Onslaught in Ramalia
The tide rocked and pulled the little boat as it inched its way to shore. Renna sat miserably in the stern, soaked in water, itching with salt. Onslaught seemed oblivious to his surroundings, though he'd taken off his armour before beginning the long row from the doomed ships, now far behind and being swept onto the jagged rocks by the tide.
"Don't you ever get tired?" Renna asked, irritation creeping into her voice. At least he could have the common decency to look as uncomfortable as she was, she thought.
Onslaught focused his dead eyes on her with idle interest though the turning of the oars never slowed, never missed a stroke. "Of course I do. A Doctor like you knows the strength of the human body as well as any warrior, if not better."
"Yes, and you've been rowing for a quarter of Yelm's journey across the sky at the same hard pace the whole time! Any other human would have given in to fatigue by now, yet you keep going!" She had to shout back as the crash of the waves and sleeting of spray threatened to drown her words.
Onslaught grinned his usual steel attempt at humour. As ever, it failed to warm and cheer. "I stopped being entirely human many years ago." He looked over his shoulder. "The shore is near, gather your possessions."
She hated that. He ordered her about with the casual command of an officer or Queen to her menfolk. Back in Esrolia, he'd have been chastised severely for such a tone with a lady of high rank. However, Renna had decided long ago that it was best to ignore his breaches of etiquette after the last time he'd laughed in her face at her demands. She also remembered that the only reason he'd been on the ship, and therefore the only reason she'd survived the Vadeli was because of his brush with Esrolian law. Being beholden to a man of such awful manners irked Renna every time she looked at him.
As the boat neared shore, Onslaught leapt out pulling a rope with him, the other end of which was tied to the bow ring. He waded heavily to the beach, pushing water aside as if he fought a contest with it. Everything he did was a physical challenge, a test of his iron will and driven body. Once on the beach, he planted his feet and pulled the boat in and Renna leapt for solid ground.
While Onslaught retrieved their belongings, Renna sat still till her stomach ceased revolving, the terrain around her stopped swaying and returned to the Ernaldan solidity she was used to. Only foolish men could enjoy such an unpredicatable surface and yearn to journey upon it, she thought.
"Lets go, we should attain cover and plan our next move." Onslaught had slipped into an eerie calm that Renna supposed was the outward symptom of his warrior mind in unknown terrain. His eyes tracked everywhere and his body was tense, ready to spring against any unseen threat.
Before long their possessions were in cover and Renna was crouching in the bushes, staring disconsolately at her once gleaming white robe. Now it was muddy brown. She looked like a village priestess! Onslaught left without a word to scout around, gliding out of the bushes like a whisper. She sat there growing bored, cold and wishing for a fire.
Peering through the light beach brush around her at the grey sky, her sharp eyes picked out a column of smoke in the distance. It was snaking lazily into the windless clouds. Where there is smoke, there's fire and where there's fire there's civilisation. Warmth, food and fresh water!
Renna looked around for Onslaught but couldn't see the warrior anywhere. She shrugged. He could catch up.
Setting off at a quick pace through the scrub, Renna set her sights on the smoke ahead. Before long she crested a low rise and saw a village in the shallow vale below her. She noted its impoverished and muddy layout, the crude construction of the common dwellings but also the towering strength of the fort which the village clustered around like scared children to a stern father. They would welcome a healer of her standing in there, thats for sure! Some minor noblewoman lived there who no doubt would want advice on how to handle her menfolk and health matters. These thoughts and more sped through Rennas mind as she lurched down the hill towards the fort. Onslaught was quickly forgotten.
As she approached the edge of the village she spotted an old man chopping wood by a delapidated shack. "Good day old man, can you take me to your liege lady?" She asked politely but firmly, holding the correct tone for commanding peasants.
The man looked up as she spoke, his eyes widening in absolute terror at the sight of her but when she spoke he soiled his coarse trousers as he ran from her screaming in some strange barbaric tongue: "Saydeman, Saydeman!"
Renna was shocked by the fellows' rudeness and began to follow him. As she did, other folk popped heads out of doors or appeared from different streets to see what the commotion was. One by one they pointed at Renna after following the old mans ranting gestures. One by one the took up the words that rapidly became a chant; "Seydeman, Seydeman, SEYDEMAN!" They roared.
