13-09-2006 18:05:29

This is just the first four chapters, I'll post more from time to time.

In the beautiful city of Guardiana, the sun shone brightly. Magically carved from marble, it was one of the most beautiful places in Altasia. In the centre of the city was a great castle, shining brightly, it's highest towers hitting the clouds. It's walls, enclosing the city, were near impregnable, and it's vast gate was made of silvery Elvenoak, a shining wood, twice as durable as the strongest tree, able to withstand any storm, impervious to rain. From anywhere afar, it looked perfect. And yet, it was not so. Sections of the walls were not marble, but simply white stone, filling in the scars of catapults and ballista arrows. Many parts of the city itself had been destroyed, beautiful marble dwellings shattered, to the point where residents were forced to set up tents and makeshift huts as homes. Guardiana had seen war, a terrible war, and now had a massive graveyard, the beautiful marble caskets that seemed to be merged with the ground full, with many wooden coffins lying near. Even the castle had been damaged, holes punched in the walls, many beautiful and mystical rooms shattered as windows by rocks. The towers had been damaged, and a few had fell, smiting sections of the city. And yet, the people thrived, determined to fix whatever could be fixed.

In the small temple, next to the graveyard, a very old man sat on a simple wooden chair, his beard passing his knees and his hair to his waist. He was dressed in elaborate white robes covered in golden runes, and bore a long, white staff, ending in a small black orb. Behind him, on a sort of stand, were things of his past, simple clothing, a grey tunic and pair of pants with a black belt, a gnarled old wooden staff, a travelling cloak, an old scroll covered in unreadable texts, and a sword, simple, with a black handle, the scabbard bearing runes in silver writing. Around this old man, a group of youngsters sat, listening to tales of old adventures and past crusades. The records of the kingdom had greatly suffered, and it was up to him and his disciples to see it rewritten. For he was the Grand Archmage, head of the Mage Guild, a society from a time before Altasia's birth. They alone could read, write, and speak Ancient Faldoan, a magical language as old as time.

Five youths sat around him, a young Nightelven boy called Bal' Kassar, a young halfelf named Yernam, a Rhudo she-cub whose name was Kyshur, a pale boy with green eyes called Raphael, and the princess of Guardiana herself, Dasalya. The man had just told an epic tale of the battle of an old dragon, who had been felled by a long dead knight, and was preparing to speak of the huge creatures in the deep seas when young Raphael spoke up. "Lord Archmage, I have not heard before the tale of the war. You know, the one that broke everything?" At this, the Archmage's eyes flashed. "Young Raphael, you hunger for tales of battle and bloodshed. Is it not enough to say that many, good and bad, died? That our noble home was nearly razed to the ground in the course of a single night?" Raphael looked away, a scowl on his face and anger in his eyes. "Please, master," said Desalya, whom had been a good friend to Raphael since he turned up without parents at the castle doors, "we simply wish to know of an old war. Raphael meant no harm, he did no evil," The Archmage sighed, saying to her, "I do believe that you are aware that I fought in that war, and lost many friends. It is a sore subject, but I suppose that telling it to all of you may enlighten you. But heed my words, this is not a tale to spread across the streets. It is one of sadness, desperation, and tragedy, and some of it may frighten you. I will not tell you of a battle, but of a war. It is a long tale, but to some of you it will show you the relevance of your heritage. Now, bear with me, for it is a long tale, and the night will be upon us by it's completion..."

Chapter 1: Coming of Age
Baron Village was but a small community, first established as a trading outpost. It was a comfortable place to live, one where violence was scarce and battles simply did not happen. The village was a place of rolling hills, green grass, orchards of fruit trees, horses in pastures, a place of happiness, where one could spend the day laying on the grass, or fishing in the lake, and spend the evening in the old tavern, where tall tales were like blood to the locals. It was in this peaceful village that a boy named Kirven lived. He was seventeen, a fine young man, and at midnight on that very day, he would come of age and be welcomed as an adult, able at last to end his dreary schooling and tedious chores and start his own life and destiny. There would be ale all around, a festival, with great music and dancing. Few children grew up in Baron, and the adulthood of one of them was a thing of joy. It was sort of like a birthday party, where family and friends gathered to celebrate. He could not wait, and thought of the thing which would make the night most memorable. Tonight was the night, he would do it at last.

