Daughter of Battles

Katarina surveyed the army that gathered beyond the fields around Illaryon from atop its Shining Walls, her mind racing. Many of the other Captains sneered at her habit of patrolling the high walls, saying that a Captain shouldn’t have to do the “dirty work” themselves, that they could count on the reports of their lieutenants and subordinates. It was not that Katarina didn’t trust her men; on the contrary, they were the best the decadent city had to offer, as she made sure that only the elite served in her unit, and because she provided additional training for them herself. No, she liked patrolling the high walls because she liked seeing things for herself, instead of having to rely on what others had seen; no matter how good they were, there were always details that they could miss, and that she would not. Staring at the gathering army, Katarina bit her lower lip in frustration. The numbers that were gathering there were such as the city had never seen before, and there were rumours of a terrible general behind it as well, and yet neither she nor any of the other Captains had received orders – either the High Lord was extremely confident of the city’s defences, or there was more afoot than the Captains were allowed to know, which bothered Katarina. She disliked not knowing, and besides, what you didn’t know could kill you before you had the chance to do anything about it.

Giving a hasty look around her, Katarina took a deep breath, calming her mind and relaxing her body. She opened herself to her Inner Source, embracing the flow of Karma that suddenly filled her, basking in the power that it brought her. She did not Weave, however; instead, she shifted that flow of pure energy into her eyes, activating the ability that had made her attain so much honour and prestige at such a young age. When she opened her eyes again, they were a bright purple instead of their usual green, and their shape was different too, appearing as a seven-pointed star instead of the normal human circular iris. The world seemed to shift in Katarina’s vision, as she suddenly saw shapes and colours in the field below, purple and red bruises indicating where men would die, flowing rivers indicating where they would move, to attack or flee depending on which colour the flow was painted with. It was a madman’s portrait, and enough to sicken any stomach, but Katarina’s eyes filtered the layers upon layers of possibilities and outcomes, and she absorbed enough battle information as if ten veteran generals had been whispering in her ear, an hour’s long analysis entering her brain in a split second.

“What do your Eyes see, Daughter of Battles?” The voice at her shoulder startled Katarina, making her lose the Inner Source and jarring her vision back to normal, the sudden change making her as sick as when she had activated her Karmic Eyes. She whirled on the spot, turning towards the speaker, saluting with fist to chest, “Apologies, my Lord General-Commander, I had not heard you come, sir.” General Derek Lento, commander of Illaryon’s army, was widely considered as one of the best strategists alive, and a force to be reckoned with in the battlefield as well. He had lived more than a hundred years already, with most of that spent on battles and wars, and yet he never dismissed the counsel of his officers – perhaps the very reason why he had been considered one of the greatest strategists of the world for most of his life. The bony man sighed, shaking his head, “At ease, Captain. You have not answered my question yet. What do your Eyes see?” Again, the capital E was clear in his voice. Katarina hesitated, looking back towards the gathered army. “Blood and death, my Lord General-Commander. If – no, when they attack, there will be many losses, on both sides. However… however, as long as the Wall holds, we will  emerge victorious.” She did not tell him about the ominous shadow she had seen coming from the centre of the enemy’s camp; she did not know what it meant, for she had never seen it’s like before, and yet it made her shiver and feel genuinely afraid, something that had seldom happened in her entire career as a soldier. The older man simply nodded, accepting her analysis of the situation, but his eyes were grim. Almost as if he, too, could see a great shadow falling over the city. “Your analyses never disappoint, Kat. I feel the same, myself.” The General said, dropping the formalities as he turned towards the field, considering the army below. They stood there for a few moments, shoulder to shoulder, watching and wondering.

