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Postby NeoScribe » Sun May 06, 2007 7:50 pm

This is actually a part off a larger work, I just wanna see what people think. So please read!

Fire and Justice
By S.J. Arc

Aprilus 16, 0097 AI

To Isacar Black Arrow of Sennal-Tal
From Isacar Twin Blades of Medikite

Greetings, my old friend

As you may already know I am nearing my goal of living to my seven hundredth year. With the wisdom that comes with reaching such a length of life I can also no longer deny that I can feel my mortal demise is approaching. As such I have taken the time to recall the vow I took before I parted your company, that on the eve of my death I would fill in the gaps that plague your memoirs of the Great Wars. The time, I feel, has arrived and with this letter you will find all my recollections of that time. The notes are in order save for the first page, which I feel you would want to examine at once upon finding what its content was. It concerns the final fate of our beloved friend, comrade, and fellow Isacar; Auhsed, the Burning Soul of Drentec, as well as the ultimate fate of his killer. I took great pains to write this all down so it would be extraordinarily pleasing to me if I could obtain a copy of your finished work before I reach Heaven. May these chronicles aid you and may you be enlightened them.

Ianarius 21, 5360 IE
First Eclipse War
Barbury State, Unity

After only an hour within the Barbury capital city of Volcanar Tsuné was convinced that Jonas had been correct and hell was indeed a place of fire and lava where blood flowed freely and teeth gnashed and demons roared. Tsuné had often tried to think of an earthly equivalent to the underworld and if hell was like the worst place on Gaea then his current location would have to be what hell was like.

Looming barely a mile behind the Barbury city, the volcano that was the city’s namesake belched lava and smoke shrouded the sky. Large molten stones shot from the mouth of the fiery mountain, raining destruction on the city. The flames of war lit the devastated capital in the night (or it could still be day, the smoke made it difficult to tell) and provided targets for enemy and allied swords.

Tsuné was just now ducking to avoid such an enemy sword. With elf speed and reflexes he narrowly avoided having his head cut off by the Unity Imperial soldier, a human, and used his newly acquired sword to slice at the enemy directly below his armor. The man fell dead.

Tsuné took a brief moment to pause and wipe the sweat off his brow. He wasn’t hot, the flames had no effect on his body so long as he kept the sun stones around his neck, but he was getting tired. All day, he and the 600 other mercenaries hired to augment the Serrani forces sent to aid the Nationals for their attack on the Unity Empire had been fighting in Barbury, the satellite state bordering Unity itself. The Barbury people, Fire Kin renowned for their battle prowess, and the Unity troops sent to reinforce them had been ordered to keep the eastern forces at bay while the rest of the Empire fought off the pincer attack by the Six Nations and Zandwana Continent forces. Now Tsuné could at least breathe a sigh of relief that victory was soon at hand.

The roof of the palace. Tsuné frowned at the thought. Victory was actually still far away, for him at least. Victory would not come until justice had been served, until crimes were paid for. Victory would not come so long as one certain Barbury Fire Kin remained. Tsuné’s face hardened and he joined the battle again with renewed vigor.

The battlefield that was the heart of the city appeared chaotic. Small groups of soldiers engaged in battle within houses, shops, and on the paved streets. The pride and joy of Barbury’s architectural advancement was falling to ruins. Most allied soldiers were elves like Tsuné, others were human mercenaries, still more were the gray wolves called fenrir from the Six Nations kingdom of Thesis. They fought with swords, axes, spears, maces, fangs, claws, and magic against their foes. The enemy forces made of Unity troops of various races within the Empire and the Barbury themselves, the masters of flames and fire magic. Thankfully, most of the enemy’s new weapons; the guns, cannons, and bombs, as well as the dragon and other aerial fighters had been sent to the west.

Tsuné heard a scream and saw several Serrani soldiers fleeing back towards him. Directly behind them was a Unity Barricade Breaker, a creature of the kappa race mutated by Unity science and machinery (So much for the no machine theory, Tsuné thought.). The creature was rolled into a ball of metal spikes and moved forward at high speeds by unknown propulsion. It overtook the running elves and drove itself into the nearest one, impaling him and driving the unfortunate soul into the pavement. The man was dead before he hit the ground. The Barricade Breaker uncurled itself and emerged as a hunched over techo-organic lizard creature, the spikes receding onto its back on metal plates like an armadillo shell, snarling and salivating, warding off any would-be attackers with its metallic claws.

