Breaking the Unbreakable

Thought I’d post the first section of a story I’m working on for submission to a fantasy anthology. Now, not to interfere with rights and what not I won’t be posting the whole story, but here’s a little taste 🙂

***Breaking the Unbreakable***

“Nostalgia?” Arcedh’s paper thin voice cut through the turmoil wrapping Rolant Quinn’s mind. The Unbreakable, as he was known, turned to look at the priest. The priest was skeletally thin and wrapped up in robes and cloth so only his eyes were visible. Not that it seemed to matter much in the priest’s case as both eyes were milky white orbs. Arcedh never had an issue seeing though, and more often then not he saw far more than any other man Rolant had met. A gift of Theosis no doubt.

“You know me well,” Rolant said, his voice rasping. He looked away from the priest, out over the wide grassy plain. He focused on the walled city far to the west. “Halsaland, I was born there. Raised in the church after my parents passed in the plague. I accepted the gifts of Theosis and pledged my life to his eternal service in the chapel in the town square.”

“You will not hesitate, when the time comes?” It was more of a command than a question.

Rolant shifted his weight on the warhorse’s back. The plates of his armor gave audible evidence to his every move. “There is no doubt then? The scouts have reported back in?”

“Yes,” Arcedh said. “The force we met two days past was out of Halsaland. You saw them, they bore the Broken Horn standard. They serve the House of Duskgem.”

“Yes,” Rolant said. “But, I had hoped…”

“Hope,” Arcedh said, spitting the word out. We are not in the business of hope. Only
heretics and betrayers stand against us on the field of battle, and it is the will of Theosis that they be cast down.”

“So be it then,” Rolant said. He snapped the visor shut on his aged and dented iron helm. All his armor matched it. Once, years ago, it gleamed as bright as steel, but as it had been with the man, nothing remained perfect and pure. Age and war marked everything.

Tugging on the reins Rolant faced his army; fifty cavalry, five thousand heavy infantry, and one thousand archers. “Today I come home, only to find they’d turned their backs upon Theosis. Our one true god stands tall, yet they choose to kneel and scrape with the pagan masses. Today we shall purge the land of their filth.” He drew his sword and raised the steel blade high above his head. “Today we retake Halsaland for Theosis!”
The gathered army cheered, hoisting their weapons tot he sky, pledging their blades to Theosis.

Rolant looked his army over, his lips twitching into a smile. Pride burning in his chest. But… Something… Something was out of place. He knew his army, the role every man filled, yet today it seemed larger, as though another thousand men had joined in the night. He pushed the disquiet to the back of his mind. There it stayed, refusing to go away.

“After you my lord,” Arcedh said motioning toward Halsaland.

“Forward march!” Rolant cried out. His standard bearers echoed his call with clarion blasts from their horns.

The army began to move. Halsaland’s fate was sealed.

***Author’s Note***

9 days left to Cold Lunch.

And, if you enjoyed all this and don’t want to miss out on one ounce of Kinsgrove news consider joining my mailing list.

 

*Image Credit: Vladmir Buchyk @ artstation.com

Short Story Saturday: In the Dark

So, it’s Saturday. My poem has already posted, but I figured why not post twice today. It is Saturday after all, and I haven’t posted a short story in a little while. And, a little celebration is in order. Not because of the inauguration, but because in the last two weeks I’ve written and submitted a short story for potential publication, and I’ve got probably a hundred pages closer to getting my first novel published. To celebrate all this then, here is my first ever professionally published short story. Published in the Mountain Mysts anthology, which got an Honorary Mention at the London Book Festival. Now, I’m not implying my story played a big role in that… but my ego likes to think so. XD

***

In the Dark

 

“Hello,” the word died in the dark even as it left Nightshade’s lips. A saber was clenched tight in each hand. In his native world he’d been a master at fighting with two blades. In this world, however, the sabers felt clumsy with poor balance between the hilt and the blade. One of them had an ornate hand and cross guard, it had gemstones and gold and silver filigree covering nearly every inch of it; this was the one with the worst balance. The other was plain Jane and practical with an iron cross guard and a band of iron folded down over the sword’s grip.

“What’chu make of ‘im, Jed?” a voice came from the dark. Three forms slipped into the very edge of the light spilling from Nightshade’s campfire. Nightshade shifted his weight just a tick, putting it over his back leg. He was ready to spring when the time came.

“His skin’s as black as midnight,” another voice called, the one on the far left. “You recon he’s a slave escaped from his poor master? That one blade of his is pretty enough to hang on ol’ Dale Harliss’s wall. Might be he actually took it from that wall.”

