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The Crystals of Narlkant

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Sotek Posted: 12:10 Sep02 2007 Post ID: 1893831
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Okay, this was started almost exactly one year ago, and is almost finished now. Please excuse the cliche'd title. Now, enjoy!

Part 1: Earth



Chapter 1

It was dark. The rain beat down on the deserted streets. The city slept. An obscure figure crept down the side of an alley, always keeping to the shadows, never making a sound. He had a task to perform, and he was going to complete it if it was the last thing he did.
Well, okay, if things got that bad he would probably leg it. He wasn’t stupid.
But he was an assassin.
His target was a man who was despised by all, who made his living from the suffering of others. It was the city governor, Lord Chalzan of Narlmark. A worthy target.
The assassin reached the governor’s mansion, a large building in the noble’s quarters decorated with overly extravagant carvings and statues, and moved up to the window. He looked in.
Lord Chalzan was sitting on an ornate wooden throne at the end of a room with nothing else in it. Except a peasant, who was grovelling in front of his lord. As the assassin watched, Lord Chalzan raised his hand and uttered a single word. Although the assassin didn’t hear what it was, the effect was obvious. The peasant let out a scream, and tried to stand up. His movements were slow and got slower, until finally he stopped moving altogether. He had become a statue. Magic! In his mind, the assassin’s fee went up.
Slowly, he climbed up the wall, using the retractable spikes on the toes of his boots to help. When he reached the room above the one the governor was in, he took out a small piece of cloth and a jar of honey from his pocket. He poured the honey on to the cloth and placed it onto the window, near the latch. Then he took out a small dagger and rammed the pommel into the centre of the cloth. When he peeled it off, bits of broken glass were stuck to it. It made no noise and left no irritating shards of glass all over the place.
The assassin reached inside the room, took hold of the latch and carefully opened the window. The space beyond was a bedchamber, probably the governor’s judging by the four-poster bed. He ignored it. The door was as ornate as the rest of the mansion, and the assassin opened it cautiously.
There was nobody outside, and the hallway was deserted too. When he reached the entrance hall, the assassin spotted a single guard. The man was standing with his back to him, and the assassin knocked him out with a swift elbow strike to the back of the head. The guard crumpled to the floor. Concentrating for a second, the assassin worked out where the bare room ought to be and went in that direction.
At the entrance to the bare room, he paused. Beyond that door was a man who could turn him to stone, and possibly other things besides. He needed to find the source of the man’s power before he tried anything. However, the client had been very clear that the job must be done tonight, when most of the staff were on leave. The assassin shrugged, scratched his head, and pulled out a pistol crossbow. The darts were specially designed to spin while in flight, and each one was barbed and covered in poison from the deadly Acid Frog of Kinkadia, a single drop of which was enough to kill a mouse. Or indeed an elephant. He loaded and cocked the weapon. Then he opened the door.
The governor was busy admiring his new statue, and when the assassin opened the door he appeared not to notice. The assassin raised the crossbow.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Lord Chalzan looked up from his statue, and smiled. The assassin fired his weapon.
As the bolt sped through the air towards its target, the governor barked out a word. This time the assassin heard it.
“Silex!” The crossbow bolt curved downwards and shattered on the floor. It had turned to stone. The governor grinned at the assassin. “You’ll have to do better than that. En guard!” He grabbed a broadsword from its hiding place behind the throne, and rushed forwards.
The assassin drew two katanas from sheaths on his back. They were compact and gleamed silver. He sidestepped the governor’s charge and swung one sword at his foe’s head. Chalzan only just brought his blade up in time to block it. Then, seeing an opening, the governor thrust his sword at the assassin’s chest. Again, the assassin sidestepped, and this time his counter slashed the Lord across the chest.
Chalzan bellowed in rage and pain, lashing out with the broadsword as he staggered backwards. “You’ll pay for that, assassin. Silex!”
Nothing happened. Lord Chalzan paused, a worried look on his face, and the seemed to come to some realisation. He felt around his neck for something, and then, not finding it, started looking for it on the floor.
He saw it lying where the assassin had cut it from around his neck, and ran forwards to pick it up. With it in his hand, the governor straightened up. “Now, assassin, you will pay for… where are you?” He scanned the room; then repeated his words. “Where are you, assassin?”
“Here.” The governor felt a sharp pain in his back, and then a bloodied blade burst from his chest. As his vision blurred and he sank to the floor, he heard words from far off. “No one escapes from Shade. No one.”
The assassin forced open his victim’s fingers. Clasped in them was a perfectly spherical orange jewel. He picked it up. This was what he had to locate, and now all that remained was to return it to his employer. He vaguely wondered how the man intended to pay him, given the state of his clothes and the stench of stale sweat that had surrounded him. He also wondered how the man would respond to a higher price. It was probably going to be doubled due to risks and suchlike.
Had Shade known the power of the crystal he now held, he would have seriously considered raising his fee by a factor of ten, or indeed keeping the jewel for himself. But he didn’t. He thought it was just a pretty bauble, evidence which he had been asked to bring back as proof of his success.

