A short story in the world of Terrinoth by Aaron Forderer
This story is unaffiliated with Fantasy Flight Games. All settings and characters are property of Fantasy Flight Games. This is only intended to be an enjoyable fiction written by an enthusiast for enthusiasts of Runewars, and the Terrinoth game setting.
The sounds of insanity cascaded down the stone and mortar dungeon hallway broken only by the hustled footsteps of the two approaching rangers. The jailor beckoned the pair of rangers walking down the halls of the dungeon. “A patrol found him washed up on the shores of the River of Sleep.”
“Has he said anything?” the senior ranger asked.
The jailor chuckled. “Yup, you didn’t miss much though. He keeps saying the same thing over and over.”
“By the gods,” the younger ranger let slip looking into the cell, “Leo, he’s mutilated himself.” The prisoner was wearing what once were fine clothes, faded by sun and worn by the river’s current, but his beard wasn’t fully grown in yet.
The senior ranger looked in. Leonard looked over the prisoner with the dignity of a captain of Riverwatch’s rangers. He served the city of Riverwatch and the Barony of Otrin all of his life, but never had he seen someone in such haggard circumstance.
“Captain”, Silas observed, “If he came from the river to the east he may be a survivor of an Uthuk raid.” Silas was younger, more eager, less genteel, but he was a loyal friend to those who showed loyalty in return, and that loyalty made him Leo’s right hand man.
Leonard shuddered at the thought. Raids by the tribal savages, allied with Ynfernael demons were the last thing the Barony needed. He thought back to the old stories of the first darkness. Once upon a time all armies of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Catfolk allied to stop them.
“He killed them. They attacked me. I killed them.” The stranger curled up in the fetal positon in the corner of his cell. He tried to add to his already massive set of disfiguring scratches, but his fingernails were already worn to the quick. He just rocked back and forth muttering the same words over and over.
The rangers started their questioning, but no matter the question the prisoner repeated the same thing: “He killed them. They attacked me. I killed them.”
Finally Leo took a step back and restarted. “Who did this to you?”
The rocking stopped. The shivering stopped. The prisoner, with madness in his eyes, surprisingly turned from the corner to meet Leo’s eyes.
“ANKAUR MARO!” the madman growled, then screamed and cried at the top of his lungs with a lack of sanity that only came from absolute horror.
Leo and Silas shared a glance of concern. All men knew this story, but Leo lived it. Leo was at the village of Seragart when Maro attacked it.
“By the runes! Captain, I thought Lord Hawthorne Killed Maro at Seragart. How…” Silas trailed of once he saw the look on Leo’s face.
“Guess not”, Leo said somberly. He never thought Hawthorne killed Maro. Leo knew he saw the injured Maro flee the fight. No one found him in the forest and Hawthorne, in his hubris, insisted Maro died in the woods.
Their realization was interrupted by more screaming from the madman. “He’ll kill us all and we will serve him! The world will be swallowed in his mist!”
Mist?, Leo thought. An alarming epiphany hit: Ankaur Maro was in The Mistlands, which also meant he either usurped Waiqar the betrayer or was working with him. Waiqar legendarily betrayed his king, cursed himself to undeath and created a blighted kingdom in the north known as The Mistlands.
“Silas,” Leo turned to the younger ranger, “I’m going to see the Baron. If Ankaur Maro is turning his vengeance on the baronies the other free cities should know.”
“Enough!” Baron Treyalyan shouted at the top of his lungs. His face was beet red, and his usual easygoing nature gnawed away by the same needling for days on end. Leo had been to see him day after day for more than a week since the crazy stranger arrived. “Ankaur Maro died! He was expelled from the University in Greyhaven and killed by Lord Hawthorne! Everyone knows this.”
Leo and the Baron had become close in his tenure as a captain of Riverwatch’s rangers. His authority was such that only one the Grand Commander of the barony’s armies outranked him.
“No! Do not interrupt me! You find a madman who confesses to killing his friends washed up on the river, and you believe his ramblings without hesitation! There is a reason he resides in our dungeons, Leo!”
Leo tried to continue, but the look on the Baron’s face deflated his thoughts into a simple sigh. The Baron paced through the middle of his council chamber catching glimpses of the city from the perched tower.
