Notify Message
Forums
Page 1
Search
#14624984 May 02, 2021 at 03:15 PM
Member
17 Posts
Background sound - safe link

(Supply Interdiction Mission; Ice Planet Vaal) The task was simple enough, destroy the mining equipment and transport pads to upset the Legion’s offensive capability in the nearby worlds. Such a loss would stabilize the sector and give the other worlds a chance at slowing the relentless momentum of the Mad Titan’s forces. The Xenedar’s pylon staging area was based in a secluded forest some distance away from their target, when needed the Xenedar would activate the portal when the Legion patrols were elsewhere. The forest provided cover for movement allowing the Army of the Light to strike with surprise and melt away once a Legion outpost was destroyed. The drawback was the distance needed to ferry supplies without increasing their footprint, tipping the Legion off to their presence. The runners would trek supplies and any wounded back and forth between the Staging Area and Forward Station. Both sites were considered dark in that no shielding or energized pylons were used that the Legion might detect.

The young Draenei could feel her heart pounding in her brain as she sprinted across the field, hooves driving into the icy snow pack. Each step creating a crunch, a sound like it could be heard on the next mountain. Much too loud for someone trying to remain unnoticed. As the level ground gave way to the rise of the small hill covered with small ravines, she could feel her lungs burn for air in the weak atmosphere of the mountain country. Reaching deep into her reserves to maintain the pace. The various drugs and supplies had a limited lifespan in the frigid temperatures of ice planet Vaal, fortunately her youthful pride and dedication would not accept failure.


<<Ice Planet Vaal>>

Needing a quick break, she darted into the last ravine for some much needed cover to catch her breath before the final leg of her trek.
Gasping for air, the warm air from her lungs created a visible breath, heralding her location. Always cautious; she knelt down to gather some snow, which she placed into her mouth to reduce the presence of her warm breath; making detection difficult. Slowly re-oxygenating her blood and resumed the trek. As the distant sun crept along the mountainous horizon, she checked her bearings again, cinched the straps on her pack and took off at a steady pace.


Another 15 minutes had gone by as the last checkpoint neared. Coming over a small rocky outcropping her vision instantly picked up movement across a small meadow. Without hesitation the Draenei dropped into the snow and peered through a gap in the boulders. Slowly, a large orb appeared through the trees into the meadow, an Observer she thought. Thinking to herself, either it got lucky or the runners had used this route once too often, regardless of the how, this was a threat that could not be ignored for long. Slipping back down into the small outcropping, she faded right and eased her way around the flat meadow area and back into the dense underbrush of the forest. Admittedly the delay would be costly but nothing else could be done.

Like all pack bearers in the “Cause” the Army of Light’s fight against the Legion was known. Anyone of age was mostly likely introduced as a pack bearer unless they had a mentor with technical ability. Though Arexzia’s guardian’s were medical personnel, it was decided she needed to get her hooves dirty before being selected as a triage assistant. As such; she had little martial training and her best offense was to hide or run like a group of Man’ari were after her, it had saved her many times and would do so again. Finally clearing the area, she saw the tell tale tracks and spore of Fel Stalkers, crisscrossing the area in their usual chaos inspired tracking method looking for signs. Changing course again, the path led the youth into deep snow. Working at maintaining a steady pace, she struggled against the powder snow that at this point was waist deep. Setting her jaw tight, she pushed on.

As Vaal slipped into darkness, she kept glancing into the shadows wondering if the Stalkers were pacing her or was it just a tree bough dumping excess snow onto the ground. Everywhere it seemed, the forest was closing in; as the distant twin suns clipped the mountains, the landmarks started to fade quickly. Using some choice Eredar expletives the young Draenei shook off the paranoia and picked up the pace. Finally just as the darkness completely enveloped the area, she found the cave system that housed the Forward Station. Shivering from the cold and damp sweat that had built up in her clothes, she quickly made for the medic area and disseminated the supplies. Sitting near a heater consuming a meal pack as she took in the warmth, the young Draenei eavesdropped on the medics who were planning an emergency evacuation of a patient. Finishing her meal, she took a brief sigh at the time and moved toward the Command post for debriefing.


