And Katie walked in to the bar

And Katie walked into the bar
Chapter one

Chapter 1
Calaras made his way through an unfamiliar temple. Such odd heraldry and tapestries hanging from the walls. This Heimdall was not so far removed from the great Mithras but for all his valor his decor was tacky at best. But no matter. Calaras was asked to ally with the priests here by his superiors. It was his gods will. How he missed the comfort of his library. Peace and quiet. The knowlege of ages at his beck and call. But he was asked to take leave. His field experience meant he was not to be cooped up so long. Like a keen edged blade he best not be left go to waste. He came upon a regal looking priest. His staff of office spoke of his place within the order. “Hail Calaras , cleric of Mithras, welcome to the halls of Heimdall” the priest welcomed. Calaras bowed to the senior priest. Though he did not agree with all the same tenets manners were still a virtue of his he prided himself on. “Brother Patrokles , an honor to say the very least”. “To what do i owe this honour to?”. Patokles bayed him to follow and walk while they discuss matters.
“Do you know of Alexander Lionheart?” Patrokles asked. Calaras knew him. Or at least heard of him. Some of his deeds made even the annals of his holy order. Brave , brash , foolhardy even. He had heard that he was indeed a follower of the church of Heimdall but if some of the stories were to be believed then how would they let someone like that into their holy order? Valorous deeds marred by…….. questionable acts to say the least. “Yes i know of him. A paladin in your service?”. “Yes indeed. He also is a bounty hunter from time to time. He has been known to hunt treasure more then the average paladin in our service but thats mostly to feed the poor and keep our coffers full. As you know some of his behaviour is not……becoming of a paladin”.“It would only not be becoming if there is some truth in the stories, my lord” Calaras interjected. They stopped. The older priest sighed." Heimdall seems to show him favour. Though not unjustly i have asked a favour of an old friend from your order. He said he would send an able bodied man to help keep him in check." Calaras felt his anger rising. " Able bodied indeed but i am no babysitter. Surely one of your own order would be best suited for this task?“.”Internal politics being what they are we cannot be shown to impede the progress of one of our own". Internal politics!! Impeding their own? How dare he!! Calaras had to fight to keep his anger in check. So this was to be the next chapter in his life? Babysitting a wayward sot!?". “My lord surely my skills could be better put to use at the battlefront. Or perhaps in the healing halls? I am as accustomed to taking a life as I am bringing a new one into the world” Calaras objected. “This is your charge from this day forth. Do not worry. While not the most envious position it will most certainly not be boring. Adventure snaps at his heels as it does yours from what I gather.” Patrokles could see the frustration in Calaras’ expression. “Enough. I am sorry i truely am. But this is your charge. Think to your teachings. This may be as easily a blessing in disguise. Your first task is to find him. There is a tavern in the city. The Dragons tear. He is known to frequent it from time to time. Seek him out. See if the man measures up to the stories. While your there you will meet a contact of ours. He will tell you of a job that the order requires done correctly”

Now he walks through the streets like some errand boy! The lanterns were lit. Shining on the drunks. The midnight peddlars. The women of ….. easy virtue. Shutters were down all around the streets, all the shops having long since closed. The sounds that came from the houses were typical. Laughing crying. Chatter. Banter. From the streets on the cobbled stones it was muttering and cursing.
Insolent cur. Calaras was furious. Of all the questions Calaras kept wondering it was the why’s that kept cropping up. Why would the gods favour a drunkard. Why even ordain him into their holy order? Had the world gone mad. Calaras was a man of discipline. A man of action. How many sermons had he givin. His voice booming across the halls. Bringing faith and wisdom. Why would a man like Alex, so easily tempted by wine and flesh have chosen this vocation?. But above all. “Why me?”
Calaras stood outside the dragons tear. It was a typical looking place there was light from a fire inside. Raucous laughter. Cheering. He could make out the siluettes of men raising their glasses to toast lord only knows. Right then two men burst through the door. Grappling and throwing punches at one another. Calaras side stepped to avoid them. It wasn’t the fighting or the cursing that disgusted him. It was the smell. Either they were part of the sewer watch or hygiene in this city left a lot to be desired. Before he entered the tavern he took a deep breath and cast his eyes to the heavens. “I did something didn’t I?” He asked Mithras. “Tell me what? Please tell me so i may atone in a more conventional manner” A distant cricket was his only reply. He sighed. Shook his head. And entered.

The bar was not as bad as it had seemed. There was a cosy fire and a lot of noise near the windows but the main bar was quiet enough. A table of of dwarfs were near the bar. Surly looking. No doubt each of them as bitter as the ale they drank. In the corner sat some sort of dark skinned barbarian. Downing mug after mug of ale. Did he breath the stuff? No sooner had he put his mug down then he called for another. Calaras approached the bar and inquired about Alex. One of the dwarves smirked a at the mention of Alexanders name but calaras knew enough not press him about it. Dwarves were good company and solid fighters. But it took a special type of fool to get between them and their ale. “Alex we calls him round here. Good customer. Always has a good yarn or two. He is staying the night here. We have good rates for men of the cloth if you need a place yourself”. Calaras shook his head “No thank you i have lodgings with the order. I just need to know what room he is in” . The barkeep smiled. " were you here five minutes ago you could have followed him. As it is though that information is for paying customers only". Bribery. He should have expected as much. His opinion on this Lionheart character was dropping by the minute. Room 11. Right beside Alexander in room 10.
Calaras waited outside room 10. All the other doors were open. None had anyone in them yet. It wasnt too late. The patrons had more drinking and carousing to do first. He thumped on the door " Alexander are you in there?" He shouted. “He will be in the morning. Check back by then” a mocking voice came in response. What was that Calaras heard. Was there a woman in there as well? He had his fill. Furious he kicked down the door ready to give that fool a piece of his mind. No sooner then he kicked down the door then Alexander was on his feet ready for a fight. “You better your in the wrong room!” Calaras took a swing at Alex but he was fast. He ducked and gave a return bodyshot to Calaras. Calaras was knocked back a step. His rage was getting the better of him. Was this it? Was this what Mithras was trying to tell him? Or humility? Damn why were these things never clear.
He held up his hand. “Wait. Hold. I am from the order of mithras. I am charged with bringing you back to the temple to convene with your superiors”. It took alexander a moment to lower his guard. Calaras looked at Alexander. He was physically not that imposing. Smaller then Calares , yes but he certainly knew how to handle himself. He looked from alexander to the bed and saw a woman there. A lady of the night no doubt. This was it? This was who Heimdall shows hi favour to? This philandering drunk? He must have done something terrible to deserve this. “Mara we have to leave this one early tonight. Go”. Calaras looked at the beauty on the bed . He could see the appeal a less pious man would be tempted by. But his iron need not fear such temptations.
“What is it you need?” Alex asked. “The order sent me to get you. I had no idea that their holy men acquitted themselves as such. Women. Ale. You scoff at the very nature of your order”. “Heimdall does not require abstinence. Nor sobriety. His teachings tell us to help others, protect the weak and innocent and live life in every breath. Sometimes i just enjoy life a bit more then most. In any case when is this summons?”. “We have been charged with a task. I was told we would meet a contact here and he would give us our charge” Calaras replied. “Thats fine but couldnt you have gotten the orders by yourself and then gotten me in the morning?” Alex replied laughing. “Come let us share a mug of ale and you can point out how i bring shame upon my god” Alex slapped calaras on the shoulder as he walked in the hallway pulling his jerkin on.

