Woe: A Collaborative Novel

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium


"A Return to Damasc" Written by Akumakaze.



A very special thanks to Akumakaze for yet another awesome (and significant) contribution, as well as for his celerity and dedication to the project. This chapter was written swiftly in response to
a change in the line-up. Please check out his other works @ https://www.booksie.com/users/akumakaze-150666

Chapter 5 (v.1) - A Return to Damasc - by Akumakaze

Submitted: August 20, 2017

Reads: 255

Comments: 4

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Submitted: August 20, 2017

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Soundtrack

Within the manor, Coranth awaited the invitation of the council. His endless pacing nearly wore a hole in the floor.

What in the hell is taking them so long?

Since informing Lord Arawen of the exchange in the forest and the implications, Arawen and his council had been discussing the probability of their involvement in the coming power struggle. He had had nearly enough of waiting around when the doors of the Council chamber creaked open and he was invited in.

Faces all drawn and old, they looked at him with disdain. Their hatred of the mingling of the races was very much a part of their discomfort with the whole situation, since it made no sense that this hafling should even be listened to. His words meant nothing to them, but Lord Arawen had taken a liking to the lad, so they felt obligated to consider the tale as it was told.

Coranth relayed all he had seen and heard, whilst inside the forest during the morning hours, before his daily training regime.

Damn, I missed the dagger session for today!

After giving his account, the council gave him his leave and he plodded off towards his home, feeling defeated by the council’s stares and questions. His mother would be there. She would give him encouragement to face himself again and the noon day meal; which, he had no doubt she had prepared by now; would settle the grumbling that had begun to stir in his gut.

Walking along with his head down, Coranth rounded the corner of the manor in the direction of his home. Wham! Coranth laid sprawled out on the ground as the sudden interference of another body slammed into him.

“Coranth, what in curses are you thinking, man?!”

“Huh.” Coranth looked up to the voice calling his name. The figure offered a hand to help him up. As Coranth got up and began to start again, Garos fell in step beside him.

“You, alright, mate?”

“Yeah, just a little lost in thought. Sorry for the run in, Garos.”

“No problem, friend. By the way, I was looking for you. You missed today’s weapon lesson.”

“Yeah, I know. I got sidetracked with the council after my morning ritual in the forest.”

“Why, what happened?”

“I’m not really suppose to say, but since you’re probably going to find out anyway... I’ll tell you, but promise me no one else hears about this. Ok?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. I’ve got your back, Cor.”

“Alright, in the forest this morning I caught sight of an orc being chased by the elves. They caught up with him inside the Temple of Urd and shot him with an arrow. The Eant that lives within, beatdown the elves, and strung their bodies up at the edges of the forest as a warning to the elves not to enter ever again. Personally, I believe it’s a declaration of war. So, I informed Lord Awaren as quickly as I could. He called upon the council to assess the situation. They’ve been questioning me and listening to my account until just moments ago.”

Garos whistled sharply.

“So, what you going to do, Cor?”

“I don’t know. I doubt they’ll let me join the Damascan Demon Corps, regardless of my skill. But, I feel like I need to do something. I just don’t know what yet.”

“You could always go rogue, my friend. Your skills are quite impeccable with archery and the short sword. With a little more training, you could be a versatile force on any side.”

“That’s true, but do I have enough time to master the skill I want though?”

“And, what would that be, Cor?”

“Stealth. I need to be unseen, for some of the tasks that maybe required. Will you train me?”

“Sure, how about we eat some of your mom’s cooking, then we can work on it.”

“Hmmph, sounds like you’re trying to get with my mom more than train with me!”

“Now, Cor, you know I can’t pass up a good meal, your mom makes the best stew in town. Plus, she ain’t too bad to look at either. Heh, he, he.”

“Garos, you’re such a perv. If you try to touch her, remember how good I am with the short sword. Besides, Lord Awaren might have something to say about your desires. I believe He has set his sights on her, given his sudden interest in me of late.”

“You could be right, my friend, you could be right.”

 

#

 

Laughing as they walked along, Cor and Garos seemed quite the characters to the town's folk. None knew how they ever came to be friends considering Garos was Cor’s senior by five years. At twenty-one, Garos was a fit, but sturdy young lad, on his way to being a Damascan Demon Corps member. They were the elite of the military force within Damasc. His skill in combat had only been tested a few times, but each time he emerged the victor and was hardly ever wounded.

His prowess in battle had only started to shine in recent times though, and only the two boys knew why. It began in the morn of three years ago, before his training session along the river with a few other fellow warriors to-be; the young Coranth, who had been watching their training for a month, approached him asking to learn the art of warfare. At first, Garos had dismissed the lad thinking how could a hafling ever learn anything, but his mind changed when Coranth challenged him. Thinking it was no contest, Garos agreed.