“You’re both daft,” Jed said, the big one in the middle. He was holding a long iron stick with a sort of wood stock at the back. It was unlike anything Nightshade had ever seen, and the way Jed kept it angled towards the ground, Nightshade suspected it was dangerous.

“We got ourselves somethin’ real nice and special here,” Jed said. “We got ourselves an elf.”

“Quit playin’ Jed,” the first voice said again. “He’s just a jiggaboo, he ain’t no fairy tale. Fairy tales ain’t real.”

“Then what was that bright flash a light we saw?” Jed said. “It was green, Quince. I ain’t never seen a green flash before.”

“It coulda been lightning,” Quince said. “Ain’t that right Roddy?”

“Ain’t never seen no flash of lightning like that,” Roddy said.

It took a minute for Nightshade to catch up to what they were saying. They were speaking common, and he thanked sol for that, but it was a strange sort of common, a dialect closer to the way dwarves talk.

He shoved the thoughts to the back. He might be able to place himself by the way they were talking, but the talk of the green flash intrigued him. He had been born into this world in a great green wave of arcane energy which might appear as a flash of light to a layman.

Nightshade had chosen to come to this world that much was true. Supposedly he had a mission to complete for the Academy Arcane. They were waiting for him to signal his mission was a success so they could bring him back over. Nightshade had no intention of returning. He came here to escape persecution, the kind that killed his kind on sight should they walk upon the surface.

Now it seemed he was a curiosity to these men. A fact which did not bode well for them.

“It was not lightning,” Nightshade said in perfect common.

“It speaks English,” Jed said, his eyes twinkling with curiosity.

“I am a he, not an it,” Nightshade said. “I have a name, and I am a member of a royal family. You will address me as His Highness Prince Adnon of the House of Nightshade.”

A little white lie, maybe, but it was one these fools could never check up on.

“His Highness Prince Adnon,” Quince said and spit. “Well, princey boy, you be in the wrong part of the world for any respect of royalty.”

“You’re in Virginia now,” Roddy said. “A state standing proud in the Confederate States of America, and we don’t cow toe to no king.”

“Come on, Jed,” Quince said. “If he’s an elf, and a jiggaboo elf at that, let’s take ‘im over Richmond way, and see what kinda change we can get for him.”

“I dunno,” Jed said. His eyes had never wavered from Nightshade. He looked entranced, but Nightshade knew he had no powers which could capture a human mind. At least he hadn’t such power back in his native realm.

“Come on, Jed,” Quince said again. “All he’s got is a pair of pig stickers. He can’t do us no harm.”

Jed still didn’t look sure of his decision, but his hands tightened on the iron stick and he brought it up to point at Nightshade.

Nightshade noticed the hole in the middle of the stick, making it some sort of barrel. He tightened his grip on the blades and readied himself for action.

“You’ll wanna put those pig stickers down,” Roddy said as he pulled a similar iron stick from a holster on his hip. This one was no bigger than a wizard’s magic wand.

“We’d hate to have ta shoot ya,” Quince said. He also drew and iron stick. “Ya wouldn’t be worth near as much damaged… or dead.”

“We oughta kill him,” Jed said. “He might be worth something as a slave, but he’d be worth more to one of those travelin’ freak shows. Even if he’s dead.”

Slave and freak show and dad, none of those were near at all what he expected from this world. There was supposed to be freedom here, no persecution based on his skin color. What he’d learned from the wizards was wrong. It was so wrong. He would go back and make them pay for their lies.

These three would need to be dealt with first, however.

He thought about thanking them for a moment, before he killed them. Thank them for showing him the truth of this world and making his stay blessedly short. He tightened his grips, and he charged, letting forth a great battle cry.

Jed, Quince, and Roddy raised their iron sticks as one and fire flew from the ends. The three projectiles struck Nightshade right in the middle. Each one blew out his back; one nipping his spinal cord, with the others shredding his lungs and piercing his heart.

Nightshade stood for a moment. He dropped his swords and brought one hand up to his chest. He looked at the blood there, astonished. How could they beat him? He was a weapon master where he came from… They were bumpkins… How could they beat him?

The dark elf tipped backwards, his legs giving way, and he came down on his back hard.

With eyes quickly glazing over he watched as Jed, Quince, and Roddy stalked around to marvel over their kill.

“It was supposed to be better here,” Nightshade said, his lips covered in blood.

“Bub,” Jed said, leaning down beside the elf. “Don’t you know we’re at war? This world is as full of shit as the next.”

Nightshade let out one last shuddering breath and fell still. The darkness that had first greeted him on arrival into this world wrapped its arms around him and he knew no more.