“You know I have always liked you, Kat.” The General said, finally, breaking the silence. “Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way, especially considering your… abilities. If the worst happens to the city, or if anything happens to me, I advise you to flee from Illaryon. I have prepared a boat for you, and a crew of a handful of trusted retainers, that will hopefully get you out of the city. No, do not argue, Kat.” Katarina bit back the reply she was going to give, knowing that when the General set his shoulders that way, he would not be moved by any arguments. She sighed, dropping her head. The General had been like a father to her, the only person to have cared for her after her parents died while she was still a child. For all intents and purposes, he was practically her foster father, having raised and provided for her, and always being there to protect her. That was why she had joined the military, to make him proud; unfortunately, she later discovered that he had wanted a different life for her. No wonder he would try to save her if things went wrong during the battle, and there was nothing she could do to stop it, no matter how much she wanted to actually stay by his side. After all, if things went wrong, he would be one of the first targets, being the commander of Illaryon’s armies. “I…. understand.” She forced herself to say, though her fists clenched at her sides. She hated feeling powerless, and that’s exactly how she felt during this talk of fleeing the city.

“Good, good.” He patted her shoulder, smiling at her, “This is for the best, Kat. Don’t be like that. Much better if you live to fight another day, if you will, than if you die here with the rest of us old geezers. You have to much potential to waste your life like this, for this decadent city.” He chuckled, “Or for an old man like me.” Suddenly serious, he turned to look at the invading army once more, “I don’t know why, but I do feel that something bad will come out of this battle, Kat. Be prepared for the worst, no matter what you Saw. Come, now. Let’s go downstairs and get something to eat.”

“Yes, Lord General-Commander.” Katarina said with a nod. As she followed the General downstairs, she couldn’t help thinking about the invading army, and the shadow that she had seen coming from the enemy camp. What could it mean? And the General’s intuition was seldom wrong, which spelled bad news for Illaryon. Looking out to the sky, Katarina wondered what the future would bring, for her foster father and for herself.

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The Last Flame

If he had been a human, he would be drenched in sweat. However, he was not a human; instead of soft, supple skin, he had hard scales, instead of fingernails and square teeth, he had claws and fangs. His bodily armour had two tailored holes at its back, to let his scaly wings through; they themselves were also covered in hard leathers and hides for protection. He had a large tail behind him, strong enough to push or pull a heavy man, and no boots covered his feet, for he needed no protection from the hard ground. His right hand grasped his battleaxe firmly as he slashed and hacked at his enemies, while his left parried their attacks with his heavy shield. His name was Hizir, and he was a dragonborn. In fact, he was the last of his kind… With a roar of released fury, Hizir split open the skull of the last human standing against him. He was alone in the battlefield, bathed in blood and gore, panting and sagging with exhaustion, but he was victorious once more. He had always been victorious. For the last dragonborn, the choice was always victory or death.

Wiping the blood from his axe-blade, to prevent it rusting, Hizir looked around him. There were five bodies sprayed around him; that meant one of the human scouts had managed to escape and flee the hills, and would soon be back with a stronger force. Hizir clasped the axe to his belt and turned to walk further into the hills, to the cave where he had hid his supplies. He regretted having to leave such a good position, but he would not be able to hold a dedicated group of soldiers trying to kill him. Walking into the cave, he sneered at the woman there, looking at him with such disapproving eyes.

“Do not condemn me for killing your kin, Princess. They were the ones who exterminated mine in the first place.” There was no response, but there seldom was. He had been on the run for three weeks now, after having captured Her Royal Highness, Princess Kadria. This was as low as he had to become: playing mercenary for the outside influences that surrounded the human kingdom. No matter; if this was the only way for him to get his revenge, so be it, and honour be damned. Honour had lost all meaning to him in the moment where he had become the last of his kind, three hundred years past. Now, where before there had been honour in his heart, only hatred remained.

“On your feet, Princess. We have many leagues to cover yet, before resting, if we are to keep ahead of your faithful men.” The dragonborn said as he gathered their meagre supplies in a battered bag and rested it on his massive shoulder, “We have many hours of walking ahead of us, and I do not want to carry you, not again. You’re smart enough to have learned that lesson already, yes?”

All defiance washed out from Princess Kadria’s eyes, and she gave a frightened nod, hurrying to her feet. Hizir was easily half again her size, and almost three times as large… the first few days, she had tried to resist him, even tried to escape. He had not hurt her, not really, but he had not been gentle either, and he had made it clear that he was doing this only as paid work, and as soon as she was too great a nuisance, he would simply get rid of her and leave. She believed him. “Good.” Hizir said, showing his pointy teeth in a mockery of a smile. “You learn. Humans are not so dumb as they seem, after all. Well, let’s get going then.”

