him around his neck, lifting him into the air.
“What do we have here?” a guttural deep voice bellowed from behind him. Grubb was overwhelmed by the stench of death from the hand around his neck as the thing turned him to face it. It was clearly undead, as some of its flesh seemed to be rotting and missing. Not only that, but his face was rather elongated and his smile showed fangs. “It looks like a little spy.
You’ve got some balls coming in here without them lines on your skin.” He laughed as he turned and walked up another set of stairs.
“Let go of me!” Grubb gasped and struggled in the brute’s hand. The figure gave a barking laugh as they continued up the stairs. “I bet the master will let me have some fun with you before you join the ranks.” The barking laughter continued all the way up the stairs, into darkness…
(Written by Rushka Venter)
This story will conclude at Event 13
“Madame Wystren?…Elena?…are you ok?”, the slender human maiden brushed a tear from her eye and turned to face the orderly behind her “I’m alright James, please notify his family and send for the undertaker” The orderly dipped his head and scuttled off.
“Damnnit!” she whirled around swiping the tray off the table sending surgical tools and bandages flying. She hated this feeling of helplessness this was the 4th patient this week she could not save. The alchemical elixirs and her first aid skill helped at least for those who were not too far gone but without her Life spells, she could not help those already at death’s door.
She started to pick up the tools she had scattered when footsteps entered the room. Without looking up from what she was doing she spoke “James, it’s alright, you can take lunch so long. I just dropped the tray”. When there was no response she looked up to find a hooded figure in the room. He stood with his back to her next to the fresh corpse on the table. “Excuse me, y..you can’t be here” she stammered. The stranger ignored her and placed both hands on the corpse’s torso. “What are you doing? Get out!” she said with as much authority as she could muster.
The stranger muttered something and a faint glow spread from his hands over the body, as it spread wounds knit shut and suddenly his chest started to rise and fall with the familiar pattern of breathing.
How could this be? The thought was cut short as emotion took over, tears of joy streamed down her face as flung her arms around the stranger.
Hope, it seemed, had finally returned.
(Written by Duane Havenga)
Thaddeus paced the cold corridors of his tower for the umpteenth time this week. His research could go nowhere if his magics were haywire. There was a pile of now mouldering corpses in the basement that were merely going to stink up the place if he didn’t make a plan. He had searched his libraries to no avail; he was at his wits end. He could not afford to set another corpse on fire instead of raising it, the makeshift supports he had erected in the laboratory were rickety at best and he doubted the tower would last much longer should he muck up again.
A rat scurried in his path as he turned the corner. In his annoyance he lashed out at it. That was when he felt it, just a hint, as if trying to tease him like a freshly dug grave. The familiar feeling of untainted chaos tickled inside him.
Could it be? Was it possible? Should he dare?
He mulled it over for a split second. The rat looked at him with mixed fear and curiosity from where it had hidden itself in-between some loose boards. Thaddeus drew on the chaos within him entrusting his mind to its guidance as familiar words tumbled from his lips “ I call upon chaos to cause wounds” the dark lilac sphere of baleful energy that burst into existence in his hand drew a wicked smile to his lips. With pinpoint accuracy it hurtled through the air toward the rat. It barely had time to let out a startled squeak before gaping sores and bright red lacerations spread over its body, the wounds ending its life in a flash.
Thaddeus chuckled to himself as he turned around, it was about time he put those corpses to good use.
(Written by Duane Havenga)
Charlotte’s mother went into another fit of coughs. The beast that bit her was diseased. The family didn’t expect her to survive much longer.
They had sent for herbs that might help, but they would take too long to arrive. Ever since Charlotte’s magic vanished her family had a hard time on their farm. She had lost one of her brothers to a similar fate and she swore she wasn’t going to lose her mother as well.
Her family and even her mother have tried to stop her, believing that magic had truly vanished. She was still sitting there, next to her mother’s bed, refusing to give up.
With fresh tears welling in her eyes from her mother’s most recent fit, she tried again, willing magic to flow, to remove the disease from her mother’s blood. New words of power came unknowingly to her and a warmth she hadn’t felt in months flowed from her into her mother.
Her mother’s coughing stopped and smiles and tears of joy replaced the sad as new magic lifted the ailment.
(Written by Rushka Venter)