Mara walked from table to table. Looking for the drunkest men with the heaviest wallets. Any giving her an eager look. Harlot some called her. And some called her a lot worse she had her hood down revealing her elven ears. Seeming exotic always brought an adventurous customer. She though back to what just happened. No doubt not her most unusual encounter. Paladins. Clerics. Priests. So many had a holier then thou demeanour. It was refreshing to meet one that was honest about sex. She knew what happened in holy cloisters. Rectories. Holy ‘celebrations’. Bah closer to orgies then prayer. They would condemn her for it sure but that was why she followed the tenets of Olidammara. Lust. Physical pleasure. These were not vices to be denied. It was how many found god. Who were we to deny our very nature. She had met Alex before. But that was not the first time he engaged her services. But none of his order knew of his secret. It must have only been a recent first one for him. He barely had any idea what he was doing. Now he is upstairs with a larger man. Oh well. Whatever he is into. Mara spotted a strong look barbarian type. He looks different she thought. And she had seen him drinking earlier. He should either be very drunk or he can hold his liquor better then 10 men. She sat next to him trying to get his attention but he didnt seem interested. " So….." she started. She was playing with her hair and doing her best to flirt her way into his good graces. " Your not from around here". The barbarian eyed her up. He seemed to pay her no heed when a man who was going from table to table came upon them.
“Im looking for able bodied adventurers to do a job for my employer, and this tavern is known for having a few of those. I can make it worth your while” he inclined. The two didnt realise they were part of the same group. But the promise of a few coins always sweetens the deal. "If your interested come to the manor of Lord Rafton tomorrow at midday. “How do we know your not brining us there to mug us?” Mara enquired. “Please woman look at my clothes. If i were going to rob someone id start a little higher up then you”. The barbarian laughed a little at this. “Sounds like a plan” He said. Mara couldnt help but think he didnt sound too drunk. But she has heard that barbarians are hardy folk. With that the man left to go join Alex and that odd fellow from earlier who came down to have an ale. The barbarian stood up and made his way to the bar. He was stumbling a little. When he got there he brashly pushed the other patrons aside to ask for something at the bar. Mara couldnt hear them but the barkeep nodded and shifted his head to a door nearby. Mara knew from experience that usually that was where all the action was. Usually the illegal kind but thats where the money was. The barbarian entered a door down the hallway. Checking to make sure he was not followed. Mara was not far behind. She quietly opened the door and saw something she didnt quite expect. Nothing

“Share a drink with you? Fine a goblet of wine”, Calaras ordered. Alex came back with two mugs of ale. “This is not the bar to order wine in”, he explained. " We shouldnt be ordering drinks in the first place!", Calaras all but spat. " Very well what brought you here anyway?" Alex asked. “Iv been charged with keeping an eye on you. To make sure you dont disgrace your order more then you seem to. We are to meet a contact here who will tell us of a task that we are to preform. I am to accompany you and see that its done correctly” Caleras explained smugly. He could see that Alexander was getting annoyed. " I dont blindly follow the teachings. Yes I follow the tenets of the scriptures. But you should not interpret them so narrowly. Piety and faith are virtues true but to touch the hearts of the people you need humility , and to lead by example" Alex retorted. Humility. As naked as the day is long. Perhaps this was a lesson he would have to learn. But it wouldnt be from this whelp. Such a disrespectful pup. “Are you alright?” Alex asked. " I thought you would have been taller" Calaras replied.
“Ah gentlemen there you are” the man said sitting down. Calaras and Alex sat silently. Sometimes its best to listen first. “No doubt your superiors have mentioned that you were to meet a contact here. Well i am him. There is a task that i must put up to you. It involves your order and an ancient debt that needs to be paid. All i can tell you is that it involves the house of Rafton. No more can be said here”. Calaras and Alex looked to one another and nodded. “Very well. We will help you. I trust you have a token to confirm this story?” Alex asked. The man produced a signet ring. The decoration on it was the ones givin to the initiates of Alexanders order. He remembered when he wore a similar one. “What would you have us do?” Alexander asked. “This is too public a place to say more. Dont worry all will be revealed in time. Come to rafton house tomorrow at midday and we can discuss this further”. The tow agreed and with that the man left. Alex pondered as he drank his ale. “Hmm” was all the noise he made. " Im probably going to regret asking but whats on your mind" Calaras asked. “These rings are usually not given away. They are kept until we progress or death relives us from our duty” Alex explained. Calaras rolled his eyes " you know his house is connected your church". " True but i wonder what he needed a mage and a barbarian for as well? He was just talking to those two " Alex finished his ale and slammed the mug down. “Im away to my room. Wake me before you leave. You dont want me to embarrass the order anymore by being late”. With that Alexander made his way up the stairs. Calaras gaze followed him as he went. His last thought before leaving the bar were how much he really didnt like this guy

Mara looked around the room. There was nothing particularly unusual in it. Other then a large burly man just disappeared in here. The noise from the bar was getting louder. No. Not the bar. Somewhere else. She looked down and saw a bear pelt rug. Was that light she saw trying to break through it. She lifted it and sure enough there was a hatch underneath it. She could hear cheering from below being deafened by the sound in the tavern. She made her way down into the alcove and followed a short tunnel. Eventually it opened out into a large chamber. It must have been an old underground storehouse that they converted. It was an arena. A fight club of sorts. As pure a form of gambling as any.Some of the other local taverns must have had passageways down here as well. Just put a heavy weight over the hatch and lock it and if any one bar gets raided the patrons can escape out another. Clever. She made her way around the room and drew her hood. Some people still didnt take kindly to elves so best not draw too much attention. Besides she still had to figure who her best bet was going to be. Cheers erupted. A bout had just ended. One man raised his hand in triumph with bloodied knuckles. “Ulfbar is the winner” the announcer roared! Cheers erupted from the crowd. “For the next bout the contender will be Bullvine son of thiliak!!” The crowed hushed as bullvine entered the ring. He towered over the others by a head at least. To say he was intimidating would hardy do him justice. He was terrifying. His nose looked like it had been mushed. He had a cauliflower ear and scars on his head. " Is there anyone man enough to go a round with me?" He bellowed. Mara eyed him up and down. To fight him you would either have to be supremely skill and confident. Horrifically stupid or just drunk. “Ill take him” a slurred voice shouted out. Mara looked to the dark skinned barbarian who accepted the challange. Well he wont be at the job tomorrow she thought to herself. But then again….. She found someone taking bets and put fifty gold on him and held her breath.
Braxus took off his shirt and entered the ring. Stumbld more like. He had shown up and been making a fool of himself with his drunken antics. The announcer looked at him with pity but couldnt help laugh at what was about to happend. Braxus looked strong no doubt but compared to Bullvine he looked like a well built mouse standing up to a cat." We have a challanger. Braxus the barbarian slayer of chaos hordes and champion of his people" the announcer shouted " and the undefeated champion of the ring. Winning every night by brutal knockout out the defending champion bullvine. Braxus tried to cheer but in riling up the crowd he tripped over his own feet. The crowd laughed at him. Surely this wasnt going to end well. Braxus got to his feet. He would be in trouble now alright. If he was drunk. Fortunately though he was drinking water that night. But the easily deceived underestimate. Bullvine approached laughing at his would be opponent. He made to grab Braxus but as he did braxus made his move. He parried Bullvines incoming haymaker and countered with a chop to the throat. with his opponent stunned he pressed the advantage. He put all his might into a kidney shot and bullvine bent over to the side. Taking a hard swing down Braxus smashed his fist into the side of his face. Bullvine was on all fours now. Braxus grabbed his hair and pulled him up so he could better knee him in the face. Back on his feet bullvine stumbled. Side stinging. Nose broken again. Cant breath. Braxus knew he had to finish this. He too a step forward and launched himself into the air and using both legs kicked as hard as he could into bullvines chest knocking him off his feet and flying into the barricade. Braxus got to his feet. The crowd shocked. As if their minds wouldnt believe what their eyes just saw. Silence gripped the crowd. Only one voice was to be heard. “Yes yes you brilliant bastard you just won me load of gold” Mara was delighted. Elated. The long shot paid off for a change. The crowd erupted into cheers and laughter. Most had lost money on the fight but as far as spectacles go it was a sight to behold. A man stood up to a giant and won the day.