The paths the pair wove through the hills were hard and uneven, not really paths made for walking around; more often than not, they had to cut their way through dense shrubbery or leap through small chasms, something only possible because of Hizir’s gliding abilities. At least that also made sure that they would not be followed, at least not so easily; any scrap of time they gained was a bonus. Hizir had been aware that there would be heavy pursuit after the Princess, but not that it would be so relentless and fierce. Either she was much loved by her people, or they knew what was at stake here.

“Why are you doing this?” The Princess asked once they had stopped once more to rest, now in a small cave on the other side of the hills. It was going to be a short rest, only to catch their breath before they continued on through the forest and into the shoreline, where they would get onto a pirate ship that would get them to their destination. “What do you have to gain by capturing me? Where are you taking me to?”

“Why did your people slaughter my kin? What did they have to gain? I could ask the same questions, Princess, though asking questions would not change anything. Yours are likewise irrelevant. This is all part of my revenge on your people, no matter how small or how feeble it is, or that I had to wait for three hundred years to see it begin.”

“But… It was not us who hunted your kind! The people who did it are long dead and buried… Why do you take your revenge on us?”

“Someone has to pay!”

“But… but…”

“Silence! Let’s move out.”

The trek through the woods was silent and slow. Hizir had the endurance of a horse, but the Princess was just human, and a feeble human girl, at that. She could not keep up with his large footsteps, especially not in difficult terrain such as the untamed forest, and the dragonborn found himself having to wait for the Princess to catch up more often than not. There was no fear of her trying to escape; there were no settlements in miles around them, and she would surely perish if left to fend for herself on the forest. The soldiers had been left behind on the hills – a big army such as the one that had them on the run would have trouble passing through the dangerous paths they had taken -, but Hizir disliked the slowness of their pace. No matter what he said to others or to himself, he still disliked having to do what he had done, kidnapping a young and defenceless girl, and he wanted to be rid of her as soon as possible. He didn’t dwell on what her fate would be, after he handed her to his employer, either.

At last, after two more days of trekking through the woods, the pair emerged from the untamed forest into the wild shoreline. The ship was easily spotted; there were no other vessels anywhere the eye could see, even to Hizir’s sharp eyesight. He sighed, watching the human pirates aboard the ship. He wondered again if he was doing the right thing; what the Princess had said was true, after all, and she could hardly be blamed for what people several generations before had done. At least his employer had promised him that she would not be harmed, and that, in the end, it would be painless. Small comfort that was, but Hizir had to take what was given him, not what he wanted.

The pirates recognized the dragonborn mercenary on sight, of course, and began lowering a small boat to get them at the shore. Hizir laughed to himself, simply grabbing the Princess and flying straight to the ship, landing in the middle of the startled pirates. He let go of the Princess then, who was trembling; with fear from the flight or the pirates, he did not know. He gently pushed her away, towards the waiting pirates, and she shot him a pleading look.

“Well, well, you have done as you were asked, dragonborn, surprisingly enough, and you’ll be handsomely paid. Your part in this is done, however. Take your gold and leave.” He tossed him a weighty bag, presumably filled with gold, which Hizir snatched from the air and tied to his belt. He turned to go, choosing to ignore the pirate’s taunt, and heard him talk to his men, “But look here… what a fine piece of flesh this princess is, eh boys? We’ll have a really fun time before we are done with her, won’t we?” Hizir stopped, clutching his hands. It was not his business, he shouldn’t care; all humans were supposed to be his enemies. Things were never simple, though; life always paints reality in shades of grey, never in black and white.

“What did you say, pirate scum?” Hizir rumbled, turning back to see a few of the pirates already groping the Princess. He quivered with barely contained rage, “This was not the deal. The Princess was to be unharmed and untouched until you reach our employer.”

“What? I made no such deal, mercenary. Your part in this is gone, go away. We’ll have our due fun, of course.”