The day went quickly, Kirven and the other boys finishing with school and heading down to the lake, where many of the youths gathered in the afternoon. Upon arriving there, he saw many of his friends, most notably Tristan and Tara. Tristan was his best friend, and Tara was Tristan's younger sister. She and Kirven had always been close, and now Kirven felt the blaze of young love within his heart. Tristan walked over to him, talking in a quiet sort of voice. "So, tonights the night." Kirven looked at him, slightly startled by this. "What do you mean?" Tristan shook his head slightly, laughing softly. "It's alright, man, I think you have every right to. Just make sure my old man's good and drunk before you do. Shouldn't take more than a half-hour." Kirven felt a surge of relief, knowing that Tristan was backing his efforts. "I'm going to swing by home and say hi to my father. See you later." Kirven began the walk home, feeling his spirits soar. Tonight was going to be perfect.

Kirven's family history had been rather sad. He knew that his father had found his mother while on a hike in the woods. She was grievously wounded, wearing only a torn cloak around herself, covered in cuts, bruises, and scars, with many broken bones. His father, Kaden, had taken her to his home and treated her wounds, giving her clothing once she awoke. She thanked him, and wanted to continue travelling, but his father insisted that she stay, at least until healed. She had no choice, and took his help. Over time, as her wounds healed, they became closer and closer until Kaden finally proposed to her, and soon the two were married. His mother was pregnant, but every day she grew more nervous, saying that someone had found her again, and was hunting for her. She felt that they were all in danger, and that she did not want to risk her family. Kaden tried to tell her that all was well, and that there was no danger. But despite her husband's words, she never rested again. Some nights, she would claim that someone had been outside her window, looking in at her. Gradually, she began to have nightmares, dreaming of something going near the stable. She awoke screaming one night, saying that she had seen the ones who had left her in the woods to die. Kaden tried to calm her, but once Kirven was born, she soon fled, taking the family horse and fleeing into the night. Kaden had been left to raise Kirven, and never knew what became of his darling wife.

Kirven's home was a farm on the outskirts of Baron. It had a small barn, and some stables, a pasture, and of course the farm house. When Kirven went into the house, he found his father, sitting at the table, a troubled look on his face. "Tonight, son, you become a man. I respect this, but I ask that above all else, do not go looking for your mother." Kirven looked at his father, consoling him. It was the day of Kirven's birth that his mother had left, and every birthday brought back memories. "Father, wherever mother is, she is in a good place. I do not need to look for her, for I know it to be true." Kaden smiled at his son, feeling a surge of pride at his son's wisdom. "Son," he said, standing up and walking across the room," There's something that your mother wanted you to have,when you came of age." He thurned around, holding a sword, with a beautiful golden handle. It had no scabbard. "Father, how am I to carry it?" Kaden handed Kirven the sword, saying, "Put it flat against your back." Kirven did so, and a scabbard seemed to appear around the blade, holding it to his back. "Thought so," said Kaden, smiling, "it always did that for your mother, too."

The night was upon them. Kirven had changed from his simple clothing into something more fancy, although about as comfortable as a beartrap. When he arrived in the village square, he saw it brightly lit. Tables were set up at the sides of the square, and held wonderful foods, fresh breads baked with honey, steaks and roasts, fruits of many colors and sizes, steaming fish, several large turkeys, and at least ten barrels of ale. Some locals who had skill with instruments played a lively tune, and people were dancing, laughing, and drinking. It was a wonderful sight, with a roaring bonfire, several feet high, providing warmth and light. "Welcome!" Tristan shouted, Kirven turning to see the older boy. He had a grin on his face, saying to Kirven, "shouldn't be long now. The old geezer's already downed a good gallon." Kirven was smiling, and went to walk over to Tristan's father. As the old man was drinking, however, a whizzing sound was heard, ending abruptly. The old man spluttered and dropped, the shaft of an arrow sticking out of his neck.

