Author Topic: further Tales
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Registered: Dec 11, '01
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Subject: further Tales
His heart pounded in his chest as he climbed. It felt as though it was trying to burst out through his metal breastplate. Burning with pain, his legs marched step after step up the hillside, strewn with loose rocks, clumps of field-grass, and patches of snow left from the winter. At times he had to claw his hands into the dirt where it became too steep. The weight of his armor, the sword and shield slung across his back, made it all the more difficult. Sweat streamed down his face as he gulped in the cool air. He could not stop. His brother had taken the high pass… the high pass…

The man stood in his market stall, a shabby affair made from tent-cloth and bits of wood tied together. This far from the village, there were not many people to sell to, only the odd traveler or a miner heading up to the mountain or heading back down with a bag full of ore.

Chazcon took another bite out of the apple and used it to point up into the mountains.

“Up there in the Gabil pass you say?” he asked the man again.

“Yes sire, well, not there right about, but the trail on past where the miners won’t go. There’s no ore way up and the White Hand rules all that high country.”

“Aye, I know them well.” Chazcon said thoughtfully. It was they who he was after. A rumour from The Forsaken Inn had led him up here into the Misty Mountains. The White Hand in the mountains! Were they everywhere now? Chaz looked straight at the man.

“Who has passed by here with talk of the high pass?”

The man felt uncomfortable under Chazcon’s hard gaze. Of course he had good reason to...

“No one sire, not in many years.” The man waited anxiously, feeling a drop of sweat run down his back. The big knight searched his face a moment before breaking his gaze to look up at the mountain again. The man felt relieved but was careful not to show it.

“Well then...” Chazcon said, gathering up half a dozen apples and a chunk of salted beef, stuffing them into his day-bag. He handed the man a few coins.

“Thank you, and good luck to you!” the man said.

Chaz looked the man once more. He was no fool. “I’ll stop by here on my way back, and we will talk of luck, and other things.”

The man went cold. “Yes, sire! And I’ll have some meat-pies to sell! Hot meat-pies!”

Chaz said nothing. He walked across the road and untied Trapper, who had been grazing on the sparse brown grass near the tree. With one motion he swung up into the saddle and was off. He trotted past the man’s food stand, where the man smiled uncertainly and waved. Chaz just gave him a long hard look as he rode by.

When the knight was well out of sight up the road, the man began hurriedly tearing down his stall. As he lifted the crates of food onto his ox-wagon he thought, ‘If that knight makes it through what is up there, I don’t want to be within a hundred leagues of here when he comes back...’

Duprix was finally near the top. He was exhausted and in pain from the climb. He felt light-headed from the exertion, but he would not let himself stop. He crawled on all fours, over the edge and onto the trail at last! His body would go no further. He dropped flat on the trail, his chest heaving. He thought back to what had brought him here.

Two days ago he had been back in Bree-town to rest a few days, have some armor repaired, and buy a new sword. The search for Shalura had been going on for months, and Chazcon had enlisted everyone he knew. Duprix was there from the start, of course. Always following in his older brother’s footsteps, but not resentful, he looked up to Chaz as his mentor, his guide. Chaz was bigger than life and his reputation was known far and wide across the land. Duprix was content with his place in the world.

One night at the Axe & Fiddle, hunched over an ale, he overheard a conversation between two rough-looking characters. What perked up his ears was the mention of his brother’s name. As he listened, his eyes narrowed and his body became tense. They were talking in low tones about setting up an ambush for Chazcon. These two ruffians were no match for Chaz and Duprix kept himself calm in order to hear as much as he could, to find out what they had planned. Catching every word in the noisy tavern was difficult but he heard mention of the White Hand. Those words made his hair stand on end. If they were involved, and wanted his brother taken out... but why? And then his mind made the obvious connection - it was they who held Shalura! Of course!