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Pandaemonium Posted: 12:17 Sep02 2007 Post ID: 1893841
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First reply GET.

Shade ftw. I didn't notice anything worth complaining about, except that it could possibly have been a bit longer. I look forward to seeing moar.
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Cataclysm Posted: 12:31 Sep02 2007 Post ID: 1893879
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Not bad actually. A nice fight scene to kick things off and already a little plot introduction. You've got my attention.
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Cervantes De Leon Posted: 12:45 Sep02 2007 Post ID: 1893908
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Certaintly been waiting on this one for a while. It's been worth it though.

Good start and a nice introduction of Shade. No complaints, so I'l sit back and wait for the next chapter.


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Sotek Posted: 11:52 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898208
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Just another notice, I'm not too happy with part of this and the next chapter. I'd like opinions please on how to make it better.

Also, from now on, anyone who points out a cameo, quote or something similar will recieve a virtual muffin!

Chapter 2

Shade sheltered in a doorway on a dark street. This was where his employer had agreed to meet him and hand over his fee. The agreed sum had been four hundred gold coins, enough to buy meals for four months or buy a single meal in the noble’s quarters. However, after the dangers that he had had to overcome, Shade thought that he was entitled to a little more than just a seasons worth of supplies. Guards he could deal with, swordmasters had fallen to his blades, and his crossbow could kill even ogres; but against magic… well, he hadn’t been prepared for that.
Time passed. It started to rain. Shade huddled further into the doorway. He disliked staying in one place for so long, and was sick of waiting. The man was supposed to have been there two hours ago with the money, and he still hadn’t shown up.
Finally a figure came towards him from the direction of the marketplace. It wore a tattered cloak, stained with dirt, and a hood covered its head. It stopped in front of the assassin, and lowered its hood.
“Better late than never, I guess. What kept you? I’ve been waiting for hours.” Shade pulled the crystal out of one of the many hidden pockets in his cloak. “I have it.”
The man smiled, revealing a mouth full of rotten teeth, and held out his hand. “Good, good. Now, give it to me.”
“Just a second, where’s my money? Moreover, as you neglected to mention the fact that the governor could use magic, I believe a slight increase is in order. I think an additional three hundred sounds about right.” Shade put the gem back in his pocket. “Agreed?”
The man stopped smiling and a look of fury flashed across his face. Wordlessly he pulled out a bag of coins, and threw them on the ground in front of the assassin. Then he pulled out a second bag and threw that down too. “There. Now give me the crystal!”
“As you wish. A pleasure doing business with you.” Shade took out the crystal again and handed it over. The man grinned again.
“Thank you. Now die! Silex!” At the man’s word, the cobbles of the street split apart and rocky fingers clawed their way up from the earth. Eventually, the entire figure had hauled itself out of the pit, which closed behind it, leaving the street undamaged.
Shade took a step backwards, away from the creature. “Wh-what is that thing? How did you…” Realisation dawned on him. “It’s that crystal isn’t it! You tricked me! Right then, after I deal with your pet, I’m coming after you!” He pulled out his crossbow and aimed at the man. “But first, what name do you go by?”
“My name is not important. But if you insist, you may call me Dragon, Servant of Earth. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to report to my master. So long!” He grinned once more and vanished in a cloud of dust.
Shade swore and turned his attention back to the monster. It was about twelve feet tall, and seemed to be made of rocks held together by some kind of magic. The creature’s head was a large boulder in the vague shape of a face, but as Shade watched, it formed into something more recognisable.
The creature took a step towards him on tree-trunk sized legs. With each footfall the ground shook, and a two-inch deep hole was made in the street. Shade raised his crossbow and fired. The bolt bounced off the monster’s rocky skin, and he did not try a second time. Those bolts were expensive.