He huffed through his beard and then back to Leo. Without thought, the Baron found himself stroking his beard. “Leo. You must understand: you are one of my finest rangers, but not a knight errant. You must focus on the defense of Riverwatch; I cannot simply allow you to run off in search of a fable meant to scare children. I need you patrolling the east, looking for signs of Uthuk incursion.”
“Sir I understand your apprehension about the Uthuk, but I was at Seragart. I saw the destruction he wrought! He was a trusted mage of the citadel and he turned on us! He killed people by the score! Now if he has allied himself with Waiqar he could kill people by the thousands.”
“Watch yourself, CAPTIAN! You will not question the reputation of your betters. Lord Hawthorne staked his integrity on the fact that he killed Maro at Seragart, and you will not slander the accomplishments of a nobleman!”
The Baron took a breath and calmed himself. “We are done”, the Baron pointed to the door dismissing Leo.
As Leo walked toward the door the Baron added: “I mean it captain. You will think no more of this or you will keep that madman company.”
“Hey! Leo!” A voice hailed him as he walked just past the kitchens. “Hey, Captain! How was the meeting with his grandioseness?”
Leo looked up to see his Silas. Of course Silas would be here: this was where Silas would constantly charm the fair maidens who worked the kitchen. His success rate depended on who you ask, but Silas would never admit to rejection.
As Silas walked closer he toned down his swagger, noticing Leo’s surly disposition. “He’s not going to let us investigate, is he?”
“No. No, he is not. He is more concerned with Uthuk raiders then he is Waiqar’s legions.” Silas brushed off his conquest and started walking toward the barracks with Leo.
“Captain”, Silas said with an ear-to-ear grin, “It is enough that we are concerned for him.”
“Yes! Yes! Of course! If the Baron won’t send us, it is our duty to protect him from his bad decisions!”
“First: absolutely not, we have a Baron to lead us, and we will follow his orders! Second: lower your damn voice.”
“How can helping the Baron be disloyal?”
On the face of it, Leo knew the comment was absurd, but Silas’ words gnawed at him. He needed to find the truth surrounding Ankaur Maro. Most of their walk was in silence and when Silas prodded, Leo was unresponsive.
As they walked into the bunkroom of the barracks where the Rangers of Riverwatch made their homes, Leo looked around. The room was empty, everyone either on duty or in town. Leo did not use his off duty time as the baron suggested and thought only of the lessons of Seragart as the night wore on. The entire evening he obsessed over his rejection, Maro’s appearance, and what doing nothing would mean to the fate of the free cities.
The Mistlands were small in acreage, and well watched from the northern border of Terrinoth, but, reanimated dead who made up Waiqar’s Legions, colloquially called reanimates, did not need living room. They did not need farms, or stables, markets or houses; they only needed a place to stand.
Leo could not shake the feeling that if Waiqar the Undying, a necromancer of such great power he was able to bring the dead forth to fight for him was allied with a mage as powerful as Maro, his undying legions would be bolstered, and all the free cities in the Kingdom of Daqan would be under threat from the east and north.
He wondered for a moment what the bigger threat was: tribesmen aided by the power of Ynfernael magic, or a necromancer who would raise those who died in battle to fight for him? He knew in his heart he Ynfernael were powerful, but an army that did not need traditional supply lines and was bolstered by every enemy soldier that fell could very quickly envelop the world.
Leo couldn’t take it anymore and spoke to Silas in hushed words: “Silas, if we do this, it must be just us.”
Silas’ grin returned wider than before. “No Captain; we need help to navigate the mists. But don’t worry; with my friend Comylla’s help we won’t have any trouble.”
“Comylla?” Leo’s brow furled. That was not a name he heard before.
“She’s a Latari scout I met a while back, helped us out of a few jams on the borders with the Mistlands. She knows the way around up there. If not, I’d have been a goner more than once!”
With Leo’s nod, they dressed in their light traveling leathers and took only swords and bows, then made their way to the stables to gather their horses for travel. Luckily, Riverwatch was famous for having the fastest horses in all of Terrinoth. They outfitted their horses in saddles and blankets, and packed as much dried meats, cheese and bread as they could carry. They needed to move swiftly. They would be deserters for taking this quest, but as Silas always said, better to apologize than ask leave.