Hizir’s roar shook the very foundations of the wooden ship, making it rock unsteadily from one side to another. In a flash,  he had his battleaxe in hand, and cut off the hands of two of the pirates trying to grope the Princess. Swooping her behind him with his free hand, he inhaled deeply and spewed forth his dragonflames, burning half of the pirate crew to a crisp in a swift movement. He looked at the Princess, “Find one of the boats, Princess, and try to get out of here. I’m sorry.”

Red flashed through Hizir’s vision as he felt the sword cutting through his leather armour and the softer scales of his belly, drawing blood from the wound and making him spit some of it on the deck. He had no time to see if the Princess got to safety; he turned around and decapitated the pirate that had run him through, just in time to raise his shield and parry another pirate’s swing. The next few moments were frantic; the pirates were sloppy and untrained, but they had the advantage of numbers. As the battle raged, the fire from his dragonflames increased and burned away at the ship, hungrily eating the wood away. Hizir had no time to notice any single detail, as the frantic battle for his life continued, now parrying a sword thrust, now deflecting a bolt from a pirate’s crossbow. His wounds began to increase in number, as slowly the pirates withered away his defences and resolve. It was a race to see who would break first, now.

With a roar of pain and defiance, Hizir spewed more of his dragonflame around him, dispersing the closest pirates and finally making the rest of them see the futility of fighting an enraged, well-trained dragonborn elite in close quarters. They routed, jumping over the railings into the ocean, just as the main mast broke out from the fire and feel upon the deck, causing the ship to crack and split in half. Everything rocked out from beneath Hizir’s feet, but despite his wounds he extended his wings and took flight, praying to the Mother that the Princess had managed to escape. His vision wavered as he flew, even the meagre weight of his equipment now making him falter. He made a beeline for the shore, but exhaustion was faster and took him before he could land; he plunged into the cold sea.

As he fell deeper into the water, Hizir could not help but smile at the paradox of his life. Three hundred years spent hating all humans, just to die trying to save one. However, at least he felt at peace; his last act had regained a small bit of honour for him. Perhaps he would not feel so ashamed to confront his ancestors, now, when he ascended to the stars to join them. With the smile of those who know to welcome death, the last dragonblooded flame fell deeper into the ocean, winking out amidst the darkness and the cold.

The First of Many

Professor Stanwick hummed a tune as he entered his own personal laboratory in the Institute of Karmic Research and Engineering of Vedria,  one of the most renowned research facilities in the entire world. So intent on reading the latest report from his experiments, he did not notice the lights; there shouldn’t be anyone in his personal laboratories, for he had been gone almost six months, overseeing a joint project with a few colleagues from Orlina at the behest of the High Lord, but he was too distracted to notice anything amiss, itchy as he was to catch up on his own personal projects. A metallic clang made him look up, and finally notice the lights on, and the lone man busy on the workbenches across the laboratory. “Viktor, is that you? I was not aware you had continued your projects in my absence. How did you get into my laboratory?”

“A simple trick with the lock, Professor. I apologise, but it was necessary for my research.” His voice was a coarse, metallic echo of what the Professor remembered, but that could be a consequence of long hours cooped inside the laboratory; Stanwick himself had already gone for days inside the lab, so focused on one project or another that he was. Of course, that had been when he was younger, and still had the energy to pass so long without food or sleep. Suppressing a fond smile for his apprentice’s antics, Stanwick forced his voice to be harsh. “And what research is that, Viktor? You were always brilliant, of course, but do not think that being the High Lord’s grandson will allow you special rights. Everyone must pave their own way in this Institute, and we allow no corners to be cut.”

“Oh, I intend to pave my way alright, Professor…. just not in this Institute.” Viktor said as he turned, and the Professor noticed for the first time the strange glimmer off of his body, previously obscured by his apprentice’s bulky cape, and gaped at the metallic mask that met him, instead of his apprentice’s face. “What… what have you done, Viktor?”

“Synthesis, Professor. The final frontier between Man and Machine, overcome at long last.”

“But… but… it shouldn’t be possible!”