 

 

The End

This also serves as the starting point for one of my story series. Well, it’s the inspiration behind it anyway. I’ve got a first draft of The Raven Stone: In the Dark floating around, and its an expansion of this story going into how Adnon was brought into our world and how he comes to meet his grisly end at the hands of Jed, Quince, and Roddy. Take comfort in the fact that this death is not truly the end of Adnon’s story. No, it’s only the beginning. His story will continue in The Raven Stone Quadrilogy.

 

Image credit goes to Helmuttt from DeviantArt.

Short Story Saturday: Raw Footage, The Adventures of Gallan Blackenstar

So, gotta be pretty straight up about this. This story isn’t exactly finished, but I find it’s one of my favorites, so I felt the need to share it. The story is based around a… well you’ll see. Anyway, it’s a story I’ve planned on coming back to work on. Just haven’t gotten around to doing it.

I also gave it the extra category of Raw Footage because this is little more than the first draft relating to the story. I did a little clean up, but it wasn’t more than cutting out a few words and correcting some of the grammatical issues. Hope you enjoy!

————————————————————–

“This is a stick up!”

The short balding man yelled it as he and four other men busted down the door to the lady governor’s parlor. The four of them wore clothes befitting only gutter trash, but their weapons were far from what one could come by on the street. Two black powder rifles, one black powder pistol, and one six-shot repeater; all of them navy issue. The repeater was an officer’s weapon. One might wonder how the men came by them. Each also wore either a long knife or a sword strapped to their hip.

They aimed their weapons every which way, pointing them at one noble, followed by another, without any real proficiency. There was nothing professional about them. It was kind of sickening.

As the four of them spread out through the room, one individual strolled forward, moving at a slow calculated pace, like a panther on the prowl. His eyes darted around the room; not because he was looking for an escape; not because he was afraid; merely because positioning was everything in this game.

“I said, ‘This is a stick up!’” the balding man repeated. He jerked his pistol—the single shot black powder pistol—forward in an attempt to appear more threatening. And, like the peep of chickens they were, the nobles started to realize the trouble they were in. Their very lives were in danger.

More importantly, to many of them, their stuff was in danger.

Many hands went into the air. Drinks spilled. Glass broke. Silverware clattered. All of it dropped to the ground. Dropped by the hands of those who would do nothing to help anyone but themselves.

Still a soul individual moved forward. The short balding man was just now catching onto the movement.

“I’ve always wondered about that phrase,” the individual said in a rich baritone. He strolled out of the crowd and towards the lead gunman, moving in a half circle, so that his back faced the far wall. There was nobody behind him in that direction, a small measure to keep any stray projectiles from finding a home in a noble’s body… much as said noble might deserve that fate. “What’s the etymology of it? It’s so… threatening, but all you’re really doing is telling people to put their arms in the air. Why is that? What’s so safe about having a man hang his arms in the air?”

“Ety…what?” The short balding man said. He looked at the individual with a wide eyed confused expression. The devil grinned back at him.

The individual was much more than that. He was a man, to an extent. His lineage was half elven, and he possessed the grace and form of his mother’s bloodline. His father’s half showed too, in the tousled black hair on his head, and the thin and sharp goatee and moustache combination he wore. His eyes were a bright blue, almost jolly. There wasn’t the slightest hint of danger about the half elf. Still he pressed forward.

“I don’t care where the what’s it’s came from.” The short blading man said. “Now get yer shadow blighted arms in the air!”

He turned the gun on the half elf, but the half elf didn’t look alarmed.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the half elf said. “You see, there’s a lovely carpet in here that’s quite expensive, and the drink I’m holding is almost certain to leave a stain large enough to ruin the carpet.”

The half elf shrugged. He took a sip of his drink. His eyes once again flicked around the room, faster than the short balding man could notice. He paid particular attention to the westward facing window, and made a few slight steps in that direction.

Unconsciously, the short balding man made the same movements, to compensate for the new distance between him and the half elf.

“I don’t care about yer bloody drink, get yer hands in the air!”

“Now you’re trying to confuse me,” the half elf said, pointing at the ring leader of the little circus of fools. He turned and lifted his drink, a clear martini in a thin necked crystal glass, in the same direction he’d just pointed. Almost like he was toasting the ring leader.

“What?”

“You’re trying to confuse me,” the half elf said. “First you wanted me to put my arms in the air, and now you want me to put my hands in the air?” He shook his head. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s got to be one or the other. I can’t put both my arms and my hands in the air.”

“Uh…” the ring leader said. He shook his head, and pointed the gun at the half elf, trying to drop an exclamation mark on their conversation. “Do you want me to shoot you?” the ring leader said after a minute. After he caught on to the confusing bit about the hands. “I can. I wouldn’t mind shooting you at all if you’re going to keep playing hero.”

