D&D - Combat Chaos, Fantasy Stories of Battle
DRAGIN V.S. KATRIANA
The open courtyard was still in the feeble light of dawn. The assembled guards at rigid attention in tense silence. Not a one dared so much as twitch a finger. In front of them, Commander Dragin stood staring resolutely past them.
Behind him, a gallows had been erected with ten nooses. A man stood at each noose, his head covered with a sack. Each stood at rigid attention, or at least as much as their bonds would allow. Their once fine guard uniforms had been reduced to rags. Any insignia, rank or other honor had been brutally torn from them.
Dragin was tired, weary to death of his duties. The men at the gallows had all been good men. Each had performed their duty without question.
"Mark well what you see before you today." Dragin proclaimed, scanning the assembled guards for any hint of dissention.
As his last word faded, the executioner tugged back a lever, releasing the pins that help the trapdoors in place. As one, the prisoners dropped.
Dragon watched impassively as the ropes snapped taught, and the sharp crack of breaking necks echoed through the courtyard. Nine dead men swayed gently on the gallows, dead as soon as they had dropped.
Dragin watched as some of his guards paled and looked away. One man still lived.
As they watched he kicked and jerked convulsively as the noose drew tighter, his own weight ending his life. Amzingly he managed to croak out, though whether he was pleading for help or praying to a god, none could tell. One guard passed out, several others turned away and retched, unable to watch any longer. An assistance executioner walked up behind the slowly asphyxiating prisoner and drew a stout mace, to end his suffering.
Dragin held up his hand in warning and the executioner lowered his mace and stepped back.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the prisoners throes slowed, then ceased.
Dragin stared at the body, his eyes flat and emotionless. "Iím sorry, son." He whispered.
Summoning all his conviction he turned back to the guards. "Thus is the fate of all traitors."
" Mistress, here are the reports."
Katriana, master of the thieves guild looked up from her ledgers. "Put them over here, Tenes." She motioned to the chair next to her desk, the only clear spot in the entire office.
He nodded once and placed the papers down. "He hung them at dawn."
Katriana nodded absently. "I know this. Itís war. He declared war on us. Wars have casualties."
Tenes gulped slightly. "Yes, but weíve lost""
Katrina laid her pen down gently and gazed at the thief with an icy stare. "I know what weíve lost, weíve lost three informants and heís killed seven of his own men."
" You donít think that will set us back?"
Katriana rubbed her temples in irritation. "We still have informants in his ranks, do we not?"
" Well yes, but""
" Fine then." She snapped. "We will continue as planned. We gambled and took a hit. They hit us back, but they lost more for hitting us. Heís made his intentions clear, he wonít stop until he finds us all. Weíve laid the plans and set the traps. Now all there is to do is wait. I have covered every contingency."
" Even this one?"
Katrina nodded slowly, not meeting Tenesís eyes. "Even this one."
" Good morning!"
Five prisoners started and jerked, awakened by the all too cheery greeting. Each one was chained to the walls, arms above his head so that his toes just touched the stone floor. Each one was gagged and blindfolded.
" My name is Ilyriana, and I have a few questions for you." One by one she undid the prisonerís blindfolds. Each one blinked in surprise at the petite young woman smiling warmly at them.
Ilyriana giggled slightly and tossed back her shoulder length blonde hair. She stepped back and bit her lower lip slightly. "Letís see" Which one first?" She waved her finger along the wall, pausing slightly at each prisoner. "No" No" No" Yes!" She paused at the fourth prisoner and undid his gag. "And how are you feeling this morning?"
Eingar worked his jaw slowly. He had been arrested for pick pocketing, this was his third time and he had never been treated like this. Usually he was held until he was bailed out. Only once had he been forced to rot in a cell, for nearly a year before being released. He eyed the woman suspiciously. He had heard rumors of the torture sessions that went on deep in the guard dungeons. "I donít know anything."
Ilyriana leaned close, looking deeply into his eyes. "I believe you." She said with all seriousness. Then she bounced up and down slightly, her hands behind her back. "Iíll bet youíre hungry, would you like something to eat?"
Eingar nodded slowly. He had been hanging here for a week without any food. "Yes. I would""
Quicker than his eye could follow there was a flash of steel and pain blossomed in his hand.
Eingar screamed and something warm and salty was popped into his mouth. Horrified he tried to spit but a slender feminine hand clamped securely over his mouth. Before he could even try and retaliate, a rock hard fist caught him in the gut and he swallowed involuntarily. He could feel the blood running down his arm, hot and sticky. His stomach turned as he tried not to think of what had just been forced down his throat.