Tsuné was not a would-be. Leaping forward he ran through the flames that stopped other soldiers and raised his long, curved sword. The former kappa spotted him and saw his determination. It rolled itself back into its spike ball form and began rolling forward. The two were on a collision course. At the last possible moment the elf leaped to the right but not before taking a swipe at the side of the monster. His sword barely made a dent in the enemy’s armor but it did force the creature to stop and unroll itself to change course more easily. The moment the Barricade Breaker resumed its normal form however, Tsuné charged forward and jammed his sword into the creature. To his surprise and horror it didn’t die but began clawing its way up the blade, forcing the warrior to let go of his sword. The creature started to reach out to him ran out of life and it fell face forward onto the street. Tsuné looked around at his allies who stared at the fiend slayer.

“Come on!” he bellowed at them, “True warriors don’t run away! Stand and fight these monsters!” Inspired, the remaining Serrani soldiers saluted (though Tsuné wasn’t an officer) and dashed off in the same direction they came, now seeking battle instead of fleeing it.

Tsuné went to the dead kappa creature to retrieve his weapon. A molten rock landed on the kappa and obliterated it and the street directly around it. Tsuné lacked any words for the irony of the moment and instead took the weapon from the elf soldier the Barricade Breaker had overrun. Other than the dagger at his side the elf seemed to never keep a single weapon throughout any battle. Some up there hates me. This was his third blade this battle.

The roof of the palace. There, we will do battle. Tsuné ran to the large stone palace in the southernmost area of the city. He tried to avoid getting into any skirmishes with the enemy. At one point he was face to face with a Fire Kin. The Barbury man raised his sword confidently as Tsuné rushed him, then he lowered it as raised his hand. Flames gushed out of his palm and the Barbury man looked on with a thin grin, waiting to see the elf in flames. He still had the grin as Tsuné continued through the flames and cut him in two. The elf paused and spared a glance at the fallen man before taking the dead man’s sword in his spare hand. With God’s sense of humor getting rather dry it was safer to carry two weapons. Tsuné took a quick glance at his sun stone, the fruit-sized rock was still a shining orange. Satisfied, he resumed his trek.

The roof of the palace. There, we will do battle. There, we will decide if your justice is carried out.

The elf could recall vividly, last night when his sworn foe had appeared just beyond the two army encampments, just as he had been told.

Only the glow of the sun stones reacting to their brother could indicate another being hidden in the shadows of the moonless light. Tsuné had come prepared, his blade out and poised to strike. His enemy chuckled at the sight.

“Relax, I’m not here to kill you –”

“Coming from a known murderer that’s hardly a reason to let my guard down” Tsuné had interrupted.

“That’s an odd thing to say coming from you.”

“What I do is different and you know it!” Tsuné had snarled, “I kill on the battlefield, I kill soldiers about to kill me. I don’t kill innocents, I don’t kill people in their sleep – and I don’t kill my friends after I betray them.”

There was a prolonged silence after that. Hunter and hunted faced each other in darkness.

Finally, the hunter said, “I’m here to avenge our comrades. The ones you killed five years ago and the one you killed only recently. But before I met out justice I want an answer to the question that has plagued me – that plagued Auhsed – for all this time.”

“And what is that?” asked the hunted, already knowing the answer.

“Why?” Tsuné said simply.

“The roof of the palace. There, we will do battle. There, we will decide if your justice is carried out. There, you will find out why.”

At last he came to the palace. The building was remarkably unscathed, though deserted, Serrani forces already having come through here. He was alone among the smoldering ruins of other buildings and facing the huge open doors that led into the white stone palace. He went in unhurriedly, taking the time to regain his strength as he found the staircase that led to the next story. It took some time but he finally made it to the roof.

