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Settling In - Part 3

Gimgim fingered his black mask idly, lost in thought. It had been a difficult week and things were entering a new stage in Prax.

Deville had gone beserk after the second attempt on his life had left his cat familiar permanently dead and his big-ape friend needing two attempts at resurrection to bring him back. Every dive in town had been turned over, anybody caught using or owning Hazia had been arrested and tortured for information. By such ruthlessness Deville found thirty-six members of the Black Fang criminal organisations and six members of the inner circles. All had been crucifed.

The most irritating thing had been the support he'd recieved from the garrison. Many of the commanders had been outraged at yet another attack on a Lunar Priest and had, for once, dropped their internicine squabbling to support the anti-crime drive. Even some members of the local populace had joined in. Amazingly, so had several Orlanthi!

Gimgim was still getting over that one! They'd been furious at the open use of chaos within the town and had actually gone as a far as to commend Deville's "destruction of the foul pestilence." That old fart, Faltikus, had even said a prayer for Deville during Windsday service!

Gimgim was annoyed at himself. He had made an error in judgement. He'd been more concerned with the ins and outs of removing Deville than the effect of using Krarshti on the occupation forces attitudes. How stupid, he thought. To him chaos was a tool, part of life, dangerous but very useful and certainly nothing to get all upset about. He had joined Krarsht to improve his position within the Spoken Word. Really you couldn't get ahead these days without membership. Deville had never worked that out, too busy being a bloody saint to understand the realities of Lunar politics. However Gimgim didn't feel too worried because Deville had missed any trace of the main Hazia pipeline back to the Empire as most of it was set up out of town. Additionally, the attack on Black Fang had hurt the old guard more than Gimgims' loyalists in the organisation so that was good too. Some damage had been done but some benefit had been gained as well and Devilles growing identification with the Orlanthi could only work to Gimgims' advantage in the long-term.

He threw his mask aside and plonked his feet on the table and chuckled quietly to himself, a rare luxury for a man reputed to be as grim as an Iron Dwarf. He was looking forward to the function tonight, maybe he could prod Deville in some soft spots while he was there? He's so easy, he thought. Pull the strings and he jerks like a puppet!


Trask found Deville in the Tarnils training square, sparring with Rowger and Ternn, the two initiates who practiced regularily with Deville. Deville was showing them a compound attack to follow on from a successful high-line parry. The move was not unfamiliar to Trask.

Deville saw Trask approaching and waved. "Trask! Just in time, I was showing these two the move I used to disarm you all those years ago."

Trask looked sour and grunted.

"Oh come on, I couldn't do it now, you're one of the best I've ever seen with one blade. When you start slicing with the other too, you're more relentless than a Tax Demon." Deville smiled, trying to gloss over the fact that he'd injured his friends pride in front of other warriors. "So what brings you here? Has Radak or Jotoron uncovered any more leads on the Krarshti?"

"No, I came because I have your new trainer outside."

"He's here already? That was fast. I thought he was in Karse."

"He was. He rode here non-stop. Not for any particular reason, I just think he likes to test himself."

"Are you sure about him? Is he a man of his word? Can he fight? I want only the best to train my group." Deville had recently recieved a letter from the Overseer allocating funding for the formation of a small guard or special operations group to aid Deville in his duties. Locals and non-Lunars were to be used whenver possible. Deville had asked Trask to find a man to organise and train the mercenary recruits into an elite fighting unit. His Sartarite friend had immediately suggested the man waiting for them now.

Trask nodded affrimative to Deville's questions. "He's utterly bound by his word and he is a killer without compare. He is also one of the best teachers I've ever seen. Hard, but superb."

"By what name does he go by?"

"Aldarch Roven-Drax Ap-Onslaught." Said Trask.

"Thats his name? It sounds more like a disease! What does the "Ap" mean and who are his people?" Deville was well travelled and knew eight languages fluently but had heard no names like that in Dragon Pass.

Trask shrugged. "Don't know where he's from, he says Heortland but he doesn't talk about his past. The "Ap" means "the" but he says "Ap" sounds better. Mostly folk call him "Onslaught" after they've known him for a while."

