The group prepares and leaves for the big unknown.
Comments are welcome. I hope you enjoy.
The next morning found everyone up. Marco was retrained everyone using the weapons.
“Look since I won’t be here you all can’t forget to train.” Marcos lectured.
“But we can’t be killed we’ll never lose.” Caris said simply.
“If I were mortal, I would simply bury you and your pride in a deep hole. That would stop you.” Marcos said making Caris pale at the thought.
“The idea you must understand is you’re still vulnerable. If a dragon eats your arm and flies off you’ll be armless for quite a while. Lots of old immortals die because they never get better despite being bored throughout eternity. Elves don’t suffer those illusions, and the ones you all hunt may have hundreds of years of experience.” He said after catching their attention. “Caris, Vellina, and Ailli will be given spears to use. I’ll cut the shafts down from ten to eight feet. The idea is to have quickness and reach.”
Marco cut them from ten feet of shaft to eight then another half-foot. That gave them the quickest reach. Vellina was just given the six-foot spear.
As they sparred, they could see how on equal a field someone with only a little experience could hold off someone slightly faster or stronger with limited reach. They also received a lesson in immortality when Ailli was cut, she watched in wonder as blood floated off the spear into her wound and it healed closed. All this in less time then it took to say she was okay.
Kaarthen and Kassin were taught unarmed techniques. Kaarthen completely bested Kassin in speed and agility. While Kassin tried hard, and learned fast, she couldn't keep up to Kaarthen who seemed to only be limited by thought. When she challenged Marcos, she was in turn beaten soundly by his overwhelming experience to where she couldn't touch him or even predict what was happening. They received another lesson in immortality that they can still be knocked out. Marcos admitted however, the amount of force he was using could break boulders as he demonstrated.
By lunchtime when everyone was tired, they stood out upon the flat rock in the shallow water.
Marcos launched into a tirade about the stupidity of single edged short swords and resolved to have them use a full sized single edged sword such as the either the standard straight sword of Menthino or the slightly curved specialty swords said to slice a man from shoulder to crotch.
“If you can't find, buy, or steal the swords, your enclave will need to learn a double-handed technique. The 'blades' in their current form are a flaw to the whole fighting style. As I said earlier there is no reason to expose yourself to fight. ‘Spear Mistresses’ in the old days were comparable to Warrioresses. They wore armor and used heavy weapons and projectiles. They also wore heavy armor and had magical augments and magical offensive spells.” He concluded.
They returned to fighting after the break and everyone fought unarmed. Ailli in her clumsy way was able to trade a punch with Marcos and hit him twice by accident. They barely counted since one was her stepping on his foot and another was her elbow hitting his shoulder as she was thrown. Kassin was quick to give her the points despite the fact they were only training. Caris and Vellina told him to stop being a bully.
Kaarthen found him brooding later when they ended for dinner. She had to sit him down on a rock and suck the aggression out of his balls before she could have him lay his head in her lap and suckle her milk. While they lay there in the sun surrounded by flowers, she told him her need to be off soon and begin their journey. Marcos agreed knowing it was going to be a interesting new life with here around.
That night at dinner, they made their plans asking Kassin first if she would be okay until more sisters arrive. The agreement broke down over if they should continue to go north and get some horses from a border fort then continue south and east to Mavvus, or go south the way they came and go directly east once clear of the mountains. Marcos learned that none had ridden horses but Kaarthen and Vellina especially wanted to see as much as possible so he convinced them to continue north.
The next morning all the women said farewell in their own unique way standing in the temple's water naked holding hands praying for each other's strength and bravery. Marcos waited outside, but the girls came out and hugged him for his presence, and to say farewell if nothing else.
They were surprised by the change in temperature as they stepped out into the valley. The trail they had traveled on was noticeably colder in the early morning.