And there was the enemy he had been waiting for. A battle staff in hand, long crimson hair blowing in the soft breeze that also pushed the smoke over the city, a long, wicked looking knife identical to the one Tsuné was carrying strapped at the side, four sun stones strapped to thin silver chains. Eyes that surveyed the devastation to the once fair city unflinchingly. This was the killer.

“Karen of Barbury.”

Karen turned to Tsuné and nodded to him. He was surprised by her appearance. She was still young, barely twenty if his memory served, but her eyes spoke of ages.

“You came.” she said.

Don’t go soft now! Tsuné’s mind warned. She is still the enemy regardless of the past. She is a killer and you are the judge.

“I’m here to fulfill my duty, Karen.” Tsuné replied. “Lets make this quick. First you’re going to tell me –”

“You think it’s going to be that easy?” Karen scoffed, “Grow a head, I’m not telling you anything. Not yet anyway.” She smiled thinly at Tsuné’s anger. “You want answers? You’re going to have to beat the out of me.”

With that said she pulled the sun stones off her neck and cast them to the ground. “This is just going to be you and me, no magical artifacts, just us and whatever we hold.”

Tsuné likewise pulled his single stone and tossed it on the floor. Immediately he felt heat assault him and perspiration once again flooded from his brow. He wondered if that had been Karen’s intention – 600 years of fighting experience was useless if the heat kept him from concentrating.

“Did you do this with Auhsed?” he shouted to her. Karen looked down and that was all the answer the elf needed, “You didn’t, did you? First you betray us, kill us, run away, and when a seeker of justice challenges you to honorable combat you use a cheap magic item stolen from those you betrayed to save yourself.”

“You know what Tsuné?” Karen finally butted in. She raised her staff in front of her, the crescent moon figurehead pointing towards him. “You talk too much.”

A jet of flames burst from the staff and Tsuné ducked to avoid being burned alive. Without his stone he was as defenseless against fire as the next person. And despite her age Karen was the master of her people’s fire arts. Another line of fire tried to hit him, and Tsuné barely had time to roll (nearly cutting himself on his own weapons) out of the way before he discovered to his horror that the fire was following him. Leaping to his feet, Tsuné sprinted away from the flames while at the same time trying to get closer to Karen. The girl realized this, and kept moving way and chasing him with fire.

Tsuné knew he was not going to live if they continued this way. He couldn’t reach her and he could feel his energy being sapped by the extreme closeness of her flames.

“So this is the justice you were boasting about?” the girl taunted, “This was what I had to fear all this time? You’re just as weak as Auhsed.”

“I take it you were this concerned when you fought Auhsed? When you killed him when you knew he had no chance of killing you, injured and exhausted as he was?” Tsuné shouted back.

Karen’s eyes narrowed and Tsuné knew he had stuck something. He decided to press fate.

“You had four stones, Karen. One’s yours, the other two are Docs’ and Eona’s, and the last one is Auhsed’s isn’t it? When you fought him, did you take yours off – I know he would have. Is that why you defeated him?”

The spear of fire shooting from Karen’s staff dissipated. Tsuné froze and waited as the Fire Kin girl struggled to answer. Inwardly he grinned slightly. Even after all this time there’s still a bit of the Karen I knew. Insult her honor and she’ll withdraw to armor her pride before continuing a fight.

Such a prideful habit was a weakness in battle, a weakness Tsuné immediately exploited. Elf strength and speed working over-time, he charged at his enemy, shouting out and swords raised high. Karen reacted almost immediately, she staff raised for another burst of fire – then yelped and darted out of the way as one of Tsuné’s swords flew through the heated air and nearly hit her skull.

With his poor aim, Tsuné had doubted that the blade would actually hit its target. The blade didn’t even point in the right direction but the main goal had not been to strike Karen, but to distract her. Tsuné was now four feet from his enemy.

Quickly drawing up his dagger, the elf threw himself at Karen. His sword crashed into her staff, inches above the girls head. Karen buckled under the force of Tsuné’s strike and he took the opportunity to try a strike with his dagger at her heart. But Karen crouched and leaped back before he could make the blow.

She scrambled back, he scrambled forward. She went right, he followed. She went left, all the while he stepped closer. Now the heat that was normally Karen’s ally was affecting her as well, her flames powers taking longer to summon up and wasting more time than she could spare.