Braxus collected his winnings and basked in adulation. Approval? Fame? Money. Worthless. Means to an end by all means. But he had to know he was the best. Better then all comers. He had to stand over the conquered and know that he was the finest warrior there was. Second to none. Afterwards he was approached by some veterans." Nicely done" they said as he approached. " You certainly have skills. No doubt about that. What if we told you we could help you win big?". “Not interested” Braxus replied. “Hold on now. Wouldnt you like to train with the best? They could teach you things. Turn you from a crude brawler to a disciplined fighting machine?”. “Now you have my attention. Lead on.” The older fighters took him to their inner circle. “Behold this is the masters arena. Risks are higher make no mistake. Every fight you take part in could be your last. Death will stalk you. But we can teach you how to outsmart and out fight your foes. Like chess you only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent. The rules of engagement are no different. You used a mans overconfidence against him. Well and good. We can show you to do that with every single one of them.” Braxus was pleased. This is exactly what he was looking for. No doubt they would want to take a cut of his winnings. So be it. “Very well i accept”.

Mara was delighted. She had won big of that barbarian. Who know he could move so fast. Who cares she had her winnings. She couldnt spot him anywhere though. Oh it didnt matter look at all she had. Still the night was getting away from her. There was time for one more client before retiring. But who. Then she spotted him from across the room. The sound of coins dropping was what drew her attention. There was a foppish looking dandy making his way up the stairs into the bar. She followed him up to the tavern and shadowed his footsteps. Eventually she caught up with him. Handing him a mug of ale she got to know him. He said his name was Pierre de Sable. A noble from not too far away. She feigned interest in his stories of how he was brave and heroic and other such nonsense. In reality she knew better. She had read in a news letter about him. How he raised taxes on all of his farms and then up and left as soon as trouble came his way. His village was attacked but he survived. He didnt even raise the alarm. Well knowing that would make this all the sweeter.During his stories he would give unusual details like how he single handedly stopped an army and lifted up a bull. “Bullwarm is jusht lucky i didnt get in the citing fircle before that other guy” he slurred. The stick of this mans breath. It could catch fire!. “Why dont we take this up to your chamber” mara suggested . You didnt have to tell him twice. He hopped off his stool and nearly missed his footing. More then once, He nearly fell up the stairs when they got there. When the entered the chamer she locked the door behind her and payfully put the key down her blouse. Pierre took off his coat and she heard it jingle. Mystery solved at least. " I have a surprise for you" she said seductivly. Pierre sat on the bed with a stupid drunk grin on his face. “Lie back and close your eyes”. Pierre did as she asked and waited for his ‘surprise’. Mara stood at the door and waited. Only about a minute passed by before she heard the snoring. “What a dope” She said to herself. She rifled through his coat and found two large bags of gold. This was by far her most profittable night in a long time. Gambling and whoring. Who says crime doesnt pay. She kept all the pouches and put a few coins into a small coin purse. She made her way back down to the bar. It had nearly emptied by now. The barkeep looked at her. They knew each other. She gave him the small pouch of gold." You didnt see me here if anyone comes asking" she said with a smile. It had won over many men before and this was no exception. “Yes Mara, looking forward to not seeing you again soon”. She pulled up her hood and went out into the street. Nobody would come looking for her. The man was a criminal and a coward. And now a pauper as well. But getting sloppy can cost more than gold or freedom. It can cost you your life

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Chapter 2
Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Braxus strolled the streets with a sense of triumph. Last night he was a champion. A fleeting victory but a victory no less. Details, details , things to do, things to get done. Thats where the devil was but they never bothered him before. Simple errands. Nothing special. The other champions had given him some advice on some healing salves. Heal-itt potions. To the point. Thats the way he like things. He was a man of action. Simple things suited him better. Thats all the principles of the ring you need to know. You either fight or you run. All other plans are just variations of that. He found the shop. Nothing special on the outside. Inside business as usual. He slid the shopkeeper a note from ‘the mentors’. They could be making a fool of him but what did he have to lose?. The shopkeeper slid 2 vials across the counter. Two vials filled with a strange blue liquid. It cost more of his winnings then he wanted to part with but what harm? He could be dead tomorrow. What good was money to him then. Besides he knew the type of men who gave him the advice. He knew nothing about business but only one thing he heard from an old gladiator owner. ‘Protect your investment’. Never kill a man who might make you money. So he had good grounds to trust these men. He had worse. Well time to get to this Raftons house. Now what could a noble need with a barbarian , a whore and two fancy boys sitting across the room?
Mara moved swiftly to the bordello. It was never good to be seen around them. But she had business to attend. Hood up. Scarf around her face she entered. Lavish furnishings. The painted ladies held the fancies of all the men. Cheeks red with rouge. The smell of perfume choked the air. The day was early but some of these girls had been working through the night. One approached her seductively not aware who her ‘customer’ was going to be. “Id like to see the madame” she said lowering her scarf. The girl was taken aback. She didnt know Mara but heard about a half elf follower of Olidammara but thats all she knew. She could be an assasin. So best not take any chances. Simply nodding she left the room. Mara drew her scarf around her face. No doubt some fool would think her one of the working girls. She enjoyed the thrill of the job but she had somewhere to be. The madame of a bordello though was always a mature woman. A woman who had learned to blend in. A woman who usually learned life’s lessons the hard way. A woman worth listening to. Sometimes they knew customs of towns. Places to avoid. People worth blackmailing. The woman re-appeared at the top of the stairs.“The madame is out at the moment. She wont be back for sometime”. Mara nodded and left. Nothing she could do anything about. She knew that arguing would lower her standing. Their trust would have to be earned. Time was getting on. She made her way back to her lodgings and checked her gear. She drew her rapier and made some practice swings. It sounded as if she was slicing the air itself. Her staff was made from willow. It was firm in her hand. Hard wood. It had saved her life as much as her sword. The white flowers on the top had been the perfect. Some thought it cosmetic. Others thought it was carried enchantments. For her it was just luck. It had fooled some people into stalling. Others into running. That was all she needed. She strapped on her rapier and departed for Raftons to meet up with others for who knows what.
Alex stirred from his bed. No worse for wear. He had only had two beers. Where was that stiff? That Calaras. He was supposed to wake him. He pulled on his jerkin and boots and made his way downstairs. “Ivarson” he called to the bartender’ “have you seen that odd fellow from last night?”. “You just missed him. He left about fifteen minutes ago. Checked out without a word of thanks. Fancy that” he replied. Typical ask for a kindness and get spurned. He was going to love his new ‘babysitter’. It was early still. Time to head back to the church. Fresh air. Well as fresh as the city had to offer. He coughed for a minute as he breathed in. Best hurry. Lord knows what damning things were being said about him. He hurried back. Just catching Calaras at the door. " Caught you" Alex began. “Hope i didnt miss the morning sermon”. Calaras rolled his eyes. “No but i did meet Brother Patrokles on my way in. He asked me to wait for you here” Alex felt a cold sweat come over him. He was in trouble now no doubt. He knew it would happen sooner or later. He could only count on Patrokles good graces for so long. The doors opened and out strolled Partokles with his holy retinue. Two senior clerics. Clad in plate armour. His personal guard. He was rarely seen without them. His Paige. A young mousy boy. He carried the High priests personal holy book. And two senior priests. One bearing his banner and the other a flask of incense. “Calaras , Alexander” he said smiling. He was far from happy though. The retinue was to remind Alexander of the power he wielded. “My Chambers. Now”. Not one word more then was necessary.