Chapter 2: The Sacking of Baron
Panic erupted, people running in every direction as arrows flew through the air. Hoofbeats were heard, and men in black armor carrying swords and crossbows, riding black steeds, came charging into the village. The tables were overturned and crushed, the musicians trampled with their instruments. Many women fell on their dresses and were stampeded by the horses. people fled as fast as they could, ducking into alleyways and hiding in houses. Kirven had been running, looking for cover, Tristan and Tara behind him. As an invader took aim at him with an arrow, Tristan grabbed another of the invaders and threw him in the path of the arrow. The black armored man fell dead, and Tristan took the sword that had been in his hand. "Kirven, get my sister out of here!" Kirven looked at him briefly, then nodded his head. Tara screamed, "Tristan, I'm not leaving without you!" Tristan turned and punched her, knocking her out. "Go!" he shouted to Kirven, who picked up Tara and ran. Tristan turned to face the attackers, ready to kill for those he loved.

Kirven ran toward his house, ready to take his father and the horses, and flee Baron. When he got to the house, he heard fighting. His father was brawling ferociously, screaming "You bastards! You took her, bastards, you took her!" like a madman. He appeared to be winning the fight, and cast his attacker away. As the foe stood, the light from the house shone across it and Kirven saw the true nature of the foe. It had wrapped itself in bandages, from heat to foot, all except it's hands and feet, the skin of these scarred and grey. It's body was strangely tall and thin, and it's face had strips of fabric tied like a blindfold over it's eyes and a gag holding it's mouth open. It made a strange hissing noise, and stood in a hunched over way. Kirven ran inside the house, putting Tara safely down and grabbing his mother's sword from the table. Running outside, he saw as creature's strangely pointed, black fingernails as they slowly extended with a sick, scratching noise. Once they were several inches long, the creature stuck them in Kaden's stomach, and drew them out as the old farmer fell, dead. "No!" Kirven screamed, running at the creature, the sword in his hands. As he clumsily swung it, the creature caught the blade in it's hands, letting out a raspy, hissing noise that sounded sort of like laughter. It then let out a pained sort of shriek, and the sword blade seemed to burn it's hands. It fell to it's knees, writhing in agony. Kirven then swung the sword again, cutting the creature's head clean off, a spray of dust hitting the air. The thing fell, dust pouring from it's wound, with no blood at all. Kirven ran to his father's side, but it was too late. He heard footsteps, and looked up to see Tara, awake, looking upset. Soon, shouts and hoofbeats were heard. "Kirven, we have to get out of here!" Tara shouted at him, her voice choked by tears. Kirven stood, shaking, and ran to the stables, mounting the family horse, and riding swiftly away from the scene. Rain fell, washing the dirt with the blood on the ground.

Kirven and Tara rode on, both numb with shock. They continued into the nearby Burnt Hills, not stopping until they were good and hidden. Tara found a small cave, and was about to lay down when she looked out at Kirven. He was standing in the heavy rain, staring into space, a cold, wounded look on his face. "Kirven, you'll freeze out there! Come here, it's dry." Kirven numbly obeyed, too far in shock to feel anything. He layed down next to Tara, and the two eventually fell into an uneasy sleep. While asleep, Kirven dreamt of hearing harsh voices, seeing strange figures walking like apes. He eventually awoke, only to have a large club strike the side of his head, and fell unconscious. When he awoke, he realized he had been hogtied, and was being dragged by a group of short figures, Tara beside him. Both were gagged, and the figures were dragging them along the ground, the rainwater pelting both of them. Kirven tried to struggle, and Tara screamed, which made one of their captors turn around, uttering something in a high, beastly voice. The captor's face was illuminated by the moonlight, and Kirven saw what had happened. They had been kidnapped by Goblins.