After all, what could a thirteen-year-old scrawny half elf do to make him lose. All laughed as Cor picked a short sword to duel with against Garos’ broadsword. Each clothed and armored in their respective gear, the two began to duel as the others cheered and egged Garos on. But, try as Garos might to defeat his challenger, he could never land a blow upon him. Despite his size, Coranth showed incredible strength and speed with the armor on, parrying blow after blow, until Garos gave out in exhaustion.

The battle ended with Garos yielding as Coranth knocked him down and put the sword to his neck. The rest of the warriors stood stunned at the sight. No one ever said anything about the incident, but ever since Coranth and Garos became the best of friends with Garos training Coranth on the different weapons and Coranth showing Garos how to move effectively.

Now, at sixteen, Coranth had rounded out into a well-built young man, still slender but more tightly wound with muscle. His skills continued to improve even further over the three years of training with Garos and though he had requested to be considered for the Demon Corps, the council made the final decision and they weren’t too keen on letting a hafling into the troop.

 

#

 

The arrival of the two on Cor’s front porch triggered the fiercest most embarrassing assault they had ever received. Elewen, Cor’s mother, had already heard of Coranth’s council meeting and decided to surprise him with the biggest hug she could give him, knowing it would probably make his face turn redder than a tomato. She hadn’t realized that Garos would be with him, but it didn’t matter: she was determined to cheer him up either way.

She lay in wait just inside the door listening for the moment that his footsteps encountered the creaky wood. As the first board creaked, she sprang upon her prey. Unfortunately, instead of Coranth, she had attacked Garos. Her enveloping arms wrapped about him like anacondas holding him fast to her bountiful bosom. Garos, instinctively, tried to backpedal, but she had already locked her arms tight.

Garos tried his best not to show his enjoyment of the situation, especially since Coranth was behind him witnessing the spectacle.

“Hi, Miss El, didn’t know you liked me so much?”

Elewen looked at the face that spoke to her.

“Why, Garos, I didn’t know you were coming over too. I should’ve known you’d be attached to Cor today,” She said lightening her hold on him. “Besides, I thought you enjoyed a woman who was little rough.” She reached down with her right hand clutching his butt cheek. Garos’ face went red and his body stiffened slightly, knowing Cor was probably fuming behind him. She smiled slightly, teasing him, and laughed inwardly at his blush filled face.

“Mom, would you stop it! It’s bad enough he has a crush on you. You don’t have to encourage it, you know.”

“Oh, I know, dear, but it’s so much fun to antagonize the young one’s a little. It makes them question their manhood.” She released Garos, who sighed out of relief, and pulled Cor close to her, smothering him between her arms and breasts also.

“Really, me too? Didn’t you get enough with Garos just then?”

“Of course, but I didn’t expect him. You were, after all, my intended target. The news of your detainment this morning has already passed through the town. Everyone thought you were in trouble, since everything was so hush-hush.”

“Nah, mom, I wasn’t in trouble, but the info was 'hushed' for other reasons. I can’t tell you specifics, but there was an incident in the woods this morning. I had been near the area, so I was questioned in relation to the circumstances, especially since I reported it.”

“Oh, okay. As long as you’re ok, then we’re good. Come on, let’s go in and eat. Garos, you’re welcome to join us, as soon as your face turns back to normal. Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

Garos’ face still had the reddish rush of blood, as he had been standing there unmoved with a slight smirk. Coranth reached over and slapped him 'side the face.

“Hey, wipe that smirk of your face, you goof.” Garos barely flinched. Elewen laughed some more at Garos’ expression.

“See what you’ve done, Mom. You’ve broken Garos. Now, I’ll never be able to get him to leave today.”

“Don’t worry, he’ll leave. Lord Awaren has requested a dinner tonight here. So, when the time comes, he’ll be sure to scuttle along home or else.”

Garos’ face paled a bit and he regained his senses.

“The Lord’s c…coming here. T…t…tonight.” Garos managed to utter through his teeth.

“Yes, Garos. He wants to discuss a private matter with myself and Coranth, so you’ll have to be gone before that. It’ll be around the twilight hour. So, whatever, you and Coranth have planned, you’ll have to do it before then, alright?”

“Yes, ma’am. No problem. Cor, we need to eat and get started then.”

“Alright.”

Elewen turned and went inside. Cor and Garos hung back on the porch for just a moment.

“Cor, I’m sorry, but I still have the hots for your mom.”

Cor shot a hard jab straight into Garos right shoulder. Garos rubbed his shoulder from the pain.

