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Meeting the Natives - Part 3

On the way to Gimpys Deville and Hrothmir detoured to buy a snack for Hrothmirs rumbling stomach. They found an odd little shop that sold something called "Bison Burgers". The "Bull Burger", being the largest , was Hrothmir's choice while Deville was tempted to try the "Calf Burger Special" which also had little strips of fried pig on it with some sliced cheese and green leaves of some description.

"These are quite good you know?" Said Deville after he'd finished his burger. He had chewed his, so Hrothmir had eaten three by the time he'd finished one.

"Thank you kindly sir." Said the owner.

"These would sell well in the Empire, you should try some sort of franchise."

"Oh sir, we don't get many Lunars in here sir, 'cept for a fair few of the garrison. Come to mention it, they's probably me best customers."

"Exactly. In the Empire you'd be swamped by the Pelorians and lower status Dara Happans, they'd love this kind of snack. Imagine the potential! You could have every shop selling the same items, to the same standards. The apparel could be the same and everyone would know what to expect. The peasants would love it!"

The burger man blinked a few times as if imagining. Then he shook his head sadly. "Naw sir, it wouldn't work. Who'd pay to eat the same food everywhere? Only morons sir, and they never have any money anyhows."

"Ah, well, I suppose you are right good sir. Well thank you for your time and your wonderful edibles. Goodday." Deville had to pull Hrothmir out as he lusted after another juicy lump of meat in a bun.

"And goodday to you too sir!" Said the Burger man. Once they'd gone he turned round suddenly to one of his lackeys and clipped him hard over the head. The boy yelled out in protest. "What the Hells you do that fer boss?" He moaned, clutching his head.

"Cos you should 'ave manners like that nice gentlem'n that just left instead of slobbing 'round all yer day. Anyway, don't you be talking back to me!"

This time the boy ducked and fled to the kitchen, pursued by his irate employer. The other serving boys, veterans of many evasive manouvers, had a good chuckle at their fellows expense.

Deville and Hrothmir carried on their way, looking for Salt street. They'd been told by the burger man that Gimpys was right on the old walls so they moved towards their looming presence, confident of finding their way from there.

They deliberately ignored the main routes through town, instead they passed through the Suntown area where they were watched closely by several hard looking youths with gold arm-bands but they neither spoke to or interfered with the two Lunars. Deville smiled and waved but received no response.

"As ever, they are a standoffish lot Hrothmir. However, as ambassadors of the Lunar Way we must set an example of "benign tolerance to the Empires allies and subjects" a policy so brilliantly expounded upon by the Overseer." To even a keen observers Deville's tone would have displayed no irony but Hrothmir knew him better. Hrothmir said nothing though because he just didn't care about Lunar intrigues and subtleties, all he wanted to do was axe Morthanders enemies and have a good time.

Deville often felt envious of his giant friends singleminded devotion to destruction and complete lack of concern over anything else. If only my life was so simple! He thought.

As they walked Deville noticed something odd about a man just leaving a large, rundown, three-story tenement building on his left. The shifty looking man had a peculiar gait, almost drunk, but not quite the same.

Deville turned to Hrothmir. "Watch my back." He said and moved across the street to fall into step behind the man.

Hrothmir stayed where he was, concentrating on the focus for his Axe Sharpening Shout to Urain as he watched the street.

Deville moved quickly and was right behind the man in seconds. He appeared oblivious until Deville was an arms distance away and then suddenly he broke into a run.

It wasn't much of a run but he surprised Deville and got a slight head-start. Deville cast his mind to his spirits as he accelerated into a sprint. A spirit from the Lord of Movement, Mastakos formed out of the shapeless blur of his bound powers and allies giving him a Gift of the Great Mover. He released a surge of spiritual energy and suddenly he sped up as the power surged though him His legs moving impossibly fast as he covered ground like a Cheetah.

The shambling escapee first knew of his failed attempt to flee when an Iron gauntlet grabbed him by the hair and propelled him head-first into the alley with tremendous force His feet barely touched the ground and he screamed in panic. The unresistable momentum threw him forward, straight into a brick wall. The meaty crunch as his nose and left cheekbone broke were distant in the man's far off mind as he bounced of the wall like a rag doll and assumed sprawl position on the muddy stones of the alley.