"He sounds like a madman. You really think he can fight and teach?"

"As I said; he's the best I've ever seen. Ever. He can fight with almost anything, bare hands too. He's better than you by a long way." Said Trask with smug sureity.

Deville cocked a quissical eyebrow. "Really? Well we'll have to see won't we. Bring him in, I'll try our new man out." Deville felt himself disliking this man already and he hadn't even seen him yet.

Trask turned to leave shaking his head. "Should have kept my big mouth shut." He was still muttering to himself as he left the practice yard to get "Onslaught". He came back a few moments later with the man striding along beside him.

Deville was a long time judge of capability from appearance and posture. Much of his superior blade technique rested on his ability to read an opponent. This man gave off confusing signals. He seemed relaxed, cheerful, humorous yet very dangerous at the same time. He was about six feet three inches, big boned, not musclebound but corded and sinewy with big knuckled, shovel-like hands hooked casually in his belt. His exposed shoulders, arms and face were laced with scars in amazing abundance. The large eyes were almost black and they glinted with a malicious good cheer. He bore the Humakti runes of a full and experienced Sword on his tunic but he bore no weapon.

The man called Onslaught nodded to Deville as he came to a halt within weapon range and stared at him with those mocking eyes. He seemed to loom over Deville, such was the height difference but Deville had seen big men before and this "Onslaught" would in turn be dwarfed by Hrothmir.

"You have agreed to the contract Aldarch?" Deville would be damned if he'd call someone "Onslaught". It sounded so childish.

"You got it Brushie." Grated the big man.

""Brushie"? What do you mean by that?" Deville allowed a hint of annoyance to enter his silky voice.

"You Lunars wear helmets with brushes, so yer Brushies. Nothing personal, picked it up in Sartar." He didn't sound insulting but his eyes kept mocking.

"Well I'd rather you didn't refer to me or my colleagues with such a barbaric and derogatory term. After all we "Brushies" quite easily crushed the pitiful excuse for a people you called Sartar." After he said it Deville wished he hadn't. From the look on Trasks face, he'd hurt his friend again. Twice in one day, Trask likely wouldn't speak to him fro the rest of the week with anything more than a grunt!

Onslaught grinned. Deville noticed with a start that his teeth were made of iron, fanged and ferocious. "I say what I will, get used to it.....Brushie." The dreadnought smile grew wider.

"You have Iron teeth, why?" Deville ignored the insult, such was his curiosity.

"Fighting a cave troll near the Throne, my sword was stuck in its chest and it's crushing me with a bearhug. Couldn't do much else but tear out its throat with my teeth. Killed it but lost most of my teeth. Reckoned then that I needed tougher teeth so had these Glued and drilled into place in Nochet. Now I bite a cave troll or anything else, I come off best and I don't lose my teeth."

There was a lengthy silence from Deville, Trask and Rowger and Tern who'd been listening to the conversation. "What a charming little story." Said Deville finally. Onslaught just grinned again, displaying his overlapping fangs, Yelm glinting poorly of the dull metal.

Deville grew tired of the verbal sparring and decided to do some physical fencing to find out how good his new man really was. "Enough. Lets fight. Give him a sword."

Onslaught was presented a scimitar by Rowger but he refused to even look at it. "Don't need a sword to beat the likes of you Brushie. Certainly don't need no Bent-Blades weapon, Tarnils man." He growled.

Deville's eyes widened in surprise at the mans gall. "Oh is that so? Very well then, fight as you will. But mark me well on this Humakti, if I find you inadequate, you will suffer for your arrogance.." Deville fingered his sword meaningfully.

"Bring it on Red man, bring it on." Onslaught snarled in reply.

"You'll need those two brushies and your lackey here to help you or I'll take you down too quickly." He pulled some iron-plate gauntlets from his belt and sliped them on to those massive hands.

Trask didn't like being called a lackey by any man and drew his sword. His pride was still hurting and here was a way of expunging the anger. Rowger and Tern looked eager to teach a Humakti the truth of Tarnils and the drew their scimitars. Deville shrugged, drew Enlightenment and stepped back. They all did, forming a circle around the big Humakti. He stood calmly, unconcerned, awaiting Deville's signal to begin.

