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Combat Chaos - Story 23
D&D - Combat Chaos, Fantasy Stories of Battle

Story 23



Virus wound his way through the haze and crowd of the tavern. He pushed easily past the drunkards and brawlers who paid him no heed, despite his fair hair and pointed ears, seeming to flow through the unwashed horde of humans that occupied this place. Half way through a drunken tavern wench barreled into him. He caught her easily as she sprawled bonelessly against him. “Hello…” She burbled drunkenly. “What’s your name?”

The lean elf arched an eyebrow and shook his head. Gently he set the drunken girl in an unoccupied chair continued on. ‘Humans.’ He thought irritably.

He found a cramped booth in the farthest corner, carefully hidden from prying eyes. He grinned slightly as he found the booth already occupied by a burly dwarf.

“This seat taken?” He asked, leaning over the shorter dwarf menacingly. Deskar IronHammer glanced up at the slender elf and cracked an ugly grin. “Cut th’ games an’ ‘ave a seat.”

Virus shrugged and slouched onto the bench across from Deskar and eyed the numerous mugs on the table. Picking a full one, he plucked it from its fellows and took a sip.

The dwarf chuckled as the elf winced and made a sour face. “Not to yer likin’?”

“How can you drink this swill?” Virus asked before taking another drink, draining half the mug in two gulps. “I’ve tasted stagnant swamp water better than this.”

Deskar shrugged and tossed and empty mug over his shoulder, shattering it on the wall behind him and sending shards flying everywhere. “Enough chatting, do ye ‘ave it?”

Virus frowned slightly and pulled a small brown leather pouch from under his tunic. Without a word he pushed it halfway across the table. The dwarf beamed and reached for the pouch anxiously, his eyes glittering.

“So is he dead?”

Deskar paused, his fingers just brushing the pouch. “What’re ye about?” Virus leaned back, and stretched with a yawn. “Enough of the charade. The dwarf, is he dead?”

Deskar snarled and snatched the pouch from the table. Virus leaped forward only to be slammed back as an arrow ripped through his chest, pinning him to the back of the booth. Blood leaked from the corners of his mouth as he looked down in surprise and fingered the fletching, recognizing it as his own. “New spell Kysaria?” He choked.

Across from him, the dwarf’s features shimmered and melted, resolving into the deadly beauty of a Drow maiden.

Kysaria flipped her long, stark white hair back and fixed him with cruel golden eyes, clutching the pouch with a wicked grin. “Yes…” Virus nodded numbly, his mind drifting back to the beginning.

Deskar IronHammer shook his head in dismay. “What in th’ name o’ the gods do ye need such a thing for?”

“Insurance.” Virus stated flatly, holding the large ruby up to the light, as if admiring its many facets. “This is perfect.”

The dwarf snorted, and glanced outside the booth. “It better be, it cost me a bit o’ gold.” He spat to one side. “Do ye ‘ave any idea ‘ow ‘ard it is t’ find a wizard willin’ to make one o’ those?”

Virus nodded and tucked the gem into a plain leather pouch. “Extremely. Which is why I asked you to find it. Are you sure your information is correct?”

Deskar nodded slowly, still uneasy from carrying the ruby. “’ave I ever steered ye wrong before?”

“No, but you have left out details before.” The dwarf clutched his chest in mock pain and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Ach, ye words wound me more than a ‘tousand arrows. ‘ow cou’d ye say such a thing?”

“Is there anything else I need to know?” “Nah, ye know everything I know… Honestly.” Virus sat back, his eyes narrowing beneath the hood. “Somehow, I doubt that.

One week later…

Jerak wiped the sweat from his eyes and took a deep breath to steady his nerves. His hands shook only slightly as they flitted over the rolled out leather pouch tat contained a myriad of picks, chisels and saw. His tools, the tools that had never failed him before. The tools that would get him through this alive. He was not thinking about the past three days, how his friends had each died in gruesome and horrifying ways. How Minaria had been torn to pieces by the horde of Kobolds, or how Linden had been incinerated by a poorly aimed spell, or…

“Well, can you do it?”

The thief jerked slightly at the impatient voice behind him, his heart nearly stopping in surprise. “I’m doing the best I can, this is much more complicated than it looks.”

Virus nodded without looking up. “It is…” He whispered under his breath. Behind the nervous thief, Virus held a priests hand as his life drained away.

“I’m sorry…” Cragin choked miserably, coughing up blood. “I failed you all.”

Virus shook his head sadly. And eyed the dying human with pity, the priests robes were tattered from the events leading them to this point and now soaked through with blood, he had tripped a trap, sending a spike flying through his side, piercing both lungs and tearing his insides, leaving him mortally wounded and too weak to pray.

“Shhh... Save your energy. You will be…” The elf let his voice trail off as the priests shuddering gasps slowed then stopped. With a deep sigh he laid the dead priests hands over his chest and gently composed the body. “May you find peace in the next life that you were denied in this one.” Behind him he heard Jerak fumbling through his numerous picks. He turned slowly and walked to stand next to the shaky thief. “Can you do it?” He whispered looking at the ornate carving before them. The chests around them had been decoys, Jerak had skillfully disarmed and opened each of them only to find they were empty. It was sheer chance, or bad luck, that the Priest Cragin had inadvertently leaned against the wall, setting off the trap and alerting clever Jerak to the presence of the concealed door. Now all they had to do was figure out how to open it.