The hand slowly withdrew as Eingar coughed and gagged. Panic and revulsion was racing through his mind. The remaining prisoners were frozen with shock, their eyes wide with horror.
Ilyriana smiled sweetly and waved a razor sharp curved knife in front of his nose. "There now. Wasnít that good?"
Eingar gagged and spat. "Why? He gasped, trying not to think of what had just happened. "I donít know anything" You" you said you believed me""
Ilyriana nodded with a bright smile. "I do. You donít know anything at all."
Eingar stared at her in horror. "Then why?"
The young woman shrugged, carelessly flicking her knife to splatter blood on the thief next to him. "Because you donít know anything."
Humming sweetly to herself she went to work with the knife. Eingar screamed as bits of his flesh were sliced away. Finally, his screaming stopped.
Bloody, and smiling, Ilyriana stepped back to admire her handiwork. "There. That didnít take too long now did it?" She asked, gently patting the corpse on what was left of its cheek.
She held up a bloody hand and flipped the knife dexterously between her fingers. "Now" Who else here doesnít know anything?"
One week later.
Commander Dragin sat in his office, hunched over his old desk. He eyed the repots with suspicion. It had been too quite lately. Most guards found the lull in crime a welcome relief, but he knew it to be a prelude to something bigger. With a sigh he perused the reports, noting seemingly un-related events in his journal.
At that moment a guard burst into the office. "Sir, I believe weíve found it."
Dragin paused his writing. "Believe or know?"
The young guard blinked in surprise. "Well" Uh. I" Er" I mean""
" Out with it!" Dragin snapped irritably. "Either you have found it or you have not. If you have not, then you are wasting my time."
The guard took a steadying breath. "The thieves weíve caught have all corroborated the location."
Dragin leaned back and frowned. "That doesnít mean much. They could have concocted the story together."
The guard shook his head in negation. "No sir! Each one has been captured at different times, in different places. And they have been kept separate from each other. Each one finally told the same story when properly questioned."
" Questioned by whom?"
The guard gulped, his eyes wide with fear. "The inquisitor."
Malik tumbled gracelessly into a rumpled heap as he was thrown bodily from the Guard Headquarters. As he sat up, one of the guards kicked him and spat. "If you know whatís good for you, youíll leave town. Now."
Malik lay where he was, stunned. As long as he lived, nothing would ever dim the horrors he had witnessed. Compared to the other three Eingar had died swiftly. Malik slowly sat up unable to believe he had been spared. The demoness had not asked him one question, had not uttered one threat. She had not even so much as looked in his direction. He shivered and prayed that someday he would be able to forget the screams that echoed in his ears, even now. But deep in side, he knew he would carry them to his grave. He stood slowly, shaking.
Looking around he noticed it was night. Malik was canny enough to know he had been left untouched for a reason. He was to serve as a warning.
Taking off at a dead run, he headed to the one person he knew would want to know. "I have to warn Katriana."
Dragin looked down from the rooftop at the derelict building. "This is it?"
The guard nodded, shivering in the evening chill. Yes sir."
" All the exits are watched?"
" Yes Sir."
" Everyone is in place?"
" Yes Sir."
" How many are estimated to be inside?"
The young guard drew his cloak tightly around him, not sure which chilled him more, the air or the sound of his commanderís voice. "Thirty, maybe fifty."
Dragin nodded with satisfaction. A year of hard work and careful planning had paid off. Previous attempts at raiding suspected Guild halls had been disastrous. Empty buildings riddled with traps, but no thieves. This time it would be different.
" Give the signal. Burn it."
The young guard nodded and pulled a bottle of cheap but potent alcohol from under his cloak. Using a sparker, he ignited a rag that had been stuffed into the top.
The flames were reflected in Draginís eyes as he watched the guard hurl the flaming bottle. End over end it tumbled, finally crashing against the door of the suspected thieves guild, exploding into flames. An instant later dozens of flaming bottles arced from surrounding rooftops, bathing the building in flames.
A feral grin slowly spread across Draginís face as the flames licked higher, consuming the building. After several moments, a door or window would burst open and a struggling figure would try and escape. Draginís grin widened as each one was riddled with bolts before they took a step.
Katrianaís eyes brimmed with tears as she watched the building burn. "What a waste."
Tenes nodded sadly. "We learned too late."
" How many were lost?"
" I donít know, four have returned. Eight are known to be dead. Thirteen are missing."
Katriana turned away from the inferno that had become a funeral pyre.