Instead, he drew his swords, dodged a swing of the creature’s fist, and leapt up onto its back. The thing roared with frustration and made wild swings to try to dislodge him. Shade pressed himself into its back and avoided the attacks, then started hacking at its head with both blades. This only had the effect of making it angry, and chipping his swords. The creature suddenly stopped its wild attempts to dislodge him, and turned around so that it was facing one side of the street.
Sensing what was about to happen, the assassin tensed himself to jump. The monster ran backwards across the street. Just before it hit the wall on the other side, Shade jumped over its head and landed in front of it. The creature gave a cry of frustration as it spotted him, but was unable to stop its reverse charge and crashed into the wall. The impact destroyed the wall of the building, and the falling rocks crushed the monster underneath several tons of rubble. Shade sat down and tried to get his breath back.
A voice called out to him from across the street. “Very impressive! How did you know that the golem would do that?” A man walked out from the building opposite from the one that had been destroyed. He wore a brown robe and carried a simple wooden staff. He had a short white beard and had a friendly looking face.
Shade looked up at him. “I didn’t. I just realised its intention and got out of the way. Who are you anyway? Did you see all that happened?” He stood up, picked up his swords and crossbow, and walked over to the newcomer.
The man nodded. “Yes, I saw everything. You should have shot Dragon while you had the chance. As to your question of who I am, that is an easy one. My name is Mathew, and I am a scholar. For many years, I have been studying the four forces that guide this world: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. After much research, I have concluded that once, long ago, some of their power was sealed into four crystals using ancient magic. I believe that the crystal that you unknowingly handed over was the crystal of Earth. You must get it back! While Dragon holds it, no-one is safe!” As he had been speaking, Mathew had been getting more and more excited. After a few deep breaths, he calmed down again.
“So what you’re saying is that Dragon tricked me into giving him a gem that can control the land, and unless I get it back from him, he could take over the world?” Shade finished clipping his crossbow to his belt and sheathing his chipped swords. “Sounds fun, count me in!”
The scholar grinned, and slapped him on the back. “Wonderful, I knew I could count on you! Tell me, what’s your name?”
“I’m Shade. And before you ask, no, that’s not my real name. And no, I don’t know what my real name is.”
A look of interest flashed across the scholar’s face. He muttered a few words which Shade didn’t understand, and then spoke out loud. “Tell me about yourself.” The assassin took a deep breath and began his story.
“I was abandoned when I was about three and raised by thieves. They made me do all kinds of things once I was old enough, but I didn’t like their style. They would go into a house, kill the sleeping occupants and steal all they could carry. Then they would leave. So one day, when they made me go in through a small window so I could unlock the front door, I woke everyone up. They thought I was trying to kill them, but when they saw that I was only eight years old, they calmed down. That was the start of my new life.
“After they were all awake and ready, I opened the front door. When the thieves entered the house, they came up against a fully prepared group of guards and the master of the house. Nevertheless, after a long struggle, which I watched from the upper section of the room, the leader of the thieves was still standing, and duelling one on one with the master. That was when I took this pistol crossbow off the wall, loaded it and took aim. Of course, it was like a full sized crossbow to me back then.
“Anyway, the thief stabbed the master through the heart, and I took advantage of his victory to shoot him. The first bolt caught him in the shoulder, and after he spotted me, he charged up the stairs waving his sword about like a maniac. I only just got the second shot off in time. I’ll never forget the look of surprise on his face, or the screams when the master’s wife found him. He wasn’t quite dead, and I spoke to him. That was when he told me that I did the right thing, and that I should train under one of his friends. He gave me a name, then died. I kept the crossbow, and left the house with more living people in it than there would have been had I not acted.” The assassin paused for breath. “It was the master’s friend, a master assassin, who christened me Shade. He taught me everything I know.”
Mathew stood in silence for a few minutes. Then he spoke. “So, you became an assassin because a man whose name you don’t know told you it would be a good idea. I may know the man of who you speak. He had a house in the noble’s quarters, correct? And two small children? And this happened about fifteen years ago?”
“Yes.”
“Then I did know him. He was… my son.”