The two rangers set out of the city to the east. Leo’s plan to avoid arrest was to ride northeast and cross into the Barony of Kell, then head east through the plains into the Applewood Forest. Once there, they would find Comylla.
As they journeyed along the eastern roads and passed a litany of farms, they seldom spoke. They were kind and courteous to any traveler or local who they came by, but Leo and Silas enjoyed the countryside’s comfortable silence and fresh air.
Leo was increasingly enamored with the country life the older he became. He often thought of his retirement from the guard, and living alone on a small farm. Enough to make a living by taking goods to the market, and not having to take orders from anyone but his own whims. He had grown tired of all the politicking of the Baron’s decision making. All the lobbying amid the competing interests to get a man to do the right thing took a toll over the years.
As a ranger, Leo spent most of his life on patrol. He was exceedingly skilled at finding bandits, highwaymen, and enemies of the barony. He would shadow them and record their movements, and when the time came, find their hideouts and take them out. If the group was too big for rangers he would report them to the oathsworn knights who would strike them down.
Leo looked subconsciously to the sword on his hip, his thoughts drifting from the farmer he could be to the man he was today. From a young age his superiors saw his ability to handle himself. He was such a brilliant horseman and fighter he started his service with the oathsworn knights before becoming a ranger.
Once he joined the rangers he truly found is calling and quickly rose in the ranks. Of course his greater position translated to increased responsibility; he did much less field work and more planning. Trekking through the barony reminded him what it was like to be away from the city. He took in the fresh air and realized how much war councils took him away from the open country. He recalled how it wasn’t always easy dealing with Baron Treyalyan of late. The Baron liked to rely on errant knights and adventurers rather than his own forces. The baron became sharply more conservative with his army as he aged. He didn’t want rangers scouting too far. Even the regular army units were not allowed to drill too far from the city. He wanted all his forces nearby Riverrun, the jewel of his Barony, in case of any incursion. In the Baron’s mind, going on the offense was best left to hirelings, so as not to weaken his defenses at home.
Leo disagreed with this philosophy vehemently. A schism formed between himself and the senior military officers when they wouldn’t push back on the Baron’s paranoia. So finally here he was; a deserter, a patriot, a traitor, and his baronies bravest defender. Leo knew the Baron’s ideas were folly and he was going to fulfill his oath and protect Riverwatch, and The Barony of Otrin his way.
The rangers bedded down on the edge of the forest, a bit off the road, hidden in the woods for the night. In the morning they made quick work of breaking down camp and getting back to the journey. The two men knew they rode with a purpose, but had to balance their urgency with threat of arrest.
Once they were back on the road at the edge of the Applewood forest, Silas pointed. “She lives this way.”
It was the morning, after they set out from Riverwatch. The detour to avoid patrols cost them some time, but they were able to cross the Morshan River at the northern bridge without incident. Leo knew the Baron would have an idea where they were headed based on their recent conversations. They rode for a few hours before Silas spoke up again, “Remember when you sent my unit of rangers out to deal with the incursion of goblins from the Mountains of Despair?”
Leo nodded as they rode side by side down the trails of the Applewood Forest.
“Well”, Silas continued, “the goblins also pissed off some Latari friends of ours. “ He chuckled. “Boy, it was an interesting meetup when fifteen rangers armed to the teeth to exterminate some goblins came face-to-face with three Leonx Riders.”
Leo gave a surprised look. Even though Riverwatch was so close to the Latari homeland he had never interacted with any of the Latari Elves.
Leonx were ferocious, sentient felines who live natively in the great Aymehlin Forest with the Latari elves. On average, these cats stood four feet at the shoulder, but they rarely ever stood straight up. They were about 11 feet long if you include their tails, and to their enemies they were 700 pounds of pure muscle, claws and teeth. The elves were known as Leonx Riders, and stood apart from the other Latari.