Renna stood very still as the danger she was in became suddenly very real. She looked around for Onslaught. Where was he? Why had he deserted her, left her to be abused by peasants?
The peasant mob split as a squad of four men in blackened chainmail with axes in their belts burst into view. The crowd backed away from them like whipped dogs and cowered from their evil countenances and scarred expressions, locked beneath dehumanising helms.
Without a word, the four men grabbed Renna very ungently and picked her up bodily, despite her protests. They frogmarched her to the black walls of the fort and the gate shut behind her sealing out the chanting crowd who seemed happy and vindicated in some strange way at her capture.
Renna stirred to consciousness. Her head ached as if it had been smashed against a wall. Where was she? She peered around at the dank cell that she sat in. The wall above her was grimy and wet but had something stuck to it. She focused on it, trying to clear her mind. It was a clump of hair; long, fair hair, much like her own. There was some blood too.
Renna screamed. Someone _had_ thrown her against a wall! She was imprisoned! The very idea that someone could hurt a healer had shocked her mind for a few moments but now the horror of it hit her. For someone used to the total sanctitiy of her person, the sudden knowledge that anyone who was prepared to throw her headlong into a wall would also be prepared to do a whole lot worse, almost unhingedher.
She kept screaming till the cell door opened.
A tall man in grim robes of black cloth with strange glyphs and runes upon them entered. He was surrounded by a guard of black-clad axemen. He glanced disdainfully at Renna and signalled with one finger. Two of the guards moved forward at once and began to kick Renna about the room with their heavy boots. She was so shocked and dismayed that she could register little pain, which was fortunate as she heard a rib crack from one heavy blow.
After a cursory beating, administered with an almost casual air, the tall fellow had her dragged to her feet. "Your name?" He asked in Trade. It was a barbaric language but Renna, like all noblewomen in Esrolia, was educated to handle trade and knew it well. His accent was clipped and cold, just like the man himself.
Renna mustered her pride and anger. "I am Renna, Doctor of Chalana Arroy and noblewoman of New Crystal City. I demand an explanation for this outrageous behaviour!" She tried to sound imperious but it came out weak, even to her own ears.
Without even a gesture from their superior, two of the axemen stepped forward, grabbed her arms then punched Renna in the face and body repeatedly. She was pushed against the wall by the blows and she passed out momentarily as her nose was smashed and her already broken ribs were pummeled till she heard herself howl in agony in her moments of consciousness.
When finally they stopped she stared up dazedly into the cold face of their leader. "If you speak to me like that again, you will die only after grievous torture. I have your name for the records and need little else. You are a Sea Demon and we must conduct the ritual as laid down in Royal Law."
Renna tried hard to focus on his words. "Ritual?" She slurred.
The bleak man smiled a rictus of amusement for her benefit. "Ah, the Sea Demon pretends it doesn't know the ritual. They all do that, they all know and seek to trick us with their words!" His voice began to rise into a scream. "You shall not prevail against our Watch, all along our coast we stand ready for such as you and our line has never been broken! Never! Do you hear Demon? Or do you think your wiles will work against the purity of flame and the might of our magic?"
He turned to leave, the guards picked Renna up and followed. Renna lapsed into blissful unconsciousness once more.
Renna heard the chanting as the crowd urged her on. She was leading the pack, the race was hers. In moments she would be Champion Runner in New Crystal City and all would fete her skills and training. Already the crowd sang of her victory as the finish-line came into view - a quick look over her shoulder showed her cousin Varna staggering in second place a full fifty paces behind. As her feet crossed the line, the screaming of the crowd reached a crescendo. "Renna! Renna! Renna! Seydemon! Seydemon!" No that wasn't right - why were they chanting that, she thought? The world seemed to blur around her.
Then her eyes really opened.
"Seydemon! Seydemon!" Screamed the crowd. Renna felt the bonds that held her to the post and saw the oil-soaked wood piles stacked around her feet and screamed with the crowd though not with their joy.
The tall leader stepped foward from the assembled guard of axemen and silence filled the courtyard. He began screaming something in the peasants language, they responded with a frothing roar of hate that hammered into her more than her many injuries.