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Pandaemonium Posted: 12:09 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898236
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*Dramatic music* OMG PLOT TWIST.

yay, stone golem! This chapter wins.

“So what you’re saying is that Dragon tricked me into giving him a gem that can control the land, and unless I get it back from him, he could take over the world?” Shade finished clipping his crossbow to his belt and sheathing his chipped swords. “Sounds fun, count me in!”
A funny assassin... there's something you don't see every day. Looking forward to the next chapter.
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Cataclysm Posted: 12:17 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898253
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Second chapter and already... the plot unfolds.

One question though, is Dragon an actualy dragon, or is it just a name?
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Sotek Posted: 12:47 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898332
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Considering that he's a guy in a smelly brown cloak, what do you think? This is merely an example of my inability to come up with names easily.

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Cataclysm Posted: 12:52 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898339
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It could have been a very small dragon that walked on two legs and had a conveniently humaoid shaped body. I don't know, but I've come to not be surprised by anything in some fics I see here.
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Sotek Posted: 13:15 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898386
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They saw his face. Don't you think that they'd have commented if he was a small dragon? For your information, there are no dragons in this fic.

Yet.

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Cataclysm Posted: 13:30 Sep04 2007 Post ID: 1898407
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Fair point, guess it's time for some insulting comment. Do your worst!

Oh, and am I right in assuming that the old man is some sort of almighty mage bloke with powers yet to be revealed? Just a suspicion.
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Seos san Nekros Posted: 10:55 Sep05 2007 Post ID: 1899739
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Well, okay, if things got that bad he would probably leg it. He wasn’t stupid.

WIN.

“You’ll have to do better than that. En guard!”

Isn’t it en garde?

Anyway, the first chapter puts you off at an amazing start. I’m thoroughly impressed. Shade seems awesome, and I’m intrigued by the bits of plot that have been revealed. Nice foreshadowing at the end.

Now, for chapter 2… I wouldn’t even mention it, but you specifically asked for opinions on how you could improve it. The beginning, I thought, was great. Good fight sequence. Up until the introduction of Mathew. From that point, I thought it seemed unrealistically rushed. After having known of the man for like… less than a minute… he had already agreed to help and then told the better part of his life story. It just seems to me that, as an assassin who was raised by a band of thieves, he’d probably have trust issues. Hell, I think anyone in existence would have trust issues after having been betrayed by a client and attacked by a large golem that spawned from the street. In my opinion, the interaction between Shade and Mathew could have been made more realistic with some hesitancy from Shade. But again, it wasn’t huge. Only mentioning it because I was asked to.

Other than that and a couple small typos that I can no longer remember, you’re off to a great start. Looking forward to more, so keep it up.
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Sotek Posted: 04:43 Sep07 2007 Post ID: 1901892
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Yeah, it was a bit rushed. Don't worry, I just wanted to press ahead with the storyline. Thanks for the coments guys, and here's yesterday's chapter!