“Yeah,” Silas responded, picking up on Leo’s expression of surprise, “so we’re standing there, not knowing whether to wave or draw down on these guys. You know Elves; if there are three showing, there are probably thirty more in the damn woods waiting to pounce.”
“So I figure, well hell, if they’re making an effort to show themselves, they must be peaceful. After all, they could have just ambushed us; those Leonx are quiet as the night when they want to be. Suddenly we hear this dainty voice from the back, who knows what she said, but this tiny woman on a huge cat comes to the forefront.”
“She takes one look at me and says ‘I speak man’. And that’s how I met Comylla.”
“She was the only one who spoke common?” Leo questioned.
“No kidding, she was the only one”, Silas responded with his trademark smirk. He had Leo on the hook and he knew it. “So, anyways, I think, okay we’re in business, no incident today! Turns out those little goblin bastards had been picking some sacred fruit or mushroom, or some crap like that, so we joined forces. Good thing too!” Silas laughed out loud again. “See, there were fifty of those riders. A whole nomadic tribe had taken it upon themselves to defend this elven hamlet.”
“We teamed up to chase those goblins back into the mountains, and we became friends in the process.”
“Silas, you said she knew her way around the Mistlands.”
“Yes. She was part of the Latari contingent that helped us defend Strangehaven from Waiqar’s undying legions when the Baron sent us up there to help.”
Silas went quiet for a second. The two took the opportunity to dismount their horses and walk as Silas indicated they were close to where she lives. “She and her Latari cohorts scouted out The Mistlands and spotted the approaching army. After that war she left her tribe and swore to live in isolation away from the Aymehlin.”
Leo nodded along. “That was a tough fight, and that is why what we are doing now is so important.”
“It sure is Captain”, Silas agreed solemnly. Fighting the dead was always taxing on the living, even when you didn’t know who they used to be. When you knew them, when they were risen from the freshly fallen it drove some mad. “Comylla lost her life mate that day. She couldn’t stand to be around anyone after that.”
Leo was dumbfounded. He couldn’t imagine such sadness.
After only a few minutes of walking in silence they came upon a cabin.
Wearing a confused look Leo turned to Silas, “She, an elf, lives in a cabin?”
“Well…” Silas started but couldn’t finish.
“Hai hooman”, a voice came from behind them. She spoke broken common with a very thick native elven accent.
Silas turned his horse to face her and smiled. “Hello Comylla. We… I need your help.”
Leo turned to Comylla. She wore all the divinity and majesty expected of an elf. She had pale skin,bright blonde hair, was thin and slight, but looked totally in control of her leonx mount, which looked ten times her size. She still wore fairly common Latari leather armor, and was in position to throw her double-pointed spear at any hint of a threat.
With a glimmer of recognition she relaxed her spear. “I come here to live out my days Seelas. And why I help you and dees man I do not know?”
Silas put his hands up as a peace offering, “This is Leo, my Captain. We found evidence of a human mage who may be working with Waiqar. With this mage’s help Waiqar could overrun Terrinoth. You know that if he does, every dead human, dwarf, orc and gnome in the free cities becomeof his soldiers. If that happens, I fear for the fate of the Latari as well.”
“Layo”, the elf said as her cat stalked about the two men. “What say you?”
“First, pleasured to meet you, Silas has told me of your service to the free peoples of Terrinoth. Second, if only a tenth of what he says about you is true, you are a most needed ally in our quest for the truth.”
Comylla started thinking. Her face turned sad and her eyes welled. So much trauma, but deep down she knew that she was already broken. By doing this she could prevent the undead from breaking someone else; perhaps that would help her find some way to live with herself. “So we go to kill dees mage?” Comylla questioned.
“No, just observe. If we find him we testify to The Council of Barons. I don’t think we’d be able to kill him if we wanted to.”
Comylla sized him up. She started speaking to her mount in a tongue that was beautiful and incomprehensible to the men listening. To Leo’s shock the cat responded in the same language. Silas got a nice laugh out of Leo’s surprise. You could tell people all about elves communing with nature, but nothing could truly prepare you for the depth of it.
The size and ferocity of Leonx would scare the average person, but the most fearsome thing about these cats was their intelligence. They spoke a feral tongue that over the years some elves had mastered as well. With the ability to communicate with their mounts, and their mounts to understand, Leonx Riders were some of the most feared cavalry in all of Terrinoth.