“Do you remember,” Tsuné said between charges and dodging flames, “Five years ago, when we were all together? Weren’t those the good days?” Karen’s brow furrowed and her next line of fire came quicker and lasted longer. Tsuné could feel his armor heating up as the flames finally reached him. He cringed but knew that talking would antagonize her and make her expend more energy.

“Five years ago, we were all part of the Special Forces, the task unit made up of all the allied kingdoms to ensure peace within the Sun Kingdoms. We were the elite soldier. And you were the youngest of all of us.”

Tsuné swung his sword and missed again.

“You were fourteen, or was it fifteen? I lose track. But I recall an eager young girl, fresh from training, ready to serve her country at a moments notice. That enthusiasm and pure talent got you your position at such a young age. Auhsed laughed at you when we found out you were our new teammate, we all did now that I think of it.”

Karen was close. Rather than use her fire powers, she opted to take a swipe at his head with her staff. He blocked it with his sword.

“We eventually warmed up to you though. You became the heart of our team, our little light to shine the way. Any dangerous mission or life threatening task, you were there to keep everyone spirits up, to ensure that we never lost sight of what was important. You made turned us from a team of soldiers into brothers in arms.”

Karen made a swiping motion with her arm, and Tsuné sprung into the air as a horizontal arc of fire swept over the rooftop. His legs buckled when he landed back on the ground and the elf realized just how worn out he really was. Looking in front of him he saw Karen was also panting and leaning more heavily on her staff than normal.

“Then that night, when a madman from Barbury stole the sun stones from each nation. We were sent to get them back. He had friends too, people devoted to him as we were to each other. We were outnumbered and surrounded; there was no hope of escape.” Tsuné was wheezing now, it was getting hard to breathe with all the smoke, “But we fought on, even when Docs was critically injured and Auhsed was knocked out we fought on. And we made it out alive, with only five stones to show for it, but we were alive.”

Tsuné took a moment to reflect on that glorious moment. When he and his friends made it through the trap set by the crazed Fire Kin, killing the enemy and destroying most of the sun stones in the process.

“But then that night, when we were asleep and stupidly aloud you to stand guard, it all went wrong. I awoke to the sound of a fight, and I saw you trying to burn Auhsed! One hand held flames and the other was reaching for the stone around his neck. Wasn’t it you idea to keep the stones separated – one for each comrade to guard? Did that make it easier to pick us all off? One by one?”

Tsuné had stopped fighting but was completely shouting, his lungs screamed in protest but he didn’t care.

“When it was all said and done you had disappeared with three stones! And Docs and Eona had been murdered in their sleep! So before one of us dies I would still like to know why?”

A molten rock struck the side of the palace, the structure shook and Tsuné almost loss his balance. Karen glared at him, then switched her gaze to the volcano. Her entire body was heaving with every lungful of air.

“I did it because of this.” She said softly. Even with keen elf ears Tsuné could barely pick up her words.

“What do you mean?” he demanded. For the first time, he noticed that the sword he had thrown at Karen earlier was now at his feet. He placed his dagger back in his belt and picked up the blade.

The red haired girl looked to him again, “I did it because I was ordered to.”

Tsuné stared at her.

“Barbury had always been the weakest in the alliance of the Sun Kingdoms, always pushed to the other kingdoms’ wills. Even when we went to war we never saw the kind of support the others got. So when it came time to rise up on our own we took it.” Her words were proud despite what she was admitting, “All Barbury Special Forces operatives knew that at some point we would break from the Sun Kingdoms and when the madman stole the stones we knew it was time. Before we left on our mission I was given additional orders; to retrieve the stones and take them all back to Barbury.

“Even if that meant killing your fellow soldiers who’s orders ran counter to that.” Tsuné finished.

“Exactly, if I was to make a clean getaway you all had to die. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way but we got what we wanted. With the remaining sun stones in our position Barbury was free to pursue her own interest.” Karen met Tsuné eye to eye. “I did it to ensure my country’s position in this world.”