When everyone was in place, Deville gave the nod and Onslaught instantly attacked.

He moved right, in a flat run, straight at Rowger. The Yanafali whipped his guard up and Ternn moved to flank the Humakti. In mid-stride Onslaught somehow side-stepped, ignoring his own momentum and span to the left. Bouncing off the ground like a Nightjumper his foot lashed straight out, taking Ternn in the side of the helmet. He dropped like a stone.

Rowger changed footing quickly, moving round, swinging hard but Onslaught swayed under the heavy swipe. Rising up fast he grabbed Rowgers sword arm by wrist and elbow. With almost balletic grace Onslaught turned in place, pulling an off-balance Rowger with him. A striking knee broke the extended elbow joint with a loud popping noise and a screaming Yanafali was catapulted from the end of the spin into Trask Two-Swords as he advanced to attack Onslaughts rear.

As Deville moved forward, Onslaught was leaping for Trask as he threw off a screaming Rowger and tried to ready himself for the sudden onset of the big man. He whirled his bastardsword and scimitar into a weaving defence as he regained his balance, then he moved to the attack as Onslaught came into his range. Deville held back, eager to see his friend beat this braggart.

Trask had it all his own way at first once he regained his balance. Blow after blow swept against the Humakti. Attacks that would leave blademasters breathless, mere soldiers dead. Yet the man called Onslaugh survied it all. He slipped and dodged, shifted and span while the iron-armoured hands deflected the hurricane attacks as if swatting flies. He wasn't even cut, nor out of breath. He even looked happy.

Finally he countered.

Trask blinked in surprise as the big man took everything he could thow at him; all his anger, skill and cunning then gave more back in return. Hands and feet lashed out with deadly strength and total accuracy in a whirlwind that backed Trask up first one step, then another. Spinning like a top, Onslaught brought the fury of an avalanche into his attack. He was tireless, relentless, a machine that could not be stopped, just slowed.

Trask felt desperation creep into his parries, a striking fist to his face came through his guard, bending his helms noseguard, breaking the nose beneath. Instantly his throat filled with blood but with supreme control he parried the next flurry. Reeling backwards, he dodged a lightning fast kick to the knee that would have shattered bone but only at the cost of losing his balance and timing. The follow-through rammed into his stomach like a battering ram. He felt the strike through his chain-mail, it drove the wind out off him in a groaning gasp as he hit the ground like a sack of grain.

Onslaught turned quickly to face Deville. He was grinning. Deville smiled back. He was about to say something witty when Onslaught came at him, roraing like a maddened great troll.

Deville waited, defocussed within his skill, watching the range. At precisely the right moment he lunged, point in line for a heart-strike. It was a perfect attack and Deville felt the surge of joy he always felt when he achieved the god-like timing required for such a killing blow.

He was therefore very shocked when Onslaught somehow slipped round the thrust, grabbed his sword arm in a grip of iron then began to spin him round while kneeing him very hard in the testicles. Finishing the spin, he hurled a helpless Deville ten feet, face first, through the latrine door. "Oh shit!." was all Deville managed to think before being knocked-out as he smashed through the thin plank seating into the pit beneath.

Onslaught grinned. "Bet that was a surprise!" He said.

It took Trask and Rowger together to lever Deville out of the latrine pit by which time he'd nearly drowned. Onslaught waited nearby, still grinning. Deville had cast his healing but still remembered the astounding pain of his burst scrotum and subconciously held it protectively while Rowger and Trask desperately tried to wipe the excrement off him. Ternn was still out cold, having nearly died from the kick to his head.

Finally, irritated at the their futile task, Deville waved the two men away and stalked over to Onslaught. His face cold beneath the crusted mask of drying dung. Onslaught pinched his nose at his approach. Deville glowered at him.

"You're hired." He snapped and without another word he went into the Temple to find that young initiate with the oh-so-out-of-fashion clothes. As long as nobody important sees me, I'll be okay, he thought.

Once he'd gone Trask allowed himself a chuckle, which turned into a near-hysterical laugh. "Well that was a first." he said when he finally controlled himself.

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


May 31, 2000

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