Finally after much screaming, the tall man turned to her and pointed his finger - a barked word of power sent flames shooting from his hands straight towards the pyre Renna stood upon - she screamed.
The the flames just faded to nothing, as if smothered with a greater power.
There was a hushed silence from the crowd - the man in black frowned in consternation. Then movement from the roof of one of the town square houses caught everyones eye.
A shimmering shape of back armour and sharp iron sprang from the nearest rooftop to the pyre. With grace and power it tumbled through the air to land poised, on its feet. A sword of might glowed in one hand and an axe of soul-cutting strength in the other. A helmless head grinned a wicked smile at the shocked crowd and focused with mischief on the tall sorcerer who led them. Eye to eye with his foe, Onslaught smiled his dreadnought humour. "Bet that was a suprise!" He said.
"Kill the Demon!" Screamed the sorcerer in black, and like a wave of hate the crowd launched itself screaming at the big warrior of Humakt. Two hundred men, women and children came at him - an avalanche of fury, a crescendo of wrath - tipped, like a spear with the thirty armoured axemen, swinging their heavy axes with dour anticipation.
Renna cried out. The warrior, mighty though he was, would be torn to pieces if he even stood his ground at all when faced with such a multitude of madmen. She feared for a moment that he would run, take to his heels and use the magic of movement she knew him capable of.
He did run, he ran like a bison in a stampede runs; oblivious of obstacle, fearless of impediment - he ran like a titan of destruction, a one man army - right into the oncoming horde.
Her breath caught as she lost sight of him as they broke around him, axes swinging alongside anything they had to hand - from pitchforks to axles, even with their bare hands, the people of the villiage sought to tear the warrior called Onslaught apart.
Axe and sword blurred beyond sight, delineated only by the spray of blood, the fountain of gore that marked his passage. The sheer mass of folk around him slowed them, confused them. He struck left and right, forced their weight upon themselves, blinded them with the mist of blood that hung around each move he made. He pirouetted and spun in the dance he knew best of all, a dance of Death, a tango of ending.
The Axemen had many a strong warrior among them but their blows could not find him among the swirl of magic and when they did strike against him by lucky chance, his armour and spells shrugged off their attacks like rain off a roof. Onslaughts blows though were stopped by nothing, his sword and axe hummed with potency, almost shook with power in his mailed fists as he wielded them with a tireless skill that weaved its way among their lives to bring only seperation and carnage.
Renna watched in disbelief as the warrior moved among them, never giving them time to pin him down, such was his speed. The air reeked of blood and offal, screams of fear replaced those of rage and joined those of pain as the wounded cried out their agony. Men, women and children all fell before him - he was a scythe, a weapon to cull the lives that happened to cross his path and nothing in this place could stand against him. Nothing.
At the last, they broke and ran - rage can only carry the soul so far and even rage breaks against the implacable sword of Death. When Onslaught caught the sorcerer and hewed through his guard and cut off his head in one stroke, the retreat turned to rout and within moments Onslaught and Renna had only the company of the wounded in the town square.
He stalked towards her, a statue of offal, a grin of iron. He stopped and looked up at her. "Comfortable?"
Renna goggled at him.
"Well I presume you are, as you left of your own accord - see what happens when you don't plan ahead? Want me to cut you down?"
Renna managed a nod. Once she was off the pyre she felt her magic return and she healed what injuries she could. Onslaught looked somewhat injured too but as usual, he didn't seem to notice such trivialities.
Renna looked about. 'You killed the entire town!"
Onslaught was cleaning his weapons on the dead sorcerers robe. he looked up and around the village casually. "Oh? Oh yes, guess I did."
"'Guess you did'!!! Men, women and children! Children! You are a monster!" She couldn't believe his attitude to killing over a hundred people..
He just grinned at her. "Humakt reminds us, we all have our time to die - I guess it was their time! Come on, we have to get out of this place." he led Renna away to the horses he's taken earlier and they rode out of the town without a backwards glance. Onslaught didn't care enough to give one and Renna simply cared too much to look.
She never did learn the towns name but the survivors often told the tale to their children of the dread Black and White Demons who came from the sea to bring evil to the land and slaughter to the common people.
<< Vadeli | The Onslaught Page | Return >>