“Ah, but it is, Professor, as I have always claimed, even though you and the other Professors were too blind to see.” There was no way to see it on his metallic face, but Viktor’s voice held the note of a triumphant smile as he reached out with his hand, extending it towards the Professor, “Now, I will open your eyes. Relinquish the flesh, Professor, and join me.”

“You go too far, Viktor! Don’t you see yourself in a mirror? You have become a monster!”

“A monster?” Viktor said, closing his outstretched hand into a metal fist, “No, fool, not a monster! I have become the herald of a new age, an age of steel and perfection! Embrace progress! Join my glorious evolution!”

“You are a madman! You must be stopped!” he began to step back, away from Viktor, eyes intent on him even while his hands groped the wall for the emergency button near his workbench that would set all of the alarms on the building singing and call the Legionnaires, “Don’t you see that this has changed you? You weren’t like this, Viktor!” His eyes widened as two additional arms emerged from Viktor’s back, lazily opening their palms towards him. They began to glow with an orange glimmer, and he knew then that his apprentice was no more, replaced by this steel monstrosity, and that he would not survive the night.

“No, you are the madman who does not see the future, you and all the rest of this Institute’s decadent Professors. You will not stop me. I am the first of many.”

His scream was muffled by the heavy walls of the laboratory.

Beyond the Walls

Mikhel furrowed his brow as he inspected the circuitry of the broken-down Device that Old Nily had brought him. He was only an apprentice Karma Engineer, and many conservationists criticised his “sloppy” methods, but he was also widely regarded as the best among the younger generation of Engineers of Illaryon. Not even he could make heads or tails of the mess Old Nily had brought, however; for starters, the thing was at least some eighty years old, and it didn’t seem to have seen a repairer’s hand in almost as much. Scratching his excuse of a beard, Mikhel contemplated his options; disassembling the whole thing and going from there had its merits, but the risk of permanently breaking it was high, and Old Nily was known to be stingy with his stuff – and his coin. On the other hand, there wasn’t much he could do if he didn’t know what the main problem was, either, and he didn’t want to waste so much time on trial and error while fixing the old machine; the “less sloppy” methods the conservationist Engineers preferred, using standardized tests for discovering the most well-known problems. Usually he would have loved the challenge of meddling with such old equipment, and proving the superiority of his methods was always fun, but today was his date with Lynn, and he absolutely must not be late for that. Things were not looking good for him, but Mikhel knew he couldn’t simply pass on this job, either; there was more than just the coin of it for him, as each succesful job increased his renown and increased his chances of being formerly recognized as a professional Karma Engineer.

Sighing, the young man took the small Core he used in his daily work, a beautiful little thing enhanced by himself which allowed him to Weave threads much thinner than he could without them, and also amplified the response of other Karmic circuitry; a very useful and handy tool to have with you while working. Carefully Mikhel probed the damaged Device with a wispy flow of Air, channelled through his Core and into each small nook and crane he could find in succession. This was one of the cruder methods of analysis, but also one of the safest; there was little chance of a bit of air damaging the inner workings of any of the Devices he knew. It was inevitable that, no later than a mere fifteen minutes into his checks, Mikhel had already lost himself to his work, applying increasingly complex Weaves containing tiny threads of other elements Woven together with Air, exploring not only the physical boundaries of the damaged Device but also its Karmic nature. Despite its condition of disrepair and its age, the Device was amazingly well-conserved, which made it easier for Mikhel to find his way around the old circuitry’s maze of effects and connections, thus resulting in him determining that the Device was actually malfunctioning because of a very simple short-circuit in one of its main components. It was a stroke of luck, truly, to have found the single piece that had broken down the entire Device so fast, but luck was a big part of Mikhel’s work, and he had come to accept it as natural.