Chapter 3

Mathew continued, “I had been due to come and visit him the next day. When I arrived, I found the entrance hall was covered in blood, and there were watchmen everywhere. They told me that they had just finished burying the bodies of around twenty thieves and a dozen guards. Then they told me the news. My son was dead, but his family were all right. They had managed to wake up in time to stop the thieves, but at the cost of the lives of twelve guards and my son. They let me speak to his wife, and she told a rather interesting tale.
“Apparently, the entire family had been awakened by a small boy. He had told them of the planned attack, and then let in the thieves. Thanks to his quick actions, the family had been prepared, and he had killed the last thief himself. Then he left after speaking with my son. What I want to know, just to set my mind at rest, is this: why did you let them in at all?”
Shade sighed. He’d wanted to tell that story to someone for years, just to get it off his chest. And now he had a chance to apologise for his actions. “I’m sorry. The thieves had a policy of burning any house that they couldn’t get inside. Even if they still had people in there. I had to do it. I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t worry. If you had done nothing, then they would all have died. Thank you for helping them and setting my mind at rest. Now, let’s get after Dragon.” Mathew started walking towards the marketplace. “I suspect he went back to his lodgings, wherever they are. We’ll ask around. Come on, we might as well make a start this evening.” Shade followed him, contemplating on the discussion he had just had with the scholar.
The market place was a large paved area with a statue of Magnus the Great, the man who had united the four kingdoms and forged from them Narlkant, the empire of prosperity. It was where the weekly market was held, and was the assassin’s favourite place to be. Now though, it was deserted, apart from the statue and two men standing next to it. Shade motioned for Mathew to stay put, and crept forward, his black cloths providing camouflage in the dark. He got close enough to hear what the two men were saying, and stood still to listen.
The first man, who Shade recognised as Dragon, was speaking. “Master, I have the crystal of Earth. The assassin whom I hired is most likely dead by now; nothing could stand against an Earth golem and live.”
The second man, the master, was wearing brown leather boots, navy blue trousers, a dark green jacket, and had fiery red hair that spiked out in a menacing way. When he spoke, it was with a deep voice that resonated around inside the assassin’s skull. “Do what you will, but use that crystal well. Spread destruction and chaos; corrupt the soil. Do what you will. However, I shall put a life warp spell on that crystal, so that if you die, it will return to me. We wouldn’t want that dead assassin of yours to get his hands on it would we?”
“I do not understand master, the assassin is dead. He could not possibly destroy an Earth golem alone. It cannot be cut, pierced or poisoned, and these are his only methods.”
“Nevertheless, he is standing behind the statue, listening to our every word. I leave him to you. Do not fail this time.” The red haired man glowed for a second, then faded into nothing. Dragon turned towards the place where Shade was hiding.
“You’re going to pay for making me look stupid. I’ll take you out here and now! You can’t beat me alone!” The servant of earth threw off his cloak, revealing a belt with a beige coloured sword strapped to it. The blade seemed to be similar in shape and size to the ones that Shade used, and when it was drawn, sand poured from it. Dragon laughed. “Prepare to die!”
He waved the sword, and a fine stream of sand fell from it. Shade pulled out his damaged blades, holding one out in front of him and the other by his side. After a short pause, they started circling each other, looking for an opening. Dragon lunged, and Shade sidestepped the attack. He rewarded the servant’s carelessness with a double slice to the back with both swords. They rebounded from an invisible shield an inch from his back, giving him time to whirl around and slash at the assassin’s head. Shade blocked the blow easily, but the sand that poured from the sword went into his eyes. As he staggered backwards, dropping one blade to try to clean his eyes, Dragon struck again. Shade attempted a clumsy block, but when Dragon’s sword hit his, the damaged blade snapped in two. More sand in his eyes, Shade dropped the useless hilt and tripped over.
Dragon stood over the floored assassin and raised his blade. “Now, assassin, you will die! You shouldn’t have followed me here in the first place.” He swung the blade downwards.
A beam of pure white light shot out of the darkness. It impacted with Dragon’s chest, throwing him backwards and causing him to drop his weapon. Mathew followed the beam, and stopped by Shade. “I thought you could use a hand. Here, I’ll heal you.” The scholar muttered something under his breath; the sand immediately cleared from the assassin’s eyes, and his wounds from the fight with the golem healed over, leaving no trace.
“You said you were a scholar. What were you studying when it wasn’t the crystals? White magic?” Shade stood up and retrieved his remaining sword. “Whatever that attack was, it seems to have knocked him out. Good work!” He looked regretfully at the chipped blade and its broken partner. They had been good weapons, and now he was going to have to find some others.
There was a groan from the direction that Dragon had been blasted in. the servant had come round, and was climbing to his feet. His eyes burned with hatred as he glared at Shade. “So, you’re not man enough to fight me alone eh? Well this ends now! Silex!”
Pillars of stone shot out of the ground around Shade, trapping him. He pulled out his crossbow and took aim. Behind him, he could hear Mathew chanting an incantation. “Powers of light, grant me strength, be guided by my will! Dispel the evil shadows and rob them of power! Destroy barrier!” A glow of pure light surrounded Dragon, but when it was gone nothing seemed to have changed.
“That shield of dark magic is gone! Shoot him before he crushes you!”
Shade fired. The bolt sped true towards Dragon’s heart. At the last possible second, Dragon vanished in a cloud of dust, yelling out a command as he went. The pillars of rock started to lean in, creating a sort of roof over the prison. There was a rumbling of the ground, and another pillar shot up from below Shade, then all of the pillars shattered into fist sized fragments.
Mathew gave a cry of alarm, without the assassin, he had no hope of retrieving the crystals. Franticly, he started digging through the pile of rocks, muttering a prayer to the gods for Shade’s safety. The rough texture grazed his hands, but he didn’t care. The man had believed his theory of the crystals without question, and that was a good enough reason to save him.
After a few minutes he stopped digging, and dusted off his hands. He had uncovered enough of the assassin’s body to see the extent of the damage, and it wasn’t pretty. Shade’s left leg had been crushed below the knee, his right eye was swollen shut and the left one was closed. He had numerous bruises and cuts al over his body and his cloths were torn. He wasn’t breathing.
Mathew took a deep breath to calm himself. He could still save the assassin, but only a few people had ever managed to pull off the spell he was about to attempt. He shuddered. This was going to be risky.
He began. “This soul is lost in darkness; bring it once more into the light. Resurrection!” Shade’s good eye flickered open, and he started breathing, but his breath was weak, and fading. Mathew wiped sweat from his forehead, and got to work.
The first job was to sort out the assassin’s lungs and heart. With growing confidence, the scholar spoke more words of healing, and Shade’s breathing grew more regular. His heart seemed to be okay, so Mathew moved on. The next job was that leg. He poured more of his power into the magic, and the shattered bones knitted themselves together again. Then the muscles repaired themselves, and finally the skin.
Mathew sank to the ground, exhausted. He could fix the cuts and bruises later if he had the strength, but now all he wanted to do was sleep. As he slowly lost consciousness, the scholar just barely registered that something had gone wrong, but before he could check what it was, he slipped into darkness.

