Book Two, Chapter Four

Scroll 6: Last Chance for Peace

Knight Captain Ritari is reporting to Friar Pallium that a patrol has discovered a village with all the inhabitants massacred. The scene was staged to frame the Knights. Civil war is looming under an avalanche of treachery that is tearing Verngaurd apart.

“You could tell by the difference in the fires and the degree of burning on the tied-up bodies that they started on the far ends and roasted them one at a time until they got to the middle. Can you imagine seeing your friends and family slowly burned to death? Hearing their screams and knowing your turn was coming . . .” Ritari’s voice trailed off and he snorted, trying to get the smell of death out of his nostrils.

“Who did it? Dark Warriors?” Friar roared.

Ritari looked up. “We did.”

“What? Don’t be ridiculous, Ritari.”

“As far as everyone is concerned, we did.” Ritari handed the sword to Friar. It bore the stamp of Liberum. “Our weapons and banners were everywhere, as was a message burned in the grass; “Traitors to the Knights!”

Friar shook his head slowly. “I knew the White Wizard and Dark Warriors were going to great lengths to divide Verngaurd, but this . . .”

Ritari sighed deeply. “I have to admit, it is ingenious. Not only has all of Verngaurd turned against us, our own troops are demoralized. When they are confronted with these scenes over and over again it creates doubts in their minds.”

The two sat in silence, letting the weight of the situation settle upon them. Turning his attention to his old friend, Friar broke the silence. “There is more, I think?”

Ritari sighed loudly, with a hint of indignation. “Our patrols are getting pounded by ambushes from the Dark Warriors and the Proliate. Both have superior numbers and I am sure would be content to slowly chip away at us. Our morale is battered thin.”

Friar sighed wearily. “I see. The reports I have received from our Allies are, unfortunately, similar. The Northern Dwarves are in an even worse spot. The griffins and Magicians are constantly harassing them from the air and the Proliate ground troops are skirmishing with their infantry on the ground. The Dark Warriors have left them alone, for now.”

There was a knock on the door and Baiulus entered. Ritari quickly told him the news and continued. “We are harassed on every patrol. Hunting for game used to be the most excitement we had before this mess. Now, the Dark Warriors are constantly baiting us. Most of the time it is only a few of them, but occasionally it is a large force. This morning we ran into twenty of them and suffered two deaths. By the time we get reinforcements they are always gone.

“We had four deaths last week at the hands of the Proliate.” Shaking his head, Ritari rubbed his short black hair. It was coated with sweat and grime. “How can the Proliate say we are in league with the Dark Warriors when they are attacking us?”

“They think we are lying about the attacks to deflect blame. Plus, they have seen the attacks staged by the Dark Warriors to make it look like we did it. The whole thing reeks,” Baiulus said. For the first time Ritari saw past his own fatigue and noted how worn-out and exhausted the other two men looked. Heavy bags clung under their eyes and deep furrows of worry seamed their foreheads. Their haggard looks did nothing to curb his anger. Something had to change.

 

griffen attack

Book Two, Chapter Six

Scroll 1: Oh . . . .!

Squires Gimelli and Scelto were foraging for food in the Dark Forest when they were attacked. With Gimelli injured, Scelto fights to stay in front of the assailants.

Scelto struggled to keep ahead of the undead in the thick pine forest of Arbre Fonce. His breathing was loud, forced, and his lungs burned as he struggled to carry Gimelli’s limp and bleeding body. The vampire’s minions could smell the two squires. There was no use trying to be quiet; only the desperate need to stay ahead of them.

“Whaaa?” Gimelli groaned.

Scelto stole a quick glance at her pale face. Blood was oozing from the countless puncture wounds where the vampire had been draining her blood. Scelto’s arms and legs cried out in pain. They started to shake from the exertion, but he willed himself to continue.

I can’t keep this up for much longer and there is no way I can outrun them carrying Gimelli. His tired brain kept trying to come up with a solution. I need to find a place to stand and fight before I am totally exhausted.

He remembered several large rocks they had passed on their way towards the village, and shifted course to his left to find them.

“You can’t run from us! We are going to boil and eat you boy!” a zombie yelled.

“Get ready for pain!” another cried out. Scelto could hear their heavy footsteps moving closer.

Surrender is not so much an option, he told himself, shuddering. He kept imagining what they would do to Gimelli.

There! The rocks are over there.

Reaching a small clearing in front of three large boulders he gently set Gimelli down and pushed her up against the largest rock. He allowed his eyes to dwell on her for just a moment. The blood on her neck and upper back had turned so dark it blended in with the black stone. The largest of the rocks was like a giant pyramid jutting out of the ground. It would be impossible for anyone to circle around and get at them from behind.

He gathered a few palm sized, jagged rocks. He set some near Gimelli and pocketed a few others before moving to his right. Crouching silently in the forest, he waited while desperately trying to slow his frantic breathing. As the zombies approached the clearing he drew his sword.