“Hero?” the half elf said. He looked back at the crowd around him. The nobles. All of them with their hands stuck up in the air, all the condescending twits that didn’t deserve to leave this room alive. All of them were hanging on his every last word, like he was their buoy pointing out the truly dangerous waters before their ship could run aground.

The half elf’s eyes landed on the lady governor. Eliza Flowers, a young woman trapped in a world she most certainly didn’t belong in. She hated it here, hated playing nice to people who would gladly stab her in the back, hated playing the game of politics, all to keep her sickly father in the position that was his by birthright. If it hadn’t been for these nobles, this never would have happened.

He smiled at her, the half elf and the lady governor, his roguish charm was turned all the way up in that smile, and from her he thought he caught the lightest glimmer of hope.

“I’m no hero,” the half elf said, turning back to the other man.

And the half elf had to admit, this was a lucrative business venture. These men had the right idea, storming in on a high class soiree like this would produce a veritable mountain of cash and treasure. These men might have had the right idea, but they were lacking. This is an event planned over a matter of days and weeks leading up to the actual party. These men were thrown together within a few hours, given guns they barely understood how to use. After all, wouldn’t the ring leader have landed himself the repeater instead of a single shot? If he knew anything about the weapon that was.

There seemed to be no sense as to how the group was ran. It was easy for the half elf to tell this was only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Be that as it may, the group still needed to be dealt with, using extreme prejudice.

The half elf smiled again. He turned, sipped his drink, and set it down on a serving cart. The skinniest of the four men had moved around behind him. This was the one with the repeater, and a long knife. He was within arm’s reach.

“I’m no hero,” he repeated, and smiled as he looked over the ring leader’s shoulder. “And you could try to shoot me, but you would never hit me.”

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“I can’t be hit,” he shrugged as he said it.

“That so?” the balding man said. “Well, it just so happens that I’ve never missed a shot.”

“Seems we’re at an impasse then,” the half elf said.

The short balding man pulled the hammer back on the black powder pistol. “I’m gonna kill ya, that much is sure. But I wanna know who you are first. Every man should die with a name.”

Oh, you wound me,” the half elf said. “I thought my reputation had preceded me.”

“Just answer the question. I’m tired of yer flapping lips.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, but if you must know, my name is Gallan, Gallan Blackenstar.” Gallan paused for a moment, waiting for the moment of dawning comprehension. There was none. “Although, I was knighted once, so I guess it would be Sir Gallan Blackenstar.”

“Heh, it’ll be fun knowing I killed a knight then. Something I’ll tell my grandchildren.”

“Not likely,” Gallan said. “My job description is going to put a damper on that. I’m Gallan Blackenstar. I get the girl. I kill the bad guys. I look damn good doing it. And on one final note, your time is up.”

“Oh, re…” that was as far as he made when the musical sound of breaking glass seemed to dominate the air. An arrow slammed into the back of the short balding man’s head. The blood and brain slicked arrow head stuck out six inches from the hollow of his left eye. The fletching was the only thing visible from the back.

A collective gasp rose from all those in the room, including the other three circus fools. Gallan made use of the hesitation.

He spun on one heel and grabbled the hilt of the skinniest man’s knife. He drew the weapon, and drove it into the man’s chest. The bright shining steel going right through his heart. As the man fell, Gallan moved his hands quick as lightning, taking the repeater out of the dead man’s hand and spinning.

He brought the gun level with the first riflemen, and the gun barked.

Blood and brains sprayed out the back of the man’s head, coating the wall in gore.

The second rifleman, knowing how this would end, dropped his rifle and charged for the door.

The non-heroic half elf, had the fourth man in his sights. He gently squeezed the trigger.

Again, the gun barked, but it wasn’t the man’s head that exploded in a cloud of gore.

The bullet hit the man’s right knee, shattering the bone there, and making forward motion all but impossible. He pitched forward, when he tried to put his weight on that leg, but the pain he felt would have been unlike anything he’d known before.

He started to cry, and beg for his life.

Gallan looked from the man on the ground, to the one propped up against the wall, and on to the ring leader with his head hanging six or so inches off the floor. The arrow refusing to budge from its position. Then Gallan looked up and out the window, he smiled and waved, giving an all clear sign. Then he turned for the governess.

“And, what was all that ‘Sir’ Blackenstar?” Eliza Flowers said, moving through the room, not as carefully as one might expect. She drug her dress through dirt and food and blood, and she went so far as to step right over the ring leader’s corpse. Gallan looked at her, and started to make a reply, but she struck him with the flat of her palm.

Gallan took two steps back, already off balance. What he got was more conflict, what he’d been expecting was a victory hug, or kiss, but this is Eliza Flowers…

“I thought I did a convincing job of saving you, and all of your noble guests,” Gallan said. He smiled at her. A bright red hand print slowly showing on his face.