Duprix noticed the two men were leaving. Standing up, he tossed a coin on the bar, nodded to the barkeep, and threw his cloak back so that he had clear access to his sword-hilt. Pausing for a moment, he pretended to be adjusting his cloak-strap as the men brushed past him through the door. He waited a moment more and followed them out.

It was no surprise to him that the two men, scowling, looking this way and that, made for around back of the tavern. Duprix followed them cautiously, keeping out of sight. Peering around the corner he was shocked to see a third figure, a head taller than the two men, half again as wide, poorly disguised and clearly an Uruk-hai. The three of them talked but the Orc had difficulty keeping his voice down, the grunts and hisses of his language plain to make out. Again he heard only part of their words, but suddenly a phrase was very clear: “...kill Chazcon.”

Duprix snapped. This was too much to hide and listen to. He leapt towards the group, screaming “FOR THE VITAE!” and pulling his longsword off his back. All three turned to him and drew their weapons as he expected. But then the Uruk-hai did the unexpected by hacking one of the men halfway through the neck with his scimitar. It all happened in an instant. The dying man fell to his knees, both hands on his wound, blood streaming and his eyes wide open in surprise. The second man hesitated for a moment, looking from the charging Duprix to his fallen comrade, and then to the Orc. That hesitation killed him because the Uruk-hai ran him through the belly as Durpix was upon them.

His wide-bladed sword still stuck in the second man, the Uruk-hai stomped Duprix fully in the chest as his long sword came down, knocking him on his back and nearly knocking the wind out of him. As he ripped his sword free he cut the dead man almost in half, and came at Duprix with a ferocious growl born of a deep hate for all living things. Sauron had created great evil when he brought forth the Uruk-hai; his magicks had done their dark work.

On his back and with no advantage now, Duprix rolled to avoid the large blade that clanged off the cobble-stone alley. Up on one knee he blocked the next overhead blow. The Uruk-hai made to kick him again but he wouldn’t fall for that twice. Dodging and up on his feet now, Duprix made a thrust at the head but was parried. His sword fighting had been taught to him from the time he was very small boy. He and Chazcon had grown up fighting, sparring, and practicing their entire lives. Few could match either of them in a straight sword fight. An Uruk-hai that had been born out of some fell muck only weeks or months ago might be bigger and stronger, but could not match a good swordsman.

The big Orc slashed sideways and Duprix blocked the blade up, rolled his sword underneath and clear, and brought a savage blow down across the Orc’s face. The wound was deep and staggered the creature backwards. But he knew from long experience how hard it was to kill an Uruk-hai. He blocked another blow and readied for a killing cut across the throat, but remembered just in time that he needed this one alive.

He stepped back and the Orc, who knew he couldn’t stop the killing blow, looked momentarily puzzled. But then realization came into his eyes. He turned and ran straight into the wall of the tavern, bringing his sword-point up to his chest.

Duprix screamed “No you don’t!” and jumped at the Orc. But the Uruk-hai had run his own sword through himself as he reached him. The big creature slid down the wall and dead. His green eyes poured out every last bit of hate at Duprix as the light faded from them.

“Damn you!” he said, and kicked the Orc-corpse. He kneeled down and went through the small pack the Orc carried. Some disgusting food but nothing else. He moved over to the ruffian man laying nearly in two pieces. As went through his bloody pockets, amazingly the man’s eyes opened. The man tried to look down at himself but Duprix held him flat. Seeing that would kill him out of shock. There was little breath left in him and little time.

“WHERE?” hissed Duprix. He leaned close down, his ear to the man’s mouth.

Some deep natural loyalty to his own race must have changed the man’s thoughts in his final moments. Faintly he whispered, “Gabil... the High Pass...” Then his head lay back and he was still, his dead eyes staring at the heavens.

Duprix went through the pockets of the last man and found no clues. But the High Pass... ambush... the White Hand... and Shalura! He had to find his brother.


Chazcon - Aluvian swordsman
You say, "FOR THE VITAE!"
Ru tells you, "CHAZ!"
Simply Red tells you, "I am SO not recovering your body!"
-- Good times.
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