Suddenly, the two zombies who had been feasting around the fire burst through the edge of the small glade. They stopped about ten feet from Gimelli and stared hungrily at her. Each zombie curled his lips up into a menacing snarl. They bared their yellow teeth, showing the black pincer like fangs arching out from their gums.

“Lovely smile,” Scelto whispered while standing up. He heaved one of the stones over their heads with all his might. It sailed high in the air and landed on the opposite side of the forest. It crashed down through the trees and they both turned in that direction. Stealthily, he moved up behind them. He quickly cut the head off the zombie closest to him. The head fell and blood spurted wildly. The other zombie howled angrily, baring his monstrous fangs and hissing. Scelto could see the chunks of flesh still dangling between his filed teeth and the deep black circles under his vacant, yet hateful eyes.

Scelto stepped to his right and slashed the charging zombie’s left arm off. Screeching savagely, it dove at Scelto with surprising speed. Scelto brought up his left knee and slammed it into the creature’s face, snapping it backwards. The zombie was stunned long enough for Scelto to bring his sword over in a slicing arc that removed his head. As the body hit the floor three more zombies burst into the clearing.

“Hey, nice of you to finally show up,” Scelto said, with blossoming confidence. There was something strangely calming in the reality that there was nothing left to do but fight and win, or fight and die.

The three zombies stared at their two dead comrades as Scelto strolled leisurely towards Gimelli. Stealthily he grabbed one of the rocks from his pocket and without warning whipped his body around and threw it with all his might at the closest zombie. It hit right in between his eyes and snapped his head backwards. Using the momentum from the throw Scelto spun around and cleanly decapitated the surprised zombie before retreating to stand over his friend’s unconscious body.

The two remaining zombies howled with unbridled fury.

“The first time I saw you, I thought you were the type of guys who liked to lose your heads.” Scelto said with a smile. Only two left. Not too bad. he thought. The two creatures stared at their decapitated comrades and then at each other; their rage boiling over.

“We’re gonna pain you, boy,” one of them said angrily.

book two excerpt

 

Book Two, Chapter Seven

Scroll 3: A New Battle Order

Civil war has indeed fallen on Verngaurd. Despite the ever present threat of Dark Warriors, the armies of Verngaurd are clashing. The Confederates are led by the Proliate and Magicians; the Allies by the Knights.

Despite being on opposite sides of the battle, Supreme Master Magician Veneficus still believes the Knights have a role to play in securing peace for the future of Verngaurd. To that end, he decides to send Friar a secret message.

High up on the Tingij Mountains Veneficus sat on Runor. The beautiful Pegasus stomped restlessly. Its hearing is known to be a thousand times more sensitive than a human’s and the screams and clamor of battle made the winged horse nervous.

“Can we get down to our troops now?” Emperor Fanga of Piscium questioned.

“Your troops have not made it through the pass and the battlefield is not secure,” Veneficus answered. “Now, go back with the others.”

Veneficus scratched his greying head. Once again the burden of the unknown weighed heavily on him. Scanning around he made sure no one was eavesdropping. Quietly he lowered his crosier in front of his body to shield it from the others. “Salainen viesti naytaa,” he whispered. A small orb of bluish light emerged from his crosier and hovered before him. Gently grasping it, he whispered a message into it. When he had finished he softly spoke the guiding spell, “Ex agito hic-Friar Pallium.” He finished by pointing towards the battle. The blue orb traveled with lightning quickness to Friar.

Once again Veneficus checked to see if anyone had noticed his actions. Convinced they had not, he smiled. The future of Vernguard depends on the Knights surviving this battle, he thought, as if trying to justify what he had just done.

On the field of battle Friar was frantically overseeing their slow retreat towards the relative safety of the Allied lines. The griffins and Magicians were slowly decimating his troops, which were separated from Veli Pingius and the Vioma Division Dwarves to the south.

When the blue orb arrived Friar was desperately signaling to the dragons circling above the pass for assistance. The dragons were not responding, as more griffins had already engaged them and the two forces were embroiled in another fierce aerial battle. Looking suspiciously at the orb, Friar reached cautiously towards it. A small, translucent image of Veneficus’ head appeared. Only Friar could see and hear it as it began to speak. “Friar, withdraw your forces south until you are well below the opening of the pass. The Proliate from the north will be there any second and they have several surprises for you. I am convinced that your surviving this fight is crucial to the future of Vernguard.”

As quickly as it came, the image and orb disappeared. Friar cautiously waved his hand where the translucent image had been but felt nothing. He did not hesitate. He felt there was no choice but to trust the message from his old friend.

Turning to the signalers he ordered a full retreat to join the other Allies south. A few moments after they started their accelerated retreat the twelve thousand Proliate from the north sped to within fifty yards of them, spurred on by the prodigiosis volo enchantment.