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Seos san Nekros Posted: 11:36 Sep07 2007 Post ID: 1902013
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Great chapter, Sotek. I think I noticed a small typo at some point, but it was just like an uncapitalized letter, and I can't find it now. Sorry.

It is not yet clear to me how Mathew could need help when he's got white magic to be used offensively and/or defensively, but I'm sure I'll find out. looking forward to more, keep up the good work.
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Cervantes De Leon Posted: 11:32 Sep08 2007 Post ID: 1903901
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Good stuff so far. Seems a little rushed in a few places, but apart from that, it's fine. Keep it up.


By ozzo

Mission debriefing: Now available
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Sotek Posted: 13:13 Sep10 2007 Post ID: 1906842
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Okay, this posting every two days idea dosen't work. My internet keeps crashing.

Also, anyone spotted any cameos, quotes or similar yet? Keep looking!

Right, here's the next chapter. Like it or not, comment!

Chapter 4

Shade woke up with a headache. Having a pile of rocks dropped on your head can have that effect. When he tried to open his eyes, he found that only one of them worked. Looking through it, he observed the scene.
He was lying on the ground in the square. Someone was standing over him. As his senses returned, he heard voices.
“Hey look, he’s coming around! Give me some room!” hands gripped his shoulders and helped him to sit up. His whole body ached. The figure spoke to him. “Don’t worry pal, we got the sorcerer who did this to you. He’s going to be hanged, and his daemon blade purged and then destroyed. If you can get up, you can go watch if you want to. It should be satisfying for you to see the old ******* killed.”
Shade felt his muscles returning to life. He had no idea how he had survived the stone pillars with only bruises and minor cuts. Then it struck him. Mathew must have healed him after he blacked out. He looked around for the scholar, but he was nowhere in sight. He must have gone to get food.
“Yeah, sure I’ll come. I need to make sure Dragon doesn’t escape again. With his power, who knows what he could do. Where is the execution?”
“It’s just over there, on the other side of the square. So his name’s Dragon eh? Weird. Why did he attack you?”
Shade got painfully to his feet. “It’s a long story, and I’d rather wait so that my friend can fill in the bits I’m not clear on. Do you know where he is?”
The man led him in the direction of the gallows. “No, I’m sorry. What does he look like? I’ll ask around later if you want.”
“Okay, let’s see. He was wearing a brown robe, he had a staff, he’s starting to go bald, but don’t tell him I said so, and he has a short white beard. Ring any bells?”
The man’s face went white. He sped up, then started running. Despite his injuries, Shade followed him to the foot of the gallows. Standing on the platform with a rope around his neck was Mathew.
As Shade arrived, the man who had come over with him was in earnest discussion with the executioner, the hooded figure who would pull the leaver to open the trapdoor that Mathew was standing on. A priest was standing next to them, listening in.
“Shade! I’m sorry!” Mathew shouted. “Go after Dragon, I think he headed south. I would have liked to come with you, but the priest is adamant that all magic users must die, and after what I’ve done to you…”
Shade looked on amazed. Mathew had healed him, not hurt him, so why was he apologising? And what was this crap about magic users being evil? “You haven’t done anything to me you idiot! I’ll have a word with the priest and see that he lets you go. Don’t worry.”
“I haven’t done anything? Then you obviously haven’t looked at your skin since you woke up. I bungled the spell, and now see what I’ve done.”
“My skin?” Shade slowly raised his hand and took a good look at it. The skin had turned as black as coal, so dark that it looked like someone had painted it. He started to laugh, quietly at first, but getting louder and louder. After he had finished, he turned back to Mathew.
“Look, I don’t mind. This is no problem in my profession anyway; in fact it’s an advantage. I’m going to get you freed, so hang on!” Shade walked over to the priest, and looked him straight in the eye.
“Right, let’s get a few things sorted out. That man up there is my friend, without whom I would be dead. I am aware of the fact that he can use magic, but it is white magic, the magic of light. He is also a learned scholar and could contribute much to society. And if you hang him I will personally rip apart the one responsible. Got it?”