In the dawn, Baron looked much different than the day before. houses had been set alight, put out by the rain, bodies littered the streets. The invaders dragged the bodies into a pile on a cart, covering them with a tarp and pulling them away. The invaders then stood in ranks, bowing as a man on horseback rode in, dismounting to speak with the captain of the men. This man wore a huge skull like a helmet, and was clothed in black and silver armor, a long black cloak held around his shoulders by a thin chain. At his waist were two swords, one on either side, and three black belts, one around his waist and two across his chest, held many long knives. He looked to the captain, whose armor was more fancy than that of his subordinates. "Body count?" the skull-wearing man asked. " Twenty five, General. All in all, a good night. We had little resistance." The general, whom was known by the name of Skull by most, though few dared to call him by that name. "I have learned that the Rath that accompanied you has been killed. The Emperor is most displeased with this, captain. Raths are hard to create." The captain spoke again, this time in a quivering voice. "The Rath went off on it's own, hissing about some mission. It was not my fault." Skull began to laugh, a cruel noise. "Captain, you are truly pathetic. Begin conscription, and get out of my presence."

The Goblins made no effort to ensure comfort. Kirven and Tara were thrown into a cell, little more than a small cave with rusty iron bars. On a table outside the cell lay Kirven's sword, along with everything but their clothing. Kirven sat in a corner of the cell, while Tara cried in fear and screamed for help. "Oh, will you stop? No one can hear you." Kirven seemed to have lost all hope, and now was simply despairing. Tara ignored him, continuing to cry for help until she heard the irregular flapping noise made by Goblin feet. The form of a small goblin came into the dim light. He looked like the other goblins, large, yellow eyes, green skin, long arms and short legs, long, pointed ears, cone-shaped head, long nose, sharp teeth, claws, but was at least a foot shorter than the rest. He moved like an ape, like the others, walking on his knuckles, but he seemed to have a timidness in his movements. He spoke to them in a stuttery way, as if using a foreign language. "Dakk," He said, in his high voice, pointing to himself. "Is that your name?" Tara asked him, curious. The Goblin nodded, saying, "Dakk help. No like Gorc. Help hoo-mans." He then went to unlock the cell. Kirven threw himself at the bars, grabbing the small goblin by the throat, trying to strangle him. The small creature let out a yelp, then sunk his teeth into Kirven's arm, ripping through the skin. Kirven jumped back, shouting, "Open the cage, freak. I'll tear you apart, you little monster!" Dakk shook his head, wailing out something in Goblish, holding his hands in front of his face. Tara grabbed Kirven, shouting, "He wants to help us! Lets give him a chance!" The Goblin nodded, throwing Tara the key to the cage, keeping his distance from Kirven. "Now, Dakk, is it? Tell me," Tara said, in a kind, gentle voice, "Who is this Gorc?"

Chapter 3: Dakk and Gorc
The Burnt Hills was so named because of the place's history. First, it had been a forest, a peaceful grove filled with singing birds and peaceful animals. However, a bandit king came into the forest, having his bandits cut the place down and built a fortress of the wood. There, the bandits would gather the plundered riches of everyone they stole from, causing pain and suffering far and wide. However, the bandits had taken an entire tribe of Goblins, and were using them as slaves, kicking them and spitting on them and underfeeding them. The Goblins became cruel and angry, hating these human bandits, until one night one of them killed the guard, who was a drunk, and took the keys. Once out of their chains, they went through the fortress, killing the bandits, stealing the riches, hiding them in the tunnels that had been dug by the bandits as cells, always digging the tunnels more and more, creating a whole community. Eventually, they burnt down the fortress and the bandits with it, keeping the heads and putting them on spears. Once the fortress was but a pile of ashes, they spread the ashes around and put the heads of the bandits in place to scare intruders away. That was ages ago, and the heads were now weatherworn skulls. The wood of the spears decayed, and the speartips rusted, and the skulls were broken beneath the hooves of horses. Now, only small patches of thorns grew there, and the smell of ashes was always on the wind.