They stood in front of their superiors desk. Alex felt like he was back in the seminary. Being chastised for bad behaviour. Talking out of turn. Arguing over theology with a teacher. His rap sheet was longer than most. But Heimdall had shown him favour. His skill with a sword and love of a good fight kept him in his good graces. He had held his own in a fight more than once and he was known to spend time with the poor. The men who had not been so fortunate in battle. Spreading the word of their lord. Helping the passing of others. But even he knew he would cross a line eventually. This might have been it. Patrokles looked over his paperwork. Building the tension. Typical. " Drinking. Rough housing. Prostitutes? Such Behaviour is not becoming of a paladin Alexander" he said softly. His voice carried all the authority it needed to. “My lord under the circumstances…” Alex began. “NOT BECOMING” Patrockles boomed slamming his fist on the table. “You represent all of this church when you conduct yourself outside these walls and i will not have our good name besmirched by your depravity!!. You are on thin ice as it is Alexander. Keep on this path and it will crack and you will not have the grace of the church to take care of you when it does” Partokles snarled. He took a moment to compose himself. He breathed deep. “Calaras will be watching you from this day forward. Where he goes you go. Where he eats you eat. If he piss’s you shake for him do i make myself clear?”. Neither man dared speak. Nodding took all the courage they could muster. " What of the tavern. Did you meet our contact?". “Yes” they said in unison. " A man from house rafton was down there. He gave us a signet ring and told us to meet him there later for work. He was tight lipped but i have a feeling he means it will be dirty work. He was talking to an Elf and a barbarian before us so he probably means business" Alex explained. With this Calaras produced the ring and placed it on the table. Patrokles examined it with raised eybrows. " We were told to go to raftons house at midday" calaras continued. " I have heard rumours of corruption within house rafton. Something fowler then greed may be afoot. You are tasked with investigating. Consider this the first part of your penance Alexander. You will search for proof of any corruption. Do not dare make a fool of yourself. It reflects poorly on the order and poorly on me. Be prepared to face evil. Gear up and get out" was the reply that came. As they opened the door to leave Patrokles raised his head and said “may heimdall watch over you”. Alex couldnt help but smile as he walked out knowing that for all his rage he still cared for him.
“You have a flare for inappropriateness you know” Alex said to Calaras. “inappropriateness?. Im not carousing and drinking and making an ass of my order” he retorted. Alex swung round got in front of him and grabbed his arm" Someday im going to save your live. Against all odds i will risk my life for yours and i will save you. And after all that. After all is said is done….. you’ll probably want to kiss me" Alex smirked. Calaras shoved him off. “Take this seriously!” he replied firmly. " I am going to get my battle gear i suggest you do the same" Calaras stormed off. Alexander made his way back to his room. He fetched his longsword. His dearest friend. An extension of his very arm. He pulled on his chainmail shirt and made his way to the hall. He would make his offerings to heimdall before he left. In the chapel he met some of the other members of his order. Seminaries still studying. Some had bruises from training. Other older grizzled veterans. Faces carried scars and each one told a story. Each sat silently in prayer. Alexander genuflected to his patrons statue. Found a pew and meditated.
Calaras had his fill of this fool. Babysit barely covered what he had to do. Keep this fool alive. Bah. He knelt before his battle armour. His breastplate blessed thrice fold by the arch deacon. He offered a prayer to Mithras to watch over him. To bring swift death to his enemies and glory to his holy name it was adorned with holy markings . His robes looked regal. He picked up his warhammer. Such a holy weapon. Smiting his foes he would have to better weapon by his side. His book of battle prayers hung from a chain at his waist. He was ready. He made his way back to the entrance. He now made an imposing figure. He felt ready to face anything. “Well you are just the prettiest cleric here. What took you so long? Spent too long doing your hair and make-up?”. Well almost anything. " Lets get this over with" he said to Alexander. “Im going to have to seek penance for all the violent thoughts i have for you and im not sure there are enough hours in the day for that”. Alexander smiled and the two left the monastary grounds. ’He’ll warm up eventually’ Alex thought to himself. Alex hoped.
The two men arrived at house Rafton at the same time as Mara. “What are you doing here?!” Calaras scowled at her. Mara kept eye contact with him. The money better be good for having to put up with all this. “I dont know yet. I was offered to do some work here and was told the money would be good. They asked a barbarian as well. I was probably just asked because i was in proximity to him. Lord only knows what they want”. She looked from Calaras to Alex and they each smiled in recognition. Well at least there was another familiar face. Calaras eyed her gear suspiciously. He didnt like the idea of an outsider helping with matters such as this, however it wasnt his order. He would play along for now. And if these people made a show of their order he could be the hero bringing their carelessness to light later. Yes he would bide his time. He knocked three times on the door. Moments later a man answered. He was well dressed and had the air of a noble about him. His trimmed beard and hair suggested grooming but he bore no heraldry. He eyed them all up and down. " Follow me" he said turning back into the building. The others followed in step. " Shouldnt they’re be one more of you?" he asked while walking. “You tell us” Mara retorted. The noble didnt reply. He led them into a what looked like a living room. There was a fireplace table and chairs but nothing extravagant. Alex couldnt help but feel they were not being informed of everything. If this was a nobles house where was the extravagant decor. Where were the servants. What the hell was going on. “Before we begin we have some questions for you” Alex began. No sooner had he asked then there was a knock on the door. “Of course” the noble replied “But i must get that first”
A minute passed by. Blast it where was everyone thought Braxus. He thumped on the door with his huge fist. It swung open with an eerie creak. There was nobody there. He saw a shimmer and side stepped just in time to avoid a descending blade. Whew that was close!. He peered into the door and saw a figure approach. He reached to his back and unslung his double headed broad axe." Stay your weapon" a cultured voice called to him. “You attacked me come out where i can see you first” Braxus retorted. The noble sighed. He raised his hands slowly walked to the door. Braxus did not understand his tactic but he was ready to strike at a moments notice. “This is a funny kind of job your offering me” he began. " Calm yourself please. This is merely the houses defensive ward acting up. You were hitting the door as hard as other men kick it. The ward merely mistook you for an intruder. No harm done, and i assure you it is safe. I have de-activated it for the moment. If you please follow me and i can tell you of the task at hand" the noble explained. Braxus considered a moment. It could still e a trap. But then again who was he? He had no money. There would be no profit from his murder. He met this man before his fight so revenge did not seem like a motive. " Very well , but ill not be putting this away " he said brandishing his axe. “If you insist. This way” the noble said beckoning him to follow him. “If you look above us you shall see the defensive ward on standby”. Braxus glanced up at first and saw a purple haze of smoke swirling on the ceiling. How odd he thought. His best way to defend himself was in his hands.