Deville bent over the man, doing a quick examination of him. Probably concussed, bleeding badly, but its a head wound so they always do. He opened the mans eyes and noted the dilation. Definitely on Hazia. He thought. Good, it confirmed his suspicions. He brought a healing to mind and using his powers, he amplified its effect massively. It took little concentration for one of Deville's skill and power and the mans face healed up before his eyes.

Deville heard movement mehind him and turned to see Hrothmir standing at the alleys entrance. They said nothing to each other but Hrothmir understood Deville's look and adopted a guard position, facing into the street.

The man groaned. "Wake up!" Deville slapped him lightly.

The man moaned again. This time Deville reached inside his robes to one of the many pockets in there and produced a small bottle which he opened and waved under the mans nose. He spluttered to consciousness.

"Good. Now tell me about the place you just left, who owns it and do they supply many people?"

The man looked both stubborn and fearful though his drug hazed gaze. He said nothing and jammed his lips together in a very determined way.

Oh dear. Thought Deville. What a shame. He pulled out his very sharp belt dagger and flipped the point in a tight arc, slicing deep into the mans cheek.

He screamed. Then bled.

"Now tell me what I wish to know or that will not be the last part of your anatomy I slice." Drawled Deville.

"The Brotherhood owns it, don't slice me!" He bawled.

"The Brotherhood, presumably you mean Blackfang?" The shining point waved silkily in front of the mans face again.

"Yeah, yeah! Blackfang, don't hurt me no more!"

"How many in the operation?"

"Dunno, maybe ten in there, its a hangout, I'm an "associate" but I ain't one of them!"

"An associate. You mean a thief? Well little thief, know this. I need a man ready to talk to me about things that happen in this city. You are that man." The man screamed in protest. "Shut up. What's your name?" The point touched a tender cheek.

"Yullik, Yullick Croise!" He cried. 'They'll kill me for sure if I help you!"

"Kill you? Dying is nothing Yullick Croise. Nothing. I can do things to you that you wouldn't believe, more so after you are dead. Its more entertaining then because the torment is eternal."

Yullick could feel the mind dulling effect of the Hazia fading as the adrenalin pumped his body clear. He knew that this Devil in human form would do what he said, and maybe worse. He didn't know how he knew this, maybe it was the animal part of his brain telling him to avoid extinction. "What do you want me to do?" He muttered.

Deville smiled. "Well that's the spirit! Nothing much, just swear an oath to serve me and obey my orders until I discharge you."

Yullick felt some relief inwardly. This idiot must have lost it if he thought Yullick Croise could be bound by an oath for more time than it took him to get to a safe distance! "Okay, I'll take your oath." He said firmly.

Deville smiled even wider. "Swear to obey me in all things and to await my commands wherever I tell you to until I release you from this Oath. Give me your hand." Yullick complied. "Now you are bound by me to this Oath and I call upon Tarnils to witness and enforce this solemn vow!" His voice rose in power, becoming charged and resonating.

Yullick felt a heat in his hand and saw a glow spreading around their joined grip. "Swear!" Bellowed Deville, haloed by the glowing power.

Yullick tried to stop himself but felt his treacherous mouth move, as if driven by an overriding compulsion. "I so swear." He whispered.

At that moment he felt a bond form, chain-like between them and he knew somehow that if he ever broke that bond, he'd be deader than Dorasar. He started to cry.

Deville laughed. "Oh dear, how pathetic. Go on, get out of here, I have work do do. Do not leave town. Leave a contact address at the Silk'n Plume tomorrow. Now go!"

The weeping man lurched to his feet and fled through the other alley entrance. Deville rose to his feet and turned to Hrothmir. "Okay, lets get powered up." Hrothmir nodded.

Deville began summoning his power from the myriad places he drew it from. Spirits responded to his demands, allies to his requests and familiars to his orders. He weaved his magics through many different disciplines and faiths into the comprehensive web of power and magical might that was Morthander Deville.

His muscles swelled with strength and vitality, the world slowed around him as he summoned the Form Runes of the Universe into himself. His body was surrounded by glowing and invisible layers of shields from many sources that would repel all but the mightiest physical, magical and spiritual assaults.