Replacing the component took no longer than five minutes, and Mikhel was happy to see that the entire repair had taken him a little less than a full hour. He wouldn’t have all the time he had wanted to prepare himself, but at least he would be able to take a bath and change into a nice set of clothes before going to meet Lynn. Not that she was one to put too much stock into clothes, but anything he could do to impress her was welcome; this was one of the areas where he absolutely must not trust to luck, and where he absolutely had no experience with. He didn’t even know how he had mustered the courage to ask her out, or what she had on her mind when she said yes. Mikhel was not one to discuss with his luck, however, and it was with a grin on his face that he dropped the fixed Device in the small box behind the small shop’s counter, already addressed to Old Nily. Kidd would care of delivering it later that night; he took care of repairs, and Kidd dealt with deliveries, while their foster father ran the shop proper and dealt with finances. All thoughts of the shop or the Device fled Mikhel’s head as he climbed the stairs at the back of the shop, leading to their home, with a grin plastered on his face. He couldn’t contain his excitement.

A quick bath was followed by a lengthy perusal of his clothes, none fancy or expensive. Hard to impress Lynn with what he had, but Mikhel had to work with what he was given. Choosing the less battered of his black trousers, he passed on his usual hardy leather coat in favour of a more gentlemanly grey linen shirt, the best he had, in addition to the sky-blue scarf he had gotten as a birthday present and never really gotten used to wearing – that was why it was still brand new, unlike the rest of his second-hand clothes. Whistling to his own image in the mirror, Mikhel felt confident for the first time since Lynn had accepted his invitation, and a smile bloomed in his lips. Picking out the flowers he had bought for her, he checked the final minor details, making sure everything was just so, and departed to the Mozarra Square, where they had agreed on meeting.

It began while he was still in the streets. The earth began to shook, the sky turned red and green in turns and all around him people screamed, people ran, people died. Mikhel had heard the news about yet another foolish army camping at their doorstep, doomed to fail in conquering the unconquerable city, and yet scenes from his worst nightmares unfolded in front of his eyes, buildings crumbling and the earth being torn asunder by the strength of the invaders. Tossing his carefully-picked flowers aside, Mikhel sprinted the remaining distance towards the Mozarra Square, arriving in time to see a wide-eyed Lynn frantically trying to understand what was happening around her, frantically trying to find safety in the middle of the chaos and destruction. A sigh of relief escaped his lips as he saw that she was still alive; he would get her to somewhere safe, and they would get through this attack somehow. She turned in his direction, and her eyes filled with hope as she began to run towards him.

A shaft of Fire and Lightning descended from the heavens, a spear of death and destruction, tearing through Lynn’s stomach and exploding at her feet, throwing her into the air. Mikhel screamed, rushing to her side as she muttered his name and blood flowed from her mouth and the wound at her stomach.

“Citizens of Illaryon, hear me out. I am Dorian Belzess, Commander of the Armies of Dusk. Your Shinning Walls lay like rubble at my feet, and your soldiers dead at my hands. Your city has fallen. Avoid further grief and destruction by submitting yourselves to my rule and forfeiting all previous allegiances; none that do so will be harmed.”

Hot tears streamed through Mikhel’s face as he held on with all of his strength to the dying moments of Lynn, as she tried to say something that would not come up due to all of the blood and the pain, as she smiled sadly and whispered gently “I love you,” and as her hand finally fell away and her eyes glazed over in the eternal rest of the dead. He screamed then, a scream that tore through his throat and his entire being, cursing the heavens, cursing the earth, cursing the man who had killed his love, “Burn you, Dorian Belzess! Burn you and your Armies to the ground!”

The Lord of Stone, Part 4

The battle raged hot all around Dorian, who stood amidst the dust of the fallen Walls catching his breath. His Weaving had drawn far too much energy from him, and it was a challenge to stay on his feet and not let his sword fall; if any of the enemy’s captains faced him as he was, he would surely fall. So he hung back, looking at the slaughter from a distance, and a slaughter it was; the Shining Walls had never been breached before, and as such Illaryon’s defenders had grown lax in their training and recruiting. Dorian’s army met less than one third their own number, and that of half-trained soldiers and inexperienced officers.

Breathing with difficulty, Dorian forced himself to act; a small contigent of the enemy’s soldiers had noticed him, and were closing in, hoping to strike at a hapless officer. The debris from the Walls’ destruction provided plenty of material for Dorian to work with, however, even exhausted as he was; forcing his will upon the world around him, Dorian Wove the flows of Earth on the fallen stones, and lay in waiting. The soldiers came on, unaware of his trap. As they reached striking distance, Dorian closed his fist, releasing the flows; spears of rock and stone rose from the muddy ground, impaling the majority of the small platoon and scattering those that had been lucky enough to survive.