“Oww, man, why’d you do that?”

“Cause she’s my mom. I’ll defend her despite her flirtations. Besides, you know she was just teasing you.”

“Yeah, I know, but what a tease.”

“Hey, watch it, my friend. Remember, I’m still the better swordsman. You’ll be gutted before you could even lay a hand upon her.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know, but can’t you just let me dream.”

“Sure, just make sure it stays a dream, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, besides I think Lord Awaren has finally begun to make his move.”

“Yeah, I wonder about that. I guess I’ll know by tonight.”

“Boys, come inside. The foods getting cold!”

“We’re coming,” Cor and Garos replied in unison. Hungrily, they gobbled up the morsels and drink prepared and hurried to get to the training area by the river.

“You ready?” Garos asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Cor replied.

“Begin.”

The clanking of swords resounded in the air from that moment ‘til two hours later. The boys rested on a nearby log, their feet stretched out before them cooling in the edges of the water.

“You ‘bout ready for that stealth training, Cor?”

“Yeah, what’s the first step?”

“Concealment, my friend, first you have to learn how to hide and hide effectively.”

“Alright, show me.”

Garos and Cor trained in concealment for the next three hours. Hiding and seeking each other, until either one could not find the other without yelling “I give up.”

“Well, Cor, I think you’ve got the hiding part down now. The next part is blending. While there are various ways to accomplish this, the most insidious is true invisibility through the art of Shadow Stalking. Few in the Corps have mastered it, but thanks to one of those guys, I have been gifted with its knowledge. I’ve only gotten the basics down so far, myself, and I’ll show you how to do it, but you’ll have to practice every day to gain its full capabilities, understood?”

“Yeah, I gotcha. Are there any risks with using this skill?”

“Just one. If you die as a shadow, a demon you’ll become. Then, the Corps will be dispatched to deal with you. This is why it’s known as The Demon Corps. So, be careful not to get severely injured before using this skill, as it puts extra strain on your body to maintain it.”

“Good to know.”

“Yeah, really.”

For the next hour, Garos showed Cor the intricacies of the Shadow Stalking skill. It was a magic based ability that relied on the user's inherant magical attunement. Humans usually had an average attunement allowing them to manipulate the skill for around four hours or so. Garos pointed out that with Coranth’s elven heritage he could possibly use the ability much longer, since the elves were more akin to the elements than they.

Garos showed Cor the hand signals require to activate the skill.

“Go on, try it. Remember to find the magic within, you need to focus on something special to you. The more powerful the image you have the stronger the skill becomes.”

Cor closed his eyes recalling an image of his mother as she held him when he was young. Her eyes gazed upon him with the most endearing love. The tingle of energy traversed his spine in waves. Upon opening his eyes, he formed the hand signs Garos had shown him. In the next moment, he found himself next to a tree staring out at the training ground where Garos was sitting.

His body had become black as the shadows cast upon the ground and surrounding trees. Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking of when I mentioned stealth to him! This is excellent! Now, I can do they work I wish to do. For a few moments, Cor experimented with movement learning how to hop from shadow to shadow and how to glide across surfaces seamlessly. When he was satisfied with his trials, he undid the skill using the sign Garos showed him. He was instantly transported back, beside Garos.

Garos spoke first.

“Kinda intoxicating, isn’t it.”

“Oh, yeah. It was one those ‘let’s do it again’ experiences. But, I imagine it has its limits.”

“You’re only limited by your attunement with the skill, so I hear. The closer you are with the element that governs this magic, the better you can become. In fact, you’re the first person I’ve seen or heard of slipping into it so easily. Of course, your elven half probably helps with the control factor also. And another thing, weapons cannot be drawn while inside the shadows, so if you intend to use it as an assassin skill, make sure to draw your weapon first. Daggers and short swords make the list for the best to use for that. You can strike anything covered in shadow and pierce enemies, but your aim needs to be directed at their shadow. Like I said before, it’s an insidious method for stealth.”

“No doubt, but it seems perfect for my skillset. Thanks for showing me, Garos.”

“No problem, Cor. It’s getting close to twilight. You might better think about heading home.”

“Yeah, sure. Just one more question. Does it always return you to where you started?”

“Yep, that’s why you need to know how to hide first. Because coming out in the wrong place could be a death sentence, especially if you pop out in the open. Also, one last thing, the range is limited to your attunement. Most of us can travel nearly a mile inside the shadows. You’ll have to experiment to see how far your range can take you. Once you have that figured out, your mastery will be nearly complete. Goodnight, Cor.”

“Yeah, Goodnight, Gar.”

 

 

 

 

 

 




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