“And, how am I to know you didn’t bring them here yourself,” Eliza said. “I don’t remember putting your name on my guest list.”

The half elf sighed. He shrugged. “I had a bad feeling. Thought you might be in danger. So, I dropped in. I guess I was wrong though. It looked like you had the circus of fools under control.” He gave a wicked smile at the end.

Her face had gone red.

“The guards here, are more than capable of taking care of any danger that might be present,” Eliza said. She slowed her breathing, tried to slow her heart rate, and prayed her face was cooling off. “That is why I hired them.”

“And, it looked like they did a wonderful job.”

For that Eliza didn’t have an answer. She opened her mouth, and closed it. Opened it again. Closed it again.

“You owe me a window…and a new carpet.”

She turned away from Gallan, rubbing at her neck. Rubbing it like Gallan was the pain nestled right there in the muscles at the back of the skull.

“Hey,” Gallan said. Eliza didn’t turn around. “I tried to save the carpet.”

She said nothing.

Gallan huffed.

“Well, I did,” he said to no one but himself.

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The question here, I suppose is will there be any more of this story. I hate to give you a taste of it and then say nothing’s going to come of it. But, I can promise you, I’ve got some big things planned for Gallan Blackenstar. A continuation/expansion of this story is almost certainly one of the ideas in the old hopper.

Anywho, hope you enjoyed it, and if you did please feel free to leave a comment. Also leave a comment if you saw any errors or potential points of improvement, constructive criticism is always welcome. And, while you’re busy leaving those comments, you should also spare a thought and like and share the post on all of your social media platforms. Thanks 😀

Short Story Saturday: A Tale of Two Demons

Thought I’d do something a little different today. This is a short story I wrote a while back. I published it on Watt Pad almost two years ago now. It was inspired by the characters myself and one of my best friends created for a Dungeons and Dragons game. Now, if you would, please enjoy A Tale of Two Demons:

The knight’s blade spun a helix around the orc’s spear, while the knight caught another orc with his shield. The bash was a clothesline that sent the beast stumbling, and the knight drew back and punched with the shield edge forward. Contact was made, and there was a satisfying crunch as the orc’s jaw disintegrated from the blow.

Then the knight caught his spinning blade in a reverse grip, hefted it, then drove it back down through the orc’s neck and torso. The blade came out somewhere alongside the orc’s spine, and as the knight removed the blade the beast gurgled some last remark. The knight thought it might have been an insult to his mother integrity, but he shrugged. He righted his grip on the sword and spun, cutting a gash with it deep into the orc with the broken jaw. That beast gurgled as he died, but his final words were totally unintelligible.

The knight, a demon elf by the name of Searanin Nightshade, drew his blade—Solus, a holy longsword with a mind and attitude all its own—from the corpse and turned back towards the battle. He scanned the field with a paragon’s eye, looking for the next fowl beast to be dispatched.

He was an anomaly, an aberration as he was born half demon, yet now he served Sol, the highest of powers, as a paladin. The armor and the weapon he used caused him physical pain with every move. The holy enchantments placed upon them were meant to protect the wearer, and aid him in battle against his unholy foes. On Searanin that armor was an iron maiden, and he used it as penance. For centuries he had served as the highest general to Marwoleath Drwg, the demon elf progenitor and the ruler of the ancient Taratulian empire. Marwoleath Drwg, with Searanin at his right, had united all of Launam under one banner and had served as the world’s third Tyrant God King. All that changed, though, and now Searanin felt every death he caused clearly as the divine might surged through his armor and his bones. He knew he would never have redemption, and never serve Sol, the god of the sun and the holy light, on the highest of the mounting heavens.

Hell was what a demon elf deserved. Eternal torment in all its many ways. And, Searanin knew, with as many evil souls as he’d sent through those gates, he was going to wind up on the deepest layer. And, his torment really would be eternal.

Still, that destiny might be eons from now, who knew how long his demonic blood would sustain his mortal form. So, he would serve Sol now, while he still drew breath, and he would battle against the forces of darkness.

Searanin let loose a war cry and charged, running heedlessly into a cluster of orcs. His sword arm worked, going up and over, cutting the legs out from under one foe and taking the head off the next. His shield was a blur of motion, it caught blows and dealt them out, moving like an extension of his arm, a solid metal fist the size of a man’s torso. The last orc fell, his head still spinning on the stump of his neck, when Searanin saw him.

If Searanin had been the right hand of Marwoleath Drwg, he had been the back hand. The most vicious warrior with the coldest eyes and a heart wrought from steel. They called him many things; samurai, assassin, hitokiri, the Shadow, all of it was the same to him. Shitenshi Amatatsu, the masked demon elf, Searanin’s only equal in all the waking world. Gods had fallen to Shitenshi’s swords.