" This has gone too far." Tenes muttered, unable to tear his gaze away. He tried not to think of the friends that had been inside. "We have to run."
" No." Katriana stated flatly.
"We have to leave. Itís the only way. Heíll never stop. Not until""
"Not until I am dead." She finished flatly. "Then, and only then will it be over."
Tenes gulped nervously, turning to stare at his Guild master with wide eyes. "What do you mean by that?"
Katrina walked away slowly, not looking back. "Youíre right. This has gone too far. Itís over. Goodbye, Tenes."
He watched with shock as she disappeared into the shadows. "Wait! He called out after her. "Where are you going?"
"To see a priest."
" Hello, Dragin""
Commander Dragin froze, he knew that voice all too well. "Good evening, Katriana. How long has it been?"
Katriana shrugged as she dropped lightly down from the window. "Five years." Sprawling in a chair she eyed the disarray of papers with disdain. Finally she fixed on him. "You look good. The eye patch suits you."
Dragin grunted slightly, his eye narrowed. "So do you. But this isnít about small talk. What do you want?"
" I want you to stop your crusade."
Dragin laughed smugly. "No. Not until I finish what you started."
" I did not start this" foolishness."
Draginís eye hardened and he leaned forward menacingly, his voice low. "Cut the games. I call out and a dozen guards will come in here. What do you want?"
Katriana sat up and held out her hands. "I want an end to this. Call off your guards."
Dragin eyed her warily. "Are you surrendering?"
She nodded. "On that one condition."
" Why should I believe you?"
" We both know why."
Dragin stared hard at her for several long moments. Finally he stood up. "Done."
Katrina nodded quietly, not looking at him. "Done."
Katriana stared resolutely out over the crowd, her head held high. Rough hands grabbed her arms and pushed her forward, standing her on the trap door and sliding the noose around her neck. Dragin stepped forward with a hood. Slowly he held it up, pausing slightly. "Any last words?"
The former Guild master slowly turned her head to look at the Commander of the guard. Her eyes were filled with sadness. "I am sorry it had to turn out like this."
Dragin nodded slightly and placed the hood over her head. As he tightened the noose, he leaned forward and whispered into her ear. "So am I."
With a quick motion he twisted the knot to the back of her neck.
Stepping back he motioned to the executioner, smiling faintly as Katriana dropped. The rope snapping taut. His eyes were flat as he watched her kick and spin in the noose. "Like mother, like son."
Three days later.
Commander Dragin walked sullenly down the hall towards his office. Since the hanging it seemed as if every rogue and thief had packed up and disappeared. No murders, muggings, or theft of any kind had occurred. He suspected it was some sort of mourning period out of respect for the dead. He warned his men to remain alert for retaliation.
As he turned the corner he halted in surprise. A single rose had been impaled on is door with a slender stilleto. Draginís face flushed and he lashed out angrily, sending the stilleto and rose flying, cutting his hand on the razor edge.
Swearing he kicked open his door and stalked into his office. How dare they taunt him so? His mind tumbled through a list of people who knew Katrianaís mark. He would have them all in front of the Inquisitor by morning and then there would be hell to pay.
Behind him the door quietly closed. Before he could turn he heard the distinct click of a crossbow mechanism.
He staggered forward slightly, feeling like someone had just maced him in the back and leaned on his desk for support. Gagging his eye wide with shock as he stared at the bloody crossbow bolt embedded in the chair in front of him. With shaking fingers he reached up and touched the bloody hole in his chest.
Wordlessly he turned, supporting himself weakly on the desk, scattering reports everywhere. He could feel the blood running down his chest and back.
Katrina stepped out from behind the door and let her crossbow drop to the ground. "Iím sorry."
Draginís eye widened in fear. "H" h" ho" how? I saw you" die." He choked, blood running from the corners of his mouth.
The guild master smiled grimly and nodded. Reaching up, she pulled her hood back, revealing her badly bruised and scarred neck. "With a good priest, anything is possible."
" Why"" He gasped, sliding to the floor.
Katriana smiled and crouched over him, holding his head up to look him in the eye. "Because as long as I lived, you would never have stopped. Never."
" You" Left" me""
Katriana nodded sadly. "No, it was you who left me. When you chose your job over me, and took our son. I loved you. I did."
Draginís breath was rattling in his chest now, his head lolling to one side. "You" Never"" The rest of his words were lost forever.
Slowly Katriana slid a plain gold band from her finger and held it up, remembering when she had first worn it. He had promised her the world. Gently she placed the ring into his nerveless fingers. "Till death do us part, my love."
By: Jason Haley