<<Vindicator Hara’naar>>

The Forward Station Commander was Vindicator Hara’naar the Chief Physician of the Xenedar. The Eredar is what most expected when thinking of large males of his race, formidable, confident, and direct. Forged long ago, a founding officer in the elite Argus 1st Regiment. Just like the regiment, the imposing figure was power incarnate, his sigil, markings and tattoos all pulsed with his direct connection to the Light. He was also my Guardian Father. His presence was such that I was often aware of him approaching before I saw him. No matter how many times, he always seemed to break me down to rubble. He was half guardian, half supervisor, and always about the business of the “Cause”.

Saluting smartly, I waited for the salute then slowly approached him to gently touch my cheeks to both sides of his face in a gesture of respect and love for his position in my life. Plus my Guardian Mother Anchorite E’ialane mentioned that it made him a bit softer to deal with.

Taking a deep breath to steel myself, I resumed a position of rest and addressed the most feared being in my existence. “Vindicator Hara’naar, I understand there is an unscheduled return run, I would like to volunteer for the mission?” Grumbling slightly at the kiss, he coughed once to clear his throat. Though part of me knew by the cough I had gotten inside of Hara’naar’s outer shield if just a moment, I waited, round two was about to commence.

The Chief physician paused looking over his young ward. He was always difficult to read, was this a look of disappointment for speaking up, not following some protocol, or just NOT being a shining example that the Army of Light expects from their youth? Regardless, the look meant something was coming. With a dismissive huff, “Arexzia, child, you were barely on time with your last run, and your rest period started an hour ago.” He started to pace back and forth, “and here you are breaking protocol instead of resting to take another mission, and… (he repeated himself, never good), and all before you have neglected your debrief.” Quietly I could feel the tension start to build it all shamefully played out in my head, “what debrief Father? I ran through the snow, carried a pack, and saw an Observer...oh…<sighing> that part might be important.” The Commander, and Guardian Father continued, “your eagerness is not becoming, first the debrief. Now tell me of how the mission went.”

Eating your words can only be slightly more painful than eating one’s own thoughts. Outlining the mission, routes, and of course the Observer, and <more dying inside> the scat left by the Fel Stalkers scouring the area... Kil'jaeden’s balls no wonder Hara’naar treats you like a child. Refocusing on the task at hand, I took a slow calming breath and began. Walking up to the terrain map I traced the route, where I spotted the Observer and routes the Fel Stalkers were taking to canvas the area. Separating fact from opinion, I finished the debriefing with my thoughts on the other runners using the same routes too often. To say it was a painless briefing would be a lie, as soon as I mentioned the Observer and Fel Stalkers the slight deep rumble in my chest told of why he so insisted on a debrief. All things done in order, and in my heart knew I would be reminded of it, sooner than later.

Watching him stand he moved toward the map, here it comes, “Arexzia, you least provide an adequate briefing,” gesturing to the location of the Observer and Fel Stalkers, “I will deploy the Rangari to sniff out these curious Legion scouts and mandate new routes.” Turning now with his arms folded, “On the matter of you breaking protocol, you will take your rest cycle and find devotion in ferrying equipment. You were barely on time with the last run, and your rest period started now over an hour ago, now know your limits child. I will have no more discussion on the matter.” Waving his hand in dismissal, I knew in every fiber of my military mind this conversation was over.

My heart however was something else entirely. I could feel the seething boil come up from my heart at his belittling comment of being a child. Though I kept my hands behind me, the short tone betrayed a loss of bearing and now I would pay, but I was sick of his treatment, “Barely on time, means on time, no else knows the terrain better than I, and no one is faster, I can rest on the Xenedar. Please Sir, do not take this from…” was all I got before he stomped his hoof sharply on the cavern floor. His face turning color, “Initiate, if you ever lose your bearing with me again” his finger pressing into my forehead, “you will be cleaning pans in the brig, understood?” Though he did not strike me, his large hand went to the side as if he was preparing to. Physical reminders of insubordination was not unknown in the Army of Light. Letting out an exhale, he took up the roster and looked at the available staffing, “I will have no further conversation on this matter Arexzia, the mission will go to…” All the while scanning the roster.