The noble led Braxus to the living room to meet with his would be companions. He recognised them. The whore and the fancy boys from last night. Well now they looked like an odd motley crew. Two were holy warriors. Who knew what kind. They all looked the same to him. The girl must have been a mage judging from her staff. The flower on it made him feel uneasy. Must be some symbol of her station. “You have questions no doubt but i will begin and fill you in as best i can” the noble began. " First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hedge. That is all i can be identified as for the moment". Calaras and Alex exchanged glances. This was getting more and more suspect by the minute. Braxus arm was getting tired. With this many witness’ he felt safe to lower his weapon. Besides , he was no nearer to Hedge as anyone else and he was unarmed. “Two days ago we sent four adventurers down to the vault in this building to retrieve four signet rings. They have not yet returned. As you know decades ago this city was invaded by an army of orcs and goblins, some using tunnels and we fear that some may have tunneled into the vault in tunnels we may have missed. Your job will be to enter the vault. Find out what happened to the other team of adventurers and if something has happened to them recover the signet rings. They are of great importance to house rafton” Hedge explained, “do you have any questions?” he asked noting the quizzical expressions on the adventurers faces. Mara was the first to ask." And who exactly are you?" she bluntly asked. “My name is Hedge. That is all the information i can give you on the matter”. Mara nodded. She new that by pressing further she would just end up going in circles. Braxus was the next. “Why should we deal with noble dealings? cant you sort this out yourselves?”. Hedge chuckled.“Yes but its dangerous down there. Someone could get hurt or killed. We pay well so we dont have t obe the ones to do it”. Coward thought Braxus. Alex rubbed his chin in thought. “What of the other warriors? who were they”. “They were a team. Not to be trifled with. I will not bore you with the details. They were a barbarian, a sorcerer, a paladin, and a rogue. Each was a formidable warrior in their own right. I pray the worst has not come to pass”. Alex nodded solemnly. " If we can we shall bring them back alive". Calaras was the last one to ask anything. " What is the connection between this task and the church of Heimdall?" he asked. " House Rafton has strong ties to the church of Heimdall. They have called in an old favour. Calling upon old oaths to fulfil older promises. I am afraid i cannot be more specific. As i said i cannot make my full affiliation clear at this point. Need to know". Calaras nodded frustrated. Damn this man. He would not show his hand this early in the game. But what was he hiding?. “Gentlemen, milady if you would care to follow me to the entrance to the vault. I beg of you to draw your weapons and be prepared for anything down there. There will be lighting down there. An everblaze charm was put on the lanterns years ago to keep them burning so you should not need a lantern. Upon completion you will be rewarded handsomely” he explained. He turned the key to the entrance to the vault and pushed theheavy door open. " Ill be waiting here. To get out simply knock three times and ill open the door for you. Good luck".
Alex was at the lead of this sortie. Blade at a guard position. He was cautious but by no means slow. In the entrance chamber there were two suits of armour. They were each ten feet tall. Ornaments. Shields emblazoned with the house rafton insignia. He eyed them up and down. The shields were far too big to wield. Better keep moving he thought. Mara had left her travelling cloak back in the house. No need for discretion here. It only served to hinder. They came to a grand room. The lights hung high over head. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust from the dimness of the previous corridor. He knew the others were the same. He said a prayer to Heimdall that he could see any evil or corruption in the room and was taken aback. Everything was a purple haze he could not see an inch in front of his face. He bumped into Braxus who gave him an odd look. He was frowning and looking down. Alex joined his gaze and saw why. Bodies. At least eight littered the floor. And two hulking monstrosities by the doors at the other end of the room. They must have been ogres. But none moved. What had killed them. Calaras and Braxus made their way to one pile and Alex and Mara made their way to the other. Alex recognised a some of the bodies as did Calaras. Not by face but by their hands. Half the bodies bore the signet of Heimdall. Alex was lost for words. Look at them. These men had barely come of age and they were sent to their deaths and Patrokles said nothing. What kind of games was he playing? Had he no respect for the dead or even the living!? “Any living your side?” He called to Calaras. “No. We best preform the last rights. Give them their final sending” he shouted back. Turning his head back he heard shuffling to his left. “Please feel free to loot the other bodies but not the ones from my order i beg of you, we shall take their signets back to our Lord”. “Very well” Mara replied but from his right shoulder. Alex quickly turned his head and saw the corpses getting up!
He jumped back. " Steel yourselves" he called to his companions. It was time for battle. How he longed for it. The thrill of it. Heimdall would be pleased with his efforts as would Mithras be with Calaras. Both their gods favoured martial prowess and they would not be found wanting. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that Braxus and Calaras were in the same situation. The dead sprang back to life swinging their blades wildly. They seemed to be attacking in twos. Mara was the first to strike. Her rapier was lighting quick. She parried the sword of one easily and and slashed the creatures face. The blade went right through its cheeks but the creature showed no sign of slowing only to strike her other opponent square in the nose it stumpled backwards but kept advancing. To her side though the other creature was creeping up on her, warhammer in hand. It swung in a downward arc but was far too slow. It cracked the stone where it struck. She started slashing in a flurry of blows. Each swing lacerated her foe. She cut muscle and tendon with ease spinning to catch the blade of her returned first opponent. It made a clumsy lunge and she spun round carrying its momentum to throw it to her other foe where its face met with the head of a warhammer. She took the oppertunity to rush her opponent stabbing him right through the chest. The blade went right through the monster and when she withdrew it fell to the ground and stayed there. Alex smiled at his opponents. “Come on” he taunted but they made no acknowledgement of it. He swung his sword at his opponent and it barely made and attemp to block it. A slow clumsy parry was all it could muster. But as he swung his holy powers kicked in. He say an amulet made of pure evil around the monsters neck. He quickly came to his senses and just in time to block his opponents swing. Holding his blade on his opponents he punched his other foe in the face its head twisted to an impossible angle but it didnt fall. He pushed his opponent away and it stumbled back. With its guard open he slashed hard across its belly. The blade bit deep and the creatures gore hit the ground before he did. The other , with its head twisted almost backwards was swinging blindly in front of itself even with Alex behind it. Using both hands he liberated its head from its torso and it fell to the ground dead.
Calaras had no idea he would find such evils here but was ready for them nonetheless. He would meet this foe with a fire in his belly and prayer on his lips. “Die accursed one!” he said swinging his hammer. The creature made to block it but could not withstand the weight of the weapon or the might at with it was swung. The creatures head was crushed by such a mighty blow. The other corpse was shambling towards him. He smiled. Ah glorious combat. The creature swung a wide side blow but Calaras blocked the sword with the haft of his hammer. He butted the creature in the face it, then its torso with the head. With it bent double he delivered a final fatal blow to its spine. He looked over to Braxus to see what death he had wrought. No sooner had they stood up than Braxus let out a fierce roar at them. Not giving them a chance to ready themselves he sung his broad axe with all his might and cleft both of them in two with one might swing. All for easily dispatched their foes but something didnt feel right.
Alex could see now. The evil that had corrupted them was leaving their bodies but what would it do next? Would it claim their souls as it had theirs. It was making its way to the bodies of the ogres by the doors. He tried in vain to swing his sword at it but to no avail. “We must preform the rights” Calaras shouted over. Alex nodded and grabbed a torch from the wall and he shouted at Braxus to do the same. “Are you mad?” Calaras objected " You have an obligation to your order!". “Yes to root out the source of corruption and to bring it back to our superiors. We cant do that if we get killed by our fallen brothers. Burn the bodies so they cannot rise again. Pray for them as you do” he instructed. “Do not defile these bodies. It is blasphemy!” Calaras spat. “Necessity!” Alex shot back. He began to burn the bodies as did Braxus. Praying for them as they did.“Take their heads to be safe” He instructed. Mara did so. She looked up to Alex whose mouth was moving. “Behind you!” She screamed at Alex.
