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The God's Plane
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Richard Fenner
Gian Gero
Martin Laurie
Wesley Quadros
Herald's Cry
Cross Roads

Alkothi Tales
Deville's Tales
Krarn's Tale
Onslaught's Tales
Sheng Seleris' Tales

The Wastelands - Part 2

Excerpts from the private journal of Omander Eaglemane, initiate of Lhankor Mhy.

I remember feeling some considerable trepidation as I waited outside the rooms of my Sage Lord. Excommunication was certainly an option and the thought filled me with dread. When I was finally called in, after an hours wait, his immense displeasure at my offences against the Temple and the Lord of Knowledge was plain.

"You have committed grave acts of defiance Omander." He intoned in that sonorous voice he'd used to bludgeon learning into unreceptive minds for three decades now. "Selling Cult Knowledge and trafficking with the ultimate evil of foul sorcery! You are a disgrace. A merchant would act with more honour."

I stood their in stolid silence. He expected a struggle but I decided that the old codger would run rings round me in an argument and he knew it. I kept my tongue and silently cursed the old bastard.

"Keeping your mouth shut for a change eh?" He shook his head sadly. "You wish to be excommunicated, your name slurred and cursed as an oath breaker for the rest of your life?"

I shook my head. "No sir, by your leave sir, I'd stay with the Temple." I could be as obsequious as the next man when I put my mind to it.

He laughed with a slow grating chuckle. The knowledge in that laugh disturbed me. I should have known then that I was in for it. "Very well Omander, I have a mission for you. This is your last chance. Perform this simple task well and you shall be redeemed in our eyes."

"Of course my Lord and what is this simple task?"

"The Governor has asked us to provide a scribe and historian for an important work."

"For the Lunars? Why doesn't Irrippi Ontor handle it?"

"They have no free initiates at this moment." What he should have said was 'no-one who was expendable', unlike me. "You will accompany the new mission being assembled by the Lunar Provincial Survey and elements of the Overseers Personal Arm to catalogue Prax, the Wastes and their inhabitants."

"The Wastes?" They are going to scouting group into the Wastes? Who would lead such a foolhardy mission?" Everybody knew that the Wastes were suicide for large groups. Particularly Lunar groups.

"The mission is to be ably led by Morthander Deville, Priest of the Red Moon and an expert in such matters."

"Deville! The moon-mad-maniac is leading the expedition? Oh great! I'm a dead man!" Deville was about as well liked as a rattlesnake in your underclothing and the people who hated him most were his fellow countrymen. It didn't take a Sage to work out who was sending him on this mission and what they hoped would happen to Deville. Naturally any poor fool with him would share a similar fate.

From the satisfied expression on his face, it was plain my Lord knew this and had planned it as my punishment. "Its your last chance for redemption. Be at Devilles quarters in the Plume at dawn. He's expecting you."

There was no more room for discussion, I had to obey.

I had only been in the Plume twice before and both times via the servants entrance. This time I walked unhindered through the main doors. The two Humakti guards didn't even move as I walked between them. Like statues. Creepy.

There were several guards about and I had the feeling of being watched by more than mere physical presence's. Still, since the last attack on Deville had left many Plume staff dead or diseased I could understand their caution.

There were two warriors on duty outside of Devilles door. They looked like real killers and the glance they gave me reminded me of the size-up and dismissal a wolf would give a puppy. Both had writhing devil motif's on the sleeves of their tunics and I guessed from that that these men must be some of Devilles recently formed, but already feared, Red Devils.

They didn't say a word as I nervously explained why I was hear. Before I was even half finished, the door opened and a big man in full armour summoned me in with a wave. He briskly checked me for weapons and from the scimitar and bastardsword in his belt, I pinned him as being Trask Two-swords, the infamous Danfive Xaron crucifier and to many Orlanthi, a traitor of the worst sort.

He grimly took me through the next set of doors and pointed at a chair. I sat and viewed the room while he passed through a side door . The sheer opulence was astonishing to a ex-gutter snipe like me but something else grabbed my attention immediately. A huge hulking figure sat alone at a dining table that could have sat a dozen. Strangely the massive man seemed to be tucking into a plate heaped high with Bison Burgers rather than the cuisine one would expect in a place like this. He ignored me totally but a massive axe rested against the table, growing the wood with its weight. I sat very still, I didn't want to feel that axe myself and I had no doubts that if I made any sudden moves, I would.

One of the side doors opened and out came a man I'd only seen from a distance. He smiled warmly and spoke in a rich Pavic. "Come into my study and make yourself comfortable. I'm afraid neither Trask nor Hrothmir are fond of light-hearted discourse." Deville was dressed comfortably but with clothes I could have pawned and lived off comfortably for the rest of my life. His presence close up was daunting. He reeked of power. Though of no great height, he stood tall in more ways than physical. His was an inner strength and from the manacle like grip of his hand when it took mine, I knew this was no simple magic wielder, he was much, much more.

He sat me down courteously in his study. I was numb, I barely noticed as his servant placed a wine glass in my hands. "I am lead to understand that you are a bit of a scoundrel, is that right Omander?" He asked with that damn smile still in place, like something he wore, to be taken of at will.

A dozen devious and habitual untruths flashed into my mind but something about that smile convinced me that lies would not only be detected but would be met with a swift, painful retribution. I gulped. "Er yes my Lord, I have been called such in my time."

The smile grew wider but less vulpine. A knot of tension I hadn't noticed before loosened and I relaxed a little. "A scoundrel but not stupid with it I see." His knowing eyes bored into mine. I felt like a newtling on the end of a harpoon. He was reading me totally and for someone used to hiding behind a facade of lies, as I was, it was highly unnerving.