He drew his sword; "Enlightenment" which was his ally Enlightened's spiritual housing and began summoning the great weapon magics of Tarnils and enhancements of Wizardry until the broadsword almost bucked and hissed in his hands like a live thing.

Hrothmir and his axe also glowed gleaming with the dull red-black power of Urain. The massive black-armoured warrior radiated a palpable menace that even Deville could feel, though he was unaffected. People for a block around them were though, many suddenly feeling their hearts race and their blood grow cold from some unnameable dread that infused them.

"We are ready, lets go and bring Imperial Law to the unworthy!" Snarled Deville. Hrothmir roared his approval.

Chalner Grek, a huge bear of a man, also known as, "the Ogre" for his disgusting habit of taking a piece of his kills home with him, lounged comfortably in his chair. His heavy crossbow was across his lap as always and his bastard sword rested within grabbing distance on the table. For all the armament, he expected no trouble today except for the occasional rowdy who would be no problem for his hard bitten crew.

The Hazia house was busy as usual, the basement was full of the noise of Hazia processing, the first floor was full of "Hazies" and the upper floors were both a sort of barracks for a dozen or so members of the Brotherhood and a small army of harlots catering to any peculiar taste required. It was all tax free and very illegal, but the Lunars turned a blind eye, hells, half the customers these days were Lunars! Plus the Brotherhood had some friends in high places through them weird Krarshti guys that the Blackfang himself seemed to get on with so well.

Grek wasn't too sure about that kind of ally but they always delivered and when they said they was going to hit somebody, they surely did! Grek respected that. He also respected the orders of the Blackfang, the new leader of the Brotherhood was a faceless but frightening presence. To anger him was to die.

Chalner Grek yawned and stretched contentedly, he was boss of this operation and he loved it. He had all the women, drink and Hazia he wanted and even the "oh-so-mighty" Lunars had to toady up to him to get a piece of the action. With them under his belt, nothing could go wrong. Why he was virtually part of the establishment!

He grinned widely, showing his filed teeth. As he looked idly round the room, he noticed Franek, todays door guard, look through the peep-hole in the bronze bound front door. Obviously someone had knocked. Franek spoke for a second then shook his head. He started to shout angrily. Someone was obviously causing trouble outside. Grek wasn't concerned but waved to a couple of men on the balcony to move to cover the door anyway. Both had heavy crossbows.

Franek was starting to reach for the peep-hole cover, when he suddenly screamed in agony and his hands rose claw-like to his ears. Blood spurted between his convulsing fingers. As he turned Grek saw that his eyes were bleeding and his wailing mouth was full of steaming red blood.

Franek, all six foot six inches of him, crashed to the floor, lifeless.

"By the Hells! Cover the bloody door!" Bellowed Grek. He leapt to his feet, pushing over a table, dislodging a Hazie who squawked unheard at the rough treatment. The two men on the balcony were joined by another man from the landing guard position. The four other men in the first floor came out from their various rooms. One shouted alarm to the crew in the basement.

For a few seconds there was silence. Even the dozen or more Hazies kept their mouths shut.

Then the door exploded inwards in pieces as if smashed by a giant fist. The air filled with wooddust from the flinders but Grek could soon make out a very big block of stone lying amid the wreckage. The only thing he could think of that could propel a boulder that large, at that speed was an Onager. If someone out there had a catapult, they were in big trouble. Still, it was his place and he'd damn well make a stand.

The dust settled to reveal a Crimson-robed figure standing calmly in the entrance way. He shimmered with power and the Iron sword in his hands sparked as he held it idly in a loose grip.

The man spoke in a rich melodious voice, powerful and commanding: "Surrender to the authorities for your crimes or pay the price." He intoned.

Grek looked at the lone man and tried to see around him but couldn't spot any Lunar hoplites backing him up. His decision took no thought whatsoever. "You're crazy Lunar and you're going to die. If you want us yer going to have to carry us out feet first!" He roared. His men joined him in shouting their defiance.

The Crimson man smirked and semi-bowed. "I was hoping you'd say that." He said. He started to walk forward, the air around him began to swirl in a heavy shimmer, like heat distorting the air, till he became a difficult target.

"Open fire!" Yelled Grek and they did.

Three men on the balcony and five on the first floor, except Grek who held back, fired their crossbows as one. Each bolt simmered through the air as each had cast Speedart on release.