Alex turned around but was too late. A monstrous form barrelled into him knocking him to the wall behind Mara. She forced herself to keep an eye on this new foe but prayed Alex was alive. The ogre moved to her. It was slow. Not as fast as it must have been in life but still big enough to be a threat. She would face it regardless. It attacked her with a wooden club in each hand. It swung at her. Its blows were faster than her last foes. She knew she could not count on this creature being as clumsy. She ducked below one swing only for it to descend his other on her. She had to roll to the side to avoid it. Calaras and Braxus faced their new foe. They had it flanked but it was not an opponent to be made light of. It sung at Calaras and missed . He used this opening to give it a return blow. His hammer connected with the creatures shoulder but it didnt slow it down.. Braxus Hamstrung the creature and it went down on one knee. Though prone it was still putting up a hell of a fight. Calaras made a swing to stove in the creatures head but it caught the weapon as it came down. Braxus axe bit in deep to the orgres flesh as he swung at the monster. Its grip loosened and as Calaras pulled his weapon back the creature used him to pull himself up. He swung his weapon around but the Calaras ducked and Braxus’ was able to block the creature but he felt the chock of the weapon. It took a step back. Did their eyes deceive them or did its skin begin to melt?
Alex’s head was spinning. He had been knocked clear by ten feet. He stumbled as he got to his feet and used his sword to prop himself up. Mara was holding her own but was only nicking the creature he had to get in to help her. He charged at the creature. But it caught him. He swung one of its maces but he got under it and shouldered the creature. It barely registered the blow but it felt the slash across its back that Mara delivered. While taking a step back Alex slashed the creature. It took a step back and began to shake violently. Then it exploded in a cloud of dark energy. Mara coughed as she the smoke cleared. She felt a wave of terror at what she saw. A huge skeleton brandishing its weapons was standing over Alex’s body. She could only pray he was still alive. She could see strange markings on the creature. A purple line of magic on its skull , spine , sternum and pelvis. She had a feeling this is what was feeding the creatures evil. She pulled herself to her feet and renewed her attack. The skeleton was stronger than it should have been but her fury lent her strength. She parried every blow the creature struck. She feinted and dodged faster than the skeleton could follow then she darted to the creatures side and slashed the creatures spine. It didnt topple but the energy line disappeared. Now she knew where to hit. She had a chance.
Calaras looked over after the smoke cleared to see Alex unconsious and Mara fighting for her life. “Fool!” he thought, " who said who will need saving?!“. He held his holy symbol close and offered up a prayer to Mithras to heal his fallen comrades wounds. Alex stirred. Slowly at first but then he got to his feet. He looked injured but he still gripped his sword. He would continue the fight no doubt about it. He turned his attention back to hiis foe. The creature was still melting. God the stench. It was making it hard to concentrate. Great globules of melted flesh and blood hit the floor revealing the ogres skeleton. Braxus let out a fierce warcry and charged the monster with all his might. His first swing caught the monsters weapon and knocked it out of his hand. His second lopped off the monsters arm. It was calaras’s turn now. He swung his axe into the monsters pelvis. it didnt shatter but the odd looking runes on it disappeared as his hammer bounced off it. Braxus followed up by decapitating the creature and on the return swing his axe hit its spine doing away with the markin there. Calaras made the final swing caving in the creatures chest. It fell to the floor without a chance of coming back.
Alex god to his feet again. By Heimdall this was not going well for him. His head was clearer though and he could stand. If he could stand he would fight and if he could fight he would prevail. Mara had the creature tied up so it didnt notice Alex coming from behind. He swung hard at its legs and it fell crippled. He made a follow up chopping off an arm. Mara was able to parry its remaining club with her staff and strike at the ward on its sternum and the creature fell. Alex looked over to his companions. Braxus spat on his fallen foe and beat his chest. Calaras held his symbol close and offered a prayer. Though shaken Alex still had a job to do. He started rifling through the bones when he came across the skull. As he did it sprang up and bit his hand! He used his free hand to lever it off and broke off the lower and dropped both. He could still see it wriggle from side to side as he slumped back and caught his breath. Mara raised her sword to it and was ready to destroy it.” Wait!" Alex said. He cut off part of his cloak and made a makeshift bag. He tied it and fixed it to its belt. “Are you sure thats a safe idea?” asked Mara. Alex raised the hand that got bitten. There were no marks. " It had no teeth left after i dropped it. Must have rotted away or been blasted in the explosion. Think of it as a rock that might wiggle about at some point. I have to bring this back to my order. It might be a clue as to whats going on here". “Everyone ok?” Braxus called over.
Alex saw a small stool near the corner of the room. He was bruised and beaten pretty badly. He had worse he knew. He slumped down and tried to catch his breath. He found a pack on the ground. No doubt dropped by one of the warriors he just fought while the still lived. He only dared hope at the contents. Bandages! Provisions. Heimdall be praised. Some devine force must have been keeping an eye out for him. He began to patch himself up when the devine comedy appeared. " You ok?" asked Calaras. “Been better but not to worry. We should have a look around and see if there is anything of importance down here before we move on. I may have the skull but thats no guarantee that will help us” he replied. Calaras nodded and began rifling through a pile of barrels in the corner. Braxus threw aside a blanked that was on the cround. He found a shield but it had long since rotted and came apart in when he held it up. Mara was slowly ppondering around the centre of the room when she found a loose brink. Using her sword and staff as levers she was able to prise it open where she saw a lever. She looked around the room to see if there was and danger iminent. She saw none, shrugged and pulled it. There was a loud crashing noise in the next room. Alex jumped to his feet and the others readied their weapons. Five. Ten heartbeats passed and nothing. “Thanks for scaring the daylights out of us” Calaras shouted over. Mara giggled. “Found anything?” she called back. “A cask of wine” Calaras called over. He cracked open the top of it and cupped a hand had a drink. Not bad. Yes refreshing. Mara joined him but she didnt feel refreshed. In fact she felt altogether different.
They made their way into the adjoining hallway. In the middle there was a chasm with a drawbridge that looked like it must have fallen when Mara pulled the lever. There were two exits beside them and they could see one the far end of the hall. Braxus entered the nearest one. No sooner had he stepped in then a large portcullis slammed down. A trap! But there was no ambush. Braxus looked around. All he could see was a lever at the end of the corridor next to a door. He tried to push it. “Its stuck” he shouted back" see if you can find something to help". Calaras nodded and walked through the other nearest doorwat and it slammed shut as he did. He banged on the door but it was jammed. He saw a lever at the end. “Im going to try the lever in here as well” he shouted but the others only heard a muffeled version of that. He made his way towards it. But couldnt help feel like he was being watched. "Come on one door left " Alex said to Mara. They made their way towards it but Mara was acting strange. She was breathing heavily. Her hand was on her breast. “Are you ok?” Alex enquired. “Yeah fine” she said shakily. Alex turned and walked down the corridor. As she passed the doorway she looked back to the case of wine and saw the emblem of Olidamarra upon it. She knew what was happening. Her eyes now fixed on Alex. She sped up to catch up with him and grabbed his arm. She swung around and kissed him deeply. Dumbfounded he pushed her back gently. “Im sorry this is neither the time nor the place” He said as he walked past her. Her breathing was intense now. She pounced on him. Taking him by surprise. She pinned his arms down. Alex chuckled at first. He only had half hearted objections to what was happening. " Ok very funny, get off" he said. But she didnt respond. Lust had taken over completely. He tried to struggle and get her off but by the gods was she strong!. He couldnt move. She moved one of his hands to the other and held them both down with one hand while her other stared to undo his belt buckle. He was kicking and wriggling trying to dislodge her when she pulled her face close to his. “This is happening. You can kick and scream but its happening whether you want it or not” she said. Alex never thought this would happen to him. He made one last ditch effort but it was useless. She was simply too strong. “Oh hell, ill repent later” he thought to himself
Calaras heard screaming and moaning. Curse them had those bodies come back to life. Damn this house of evil. Cant they not lay the dead to rest. Even if they survive out there they will probably be worn down to the bone! The screams moans were getting more intense. By all that was holy what was going on out there.