I simply stood there trembling, not so much out of fear, but the emotion of it all, finally taking a breath, “Yes Vindicator Hara’naar, I understand.” Grunting at the acknowledgement, he traced through the names again, his own face relaxing then turning slightly dour. After he finished going over the available runners, he turned his back on me and tossed the roster on the table. Almost haphazardly, “The mission brief is in the Medic Bay, do not disappoint me Initiate,” and with that, the conversation was over. Saluting smartly I left without saying anything. My jaw clenched tight as my thoughts raged, “Why...why not look at the roster first, is everything I do substandard to you?” half running I made my way to the Medic bay located in a side cavern.

Meandering through the cave system gave me time to refocus before turning into the passageway that marked the service area. The Medic Bay was carefully lit by a soft red crystal, the sounds of a heated debate coming from within. Though the Army was highly disciplined, in all wars there are odd periods of nothing. As I rounded the corner to see the cause of the debate, the same two tending Anchorites were busy debating if the planet spelling had two (A)s or one. Just emerging from the shadows I rolled my eyes as the pendulum swung from Legion encroaching our hideout to a spelling contest. Walking in, I saluted and reported. Their look of having been interrupted by the mission was telling. They were professional, but a good argument was a morale boosting affair that was now on hold. Stopping their discussion, they handed me the med-sheet and pointed to which pod had the wounded Vindicator, along with the portal junction time for extraction. The pair absently resumed their discourse. At times, the life in the Army of Light was quite dull indeed.


Arexzia - Preforging

Shaking off the argument with my Guardian, I secured an empty wash booth, warm water, and some clean clothes. Preparing for some sort of rest before making the return trip back to the Portal Junction would require time to shake off the (discussion) with my Guardian Father. Behind the screen as I dried off I took a moment to wonder what kind of female I would become. I was tall, athletic though very lean. My body had not caught up to itself yet, worse I by all accounts had my mother’s horns. Which normally would be a compliment, in this case was not. My horns were rather small and curved forward running parallel along my face. No full curl or raised horns for me? But at least they were symmetrical? Sighing, that had to account for something. The older females did toss the occasional compliment about facial structure though, I knew they were being polite. I could always catch them whispering pity about my orphan status, or an unspoken thread of my parents. In either case, I could look forward to being a strong single soldier for the Cause. Clean as clean gets in a deployment, I put on dry clothes and retired to the open bay to find an empty cot.

Finding one away from the males, my mind raced between childish expectations of my Guardian Father and wondering if I might ever find someone who might think an Orphan of the Xenedar as we were called special enough to form a pairing and start a family? Struggling to shake off the distractions I started to relax by nibbling on some rations and drinking some warm water flavored with Sunglow. The drink amounted to a luxury at the outpost, and being a runner I got double rations. Enjoying a brief respite, the sound of two familiar young males coming into the rest area was the signal that my relaxation time would have to wait.

My chief antagonist growing up on the Xenedar was a young Artificer named Zotaar. His friend was a larger, slightly more polite version of Zotaar who was not far behind. The Artificer spotted me like a predator eyeing a wounded animal. I watched him in what amounted to slow motion photography knowing full well what was going through Zotaar’s mind. First the measured grin while talking with his friend, turning into the bay, he casually notices his favorite target, bumping into his friend a sly curl appears on his mouth.