Goblin clans are lead by the largest goblins of all, the Hobgoblins. Hobgoblins are different than other Goblins, not skinny or ape-like. They are huge, and as heavy as four men. They possess strength enough to pummel large boulders to dust, and wield weapons as large as tall men. They look unbelievably fat, but are really solid muscle. They have large fangs on their bottom jaw, which stick out of their mouths. They almost always smell foul, and it takes several goblins to bathe one of them. The current Hobgoblin of the Burnt Hills was Gorc, son of Nurk, son of Gart, son of Turk the slave. He was cruel and mean, enforcing the thought that all humans were slavers and murderers, and were no better than vermin. He believed in strength, and hated the weak. Therefore, he was especially mean to one Goblin: Dakk, the runt. Dakk had always been bullied, treated like a dog, forced to eat scraps. Whenever he spoke, they would laugh at him and kick him. Thus, he had grown to dislike his own kind, and would gut Gorc at any time if given the chance. He was a very fierce fighter, skilled with knives, but now felt instinctively afraid of one and all.

"So this Gorc, he's the boss?" Tara asked Dakk, standing between Kirven and the small Goblin. "Gorc bad, boss Gob, big meany," Dakk said, speaking very poor Western, "Gorc kick Dakk, bite Dakk, treat Dakk like dog. Gorc die!" Kirven looked over at the little Goblin, feeling new pity for him. He had never seen a kind life, or loving parents, or good food. He had never had friends. "Dakk," Kirven said, in a softer voice than before, "we need supplies. Is there any money or weapons in these tunnels?" At this, Dakk became exited, saying, "Come! Come! Dakk show chamber, big rich, Gorc's treasure! Lotsa gold, silver, shinies! This way! Follow Dakk!" The Goblin began running like Goblins do, like an ape, bounding down the chambers. The two followed him, around twists and turns, no idea where they were going, until Dakk stopped in from of a large boulder. "Help Dakk, you strong! Push hard, shinies here!" Kirven and Tara both helped Dakk, pushing with all their might, and the rock slowly began to move. Once the gap was big enough, Kirven looked within with a gasp.

The large chamber walls were lined with torches, the light of which rebounded everywhere. All over the chamber were treasures of all shaped and sizes, everything from belt buckles to old crowns. Gold and silver was heaped everywhere, some recent, some so old they turned to dust when touched. Old weapons, piles of coins and gems, glittering banners, wonderful armor, heavy shields, everything one could ever want. "Here, much shinies, here!" Dakk said, running excitedly into the room. Kirven walked in, looking around until he saw heavy purses filled with coins, and began to pick them up. He had about four when he stopped, grabbing a bow and throwing it to Tara. "We used to play with small bows as children. As I recall, you were pretty good." Tara took the bow and a quiver of straight-shafted arrows. Dakk, however, seemed fascinated over something else. An orb, made of what looked like glass, shone with light refracted as if filled with water. Dakk took this, cackling madly. Kirven, however, protested at this. "Dakk, we don't need that. Leave it." Dakk snarled at him, holding the orb like a child. Kirven grabbed it, and it began making a sound. Kirven noticed that his sword was making the same noise, like a music note. He took his sword from his back, the scabbard vanishing, and the orb glowed more brightly. The sword blade began to glow, and both became hot to the point where Kirven dropped them. The light of the two became one, and when the light stopped, the orb was in a slot in the blade, and was bright red. Kirven lifted the sword, putting it on his back, the scabbard reappearing. The sword had been enhanced.