Braxus made his way back to the portullis to see the commotion. He knew what was going on. But of all the times and places what in gods name were they playing at. Well only one thing to do. He leaned on the portcullis , looked through and enjoyed the show. “Yeah you give it to her Mr holy” man he said to himself
Mara held Alex tight. So tight the man couldnt breath. He was tapping her arm trying to convince her to loosen her grip. Which she grudgingly did. He coughed and gasped for air. She had her arms on his shoulder and looked him in the eye. Without saying a word she stood up and pulled on her clothes and walked into the 3rd hallway. The door slammed shut behind her. She left a confused , bewildered and somewhat satisfied Alex half naked and dumbstruck on the floor behind her. " I dont really know how im supposed to feel about all this" he thought to himself. A minute passed by while he sat there with a stupid look on his face. It took Calaras and Mara’s combined banging to get him to his senses. Ok im up. He pulled his pants back on and re-did his cloths. This was going to be on his mind for the rest of the day. He walked through the last door in the room that they couldnt see from across the hall and it slammed shut behind him. It was a narrow corridor. Just like the others that his companions had gone into. They no doubt heard all the doors slam so he wasted no time getting to the lever and pulled it. It took a moment before it finally gave. The others must have only pulled theirs at the same time. With that the door opened. Revealing what he hoped was going to be his objective.
Calaras stepped through the now open door. He still had that feeling that he was being watched. He was in a large room with a fountain. Its waters looked clear and pure. On approaching he spotted the mark of Heimdall. It was a holy fountain. He inspected the waters. Shimmering , he took a sip of them. He felt weariness leave his body. He felt renewed and at peace. He reached into his belt pouch and took three vials filling them with water from the well. He put them back but saw something sparkle in the water. Ot of nowhere an arrow shot at him. It was deflected by his breastplate and spun on its way to the floor. “Dammit” he thought. He couldnt tell where the arrow was shot from but he raised his hammer to ready. “Show yourself!” he called to the shadows. He made his way around to the other side of the fountain. He had a vague idea. Nothing. No more arrows. No sound of arrows being drawn. “SHOW YOURSELF!” he roared in challange.
Braxus looked into the chamber. A fighting pit? He smiled. Ha these gods show me favour. There was a rope leading down but no other way back up. He made his way down into the pit but the rope snapped and he fell. He landed on his feet and dusted himself off. He looked around but there was nothing in the chamber. Just a door for opponents to come through. Just then it opened. He felt a surge of adrenaline. A challange. Slowly the door lifted. But was it slow. Why must he wait to face his challange? Do the gods mock him. Then he saw him. A holy warrior. Ironclad. His plate armour was massive his shield was almost as big as him but he could still carry it. He held a short axe in his free hand. He was slow to be sure but he would be hard to hit. He was wide as well. It would be difficult to slip around him as well. It could have been a feint. There was no way of knowing how fast he could move. “Bring it on” shouted brandishing his axe and leaping into the fray.
Mara was still trying to compose herself. Oldimarra had played a nasty trick on her. It was embarrassing. What was Alex going to say after all this was all over? That she was not able to control her womanly urges anywhere? That she was a slave to her body. Focus on the task at hand. That was the main thing to do. She entered the next room. The tomb chamber. The room was bare. some steps led to an upper lever. A few feet high. On that level was the tomb. It looked like the coffin of a fallen king. The statue on it was holding a sword and laying in reverence. There was no way she could move it. But there didnt seem to be any alternatives. She tried to push the lid off. It weighed a ton. She heaved. She pushed. But it wouldnt give. Where was that strength she had a few minutes ago?. She gave one last heave and…… nope. No good. It wasnt going to budge. She caught her breath but as she looked around the lid of the coffin slid to the side and a hand raised from it, wreathed in black flame. A man climbed out. His whole body covered in black fire, he held a staff , and a sword but the part that stood out was his eyes. Pupil less. Lidless. The only intention in them was murder. He lept down and made to grab at Mara but she was fast enough to dodge him pushing him against the wall. The flower on her staff burst into cinders and the wall was charred where he put his hand out to stop him. She started an incantation and hurled a bold of energy at him. He caught the ball on his staff and it dissappated in a bright flash. She dared not engage him lest she be turned to ash.
Alex entered the idol chamber. There was a statue dedicated to Heimdall in there and he bowed his head with reverence. He saw a brazier by the statue. It burned brightly but seemed to float in mid air. He could see a shadow from behind it. He gripped his sword and made ready for combat. The figure leapt down at him but he was ready for him and ducked to the side. It was a barbarian wielding a fierce looking scythe. Alex opened with a downward slash only to be blocked by the haft. He could see he would be bringing the blade round to gore him but Alex arced his sword and it slid up the length of the blade. Alex made a return swing and cut his shoulder. While he took a moment to compose himself Alex noticed two rings on his fingers. Barbarians were not known for their style so what were they for. It didnt matter. He needed to focus where his opponents hands would swing not what he was wearing on them. His next attacks were feral at best. He swung the scythe in wide arcs , Alex easily backed away from him but he knew he was going to hit a wall sooner or later. He waited until the last moment when the barbarian swung wide next time Alex darted forward and sliced his other shoulder deeper this time. Alex was breathing heavy but he was landing hits. As long as he could out manoeuvre his foe he could take him. The barbarian inspected his wounds. He knew the futility of using the scythe , his wounds would only slow him down further. He dropped the scythe and equipped an axe hanging from his belt. Larger then a hand axe but still using it in one hand. He charged faster now. He swung in a downward arc and alex sidestepped. He parried the next blow on his sword then came another of the exact same blow. The barbarian was going to try to disarm him first. Alex couldnt overpower him he knew but he had a plan. The next swing came but this time when he caught it he held the axe on his sword, attempting to overpower his foe. The barbarian pressed hard and was now inches away from Alex. He knew he would kill his smaller opponent. Then Alex swung his head forward and smashed the barbarians nos. he reeled backwards clutching his bloodied nose, tears welling up in his eyes. Alex pressed his advantage and moved in. He struck now the barbarian blocked but only just he couldnt see his opponent clearly. Alex swung again but when the barbarian caught the blade he wasnt expecting Alex to rip his sword to the side, catching the axes head and flinging it across the room. On his return swing Alex caught him across the chest. He stumbled backwards but refused to give up so easily. He made to swing a punch but it was no use. Alex ducked below it and gave a return swing that sliced his hip. In a last act of defiance he charged at Alex but it was useless. Instead of sidestepping he also charged his enemy spearing him with the sword, the whole length passing through his body. The barbarian wrapped his hands around Alex’s throat and was going to throttle him with his last ounce of strength. But Alex jerked the blade upwards and he released his grip in pain. Alex pushed him off his sword and he fell to his knees. In his last act he spat blood on his killer but he never got the chance to as Alex’s last swing took his head off.