The Artificer transformed into the hunter. Per my own protocol, my mind receded as Zotaar opened the gap on his face. That voice of his grating at the back of my skull, “Arexzia, do not look so gloomy young one, you should know by now you will never find a mate with those child-like horns.” By the Light, not this routine again. Could he not find something else? His joke elicited a few laughs or groans from around the bay, though after how this day went, his words got past my defenses. Wondering about my horns, “does everyone notice these things?” I followed up with some choice Eredar expletives which drew a few laughs but only fueled Zotaar further. Feeling the audience out, my mortal enemy continued, “Perhaps you should consider becoming a caregiver at an Inn” with the timing of a practiced comedian; “oh, disregard, you cannot cook either.”

Elbowing his friend they walked over to their berths and prepared for a rest cycle. Ignoring me for a moment, Zotaar explained to his friend “Of course, if she had a family, or prospects of a dowry, I might consider her…?” Slapping his friend on the leg, the other male waved him off, “do not malign the unfortunate Zotaar; you know she is without family, I am sure she can still contribute to the Cause.” Rolling onto his cot the larger male began to rest in preparation for another work cycle.

Looking at Zotaar’s friend, I could never decipher if Zotaar’s friend was dryly malicious, setting up his friend for another round, didn’t care, or was actually being respectful in his own way. Regardless of the intent, Zotar took off and ran with what he was handed, my vision narrowed, blotting out everyone and everything as I tried to focus on the floor light and not think of my nemesis. Patting his cot, he looked at me playfully, “come young one, come here and contribute…” Laughing he made the gesture again to make space on his cot as he patted the area inviting me to come over and share his bed.

Staring at the floor-light I was again for the second time seething in anger, his ability to get under my skin was without peer. I started to play out every detailed phase of how I was going to make him neutral. It would be easy. At this distance, I would take four paces to his cot which I could cover in little over a second. Running at that pace, my left knee would plant itself into his face. Given my weight, he would be stunned at least briefly. Now off balance and dazed for at least a few moments, I would grab his facial tendrils and twist them to cause enough pain to stun him. My right hand gripped the Argunite surgical disc and would slice into him with the ease of snow falling. Standing back I would just laugh, my hand bloody with what used to be his chance at a family. Mocking him “Zotaar, who would take you as a mate now….?”

Of course, all that played out in my mind just like it did every time he went through his routine of mocking my life. Zotaar, not seeing me respond to his goading, let out a disappointed laugh, “Don’t worry young one, I was just playing, do not be so serious”. The ever stoic friend shouting over Zotaar; “Quiet, I am trying to rest, find something with no talking Zotaar”.

Satisfied, with the end of his entertainment, Zotaar turned over and began to rest while periodically laughing as he replayed his well received jokes at my expense. Soon a barrage of clothing items, a few fasteners or tools would land around or on Zotaar; the message was clear. From around the bay the chorus of “Shut up, we are trying to rest” thus finally ended Zotaar’s reign as a predator of the weak. As I lay there in the cot feigning disinterest in the whole affair I drifted off staring at the flickering floor light thinking...then falling asleep, dreaming.

Dreaming as I always did. What perhaps my parents would have been like? I thought of what my life would have been if we went with the Genedar to a new world instead of fighting. Visions of playing games in our spare time; or finding a home and having a garden. Just the simple joy perhaps drinking a Sunglow on the observation deck looking at the various star systems. As if on queue the vision of a multitude of stars faded as I slipped out of the dream into a deep sleep.

The concept of having the portal separated from the strike position was new and still under discussion at the upper levels. The theory was sound, as the Legion scanned for energy fields, they would detect the portal signature and investigate only to find us withdrawn and leaving the Forward Station unmolested. Given the Legion’s limited focus on their mission, lateral thinking was not part of their strategy. On Vaal, the Legion had one focus, produce crystals for their efforts, anything else was a drain on resources and would not be tolerated. The Army used this time and time again against their eternal foes. Bait them, have them waste resources, then when Legion punished those that diverted forces, we would strike. If successful, the second Commander would be punished for his failure to protect the Legion’s mission. The region of space would be at least given a brief pause. The Legion would be minus two Commanders; our mission accomplished, at least until the next opportunity.