They all flew into the advancing swirl, Greks men were damn good shots but they all felt a twinge of dismay as the bolts seemed to rebound from the air around the invader or skittered off harmlessly from his shifting image.

In retaliation a mailed fist was raised, energy released and one of Greks men collapsed, his eyes rolled up into his head as he drooled on the floor. Another shrieked in fear and ran for his life.

"Get him!" Grek fired his bolt, after carefully aiming. He didn't bother to look to see if it had an effect. Then he picked up his sword and led a charge across the room with the three men left upright in the first floor. They were joined by five more men from the basement who came out with blades and magics ready.

As they ran into range, the fireplace suddenly exploded behind them as a living snake of fire leapt out onto one of the basement crew. He screamed in pain and swiped ineffectually at the burning thing that seared his flesh.

From the swirling figure, ghastly faced phantasmic shapes of spiritual essence flew out to attack two of his men. They stopped in their tracks as their very souls battle to survive.

Grek was third into range of the Red Priest, for surely that's what he was, in time to see his two best men die. The first launched an immense two-handed hack that would spilt anybody in two but it was almost negligently deflected by the light touch of that glowing blade. The return stroke seemed slow and light yet it removed his man's head like a hot blade though butter. The corpse staggered on a couple of steps, fountaining blood up to the ceiling in a crimson spray, till it joined its head on the floor.

The other man feinted well as he went in and landed a heavy stroke which hit something a solid as granite. His hand went numb from the impact and it was all he could do to keep his sword. Then the glowing silver gauntlet reached out and took hold of his face. It closed with a jerk, pulping him from brow to chin. He didn't scream, just gurgled.

Grek pulled up short and started to backpedal, miraculously parrying a blow that cut his sword in two and tore a hole in his chain armour and the shoulder beneath. He couldn't believe the strength of the attack, it stunned and demoralised him.

Three more men joined him, one falling immediately as his head almost burst from the same magic that had taken down Franek. Another was boned by a thrust that went right through him to the hilt.

The last man turned and fled.

Grek thought this was a splendid idea but to cover their retreat he used his Shatter spell, backed by as much energy as he could spare, leaving him with just enough to remain conscious. If it worked, hopefully he'd need no more magics anyway and he could put of healing his shoulder till later.

He released the deadly magic like an arrow, its black lightning bolt tore through the air and blasted into his enemy as he flicked the dead man off his sword. Greks grin of delight disappeared as the bolt hit perfectly then rebounded like a ball from a wall.

It came straight back at him.

"Oh shit." He whispered just before his head exploded.

Deville rammed his blade through the men fighting his Wraiths and ordered the Salamander to set fire to the building.

Hrothmir smashed through from the back where he had butchered his way through the guards there and quite a few Hazies. Deville directed the frothing Axeman to the basement while he blasted the men and harlots trying to escape down the stairs past him with combined disruptions.

Men and women exploded into misty blood clouds at his glance and only the fact that the entire upper floor was on fire kept them coming. Even that didn't last long as Hrothmir came back up the stairs from the basement, breathing heavily, splattered with gore, Deville decided it was time to leave the building.

Outside a large detachment of the Marble Phalanx had assembled and were on the verge of going in to the flaming building when Deville and Hrothmir came out. Their Skin of Life had protected them from the smoke and their magical protections had kept them unharmed, even in that intense heat.

Deville found the Centurion. The man saluted but found it difficult to hide the look of horror on his face. The normally immaculate Deville looked like a man who'd gone bathing in an abattoir.

"Centurion, you will kill anyone who tries to escape the building, arrows should do it."

"What about prisoners sir?"

"No prisoners. They had their chance to surrender." Deville grinned like a demon through the bloody mask of his face. "Crime doesn't pay Centurion. That's why I'm here; to make sure nobody forgets that."

"I think you've made that point admirably sir."

"Really.......? I haven't even started yet." Deville turned to view the scene.

Firefighters battled the blaze to try and stop its spread while the pitiful wretches who tried to escape the building were shot down with missile fire on the orders of Morthander Deville, instrument of Justice and the Law for the Lunar Empire.

<< Part 2 | The Deville page | Part 4 >>


May 31, 2000

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