Virus eyed the wall with apprehension, silently commending whoever had designed it. The wall depicted a massive battlefield with each combatant carved in painstaking detail. The light from the four lightstone they had placed around the room had made each figure stand out that more clearly. Only on very careful inspection could anyone find even the trace of a crack or seam. Jerak had been studying it for almost an hour now and discovered at least two dozen possible switches, levers and triggers. The only real trick now was, which were real and which were traps. Jerak licked his lips and moved his slender fingers along an invisible seam, tracing the outline of a small door three hand-spans across. “This is it.” He said finally.

“You can open it?”

Jerak nodded numbly and wiped his hands on his vest. “I think so… Yes…” He whispered a silent prayer and reached out, placing his hand on an intricate dragon on the left side and a tower on the right. With a deep breath he pushed them away from each other. Both carvings moved a fraction of an inch and he was rewarded with a faint click, and the door popped out a fraction of an inch.

The thief breathed a sigh of relief. “See I told you…” His words trailed off as a dozen tiny clicks echoed through the chamber. They both looked up in time to see dozens of tiny archers turn outward from the wall. Virus tumbled backwards as Jerak stood frozen in shock. “Oh no…” The doomed thief muttered in resignation. Dozens of tiny arrows burst outward from the wall, riddling the thief. Jerak fell back convulsing as poison did its work. No sooner had he fallen then the carvings clicked back into place. Virus stood slowly, uncounted arrows embedded in his cloak. He reached up with shaking hands and removed a single tiny bolt that had pierced his skin. He could feel the poison coursing through his veins. He looked sadly at the dead thief. “Sorry Jarek.” He muttered. Ignoring the dizziness he staggered over to the wall and pried at the door, it was stuck fast. With a growl of irritation and desperation he wrenched with all his might, straining every muscle in his body, the door popped open. He dropped it to one side, letting it shatter on the hard floor. His eyes widened as he beheld the items within. With a frown he reached in and began tossing them carelessly aside. “Junk, junk, all junk!” He swore in frustration hurling a goblet, stacks of coins, and several scroll cases to one side. He reached inside with both hands, feeling the walls. Almost immediately his sensitive fingers found an irregularity. Gently he pushed down, and was rewarded with a small panel sliding open, revealing a small pouch within. Reverently he pulled the pouch from its hiding place and worked the knots holding it closed. With shaking hands he dumped its contents into his palm. With a grin of victory he held up his prize. A heavy hematite ring carved with twenty four runes. “The ring of the Wanderer!” He breathed. Legends claimed that each rune had on the ring had a power all its own, one could grant the wielders greatest desire, even restore the dead to life. If they knew how to understand the runes. He clenched his fist around the ring, reveling in its weight and slightly slick texture. Years of failure, blood and death. And he finally had it. A faint noise caused his eyes to snap open.

He cocked his head in alarm, glancing back just in time to see a whip snake down a split second before it wrapped around his throat. Before he could move he was jerked backwards off his feet, nearly snapping his neck. He slammed into the far wall and slid bonelessly to the ground, gagging and gasping for air. Kysaria floated down from where she had been hiding and kicked him contemptuously. “Fool.”

With a Sneer she kicked him again, then turned to survey the room. The light made her sensitive eyes water, growling she walked over to each and crushed them under her heel, engulfing the room in darkness. Her heat vision picked out the still warm ring easily. Holding it aloft she smiled cruelly. “It’s been fun, thanks.” She exclaimed as she walked past Virus’s prone form. At the doorway she paused and looked back in amusement as Virus pushed himself to his knees.

“You just don’t quit do you?” She growled. Slipping the ring on her index finger, she began uttering the harsh syllables to one of her more powerful spells. The embroidered spiders on her clothes began to glow and shimmer as dozens of spiders dropped from her clothes and swarmed towards Virus. The battered elf scrambled backwards in alarm as Kysaria watched in amusement. “Bye-bye…”

Kysaria darted down the dim corridors, twisting and turning down the myriad of passages. The Drow made her way easily in the darkness. Suddenly she paused, her sensitive ears picking up the scrape of boots on stone. She knew for certain now she was being followed. With a mental curse she started running, the path out clearly etched in her mind. Suddenly she came upon an unfamiliar intersection.

“What in the name of the Gods?” She murmured, thoroughly confused, certain this had not been here before. As she struggled to recall her way an arrow zipped past her ear, shattering on the wall next to her head. Sprinting now, she turned a corner, only to backpedal at the edge of a pit trap. As she turned to retrace her steps her eyes widened in shock she spied a heat signature. “damn…” was all she say as she heard the twang of a bow sting being released.