The masked demon elf locked eyes with him. Searanin looking through the visor of his helm couldn’t see anything but the mask. The eyes that saw through two tiny wooden holes in the plain wooden mask were black stones. They gave no hint of the samurai’s plan.

Orc’s rushed him, and Shitenshi was a blur of motion. Twin katana’s jumped into the air from a pair of crossed sheathes on his back, while he drew two more from the sheathes on his hips. The first two moved of their own accord, everdancing while giving life to whatever mental commands Shitenshi gave them. Each blade moved once and the cluster of orcs dropped. Heads, arms, legs, all of them came loose at the joints and collapsed to the ground. Not a drop of blood stained any of the blades.

“Moving faster than the eye can see,” Searanin muttered. His eyes had tracked only the first motion. He clenched his teeth and started forward, started towards the masked demon elf.

This was destiny.

“They say Asmodeus fears your blades,” Searanin says loud enough for the masked elf to hear. “It’s strange that the king of Hell fears them and I do not. Maybe I’ll take hell for myself when those blades send me there.”

Searanin flicked his wrist and twisted Solus up and around into a ready position. He set his shield waiting for Shitenshi’s charge. Shitenshi watched Searanin, and made a few steps to the right, putting himself in front of the shield.

“You might want to reverse your grip,” the masked elf said. It was a surprise to Searanin, he’d rarely heard the masked elf’s voice when the two of them worked on the same side. “I know you’re not left handed.”

Searanin smiled behind his visor. “If I fight with my right, this will be over too fast.”

“So be it,” Shitenshi said. He shrugged, and vanished.

The knight closed his eyes and accessed an ethereal sixth sense, not psychic perception, but close to it. This sense used everything but sight. Sight hindered it. Searanin gave light to this sense and felt the very vibration of the air as Shitenshi moved in.

Searanin spun and brought his shield up, catching the first of the masked elf’s blades. His sword arm worked, knocking away two more blades, but the fourth landed. It came in over his shield, and struck down on his shoulder. The metal pauldron came away with a crease in it, and the blow rang through he knight’s bones. He back pedaled and gave an awkward thrust that the masked elf easily turned aside.

“I thought you were better than this,” Shitenshi said, his voice sounding hollow behind the mask.

“I’m used to my opponents breathing fire,” Searanin replied with a slight smile on his face. “Give me a moment to adjust and you’ll be little more than an orc to Solus.”

Shitenshi went to move, to vanish en toto again, but Searanin gave a simple thought and the masked elf’s body outlined in blue faerie fire. It did no damage, but made his moves easier to track, and while the masked elf could dismiss that fire with a thought, he kept his decoration.

Searanin’s sword arm worked again and again as Shitenshi moved in. It turned away cuts and slashes left and right, and while the occasional blow landed on his shield, Searanin kept that away from the thick of the fighting. His shoulder ached with a horrid pain, the bone was most definitely bruised, if not broken, and the creased metal of the pauldron pinched into his arm with every move.

He back pedaled, and kept moving, making the masked elf chase him. He avoided as many strikes as he blocked, and took more and more hits. The holy wards of his armor were pushing their limits. A time for different tactics was close at hand.

On the next swing Searanin ducked under the blade and thrust Solus into the ground. He was up, and caught Shitenshi’s wrist on the incoming swing. He pulled the masked elf close to him, and smashed his heavy steel shield into Shitenshi’s face. The attack surprised the masked elf more than it stunned him, but the hesitation it created was more than enough time for Searanin to act.

A bolt of force shot out from Searaning and caught the masked elf in the chest, it drove him back, and a little red gold bead followed him. The fireball blossomed, a new deadly flower on the field of battle. Trees caught fire, shrubs were crisped in an instant and the ground blackened.

The knight drew his blade from the ground and stood ready. The fireball would have been the end of any other foe.

Shitenshi walked out practically unscathed. The edges of his robes were blackened and frayed, and a little smoke drifted up from his ash white hair. He set up for an attack, but this time Searanin was faster.

Blink, a powerful teleportation spell, moved the knight to Shitenshi’s back, and Solus drove in for the kill. The everdancing blades caught Solus and turned the blow to the side, but even this Searanin was prepared for. He turned one floating katana up with Solus, and caught the opposite end with his shield. He drove it down to his knee and, with all the force a demon elf could muster and snapped the blade in two. A cry of anguish and death rose up from the magical weapon. It dropped to the ground smoking.

Shitenshi spun, Searanin could feel his rage, and drove both his blades down, but the knight rolled under the attack and sprung. He speared Shitenshi, knocking the masked elf to the ground.

