Part Thirteen in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)
Part Five: Blood and Lies (pt. 5)
Part Six: Blood and Lies (pt. 6)
Part Seven: Blood and Lies (pt. 7)
Part Eight: Blood and Lies (pt. 8)
Part Nine: Blood and Lies (pt. 9)
Part Ten: Blood and Lies (pt. 10)
Part Eleven: Blood and Lies (pt. 11)
Part Twelve: Blood and Lies (pt. 12)
Vahkragg awakens to a darkened unfamiliar room. Shallow rhythmic breathing coming from nearby. Exhaustion plague his body and mind despite having just woken from sleep. With a grunt of exertion he lifts himself up on his elbow, his eyes adjusting to the darkness slowly revealing the room. Two sleeping figures are lain by him on bedrolls. One of them seems to be Telfor, the other however appears to be an unfamiliar small woman.
With no idea of how he had come to be here and restless he longs for fresh air. A half forgotten dream of darkness and pain lingers in his waking mind. Forced to stoop beneath the low ceiling, Vahkragg rises to his feet. Dull pain pounds in his head and body, the movement reveals profound weakness in his muscles. Stepping away from the sleeping people he opens the door and steps out into the night air. There are no other people around, shutting the door behind him he stretches his stiff body welcoming the wholesome pain that moving his body brings.
Gazing up at the moon he allows his mind to relax and gather his thoughts. After slaying the boar he remember something else appeared. The monster they’d avoided earlier had been hunting the boar and chased it into the village. The people had called it Anathema and feared it’s fury. They had fought the beast, but during the battle the fog that clouds his memories had taken him. Looking down at his chest and the bandages he wears remind him that he had taken a shallow but large wound across his back. The Anathema’s talons must have carried a poison, he decides. He and Telfor must have succumbed to the poison, and been saved by the others explaining how he’d come to be inside. He hadn’t seen any of the others, which could mean anything.
“I’ve brought the key, we must hurry while everyone is sleeping,” Vahkragg heard Rubin’s low voice carry through the silence of the night from beyond the shadowy space between the house he’d woken in and a covered stable-like structure. The conspiratorial whispers aroused suspicion in the giant hunter and with stealth and speed unusual of a man his size he quickly steps out of the open and creeps towards where the voices are coming from.
Arriving just in time to see Rubin remove the magic nullifying bracelet from the prisoners wrist, Vahkragg silently curses the scholar’s stupidity. Unarmed, alone, and still suffering from the poison he watches them from quietly the shadows.
“She hasn’t woken yet, if we’re lucky she won’t have the strength to draw on her magic yet. I need you watch the entrance while I sneak in and put the bracelet on her,” listening to Rubin telling his plan Vahkragg notices an almost imperceptible shift in the shadows behind them. Lasting only a moment before it vanishes, he can’t be sure of what he saw but he has an idea of what it may be. Gambling that his instincts are right, Vahkragg emerges from his concealment utilising his vast size to tower imposingly above the two magic users.
Upon their noticing him the faint pressure of their magic saturates the air, before giving their power form the pair hesitate as they recognise him. Rapidly exchanging nervous glances still holding their power loosely in the air Vahkragg addresses the scholar with a low rumbling growl, “What is going on here?”
“Vahkragg! You’re awake,” the scholar’s startled reply as he hides the bracelet behind his back. Speaking slowly, fear colouring his attempt at a diplomatic explanation, “Vahkragg. You’ve been asleep for a long time. A lot has happened. We have learned the villagers have been protecting a necromancer, we have to capture her before she can hurt anyone.”
The giants eyes narrow, forced to reconsider by Rubin’s assertion. Protecting a necromancer was a deadly crime if true. His eyes shift to Oliver. They’d been hired to arrest him for necromancy, but he and Rubin seemed to be working together to capture another for the same crime. A lot of this wasn’t adding up, and with the sorcerer unbound the situation was a lot more volatile.
“Oliver has agreed to help us capture her in exchange for a character whisper during his trial,” Rubin noticing Vahkragg staring at Oliver interjects, “I don’t believe the charges against him are correct, but we have seen her black magic directly! We need the bracelet to suppress her power and his magic will be necessary to make it through the forest with you and Telfor wounded and Verumalleus dead.”
“Dead?” stunned Vahkragg doesn’t notice the words pass his lips until they’re already gone.
“That’s right,” the scholar replies gently, “I’m sorry to break it to you so bluntly. Time is of the essence here. As a disciple of Atyx she would have seen the utmost importance we do this now, while we have the chance.”
Pan’s shining knife appeared at Rubin’s throat and his hand grips locks an iron hold around the scholars wrist, pulling it roughly up behind his back. A thin bead of dark blood wells up at the tip of the blade and trickles down the lighter red skin of his neck. The movement in the shadows Vahkragg had noticed, Pan’s voice trembles with poison and fury as he hisses into the scholar’s ear, “Don’t you dare use her to justify your actions.”
Already expecting this Vahkragg is the first to respond, exploding forwards charging Oliver. Slamming his forearm into the sorcerer’s neck and driving him backwards into the wall he grabs at the man’s hand intending to crush it in his fist to prevent him from drawing on his magic when suddenly he feels something breaking in his mind. Blinding pain surges through his entire body like lightning, his vision is banished and he stumbles releasing his grip on the sorcerer.
Seeing his chance Oliver, wheezing and coughing at the force of Vahkragg’s blow to his neck, raises one hand to cradle his throat while the other signs a complex gesture in the air. Pan slams the hilt of his dagger into the base of Rubin’s skull, sending the scholar crumpling into the ground and hurls the blade at the sorcerer in desperation.
The blade flies true, the point just reaching his throat as Oliver manages to croak out a word and disperses in a cloud of mist. Passing harmlessly through the space he had just stood, the blade buries itself into the wood of the wall as the mist that was Oliver is carried into the sky on the wind.
Rushing over to the trembling body of his companion, Pan screams for help shattering the still of the early morning air. The terror of losing another friend consuming him.