Two days of traveling got them through the long barren valley. The valley ended and Marcos explained a small mountain pass off to the side heading east gets them further into the mountains. They would have to climb out using convenient but steep trails to finally reach the high hilly cliffs to the east. By Marcos' estimate, it would be two day still until they reached the cliffs of the Ort and another week at the slowest to get into Mavvus.
At the start of the mountain pass, they saw the remains of a camp of men. There were a few carts and shredded tents and hitching for horses but nothing dead or living was around. What gave them pause, were the spears identical to what they had broken around the camp. Black shafted arrows were also spread in rocks and littered throughout the area. It was already twilight so they allowed themselves to pick over the site and use a ready fire pit on the far side.
"What did this?” Vellina half wondered aloud looking around
"Astrokos sends men down the glacier they then double back to come out the east and hopefully under our noses. It's a suicide mission. They either die on the way in, or get trapped in Menthino.” Marcos turned from the site to the two women. "Taking the route through this land of chaos is insanity. If they take too many men, or to few they'll attract equally deadly attentions."
"So why do they have the same spears as us?" Vellina asked.
"At night when you all slept on the trail I went ahead and cleared the way. In an area like this boring is healthy." Marcos explained gesturing to the site.
"So you were already here four or five days ago.” Kaarthen asked. Inside of her, wonder was mixing with anger. "Well no more, we all go at night now!"
"Don’t be silly, it was two days ago. Despite how superior you feel you can't actually see at night. There are plenty of other things around here besides lonely travelers like me, and the elves your supposed to kill that would love to find you two. Unlike most women your bodies would heal and you would live through all the worst parts." Marcos pointed out.
"Well we'll have to ask for a little favor and hope the Goddess hears us." Kaarthen said and stomped off into the center of the site. Inside her, the Goddess was curious as to what she was doing. She pleaded for it not to make her look a fool. It felt pleased with the scene of death around her and she hoped it would help.
"O Goddess, O Dark Mother of night," She began dramatically once dropping to her knees. "We, your most humble servants would spread death before us. We would visit our strength upon those who deny your maternal love. Please, since we are blind in the times of your strength please grant us from your warm bosoms the eyesight and vision to see the world in your light."
Marcos had seen a lot of Sisters do dumb shit just like this over the years, but was impressed by the shamelessly strung together selfless groveling.
"Nice try but you weren't even speaking her...” He started.
A green light barely visible in contrast to the darkening red sky came down in waves over Kaarthen. A pulse broke off and slammed into Vellina beside him.
**WE ACCEPT. SPREAD DEATH THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT**
Kaarthen was surprised to feel her lips move for the words but was ecstatic that it all worked out. Since she had her back to everyone, it wasn't a big deal to be used like that. She felt the Goddess was also happy for doing some thing so trivial for the first time. It did however ask her a small favor to which she agreed. Kaarthen stood and turned giving Marcos her smuggest grin.
"Wow it went from night right back to day! That's amazing can everything see like this?” Vellina asked in wonder staring at things with better detail than at high noon. She could fix her eyes onto things and see all the detail, from cracks in the rocks, to grains in the wood, and smudges of dirt. Marcos saw her previously black non-reflective pupil less eyes now had a white outline and they reflected light like a cat or vampire from deep within the sockets.
Many miles away in a watch post Kassin was suddenly struck by her ability to see clearly to the horizon in all directions, she could see moving dots of previously hidden creatures. Some she saw, that were smaller then most and traveling in a group headed south along a parallel ridgeline to the east were mountain elves. With focus, she could see everything from the dirt in their hair to their scared beady little eyes. Grabbing her Lourndai, she vaulted out of the tower and slinked along south to cut off the group with words echoing in her mind to spread death throughout the night.
In the enclave, Ailli was lighting torches, and Caris was cooking, they both fell back covering their blinded eyes for a moment.
The vision the band had now, was the infravision that most nocturnal hunters have, and the natural light amplification that nocturnal creatures have. To top it all off they had the focus of a hawk. So now, suddenly, their eyesight could rival a dragon. They were also compelled to kill any enemies they saw.