“You are in luck,” Comylla said patting her leonx on the head, “Atraiu agrees with you.”
She rode to the cabin and dismounted the great leonx. Silas and Leo followed her lead, but stayed outside the cabin. The decrepit cabin looked as though it had been abandoned for some time. The door was missing, windows were broken, and the roof had many unrepaired holes. As Comylla packed she explained that she had not built the cabin- she would never mutilate a tree in such a fashion- but since it was already built and no one kept it up or occupied it, she used it as a shelter.
After Comylla gathered what belongings she needed, she strapped Atraiu in his armor and they were on their way. They were to set out heading west, then northeast to the River of Sleep. When they reached the northern borders of Terrinoth they would turn directly west until they came to the Mistlands.
After a week of riding hard, the party finally set their sights on the Mistlands. From the exterior all the eye could see was a solid bank of fog with volcanic peaks rising above it. The Mistlands were death to the living, made up of tar pits and swamps that thinly covered volcanic activity beneath. No army successfully invaded the Mistlands because of this, and the evil necromancer Waiqar knew it.
Everything that lived here was some variation of his experimentation. From the ancient followers serving as death knights, to their vampiric horses, to the reanimate foot soldiers who were rotten to their bones.
The world will be swallowed in his mist! The prisoner’s words rushed back to Leo.
Over the years since the second darkness, a few tried to end Waiqar to end Waiqar’s threat by sieging his castle at Zorgas. Those few who tried lost many soldiers to the tar and sinking mud of the swamps before they even arrived at the castle. The task was no easier to sit in siege once an army arrived; one burp of toxic fumes from the volcanic swamp rivers on the surface would suffocate an entire army.
Yet here they were, two men, an elf and a leonx looking for confirmation that Waiqar was rising again; this time with the aid of a talented and ambitious lieutenant.
“We go peak-to-peak”, Comylla instructed the men, pointing out the crags that centuries of volcanic activity had lifted from the swamp, “You set horses free. You go by foot now, or horses drown in swamp.”
“How will Atraiu fare?” Leo asked.
“He is very light on feet” Comylla said with a sly smile, “We been here before, we know what to do. Your man Maro most likely at Kelipa, to the northwest. If he a necromage, Waiqar putting him to work on the everliving engine.”
The everliving engine was a horrific concept made real by Waiqar when he first seized power. It focused all of his hate, anger, and revulsion. It was a great machine of bone powered by magic, but its purpose was unknown to those outside the Mistlands. The only presumption by the greatest mages is that it served to make the undead stronger. Some predicted that it was used to make undead, while others posit that Waiqar is trying to use it to weaken the barrier between living and dead.
Carefully the group moved into southern Mistlands toward the ruined city of Kelipa. The two rangers on foot, bows readied, Comylla and Atraiu running ahead to make sure no trouble found them. In less than a day through The Mistlands they arrived at a spur of rock overlooking the ruins of Kelipa.
The ruins of the once magnificent city rose from the fog. Leo wondered if the place he overlooked was once a market or homes or some part of the city less permanent then the stone keep and surrounding structures.
“What do you want to do now Captain?” Silas asked, looking to Leo for guidance. They were all knelt to keep themselves out of sight of Waiqar’s profane guards.
Leo huffed. His nerves were acting up like they had not since he was a green recruit heading to his first battle. He noticed near the city center a group of reanimates were constructing what looked to be the base of a tower. Some reanimates carried and stacked stones, others served as scaffolding to help them reach the heights needed. The tower was unfinished, but already dwarfed the ruined keep in the background. “We need to get eyes on him. I bet someone of significance is building that tower, and the latest person of significance to join Waiqar is Maro. Let’s see if we can draw him out. It’s time for a little gambit.”
“Wha choo have in mind?” Comylla asked.
“You have the speed on Atraiu.” Leo looked down in the ruins. He could see reanimates mulling around doing whatever mundane tasks their masters had for them. They didn’t have guards per se, but in his experience Leo knew Waiqar reanimated the dead for one reason: to fight. “Find a couple of lonely targets and take them out. Let’s see who comes out to investigate.”