Virus watched his arrow fly true, taking his target full in the chest. He slung his bow over his shoulder and pulled a lightstone from his pocket, illuminating the corridor. Slowly he staggered towards the fallen drow, his steps irregular and uncertain. A dozen spider bites covered him from head to toe and the poison from the dart seemed to make the walls spin around him. He fell to his knees next to Kysaria’s fallen form, his vision starting to blur. He reached over and rolled the Drow onto her back, only to recoil in surprise as she sat up.

“Hello love…” She exclaimed, grinning. “That wasn’t very nice.” Virus growled ferally and grabbed Kysaria by the neck, trying to overwhelm the smaller drow.

Kysaria laughed and rolled backwards, letting momentum carry them both over and ending with her sitting on his chest. “Now now…” She chided playfully as she punched him in the face. “Play fair.” Virus got his hands up before she could land another blow and grabbed her by the wrists. With a grunt he jerked her to one side, slamming her bodily into the wall.

Pushing himself backwards he got shakily to his feet. “Give it back…” He gasped painfully.

The drow female winced and got painfully to her knees, wiping a thin trickle of blood from her lip. Sitting upright she grinned humorlessly at him through bloody teeth. “Well, well, Virus. It’s been so long, are we fighting? Or is this foreplay? You know I like it rough…” The battered elf shook his head sadly. “You haven’t changed a bit…” He took a half a step forward, his hand outstretched. “Last chance… Give. It. Back!”

Kysaria gave him a wounded pout and stood up. “Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.”

Virus leaped forward, but Kysaria was quicker and the syllables rolled off her tongue before he even managed the lunge. Virus instantly recognized the spell, one of her favorites and he felt his body stiffen as magical energy roll over him.

“Tsk, Tsk.” The drow muttered with mock sadness, sauntering over to the immobilized elf. “And to think of all the fun we could have had.” She walked around him, and glanced down at the pit just behind them. Glancing back at Virus she produced a coin from thin air and let it drop, listening intently. After several seconds she heard a faint ‘clink’ of the coin hitting stone. “Perfect!” She exclaimed happily as she turned back to Virus.

“I just wanted to thank you for all the help you’ve been.” She said as she waved her hand in front of his face, taunting him with the ring. “I really couldn’t have done all that I have without you but, frankly… I’m tired of you. So… Goodbye”

With an impish grin she reached out to knock the immobile elf over the edge, but her fingers met empty air. Virus spun lightly on one heel, his hand coming around to smack Kysaria in the rear, sending the startled drow plummeting over the edge.

Kysaria fell headlong, cursing in drow as she tumbled. Frantically she tried to focus on her innate ability to levitate, but before she could the stone floor rushed to meet her.

High above Virus cringed as he heard the drow’s body his with a sickening thud.

“What a waste…” He muttered with a remorseful sigh. Holding up the ring, grining at his swift hands, he admired it once more. “She will never learn…

Present… Virus leaped forward only to be slammed back as an arrow ripped through his chest, pinning him to the back of the booth. Blood leaked from the corners of his mouth as he looked down in surprise and fingered the fletching, recognizing it as his own. “New spell Kysaria?” He choked. Across from him, the dwarf’s features shimmered and melted, resolving into the deadly beauty of a Drow maiden.

Kysaria flipped her long, stark white hair back and fixed him with cruel golden eyes, clutching the pouch with a wicked grin. “Yes…” Virus nodded numbly. “I had wondered… about… the arrow.” The Drow leaned forward, tucking the pouch to her belt. “I love this the most. You… Older than me, more powerful and supposedly wiser. But there is still nothing you have that I can’t take from you.” She reached out and patted his cheek gently.

“You will never learn, will you?” He choked, coughing up blood. Kysaria frowned and slapped him across the face, sending blood splattering across the wall.

Virus laughed with a wheeze, his wheezing turning into coughing. With a final cough he slumped and was still.

Kysaria wiped her hand on his shoulder in disgust. “Fool.” She spat, rising to her feet in disgust. “The advantage to immortality is that I get to kill you over and over again.” Concentrating, her features shimmered and melted, gone now were her delicate drow features and ebon skin. Replaced by a non-descript mousy brown hair and a plain human face.

Without another glance she turned and stalked out of the inn. Virus raised his head slowly, wiping the blood from his mouth. “I hate this part…” He muttered, steeling himself. With a deep breath he jerked sharply to one side, breaking the arrow off, leaving the steel tip embedded in the booth behind him. Grasping the arrow with both hands he slowly pulled it from his chest. Gritting his teeth from pain, he wrenched it from his chest and let it clatter bloodily to the floor.

Relief flooded him immediately as he felt the pain fade and his wound begin to close. When he caught his breath, he reached out for a mug. Sipping it slowly he waited, knowing it would not take long. His wound had almost completely healed when the building shook from a distant explosion. With a wry grin he pictured the look on Kysaria’s face when she opened the bag. Idly he wondered if she had realized the reality of the gem before it had exploded in a fiery ball. Raising his mug in mock salute he toasted. “Better luck next time Kysraria.”

Finishing his drink he reached into his pocket, only to have his hand close on nothing. Leaping to his feet in alarm he patted his pockets frantically. Instantly he knew what had happened. The tavern wench… With a resigned curse he slouched back into the booth. “Better luck next time…”

By: Jason Haley

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