My internal clock went off after a few hours of rest. Waking, I thought of killing Zotaar in his sleep, then reminding myself of the wounded Vindicator that needed extraction, I put my own petty thoughts aside. Dressing, I slowly donned my light armor and made my way to the Command Post. The briefing was short, most of it I already knew. A few details I did not. Given the presence of the Legion in the woods it was decided the Rangari would deploy to detect and distract the threat in hope of keeping our presence ambiguous. If the ploy did not work, the Rangari would eliminate it. Worse, the Xenedar’s orbit had to match our location and be on the other side of the planet from the Legion to avoid detection. Today of all days this meant the extraction would be conducted in the daylight. Catching a glance at my Guardian Father, he never looked at me the entire briefing. Leaving the brief, I resolved to leave him behind me and focus. Starting my pre-run ritual that amounted to a rather simple stretch and isometric exercise to get the blood flowing, and putting on the “Face”.

Peering into the mirror, I applied a dark green, then a white, and then some black paste to my first three fingers. Keeping the fingers apart, I ran them down and across my face. Then, taking some green, I dotted between the areas to break up the pattern. Looking at the cross pattern, I enjoyed a brief smirk admiring my work. Grabbing a ration pack, I exited the barracks and ate walking off last night’s argument with my Guardian. No matter the changes I made, his attitude towards me would never change. It would never be good enough and thinking otherwise only made life worse. I pushed the negative feelings aside. By the time I approached the Medical Bay, I was confident, moved with purpose, and focused on getting that wounded Vindicator to the portal and to the safety of the Xenedar.

Gathering the last of my gear I finished inhaling the ration and went to work. Prepping the patient which I according to his tag was Vindicator Korikun from the 1st Regiment. Looking at him comatose in the sled I wondered if he would think of me looking at him? Shrugging off the distraction that lingered on my mind from last I focused on the here and now. Making sure the male was snuggly cinched down in the sled harness, I checked the straps again. Satisfied I had the medic check the cranial module was stable and the patient was in deep stasis. Securing the last of the padding and the final cover I made sure the sled looked nothing more than supplies. Thinking to myself it is the best I can do. Satisfied, I pulled the sled out into the darkness. Initially making good time as this part of the trek was mostly downhill, I turned left the ravine system and entered the forest. Taking a moment to re-oxygenate in the thin atmosphere, thankfully the forest was quiet and calm. Crouching down, I listened for a few minutes to make sure I was not being tracked, satisfied I checked the sled once more and made any adjustments to the straps. By the time the glow of morning lit the mountain peaks I had made good time and approached the long meadow with the Staging Area beyond.


<<Ice Planet Vaal Ravines>>

Stopping near some snow drifts I gazed out over the ice and snow capped space. The area seemed serene and calm but something was causing my stomach to tighten. On the other side lay the Staging Area. I just had to go across some open ice to safety. “Why the nerves?” Deep inside a stirring of the Light perhaps? Unsure if it was stage fright or instincts, I paused
and waited trying to bury my angst of burning up the extraction window. I had a decision to make.

The fastest route was to go across the ice, but it was also the more dangerous one.
A series of clicks over her comm device told of the Rangari’s frustration at not having tracked down the Legion patrol. Theme music_right click and open in new window


<<Ice Field before Staging Area>>

Given the Legion was still unaccounted for, I decided to take the safer route through the ravines. At least this route would keep us mostly hidden, though slogging over uneven ground with the sled would slow my pace considerably. Pushing hard I cleared the ravines and rested in a small stand of trees and boulders. At last, I made it to the ice field and the Staging Area. As the day fully broke over the mountains, the light penetrated into the dense woods on the other side of the meadow that broke into the ice field. There, on the far side of the meadow to my left partially shrouded by brush was a break in the shadows. Then again, finally there coming out of the brush a Fel Stalker paced back and forth actively scenting the area. Slowly the beast made its way toward my position.