Suddenly, a roar echoed through the chamber. "Gorc!" Dakk wailed, as the boulder in front of the chamber was thrown aside. Gorc was larger than most Hobgoblins, and smelled much worse. He wore very little, the hide of some animal, possibly a horse, around his waste. and carried a club the size of a small tree in his hand. Dakk drew two small, broken daggers and leapt at Gorc, flying off of the ground like a demon. The Hobgoblin swatted him aside like a bug, turning to face Kirven, whose sword was drawn. As he swung his club at Kirven, Kirven blocked it with his sword, and in a flash of flame, the club was sliced in half, and burnt to ashes. Gorc looked at Kirven in surprise, giving Dakk enough time to leap up onto Gorc's back, pull his head back by the ears, and, using sharp, wicked fangs, tear his throat out. The Hobgoblin dropped, spluttering, brackish green blood flowing over the gold. Dakk landed on all fours, kicked his head back, let out an animalistic shriek, and began tearing at Gorc's body with teeth and claws. He had gone into Goblish Bloodfury, where a Goblin will forsake weapons, using teeth and claws to kill and eat his foe. Kirven 'sheathed' his sword, grabbing Dakk, who was now covered in Gorc's blood. The Goblin struggled, clawing and biting, until Kirven had to knock him out with the pommel of his sword. "Come on, Tara," Kirven said to her, carrying the limp Goblin, "let's get out of this hellhole."

Chapter 4: Whisp, Criminal Extraordinaire
The back of Gorc's treasure chamber held a secret passageway, one from which fresh air flowed. Kirven had found this, and now he, Tara, and the unconscious Dakk walked, getting as far away as they could. Their horse was probably in the stomachs of many Goblins. It was evening, and they were approaching a town. "That's Torres," said Tara, looking ahead at the town, "we should be able to get shelter." Kirven nodded, then looked at the bloody-mouthed goblin, saying "What about him?" Tara looked anxious, thinking for a minute. Her thoughts were cut short by a shrill howling. "Damn, Borwulves!" Kirven shouted, dropping Dakk and drawing his sword. As the beasts came closer, the red orb in Kirven's sword began to glow, and the blade burst into flame. Tara yelped in surprise, but Kirven felt none of the heat. It was all in the blade, the wielder was unhurt. "It gives me fire!" Kirven exclaimed, swinging the sword. "Time to try it out!" Kirven came nearer to the Borwulves, two-headed wolves with long fangs and green tails, and aimed a clumsy swing at one of them. The beast leapt back with a yelp, the ends of it's fur singed. Tara gave a scream, and Kirven turned to see a Borwulf on top of her, ready to bite at her. Kirven took a swing at the creature, his fiery blade just scratching the creature's face. The flames of the sword burned the hair away from the scratch, leaving a long, burnt scar. Tara shouted, "Kirven, you can't keep this up!" A smaller Borwulf made ready to pounce on her, but as it did, a small green figure came flying over Tara, and the awakened Dakk sank his broken knives into the beast's twin heads. He then pulled them out, slashing the throats of another with them, the steamy hot blood of the animals splashing on the ground. He jumped on the back of one of them, digging his blades into it's knees. One of the knife blades broke off, and Dakk kept fighting with the remaining knife. As a Borwulf made to bite him, he jammed the blade into the roof of it's mouth, then ripped the creaure's other mouth permanently open. The little Goblin couldn't keep up the fight, and another of the beasts jumped on him. As it kneeled to rip him apart, Kirven brought the flaming blade down through both of it's necks. the Borwulf's body rolled off of Dakk and burst into flame. "That was close," Kirven said, speaking to the little Goblin with renewed respect, "thanks, Dakk." The Goblin laughed, saying to Kirven, "Size no matter. Big hoo-man, learn to fight, ok?"