He stood suddenly and peered out the window, hands clasped behind his back meditatively. "We are ideally matched you and I." He said abruptly, whirling to face me. A look I would call frustration on anybody else bedevilled his face. I was nervous again. I could feel the sweat pooling in my armpits and the urge to scratch my clammy back was growing urgent.

"Ideally matched?" I managed to mutter.

He nodded. "Think on this Omander. You are expendable. I am too." He rewarded my partial look of surprise at his honesty with a smile. "I see that is no big secret to you young sir. Those who live unconventional lives, wherever they are upon the walk of life, face the chastisement, discouragement and if powerful enough, the hatred of the masses. We will not depart from your ways, hence we are chastised. I have been a useful tool for many years but now I have accumulated, at last, enough enemies to mitigate my usefulness."

"So you know your mission is supposed to kill you?" I asked, plucking up courage with his openness though being compared to him made me feel very mortal.

He waved his hand irritably. "Kill or keep me out of the picture. Somewhere along the line I have threatened some powerful interest groups and such actions lead to their own rewards!" He smiled again, this time it was the tooth bearing of a wolf. "I will not be intimidated, nor shall I be crushed with despair. You will accompany me and catalogue my triumphs and failures with impartiality and fairness. For once in your life prepare to do something of worth."

He almost made it sound good, but I'd lived too long with disasters befalling me every minute to give much credence to rhetoric. The bad feeling in the pit of my guts just kept getting worse.

"Today we begin your preparation. Lissus ask Aldarch to come in now would you?" He asked of his servant who'd waited so unobtrusively behind me, I'd forgotten he was there. The thin man hastened to oblige.

He came back a few moment later with a towering warrior clad from head to foot in all encompassing iron platemail. It was exquisitely crafted and must have been worth a kings ransom. The huge figure was covered in weapons; a bastard sword hung menacingly at his side, paired against a huge-headed battle-axe. Over his shoulder protruded the hilt of a greatsword and knives of various sorts sticking out from boots belt and shoulder straps till he looked like a porcupine. Over all were etched the runes of Death and the terrifying designs that spoke of pacts with great powers and gods of utter ruthlessness and indifference to the human that bore them.

"Ah, Aldarch. Meet your new student; Omander." Smiled Deville.

"New student? What could a warrior teach me?" I asked stupidly. I wished I'd kept my big mouth shut for the iron man moved like a snake, his hand grabbed my throat before I even blinked and he hauled me into the air as if I weight nothing, though my frame was ample after years of temple dinners.

The warriors free hand swept of his barrel helm leaving me facing a glinting grin and mad, mad eyes. "I'll teach you how to LIVE!" He roared. I would have gone pale with terror but when one is being held by the neck, feet a foot off the ground by a grip that could quite literally bend iron, paleness is difficult to achieve.

He dropped me abruptly. Deville placed a cool hand upon my neck and the choking pain left immediately. He turned me round easily. I was rapidly becoming tired of these men who could manhandle me as if I were a child. His smile made my blood boil. "Aldarch, or as most people call him; Onslaught, will get you fit and train you in combat. Our journey will be long and very dangerous. We may need an extra sword or man on watch at anytime. Everyone on this mission must be capable and hardened to suffering. I myself will be joining in the training with you. For now though, Onslaught will measure your worth for the rest of the day. Enjoy yourself!"

As I looked into the demonic grin of a man who liked to be called Onslaught, I knew things could always get worse.

Pain. I knew what the word meant, the definition that is. Until that day of training with Onslaught I never really understood its true meaning. I had been hurt in the past, who hadn't but here was a pain no healing spell would remove. It was the pain of muscles wanting to tear themselves away from your bones to escape the misery your body was forcing on them. It was the pain of lungs that seared with each choking breath and a heart that rattled and heaved with every step.

Onslaught began with a run around the Rubble. He dragged me most of the way. Nobody attempted to attack us, even in the Troll stronglands. I found out later that getting in Onslaughts way was a bad idea. If you had an army it was an even worse idea. That simply gave him more people to kill.

He made me lift weights and hurdle fences with spikes around them while throwing rocks at me. He gave me a sword and shield and smashed me around the training yard with a practice sword. He taught me unarmed combat by breaking all my arms and legs then healing them. He smashed my jaw and cracked my skull. He splintered my ribs and knocked out my teeth. I can't count how many times I lost consciousness to be revived by his magic's.

I wanted to die but he wouldn't let me. He showed me the pain of a knife wound by jerking it around in my intestines and how a man could keep fighting if his arm had been chopped off by removing mine and making me try to stab him. The bastard even let me feebly sink the blade into his chest. He casually smashed my arm, removed the knife and without a flicker of the pain his body must be feeling, he healed me first.

Thats how it was with him. He lived only to fight and kill. Pain meant nothing to him, it was merely a warning that his defences had been penetrated. His body was like the iron he wielded. No man I have ever met had such incredible power. He punched holes in my hoplite shield with his bare hands, I heard his knuckles cracking yet he never slowed.

For all the torture he put me through that day I learnt something that stayed with me the rest of my life: With a human will to live you could endure anything but with no fear of death, survival became a calculation, a contest of pure skill, not a desire. No man, before or since had ever matched this human weapon that was called Onslaught for that purity of view. The cost though, the cost was everything. He neither loved, hated or lived. His life created nothing, it only killed and quested after an even greater capacity _to_ kill.

I pitied this man for that loss but I knew it had been his choice. He would have scorned my pity for in his eyes all else but skill and the tactics of death mattered not a damn.

For all the suffering I endured that day, I am grateful to him. Grateful because on that day of pain, he broke me then reforged me into a man who could survive what was sure to come. I'm glad of his utter ruthlessness for I would not be writing this today without it.

<< Part 1 | The Deville page | Part 3 >>

May 31, 2000

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