Searanin could have pushed the advantage, and won there, simply by channeling the strength of Sol’s holy smite through his body and into Shitenshi’s. That would have destroyed them both, however. Though it was questionable that either of them were truly evil, they were both products of demonic powers and a crazed god bent on revenge against his mother. Searanin could handle using his smiting abilities in small doses, but channeling enough to destroy Shitenshi…

The knight rolled and popped to his feet. Shitenshi kipped up, and the two began to circle, their swords held down low, pointing towards the earth.

“I’d had that sword since I was a child…” Shitenshi said.

Searanin shrugged. “War’s a bitch sometimes.”

“The blood on that blade…”

“Does not equal the amount of blood on my soul,” Searanin said. “You were an assassin. You struck small targets, and took maybe a hundred lives at once. I was a general. I commanded armies that numbered in the millions. The death toll on my soul numbers in the billions.”

“I remember plenty of those battles,” Shitenshi said, his voice sounding hollow again as it came from behind the mask. Searanin wished he would take the damn thing off, not seeing anything but his opponent’s eyes was unnerving. “It was my blades that bathed in the blood of the damned. My blades that made it possible for your armies to win the day. The blood on the battlefield did not fly high enough to hit your boot on your precious airships!”

Shitenshi moved, a blur of blue fire across the battlefield. His blades went up and over, down and around, the three of them seeming to fly every direction at once. Searanin fell back on his original plan. He back pedaled, and drove off some attacks while he caught some with his shield and the rest with his armor. The dents and dings were getting too him, all the vibrating metal surrounding his bones. Just the sound of it was enough to drive a man crazy. And the aches that came with it, rising up off of him high up into his mind and driving the signals there crazy.

Searanin pushed, infusing Solus with divine power, and lashed out at Shitenshi. The sword cut a golden path through the air. Shitenshi took a step back, but not fast enough. The very tip of Solus’ blade caught cloth and chainmail and flesh, biting through all of them and leaving a sizzling scar behind. Shitenshi reeled as the real attack came through, the divine power, drove in by a single millimeter deep cut, blew through his veins. It boiled his demonic blood, and an unrelenting pain washed over him in a golden wave.

The knight felt his own blood boil from the attack, every nick and cut and scrape along his arm blazed with divine fury. Sometimes that pain was right and fine, like his god congratulating him on a job well done. Now it was a right bastard that drove him to his knees. He dropped Solus to the ground as his hand cramped and his fingers spread apart in a horrific fashion.

He heard the attack coming almost too late.

Shitenshi’s blade cut a great arc through the air. It was only one blade with this attack, one with both of Shitenshi’s hands clenched around the adamantine katana’s hilt. The blow was meant to decapitate him, giving him an honorable death after the idiotic attempt at seppuku with the smite. But, Searanin heard the blade as it cut through the air, and instinct proved faster.

The knight leaned back on his haunches, getting his head away from the blade, and brought his shield up to catch the rest of the blow. Steel screamed in a way that should never be heard as the katana cut through the shield. It sheared through, all the way at an awkward angle and took Searanin’s forearm off halfway from the wrist to the elbow.

If the pain from the smite was bad, this pain was unimaginable and the knight fell back. He scrambled backwards across the field as he cradled the stump with his good arm. He left Solus lying there beside his shield… and his hand.

“Tut, tut, tut,” Shitenshi said. He also skipped on the chance to press his advantage. He sheathed his adamantine katana, letting it join the mithril one to his left. The obsidian bladed weapon still hovered over Shitenshi’s shoulder, waiting for the opportune moment. Searanin could feel how badly that sword wanted revenge.

The masked elf stooped and took hold of Solus using Searanin’s discarded right hand.

“He’s a fine blade,” Shitenshi said. “I can feel him fighting me now, even though my flesh has made no contact with him. I can feel his hatred for all things evil. I can feel his hatred for our ancestry. Yet he does not bemoan hanging at your side. You who excelled at being everything this blade hates. It follows your commands. Is penance the word I should be looking for here?”

Shitenshi shakes his head and casts away the hand, and lays his own on the blade’s hilt. “Oh yes, I can feel so much of you on this sword. The ideals you uphold. The fight you press on and on forever through thick and thin. You must realize you’ve made yourself an oxymoron. Your life is one. Your faith is one. You are an oxymoron.”

“And what have you done with your life?” Searanin asked. The pain in his arm was beyond overwhelming, and it had sickened him till he had to take his helm off and expel the contents of his stomach. He hacked again, before he was able to stand and really face Shitenshi.