The Fel Hound is a beast out of nightmares. The worst aspect of the creature is the ability to drain energy and life force from its prey. The appearance of a Stalker so close made the situation much much worse. I had two choices, run or fight? Perhaps by myself running was an option. But with the large male on the sled, no matter how fit, I knew there was no chance of outpacing anything like a Fel Stalker. Looking at the sled and then the snow bank, the plan to fight quickly formed. Knowing how the beast stalked it’s prey, I would have a better chance of survival being bunkered against the rock than if we made a run for it. The thought of dying tired seemed pointless.

If Light was with her and the Vindicator, I could attack and have the element of surprise in my favor, which at this point I would need every advantage I could steal. The Stalker had not targeted us yet. Tossing my pack, I worked carefully to slide Korikun off the sled. Thank the Light the ice helped, I doubt this male ever skipped a meal. Filling the sled with my pack and the padding, it at least kind of looked like something was underneath. Satisfied, I dragged Korikun to a nearby alcove of rocks and covered him with snow leaving only part of his face uncovered. Now, there would be no going back. Taking my long knife, I sliced my forearm across the front letting the blood splatter on the sled and coverings. Nodding, I knew in my heart the clock had started ticking. Moving to the snow mound, I quickly covered the wound with a packet of clotting agent. Ignoring the burn of the agent, I worked feverously to cover myself with enough snow to hide, and now wait for death. For perhaps once in my short life, I briefly closed my eyes and said a quick fervent plea to the Light for strength.
Safe Link (Right click and open in new window)

Taking a slow deep breath I tried to control the feeling of hopelessness. The urge to bolt and run to the portal that was welling up inside consumed every part of fiber of my being, except this one small corner of spirit that suddenly became a pillar. True to the Fel Stalker’s instincts honed by the corruption of Fel, the beast’s absolute adherence to never deviate from the Legion’s mission started to unfold. Pausing, the beast smelled the air, catching the scent of life. Circling a few times, the creature did not wait long, bounding over the ice, it made for our location, “just a bit more Ma’nari filth” I thought. With no hesitation the beast lept and tore into the sled, searching for the source of the blood, eager to consume whatever was underneath.


<<Fel Stalker>>

In a sudden burst; I launched out of the snow and onto the Stalker. With the element of surprise I slammed into the creature, driving the knife toward it’s chest cavity. Frantically tearing at the sled covering, the beast’s movement made a killing blow difficult and the knife glanced off the rib cage. At least my lunge knocked the creature off-balance and sent it back onto ice-pack. My own momentum carried me out into the ice as well. For a few segments of time, both the Fel Stalker and I slid along the ice in a slow circular motion. The Hound’s mutated form, a heavy body and smaller legs, struggled to regain its footing and get upright. Digging into the ice using the edge of my hooves, I charged again. Lunging at the creature, with a desperate high arcing downward thrust, just as I committed. Just as she lunged, the beast suddenly righted itself and turned to face the Draenei.

Arexzia’s overhead thrust brought the long knife down hard into the shoulder of the creature. Only the Fel Stalker’s dense muscle and bone structure stopped the attack from being fatal. Shrieking out, the air filled with a long painful howl. In frenzied pain, the beast bit down hard on my shoulder. Locked together knife and jaw, we rolled over each other on the ice in a desperate battle for life. My light armor and harness prevented some damage, but as we wrestled, I could feel the beast’s teeth driven by powerful jaws slowly sink deeper. Finally tearing through armor and eventually finding flesh and muscle. The hand of my now crippled arm found one of the tentacles and struggled to hold it at bay as the sucker lunged and snapped at my face. I could feel the terror building in my heart. Freeing the knife from the dense bone, I finally shifted my weight enough to straddle the beast, and brought the knife high for another strike.