Grimacing as his head began to throb with the effort of continued Weaving, Dorian surveyed the fallen city once more. Few citizens were on the streets – only those fool enough to think they could mount some kind of resistance would risk themselves in the middle of an invasion -, but that was for the best. Illaryon was not to be burned, and its citizens not to be killed; he was on a campaign of conquest, not destruction, no matter what everyone else thought. He had given firm orders that no citizen was to be attacked unless they resisted the invasion, and that there was to be no destruction of buildings and monuments that did not have a military purpose. The penalty for disobeying either order was death.

Sighing, he motioned for one of the War-Weavers standing nearby, “You, Weaver. The defence grid of Illaryon has already fallen, if I do not miss my mark. Enhance my voice so that it can be heard from all corners of the city.” He did not wait for the Weaver’s nod before turning back to the city, flexing his sword-arm. There would be much to do here before sailing out, but he wanted to avoid any unnecessary deaths. He felt the Weaves of Air surrounding him as a sudden tightness in his skin, but he shrugged it off.

“Citizens of Illaryon, hear me out. I am Dorian Belzess, Commander of the Armies of Dusk. Your Shinning Walls lay like rubble at my feet, and your soldiers dead at my hands. Your city has fallen. Avoid further grief and destruction by submitting yourselves to my rule and forfeiting all previous allegiances; none that do so will be harmed.”

Turning around, he walked towards his tent. The last few stragglers would be dealt with by his soldiers and his officers, as would any of the inevitable uprisings, but there was much to be done in the city yet, and much planning to be worked out if the Armies were to get back in schedule. Dorian’s head throbbed and his body felt like lead, yet he paid them no mind, as there were greater matters to be worried about; he would lead his Master’s Armies of Dusk in their hungry conquests, but there was no glory, no honour in it. He only wished to fulfill his part of the bargain, and finally be able to die in peace.

The Lord of Stone, Part 3

Final part of the Lord of Stone short story. I’m not happy how it turned out, I will probably take everything and rewrite it on the weekend. Until then, any thoughts are appreciated.

Dorian’s warhorse surged forward, leading the charge; it had not been raised and trained by Dorian himself, but it was a good mount, with strong legs and a solid step, who charged fearlessly into battle at the slightest urging – perhaps sensing the mood from its rider, filled to the brim with bloodlust and aggresion as he was. Strange how a man’s mind could wander when faced with life or death situations, how the weirdest details came to his thoughts when faced with the uncertainty of battle. Dorian suppressed it all, seeking the emptiness inside that would bring utter calm, utter detachment.

The horse stepped into the invisible line marking fifty kon to the Walls, and Dorian unleashed hell.

Drawing deeply from his connection with He Who Comes From Below, Dorian Wove the flows of Earth Karma, each thick as a small tree, in intricate patterns that filled his vision, a crisscrossing network of flows and knots just so, forming together a huge and invisible net that only he could sense or see. A smile of triumph came to his lips, unbidden, even as sweat broke on his brow. The sheer power of the Karma he manipulated was enough to get a man drunk, and he could not afford mistakes, not when he and his army were already at 20 kon from the Walls, and impact would mean sure death; it was a fight for survival, his and his soldiers’, a struggle to contain and direct an amount of Karma such as had never been seen since the Fall.

Overlaying his Karma construct on the Walls, Dorian shouted out, calling for the attack, calling for the mad charge against what his soldiers still saw as a solid Wall, even when he already knew the result. They could not see, but they trusted their commander, and they complied; a giant wave of soldiers and horses, men and animals screaming in fear and challenge, exploded into the Shining Walls of Illyrion, until that day undefeated and unbroken. The Karma net actived, and the Walls, so perfect in their defence, so sure of their strenght, turned to dust, the stone melting into sand at the soldiers’ touch.