The priest looked taken aback. “But surely you want revenge on him for your, well, skin?”
“This? This is no problem for me. But I have I vital mission that involves the safety of all Narlkant, and I need him with me. All I can say is that you do not want this mission to fail, because everyone would suffer. So I’m going to let him down now, whether you like it or not.” Suddenly, Shade jumped up onto the platform, drew his still unbroken sword and cut through the rope. Then he cut the rope that bound Mathew’s hands together, and removed the rope from around his neck.
The priest ran up to them. “You can’t do this! He must be hanged! There is no evidence to support your argument, so it has no value. Max, arrest these men!” The executioner grabbed a scythe from under the platform, and advanced on them. He swung the scythe.
The priest looked down with an expression of mild surprise on his face. Then he fell to his knees. Max withdrew his scythe from the lifeless priest and swung it around his head. People who had gathered to watch the execution scattered. He spoke.
“I answer to none but the great Dragon, Servant of Earth! Submit to his rule, or feel my wrath!” The executioner slammed the butt end of his scythe into the ground. “Submit!”
By this time, the crowd had cleared a large circle around Max, Shade, and Mathew. They started shouting encouragement. “If you defeat him, we’ll accept your argument!” “Max! You traitor!” “Kill him, go on!”
Shade drew his sword and crossbow. He pointed the crossbow at Max, hatred burning in his eyes. “I bet it was you who came up with the idea of execution. Dragon is an idiot, he cannot hope to triumph. And neither can you!”
“Your beliefs are groundless, you will rue the day that you resisted me!”
”Groundless they may be, but I’ll stand by my beliefs ‘till the end! Die!” Shade fired a bolt at the hooded man’s head. With blinding speed, Max spun his scythe in front of him, blocking the bolt and sending it spinning into the crowd. A man screamed as it crashed into his arm. Max sneered, “Is that all you’ve got? Pathetic!”
Mathew started chanting under his breath as Shade put away his crossbow and pointed his chipped and battered sword at the enemy. “You’re going down!” He charged at the executioner, jumping sideways at the last moment to avoid a fierce downward swing of the scythe. He slashed at the other man’s face, but he attack was blocked by the scythe shaft. A lightning fast swing sent the butt of the scythe into Shade’s stomach. Only being able to use one eye was not helping his balance, and his muscles were already starting to ache.
Mathew finished his spell. “Light! Burning gaze!” Intense light surrounded him, then shot off at Max. When it hit him, the heat set his hood and cloak on fire, providing enough of a distraction for Shade to thrust his weapon through the traitor’s heart.
Max let out a roar of anger and blindly swung his scythe. He got lucky and the end of the shaft slammed into Shade’s head, knocking him unconscious. Then the executioner staggered towards Mathew, still with Shade’s sword through his heart and on fire, and raised his weapon. Before he could bring it down on the scholar, he collapsed to the ground, dead.
Mathew let out a sigh of relief, and ran over to Shade. The assassin had only been knocked out temporarily, and was just coming round. Mathew thought for a moment, then healed all of Shade’s wounds, including those that he had been too tired to heal earlier.
A few people stepped slowly forwards. One of them kicked the still burning body of the executioner, and cried out as its arm crumbled into dust, the sacred fire having burnt right through the corrupt body. Another knelt beside the unconscious assassin, checked his pulse, and looked up in surprise. “He seems to be in good shape. Maybe the priest was too harsh on mages, although you did incinerate Max… Who is Dragon anyway?”
“He is an evil man who has a fascination for the power of Earth. He has obtained a jewel that allows him to control it, but he himself is under the control of another. I need to hunt him down and take the crystal from him, by force if necessary, so that he can cause no more harm. This man has agreed to help me.” He gestured to Shade. “Now, where’s that daemon sword you were waving about as proof I was guilty. I have a feeling that I can use it to locate Dragon.”
One of the citizens ran into a small chapel. A few minutes later he returned carrying a sword wrapped in a piece of white cloth. He dropped it beside Shade, then backed away. Mathew picked it up and examined it. It was the sword that he had forced Dragon to drop after the fight. The sand katana.