Mara was frantically trying to avoid the wizard. She dared not get even touched by him. But the sword was useless now. The wizard cast a bolt of lightning at her but she was quick and ducked behind the tomb. On her feet she cast a glance back at her. The wizard stabbed at her but she parried and she made to strike him. No good. The blade ran across his skin hut didnt even tear his robes. She could see her sword was useless against him. But she had to kill him before she perished. She case another bolt but was again dispelled by his staff. “Dammit she thought” she thought. “I have to get rid of the staff to stand a chance” She steeled herself. The wizard began to cast another spell but this time she charged. He raised his sword to stop her but her rapier was to quick. She knocked the sword to one side and hit the staff with all her might. The wizards concentration broken the bolt went wild. He howled in pain and dropped his staff. The fire on his hand turned white then back to black. Now was her chance. She breathed and concentrated and fired a final stronger blast at the wizard. This time he was powerless to resist it. It hit him in the chest and where it landed the fire went out. The wizard panicked as he looked to his chest. Where flesh showed it soon seared. The flames were burning him. They started to burn his chest then they moved outward on his body he stood silently as if trying to control it but was no use. The fire started to turn from black to yellow and was moving from his chest to his hips and shoulders. The heat was getting intense. Mara knew she had to hide from whatever was about to happen next but coulnt bring herself to look away. The wizard fell to his knees as he was consumed the sounds of flesh crackeling and sinew burning carrying through the chamber. He could control it no longer. His arms stretched to the heavens he let out a bloodcurdling scream. Mara dived behind the tomb as the body erupted in a cloud of smoke and ash. When she lifted her head there was only silence.

Braxus was hacking away at his foe , but every blow was either being caught on the shield or just couldnt do any damage. The return blows were slow easy to defend. But every now and then he would bash him with is shield. It was more an annoyance then anything. Braxus swung again but nothing. He was getting more and more frustrated. He swung and this time the blade hit home but the cleric made no sound. Was there anyone even in that armour. The cleric butted him in the face with the hilt of his sword and knocked him away with his shield. Braxus hit the ground but was back on his feet. His rage was taking over. He saw red and charged his foe no longer worrying about safety or self preservation. With both hands he swung hard and hit the shield. His swing was brushed to the side but he kept swinging. The cleric was backing away now no longer at the advantage when braxus swung again and again. With the cleric blocking most of his blows Braxus kicked the shield knocking him over the cleric was prone on his back, the armour now more a hindrance than ever. Braxus strode over still in the grips of bloodlust and swung down in a hard chopping motion and got a strong strike into the chest. Not enough to kill but he kept swinging. After a few more swings he had hacked his way in and was chopping at a man inside, eventually planting the axe deeply in the chest. He let go of his weapon and took a step back. Only to see the clerics arm rise slowly. “You cant be alive” braxus said in disbelief. Before it started moving Braxus crossed the body and grabbed the sword the cleric was wielding and jammed it into the split in the visor. The hand took longer to fall than it should have. Was he fighting a man or a hexed suit. Who could be sure? He recovered his weapon and caught his breath waiting for the bloodlust to pass.
Calaras was wary of his surroundings. He knew there was an archer in the room. It had to be in the rafters. He was close to the exit but the door was firmly shut. He pushed it with his shoulder to move it but it was locked. He took a step and thats when the strike came. Silent indeed but he was ready. He jumped forward as an elf rogue descended upon him with a short sword and a dagger. This wasnt god. Calaras knew he had raw power to spare but he would be slow by comparison. He started swinging downward then across but no luck. The elf ducked and spun out of reach. The time the elf darted forward. Calaras blocked the sword but the dagger kept coming up on him quickly. His plate protected him against two blows that would have left him bloodied or worse. Again the elf attacked. Calaras caught the blow on the haft of his hammer. When the elf stabbed calaras caught his wrist. “Gotcha” he thought. The thought didnt last long though. The elf kicked his crotch and used the distraction to slash at him. Calaras leaned back to avoid the blow but not fast enough. The blade ran across his arm and drew blood. The elf danced around calaras’s next swing and kicked him in the face sending him to the wall. Calaras’ shoulder hit it with a thud. He turned back to face his opponent leaving a bloody streak along the wall. The elf struck again. Again calaras put up his blade to parry and again the elf slashed at his arm. But Calaras took the blow gambling his very life he butted the elf in the face with his hammer. As he was knocked back calaras pressed his advantage and butted him in the stomach with the head. Bent double, Calaras brought his hammer down on the back of the elfs skull. He was dead before his head hit the ground.
All four hear a door open at the other end of the room but there was still work to be done before the ventured in. Calaras made his way back to the fountain to wash his wounds and in doing so the scars burned away. He winced as they did but he was grateful he lived to wash them. Once he was finished he exited. Braxus entered with not a backwards glance. Mara looked inside the tomb and found an empty spell book. It must have belonged to the sorcerer. It was blank. The words must be hidden to all but the most powerful arcane users. She dusted it off and made her way through the doorway. Alex examined the remains. He placed the axe and scythe in the hands of the body. He might need them in the next world. He examined the hand again and noticed that there was only one now. How odd. The remaining was a silver band. No markings on it. He would leave it. He was a bounty hunter at worst not a grave robber. He made his way into the next room where he was reunited with his companions. “Did anyone else find one of the other warriors that came down here?” he asked. They all nodded and relayed their experiences. “Before i fought him though i heard screaming from the hallway. What happend?” Calaras asked. Alex and mara did not make eye contact and were shuffling uncomfortably. “I lost my footing crossing the bridge and Mara helped me up. I panicked a little since im afraid of heights” Alex explained. Mara looked at him and mouthed the words thank you to which he nodded in response. They were in a large chamber. It was empty but for a glass pedestal in the centre. Mara walked over to it first with Braxus. Calaras and Alex covered the rear. Mara reached out her fingers and touched it when all of a sudden a woman appeared. She was ethereal. Like a ghost she was there and not there. “The rings have chosen you to be their bearers” She explained. They all looked at their hands and there were the four signet rings they came to retrieve. Braxus pulled at his but it wouldnt budge. “You are each now bound to your rings and to each other. Events are now set in motion that you must effect. The outcomes will have far reaching consequences but the choices are yours , and yours alone” she explained. “Wait how do we take them off?” Braxus asked. The visage took no notice of him. It simply hovered in the air and vanished without a trace. The four looked at each other and their hands. Not quite sure what to do next they made their way back to the entrance of the vault. “Why not tell them the truth? You could have destroyed me. After what happened i dont blame you” Mara asked Alex. “We might be together for some time. I have no idea what will happen next but if we are to travel together we best not get on everyones bad side. Besides its wasnt all bad” he replied smiling.
Hedge paced the room contemplating the story he just heard. “We send you down to get the rings on behalf of house rafton and now you are to make off with them like thieves?” he accused. Calaras shot to his feet but was restrained by Alex. “There is only truth in our words. We cannot change what happened. But we dont know what we are chosen for” he explained. Hedge sighed. “This is beyond my power to adjudicate on. The only man who may be able to help is the emperor. You will journey to him and pray along the way he can clear you of theft and give you direction. To make sure you get there in one piece i will be accompanying you” replied Hedge. “Very well. If this is the will of the gods we shall do it”replied Alex “When do we leave?”. “Tomorrow afternoon hedge answered. We will meet in the public square and go from there. In the meantime here is your reward.” He said flinging some papers at them. “What the hell is this?” Braxus blurted out. “Those are i.o.u’s. The shops in this city will accept them for their purchases but they will be useless anywhere else” hedge responded. Alex and Calaras didnt mind this. Anything they did not spend they would just give to the poor or the church. Mara and braxus were not so pleased. “I need a drink” sighed Braxus.

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