The Shining Walls turned to ash and scattered into the winds, the impenetrable fortress fell and was defeated, with one man standing in the middle of the carnage, drunk on power, impossibly victorious. All glory to the Lord of Stone, whose very touch withers the hardest rock and bends the strongest metal.

The Lord of Stone, Part 2

Part 2 of The Lord of Stone. Part 1 can be found here.

Dorian surveyed the field as his officers relayed the order to start the attack. Three hundred kon separated his waiting army from the Shining Walls of Illaryon, small enough a distance for their charge to reach the Walls more or less unmolested by the enemy’s War-Weavers. No, not unmolested; hundreds would die in this initial charge, but the number did not matter any more to Dorian. At the beginning, he had been fiercely protective of everyone under his command, but they were just numbers now, just abstract units that he could move and use as he wished.

“My Lord… our own War-Weavers do not have strength enough to breach the Walls while protecting our troops. What is the plan?” his second-in-command, Captain Kerjist, asked. The man was the least air-headed of his officers, and perhaps the only one with a decent amount of sense; he knew that a direct attack against Illaryon was suicide, but he also knew that Dorian wasn’t crazy; therefore, he must have a plan. Dorian smiled.

“Order the War-Weavers to focus their efforts on protecting our units and disabling the enemy’s, Captain. I will deal with the Walls.”

“As you say, my Lord,” he answered, turning his horse to deliver the orders.

For the entire exchange, Dorian hadn’t taken his eyes off the Shining Walls. Rising several dozen kon into the air, they were the biggest and largest walls ever made by the hand of humans, maintained and reinforced by constant flows of Earth Karma, woven by a dedicated team of War-Weavers. It was well and good to boast to his soldiers and officers, but the actual process of bringing down such a marvel of Weaving and human construction would be very hard, even for him. But he was sure he had enough power to manage it.

Completing the calculations in his head, Dorian nodded to himself. He had made some dangerous assumptions in his mental model, but he was fairly certain they were accurate enough. He couldn’t help the smile creeping back into his lips; he always smiled when he was excited. Turning to his officers, his semblance must have been of a madman, but he did not care.

“Sound the charge.”

The Lord of Stone, Part 1

Dorian clutched the mahogany table, his strength straining the wood almost to the breaking point. The maps laid out atop the table, neatly marked with troop locations and outlines of supply chains, were the reason for his barely contained fury; they were three weeks behind the schedule, and it was he who would suffer the consequences for failure, not his incompetent officers. The command tent was sweltering, his men sweating in their armours, but the heat did not seem to touch their commander. It was just a trick of the mind, a matter of concentrating and distancing oneself from his body, but it was known to few, and very useful in awing the lesser minded, like his subordinates. The tent’s flap opened and a man stepped in, the last of Dorian’s officers.

“My Lord, the city still refuses our offer of surrender,” he said in mid-bow, “the siege must continue if we are to crack Illaryon’s walls.”

“No! We have no more time for this foolishness. We must take Illaryon by nightfall. We already know the siege is not working, else they would have fallen a month past. Someone is managing to smuggle food and goods into the city.”

“Sir, that is impossible! Our ships have surrounded the nearby waters in a perfect blockade, there is no way for a smuggler to get past them,” Captain Droevoss complained; he would, as he was the one responsible for neutralizing the enemy’s resources. If someone had been able to bypass the blockade, the failure was his, and very likely his head would fall for it.

“Silence, Droevoss,” Dorian commanded in an imperious tone. He so loved leaving out his subordinates’ titles when chiding them; it irked them to no end that a commoner like himself had risen to command noble-blooded officials, and they could never talk back to him, no matter what he did. The nature of his command, and who it came from, ensured so. “If your precious blockade has been broken or not is of no consequence now; the damage is long done. What matters is that we must take the city now. To that end, I’m ordering a full scale attack on the city.”

“Wh-what?” Droevoss sputtered, though he was not the only one to show shock and doubt. All of them did. All of them where fools. “But Illaryon is one of the most fortified cities in the world, and its defences are said to be impenetrable! No one has ever directly breached the city’s walls in living memory!”

“Relax. I’m taking to the field myself.”