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Pandaemonium Posted: 13:32 Sep10 2007 Post ID: 1906844
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"Shade woke up with a headache. Having a pile of rocks dropped on your head can have that effect." FTW.

Will there be a fight in every chapter, or just the vast majority of them? Either way, I approve.
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Sotek Posted: 13:35 Sep10 2007 Post ID: 1906847
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In the first section, probably. After that... you'll find out when we get there!

Seeing as I now have three short stories posted, I figure I may as well put all of them in my bio, so go there for links to "The Lab", "Daemon" and "Afterlife". Additionally, you should read my fic, The Crystals of Narlkant
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Cataclysm Posted: 13:48 Sep10 2007 Post ID: 1906861
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Forgot about this.

Nice work with... well, pretty much everything. The fight scenes are all well done and there's plenty of conspiracy flying around. It's also a good idea you've had, to not make the heroes invincible warriors that use thier last breath to kill all evil. It makes them seem more human I suppose.

As for cameos, I haven't recognised any. Care to give out any clues?
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Seos san Nekros Posted: 14:41 Sep10 2007 Post ID: 1906942
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Yeah, I gotta admit, I'm having trouble noticing cameos too. Kinda hard to focus on where quotes came from when the storyline is so intriguing.

I maintain that the story seems a bit rushed so far, but it's improving, and I'm definately looking forward to more. You write good fight scenes.
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