Convincing Marcos they were well prepared, the trio started off after quickly eating. They went ahead a carried their packs since there would be no reason to return. Marcos complained the pace hadn't changed but knew that they were travel significantly faster than many mortals could sustain.
They stopped as the sun came up and got off the trail to a high ledge. To the West they could see the end of the mountains and the forested frontier that was Menthino's northwestern border.
Marcos told them in time they could train themselves not to sleep or eat anymore. He also told stories of vampires, high order demons, a mage, wizards, and sorceresses he'd met. None of these people Marcos remembered had any redeeming qualities about them.
Kaarthen and Vellina quickly noticed a reoccurring theme, these people went quite insane eventually and brought forth mind-boggling destruction. They both wondered if these were his friends.
Marcos told them a unique secret when they tried to understand how the world as they knew it could be destroyed so many times, and how familiar exactly was he with these people.
"This isn't the only world. There are many more then there are gods. They are claimed and fought over like bickering wives. In this world, there is only our Dark Mother, as the only god she is given huge powers and abilities that usually are not available. She can directly control Fate, the weather, and the flow of power and energies below our feet."
"So who are you in this picture?” Vellina asked.
"Well should another god come to this world, and they do from time to time, she loses most of those powers and has to share others. The world manages the weather and the earth energies itself, and I become her anchor here. When more then one god is about, they feed off and empower their champions. As the champion interacts, actions fuel its aspect. Eventually, priests are found to gather more followers, all this fuels the aspect even more and the god gets more power. Gods can't be killed but their followers and champion can. If weakened for long enough by the rejection of its aspect or not having a champion for a while they'll become 'Minor' and they won't even be able to leave the world on their own. They'll be come like a ghost or spirit drawing people’s actions toward their aspect in small groups or individually and feeding off the energy. When that happens shit is so stacked against them they would be lucky to be banished and indeed they actively search for a way off the world."
"When has this happened before?" Vellina asked. Kaarthen already knew it all and more like what the gods were really after, and what they did when people weren't around.
"Actually, it was quite common but usually indecisive. Then several cycles ago about twenty thousand years ago, Minun lost his other worlds and became 'Minor' they then stopped trying to claim this world." Marcos continued.
"Wow that's along time! Wait, where you alive back then? What's a cycle?” Kaarthen asked. Now she wanted to participate just so it would hurry this up.
"Cycles have three parts. A thousand year building period where humans spread and are kept relatively safe, the progress made dictates the next phase. The second, where humans continue development, on average it's 5000 years. If humans are more progressed, they get less time. For example, countries have invented unbelievable things and gotten off our world into the stars, but then they were only given 1500 years. Eventually it ends and in one or two hundred years, everything is whipped away in a chaotic manner ironically fitting to the cycle. Then it starts all over, the same yet different, building anew to an overlooked destructive end built into its foundation. I myself am about 67,000 years old and I'm not even the first champion our Goddess had."
"Maybe I should start at the beginning.” Marcos began.
Kassin had an excellent hunt. The elves had walked into her single file. The first two died from the same slash to the neck. She went on to kill the third one as he tried to block her feinted thrust. Of the last two, one ran away the other armed himself with two short double-edged daggers. He backed himself into a crevice and shouted what she assumed were elven curses and taunts. She toyed with him until he was tired. She purposely only hit him in the underarms and shoulders.
In defeat, he dropped his head. His arms were completely useless by now and dangled limply. She left and tracked the last one but the sun had just come up so rather than kill him she severed one leg at the knee and left him in a puddle of blood and urine as he struggled with a strap to stop the blood.
She returned to her new slave. It was a short four-foot tall mountain elf. It had a under bite, and warts, thin white hair, and it looked like a pale goblin.
She binded him by the legs, slung him over a shoulder, and started home whistling a noiseless tune.