Comylla nodded and mounted Atraiu. She thenpadded around the flank of some ruined buildings. She always kept herself in sight of the rangers as she worked. Leo didn’t even need to mention it; she knew from experience that she needed their eyes on her in case she got into trouble.
Mist covered the ground, with the stones of crumbling buildings peeking through. Leo and Silas looked on from their perch just outside the city as Comylla navigated through the dense fog. From such a distance they could only see the top half of Atraiu and the reanimated skeletons from the chest up.
Comylla found a pair of skeletons carrying a rock from a derelict building on the outskirts of the city towards the city’s ruined center. Atraiu climbed the stones of what was once a building paralleling the path of the drones. At the corner of the broken wall, Atraiu pounced. The attack of cat and rider were lightning fast. The cat jumped on the near skeleton, while with perfect timing Comylla swung her spear at the far reanimate, breaking the bones through the ribs into a pile of pieces.
Just as quickly, she made her retreat and fled the city. The rangers waited for the consequence of the elf’s attack. A group of reanimates came by with swords drawn. Their eyes radiated putrid green magic as they searched the area. They had no method of speech, but observation revealed that they communicated somehow.
In an unexpected attack, Atraiu had reset on the rundown wall and pounced again, surprising the reanimates below. Leo became concerned; Comylla was taking too many chances. They already sent a patrol, they needed to wait. Batting and biting while Comylla worked her spear with a master’s precision, they made short work of the small investigation party.
Just then the mist parted.
“Damn. That’s him!” Leo noticed a man coming from the center of the city, riding a cylindrical group of bones held together by a teal white light. Leo only knew it from stories as a bone horror. Hooded in purple robes, carrying a great staff made from what looked like a human spine complete with a rib cage at the top, but the head had been replaced. The staff was topped with the skull of a small deer, antlers and all.
“What the hell is he on?” Silas asked steeling himself.
“I think we have our answer on what happened to Ankaur Maro” Leo said ignoring Silas’ question. “Get back to the free cities, let someone know!”
“To hell with that! Comylla is in trou…”
Out of the antlered head of the staff shot a green light. Atraiu was able to sidestep the blast as he ran out toward the edge of the city; Comylla knew the rangers must survive to carry their message back.
Silas had other ideas. With the passion of youth filling his head, and his friend in danger he charged down the hill. He was gone before Leo could stop him. His sword was drawn and his bow fell to the wayside when he hit the ruined cobble streets of the city, he came in sword swinging.
Skeletons fell in his wake as he cut through them one after the other on his way to help Comylla from Ankaur Maro’s attacks. When Silas finally cut his way through his foes he earned Maro’s full attention.
“Come to volunteer?” Maro mocked when he saw him. Comylla heard Maro’s voice and turned to see Maro and his soldiers surrounding Silas.
That voice rattled in Leo’s head, memories of Seragart came flooding back to him. The death and destruction, the terrified screams of civilians, it was too much for Leo to handle. He needed to fight. All of his hard earned discipline was no match against the trauma Maro had inflicted upon him years ago. He dropped his bow and drew his sword and followed Silas into the ruins of Kelipa. At the same moment Atraiu turned and raced to reengage with Maro.
With a raise of his staff a great shock spread forth. Silas was knocked to his knees; Leo had to cover his ears as he staggered. Comylla grimaced and Atraiu roared. Silas recovered and seemed to be holding his own against Maro… until more reanimates showed up.
The leonx beat Leo to the aid of Silas. He pounced on a group of skeleton warriors and Comylla tried to pull Silas from the melee.
From only a few feet away Maro shot a powerful shot of magical energy from his staff, flaying the flesh from the near side of Atraiu. The great cat roared in agony and looked up with regret at Comylla. Her world went quiet except for Atraiu’s last words, which rung crystal clear to Comylla: I’ve failed you. Forgive me?
Comylla was horrified. She paused in mourning, in the shock of losing her brother in this life. She realized she dropped Silas’ hand from hers,and that realization woke her up to the fact that Atraiu fell to his side, pinning both her and Silas beneath him.