Her Guardian once reminded her during a training simulator exercise, “Arexzia, child...War is easy when the enemy complies…” At once the creature’s other tentacle whipped about and connected with the side of my head. In a second the Legion and I joined as one. As if the wind had kicked from me, I simply froze in place breathing in short labored gasps. A bystander would see a blank face with mouth open, eyes wide, pupils pinpointed. Everything about me seemed to pause. On the inside I felt like a ceramic bowl with a small hairline crack. The slow but steady trickle of water draining out. My being as a vessel started to empty. The creature was weak or the fight would have been over. Fighting through the emptiness, I once again found that pillar standing strong my desperate plea to the Light. I thrust into the exposed gut of the Fel Hound again and again. Each strike spraying the ice and both combatants in blood and gore. Letting out an enraged death cry, the Fel Stalker gnashed its teeth, an eerie sound left the creature’s dying lungs followed by a sick shallow hiss. Then it lay still, eyes open, and unmoving.

Laying on top of the eviscerated beast, my lungs heaved for air. Struggling, I frantically tore at the jaws and sucker, flailing to get this abomination off me only mangled my shoulder more. Lost in the frenzy, I lost control and screamed out as if a million bugs covered me. I just wanted it off and be free of this place. There through the chaos was that pillar again. Instead of making a mad dash and leaving Korikun behind, I sat on the ice panting for a moment. Finally collecting my thoughts and control over my body, I crawled over to Korikun. Struggling to pull the large male back to the sled, I fell several times as my mangled shoulder was useless.

After taking stock of what remained of the sled and my gear, I quickly tended to my shoulder, all the while knowing the clock was running out. Biting down on my knife handle, I poured the rest of the clotting agent on the torn flesh. Screaming through the handle, I desperately fought to breathe my nose as my mind was racked with pain. Once the coagulate set, I packed my shoulder with snow. Within a few moments the agony subsided and I found solace in the looking at the distant outcropping that served as the portal junction. Sliding on what remained of the harness around my good shoulder I started to pull the sled across the ice field to the safety of the Staging Area. Half walking, half crawling across the ice field to close the remaining distance. Refusing to bow to the inevitable, I kept going.


<<Observer>>

From back in the forest, a long hate filled shriek spelled my doom. Turning slightly, I understood, something had answered the death cry of the Fel Stalker. An Observer, the Observer from the supply mission was making its way to the clearing. The misshapen orb, with a large single eye, hovered above the icy ground, rapidly gliding across the clearing toward me. Whatever reserves I had were quickly depleted by struggling to get off the ice and away from the Observer.

At mid-point the hideous creature suddenly paused, behind it a trio of Fel Stalkers surged on to the ice and rushed forward. The Observer’s large eye pulsed briefly then sent out a bright azure beam that struck me full in the back. As the beam slammed into me, I thought I could see a shadow of my soul being kicked out of me. Collapsing to my knees, I just stared at my legs. In my mind I wanted to move, but the legs were numb; nothing worked. Sitting down on the ice blackness closed in. I had the vague impression that I was giving way to another, someone else was in my head with me. Screaming to get moving, only to be greeted by a small whisper of mockery from elsewhere. Looking down at my trembling hands, I fixated on the dried Fel Stalker blood, it had turned to a muddy blackish green sickly in appearance. Suddenly despite the fight raging outside on the ice field, I felt the keen urge to wash my hands as if that was now my only priority. Then the voice again, this time I was part of the chorus. Hearing the Observer calling out in the language of the Eredun, my own people, the language of the Legion, “I sense (It) carries another with her, take them both alive”.

The Fel Stalkers raced across the ice, oblivious to the danger, I felt being ripped from the pillar in my mind, stretching out to grab hold, it faded into the distance. Collapsing into a heap, I slipped into nothingness. What corner of my mind that I could call my own half dreamed, “A vision of several Artificers and Rangari running past, bright lights, and sounds of battle.”

((Epilogue))

Arexzia slowly woke, her head felt like it was being twisted and then crushed in a vice, struggling to raise her hand, she became aware of the soft glow of the ceiling lights that heralded the medical bay of the Xenedar. Vindicator Hara'naar, Chief physician, her Guardian, and the most feared being in her life knelt by her bed and kissed both her cheeks.




+0
Page 1