“I’ve spent centuries atoning for my sins,” Searanin said. He gave a thought and a wreath of fire grew up around his left hand. The fire crisped the leather glove and gauntlet until both fell away as ashes. The fire only grew in intensity then. He waited another moment, and his eyes caught Shitenshi’s.

“Even today I fight to atone for those sins,” the knight said, then he slammed the palm of his left hand into the open wound of the stump on his right. The fire engulfed the exposed flesh. The metal of his chain shirt and gauntlet was caught in it, and when the flames fell away it was impossible to tell the difference between metal and flesh.

Searanin didn’t scream through the whole show, as badly as he had wanted too. He clenched his jaw instead, and broke two of his back teeth, molars that weren’t good for anything except grinding rabbit food to pulp before swallowing. He spit the remains out as he held out his left hand. “You’ll be returning that now.”

Shitenshi looked at Searanin with his cold stone colored eyes, then back down at the blade. “No,” the masked elf said. “You owe me a sword, and while this one’s not in line with my usual style, I feel it will be a suitable replacement.”

“Give me the sword,” Searanin said. Shitenshi didn’t pay attention, he put the sword through two practice swings then adjusted his grip on the hilt, working to understand the weight of the sword. He sent it through one more practice swing.

“Give me the sword, Shitenshi,” Searanin said. “Now!”

“Come and take it,” Shitenshi said.

Divinus Incendium!” Searanin cried out, and the gold plated Solus burst into a holy golden fire. As soon as the flames touched Shitenshi they jumped all the way up his arm. The divine fire craved the demonic blood in the same way a fire craves oxygen. They need both to live.

Shitenshi let go of the blade with a muffled cry. He stepped back out of the flame but it followed. His arm was already a blackened husk and the flame wanted more.

Searanin was on the move too. He caught Solus’ hilt, knowing he’d never lift a sword again. The divine fire made to burn his blood as well, lighting it up and making his arm glow from the inside out. Within the time it took for Searanin to catch Solus and lead into the final attack the metal plates of his gauntlet and ring mail were dripping hissing little beads to the ground beneath them. Still Searanin thrust, and Solus took Shitenshi under the arm. The weapon sheathed in its divine fire burned away any form of protection as though it were paper. The blade entered his ribs and exited up out of the hollow between his shoulder blade and his collar bone. The fire burned behind Shitenshi’s eyes, and his last cry was long and mournful.

For Searanin would die too. The obsidian katana, still floating in midair when the attack began, drove itself down through Searanin’s unprotected shoulder, and buried itself to the hilt. Searanin didn’t feel the attack, not until the blade exited somewhere alongside his spine. He turned and looked. He saw the hilt sticking up out of his shoulder like an unwanted weed.

“Not again,” he muttered.

Their bodies fell together, and they supported one another until they were on the ground. There, in a pool of blood and fire they died together, each holding the other.

And, that’s how their lives would end, each of them knew it, but today was not that day.

The illusion fell apart as a new form appeared on the battlefield. He was small, didn’t quite come up to either of the elves hips, and was probably older than both of them. Though he didn’t look it, what with a cleanly trimmed beard and a length of it braided down to the top of his breast. His hair was cropped short and his eyes were an unnaturally deep blue. He started clapping, and as he walked towards the elves the blood soaked ground became the spotless flagstone floor of some enormous dining hall.

When he reached the elves, neither of them were wearing armor. Neither had been blackened by a divine fire. And, neither of them were on death’s door step. They weren’t even breathing all that hard.

“Are you satisfied now?” Adolphus Meridan said, looking at the two demon elves. “Twenty-two times and you’ve had the same result each time. You enter the battlefield as foes and you both die. That’s mutually assured destruction at its finest.

Searanin sat up first and checked his arm. His hand was there, fully functional. He made a fist twice and sighed with relief. Then a little mock anger rose to his lips. “You cut off my arm you bastard!”

Searanin smiled as he watched Shitenshi’s reaction.

“You broke my damn sword,” the masked elf said, his mask nowhere to be seen. He shook his head and slammed one fist into the ground. He used that fist to push himself up, and with a little flourish he kicked around and brought himself to his feet. “I want a rematch.”

“Anytime,” Searanin said. He got back to his feet the old fashioned way and stretched. Then turned to Adolphus. “Prepare the field.”

Adolphus looked up at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You do it,” he said and turned to walk away. “If you want a rematch, really kill one another this time.” Adolphus stopped, glanced back over his shoulder and shook his head. Searaning and Shitenshi were both watching him leave.

“Gah,” Adolphus said. “Children these days.” To them: “I’ve got work to do, so bugger off for a century or two. I’m bored.”

The halfling lich smiled as he walked away, then vanished en toto. He knew they were both millennia old… and still they acted like children.

The End

Consecutive Days Blogging: 6