Leo screamed. No matter how many reanimates he cut down, he could not help Silas or Comylla from what came next. Hearing Leo’s screams Maro lifted his staff and shot a fatal blast at Comylla.Her body went limp covering Silas further.
A skeletal form came over Silas as he struggled to break free. His flowing green eyes entranced Silas. His struggle stopped, and with a quick strike of the rusty blade Silas ended. All the while Maro looked to Leo, impressed with his perseverance while amused with his insurmountable task.
“Stop!” Maro commanded to his minions, and all the reanimates froze in place. Leo waited with anticipation for what was next. “Let’s see the ranger of Daqan in action!”
With that Maro raised his staff, which began emanating green light that flowed to the bodies of the freshly dead. Atraiu slowly came back to his feet, the lifeless body of Comylla slidiung off as he rose.
Leo was already defeated, Maro knew it. Now it was a matter of entertainment.
What had once been Atraiu, turned to face Leo. The giant cat’s eyes once full of life now only emanated green light. Maro intensely focused on controlling the Leonx forward toward Leo. The great beast leaned down and prepared to pounce.
As the cat jumped, Leo rolled forward, shooting beneath the great undead beast. As the beast turned to face Leo again Leo’s sword flashed, decapitating the beast that he once relied on for survival.
“Hmm”,” Maro mused to himself, “I suppose I should get better at commanding those before I invade the Latari homelands.” With another shot from his staff Comylla and Silas rose from their demise.
Leo was losing control of his demenor. His friends, who had risked everything for him, were now approaching him with all of the malice of Ankaur Maro poured into their bodies. The sight of his friend’s lifeless bodies shambling toward him broke Leo. How could Waiqar’s legions ever be defeated? How could he swing his sword at Comylla after she generously, at the cost of her life aided his quest? How could he strike at Silas, a young man he was training to be the next commander of Riverwatch’s rangers?
Maro laughed as Leo fought to defend himself. Only too late did Leo realize his folly? He chided himself for his disobedience, and for bringing others into his idiocy. With every block parry and riposte, he knew this was all his fault. He knew Maro would torture him by making him fight his comrades over and over again. He should have done it right, or not at all. An even worse thought crossed his mind: that he should have listened to the baron and left this quest alone.
Leo was too well trained to give up. When his mind raced, his body went on auto pilot. His comrades, newly reanimated by Maro came at him on either side. The dead elf was swinging and stabbing with her spear, his former protégé attacking with a sword. Their forms were slower and less responsive than they had been in life, and that was all the opening Leo needed.
He charged into the elven corpse mitigating the attacks with her spear. Using her as a shield he let the dead ranger slice into her body so deeply that he lost control of his sword. He then threw the elf’s body to the ground and taking the head from Silas’ body, and destroyed Maro’s ability to reanimate him.
Comylla’s body rose again charging Leo. It charged at him scratching and biting on its way in. With a push and a slash he hobbled her by dismembering a leg.
He grabbed the nearest rock and threw it at Maro and ran.
Leo headed back into the mists, but he was no match for the speed of Maro riding his bone horror. He was easily caught before he ever left the city. When Maro caught him all Leo was saying was “I had to. They attacked me”. Leo was concentrating on convincing himself that destroying his friends was the right thing.
A satisfied smile crossed Maro’s face. He reached down and grabbed Leo by the collar and lifted him with inhuman strength. He then lifted his staff and cast a spell, pulling the remaining sanity from Leo’s mind. “You, my friend, will serve me differently. Bring me more souls, my machine needs to feast.” All Leo could remember was laughing as he blacked out.
“Hey! What’s that?” A knight adorned in the blue and gold platemail of the Daqan army asked to his patrol partner.
“Looks like someone washed up on the riverbank.”
The two knights hustled over and dismounted to help the washed up stranger. One of the knights took his helmet off and coaxed the man awake.
The stranger spoke in a gravely tone, “Silas? No, Silas, you’re dead, I killed you.”
The knight holding him looked to his partner, “he must have washed down river from the Mistlands.” He turned back to the stranger, “What happened sir?”
“He killed them. They attacked me. I killed them.” Leo muttered.