Coundon, Coventry, West Midlands, England
A howling wolf pack disturbed the quiet night. Crackling flames danced in front of Rhen as she pretended to examine the curious object they had found on a corpse of a troll. But her mind was otherwise engaged, and her thoughts were directed towards Avey. She somehow trusted him, and she hated it when she couldn’t explain something like that. The human, she guessed, was about seventeen, and half of her told her he could never lead a force against Pacis quod Merisicordia, but the other half believed it. He wore a worn expression, that of a troubled leader, so, for now, she decided to trust him.
“So, Rhen, what are you and your friends doing out here?” Avey’s voice interrupted Rhen’s thought process, and she was startled to hear him speak.
“Ughh, I don’t really know myself to be honest, we were sent out looking for something by Malwrym...” Rhen hesitated and wondered whether she should include the information she had been given in the dream, but she decided against it. She couldn’t tell someone she had only known for a few hours something that she could tell her friends she had known for seven years.
“Mmmm...Rhen, what is that?” Avey pointed to the shard and Rhen shrugged.Just then, Amie and Samsoon came back from hunting, with empty hands.
“There’s no animals left Rhen, we need to move soon or-...” Samsoon noticed the shard Rhen had in her lap. “What’s that?”
“A shard a found on one of the corpses, why?”
“That’s a fragment from a dwarven broad sword...” Samsoon was becoming pale, and Rhen was a little confused so as to why. It wasn’t unusual for races to get their hands on other races’ equipment. “Those broad swords are kept hidden within the castle and are only used by skilled warriors, Kobolds should never be able to get their hands on them unless...”
“Unless?” Amie was as confused as Rhen, but Avey suddenly had a look of realisation.
“Unless they were being sold through a black market by a force that had penetrated Vetsom...” Samsoon slowly nodded. As a dwarf, he was proud of his city, even though he had never been there. Rhen nodded at Samsoon. She had made up her mind; they were going to Vetsom...
The secret force was slowly revealing itself. It no longer hid in the shadows from whence it came, but plagued the citizens of the world, invoking war and the slaughter of thousands. The orcs had bore the brunt of the influence and were wreaking havoc around the world. They fought amongst themselves, and their evil was spreading amongst the other races. The undead were crawling out from their usual hiding spots underground, and the elves were falling due to war.And the leader of such a force, just sat by, and watched...
Samsoon checked a blow. The troll before him suddenly burst into flames and began to scream, allowing him to slice the troll open and finish it. Corpses lay around with arrows piercing their chests, and Avey stepped over Amie’s kills, while using his mace and limited magic to smash the remaining foes. The trolls were small in number and the teens soon defeated them. They were worn out, Samsoon most of all. He had never been to Vetsom, but he knew much of it, and it caused him grief to see that the roads leading up to the dwarves’ proud city had become so dangerous. Rhen had not been troubled by dreams for a matter of days now and she was beginning to think that they would never return, so she had been able to put her mind at rest, and the magic was not as physically draining as it should have been. Amie was worried as she was running out of ammo, and she didn’t know if they would reach Vetsom before she needed more, while Avey’s thoughts remained well concealed. Paladins were apparently very good at keeping their own secrets. Rhen had been trying to figure him out, but she was finding it very hard, as his actions and speech did not portray anything useful. And as they set up camp for the night, Rhen once again tried to break the barrier Avey had sculpted around himself.
“Avey, where do you come from, I mean, originally.”
“Long story really...” Avey was avoiding Rhen’s questions and it was starting to annoy her. She was a somewhat stubborn person with a curious touch and it got on her nerves when she couldn’t figure something out. So, she dropped the conversation and went to bathe in a nearby river. It was an abnormally hot day, and to Rhen it seemed that even the seasons had been affected by the never ending bloodlust. She looked down upon her arms and saw that the patterns had become more complex and reached further up her arms. She found this bizarre as she had been told her markings would never change, but she had more important things on her mind. They had no map, and as she had never been to Vetsom before, she was unable to open a portal there, as she did not know the magic codes. They only had Samsoon’s memory to go by, and she feared that they were veering off course. Amie had asked if she could go ahead and see if she could find the way, but Rhen had refused instantly. Four of them were having trouble with the constant ambushes, let alone Amie all by herself. Rhen climbed out of the water, redressed, and went to see her friends who were setting up a makeshift camp. The light of day ad faded, but there were no stars. The moon was bright in the sky, but its friends in the stars had abandoned it. “Even Chiansha’s sky has been affected...”Rhen thought as she wondered over toward Amie, Samsoon and Avey. As she sat down, and looked at her fatigued friends, Rhen began to realise just how hard this was going to be.
Empty shells of once highly populated huts lay on a barren field. Ashes from the fire that destroyed the homes floated around in the air, before settling on the burnt ground.Crops that had once grown tall above the grass were now no more than piles of blackened dust, and the trees that had not been consumed by the fire, were burnt at the bottom, and were in danger of giving way any second. A group of humans watched as the last flames died out. At the front of the spectators, there stood their leader. His second in command approached him.
“Avey, there are no survivors. With luck, this will convince Pacis Quod Merisicordia that we are serious.”
“Good. We need that to continue with our work...” Avey signalled for his men to follow, and as they left, the last flame lost its grip on life...
“AVEY!” Rhen shouted as she awoke. Breathing heavily, she checked that she hadn’t woken the others. Thankfully, only Amie stirred, but did not wake up. Rhen picked up her weapons and cloak, as it was unusually cold. In the distance, Rhen could see tall buildings that glistened in the early morning light. The roads looked clear, and peaceful. The only conclusion that Rhen could come to was that the Vetsom guards had kept those roads clear, and that those buildings were the first glimpse of the dwarf city. She felt a small sense of achievement, as they had made it there. Rhen turned back to the camp, but the sight of Avey brought her dream flooding back. She had trusted him, but could someone who burnt down an entire village really be trusted? But she had little time to dwell on the subject, as she noticed her friends and Avey were waking up. Amie was soon on her feet, as Rhen had noticed, she never truly slept.
“Is that Vetsom?”
“Yup, I think so” Rhen and Amie smiled at each other, glad that they had managed to come so far. Avey and Samsoon were soon awake, and the four of them set off down the road, headed for the city in the distance...