By dawn, the three had reached Torres. They were all tired, and wanted shelter. Their travels had torn and dirtied their clothes, and it had been a full day since any of them(except Dakk, at Gorc's expense) ate. All of them needed a bath, Dakk the worst of all because dead Hobgoblins smelled worse on the inside than they ever could on the outside. As they approached, they saw the wooden wall surrounding the town, and approached the door. The two guards standing behind it looked up from their breakfast, ready to greet the outsiders. As they saw Dakk they tensed and drew their weapons, walking forward to apprehend the small Goblin. Kirven went to grab his sword, but a third guard, this one with a crossbow, said "I wouldn't do that, boy. We've nothing against people. We just want to take the animal and go." Dakk let out a strangled cry of fury, screaming, "Who animal? You or me? Dakk do nothing!" The guards laughed, gave Dakk a kick, and dragged him away. Once they were out of sight, the one with the crossbow put the weapon away, saying "Welcome to Torres. What is your business here, if I might ask?" Kirven gave the guard a look of disgust, going to pass him. "Hold, good sir. I'll need your weapons." Kirven turned, looking at the guard. He was a coward, only fighting if his friends could back him up. Nonetheless, Kirven took his sword from his back, the sheath disappearing, and placed it on the ground. "I wouldn't touch that if I were you," he said with a smirk, "you might get a burn." Tara relinquished her new bow and arrows, and as they walked towards the inn, a yelp from the gate told them the guard had tried indeed to touch Kirven's blade.

At the inn, the coins taken from Gorc's lair were indeed useful. Most of them were simple gold or silver, but some of them were made of a bright metal, bluish-silver in color, that were covered in intricate patterns. The innkeeper had tried to insist that they were just more money, but Kirven was no fool, and he kept each coin. They bought food, shelter, and new clothes, as both were still in their uncomfortable party garments. "It feels good to be out of that ghastly thing," Kirven said, walking from the bathing room in his loose, casual attire, "It itched everywhere. Your turn." Tara went to bathe, while Kirven, ever the gentleman, waited in the room outside. As he heard the lock on the bathing room door click, there was a knock on the door. Kirven got up and answered it, seeing a scruffy looking man. He was at least forty-five, with as many gray hairs as black ones. He hadn't shaved for at least a week, and his clothes were torn and dirty. "Hear you got a friend in trouble, a little green guy," the man asked, his voice sounding rather hoarse, "and you want him out." Kirven nodded, surprised how much the man knew. "The name's Whisp," he said, "and for three gold coins, I can help you."

At morning, there was a knock at the door. Kirven awoke, opening the door to see Whisp. He had Dakk, with a collar around his neck and a chain for a leash. "Here's your friend. I had to purchase him from the lock-up. Technically, he's my slave. Therefore, if you want to have him with you, you're gonna need me with you. I think we had better leave." Kirven asked "What's the rush?" Whisp looked out the window, then drew the curtains closed. "Some mean looking guys in black armor were asking about you. Judging by the looks of them, they aren't your buddies." Kirven woke Tara, then looked to Whisp, saying, "We need our weapons. How are we to get them now?" Whisp smiled, throwing their weapons on Kirven's bed. "One of the guards is rather fond of the drink. I left a few bottles of rum in the guardhouse." Tara looked worried, saying, "How will we get out of town?" Whisp smiled, saying "Got that figured out too."

When the four companions left the inn, they saw their foes. A pair of the black armored grunt soldiers on foot, wielding vicious crossbows made of ebony, firing two arrows at a time. The third was riding a grey horse, armor plating covering it's neck, shoulders, and haunches. He wore a cloak around himself, shrouding his features. As he dismounted, the guards at the gate came forward to take their weapons. The grunts came forward to attack them, but the man in the cloak held out a hand to stop them. "I will handle this," he said, looking towards the guards. He spoke only two words to them. "Prepare yourselves." He threw back his cloak, black-and-silver armor shining in the sunlight. The pale gleam of his helmet made the guards gasp, drawing their swords as he drew both of his. General Skull had come to Torres. The guards ran at him, swords held high. Skull parried a clumsy blow, throwing it back and stabbing the guard. He then brought a well-aimed swing at the other guard, decapitating him. As the backup guard went running for help, Skull drew a knife from his belt, throwing it with pinpoint precision. The guard dropped. Skull had killed three guards in under a minute, and now looked for his true prey.