Tsuné exploded. “Are you possessed? When did this start making any sense to you?” he waved his right sword over the ruins below them, where armies still fought and the city still crumbled. “Does this look like a secure position? Is this what you murdered our friends for? You hopped off one wagon and got on another. Barbury didn’t become independent – it switched masters from the Sun Kingdoms to Unity! How is that any better?”

“It isn’t!” Karen shouted, shocking Tsuné when tears actually sprung from her eyes, “Don’t you think I know that? I tried to serve my country. I tried to do the right thing. But even I could see that Unity was taking over. But what could I do? We were faring worse under the Sun Kingdoms and the people needed new hope. They needed to have their faith in the kingdom restored! I took the chance and killed the others hoping that Barbury would be able to rise onto its feet and become just as powerful as the other kingdoms!”

“But it didn’t work out that way, did it?” Tsuné said, his tone as dry as the air.

Karen just shook her head, “Unity began influencing the kingdom more and more. I though with our newfound freedom we would have the strength to resist such control. I tried to make it known that we were our own people, not a puppet state for the Empire. But before I knew it everything I had worked for was gone! Our freedom, our fighting force, our pride, gone! We gambled – I took lives of comrades, all for nothing.”

“Yet you continue to fight for them. You don’t try to overthrow the shackles of Unity’s oppression.” Tsuné observed.

Karen laughed hollowly, “It’s too late for that. All I can do is serve my kingdom and wait until Unity gets weak. Then we can rise again… This time as our own power!” The tears in her eyes were gone. “So you see, you guys are still the enemy. And an enemy of the kingdom is an enemy of mine!”

Gripping her staff with both hands, Karen let loose a wall of fire, thundering down onto Tsuné. The elf ran back, until the wall dissipated and Karen came from behind it. Tsuné roared and charged her again. Weak from her last attack Karen only raised her staff as a ward. Tsuné brought his first sword done, then brought the other one up, swinging at the staff from underneath and knocking it clean out of Karen’s hands.

Karen staggered back, then regained her stance and formed fists. Her hands became engulfed in flames themselves on fire. Karen hurled the flames in her hands at Tsuné, but he blocked them with the flat of his swords.

Fire and steel fought like this for a long time. Tsuné raised his swords to defend against another hail of fire – only to find Karen up in his face and throwing a fiery punch at his face. He deftly avoided it and swung his swords at her. She also avoided injury and made another attempt at his body. Backing away he swung his right sword to halt her advancing fist. Then he thrust with his left.

He didn’t even realize when his sword finally made contact. Didn’t realize when the blade sunk into Karen’s chest. He only realized that the Fire Kin had stopped trying to kill him and was staring downwards. Following her eyes her looked down and saw that his sword had gone right through her body and out the other end. Blood seeped from her stomach onto the blade. Tsuné stared wide-eyed as Karen managed to pull her gaze away from the wound and look him in the face. She seemed on the verge of saying something but blood spilled from her mouth instead of words. Her eyes rolled up and she collapsed on the ground.

Tsuné stared at her body. That of a young girl who had killed for her cause and died for her cause. He noticed he had stopped breathing and took in a lungful of bad air.

“Karen,” he said softly, “They needed someone strong enough to be a warrior and young enough and patriotic enough to be manipulated to do whatever they saw fit. Yet that is no excuse for the blood on your hand.”

Tsuné turned to head back into the battle below. Karen was dead. Auhsed and the other’s deaths had been avenged. Justice had been served.
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Postby Bmat » Sun May 06, 2007 8:42 pm

By virtue of the impressive introductory letter, I was well-hooked. In addition, the story is interesting, and the bits of humor add a pleasant touch. I give it a thumbs up, and I encourage you to continue on with it.

You didn't ask for proof-reading type comments, so I'll only comment briefly that there are some punctuation problems that I noticed. The italics are a clever device. Perhaps there could be an additional phrase at the beginning of the italicized section to make sure that the reader knows what they mean- something such as "he remembered the scene... " or not.
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Postby kormic » Mon May 07, 2007 3:41 am

The first thing I noticed was 'Heaven' in the first paragraph. Personally I'd use demise, to keep in key with objectivity, perhaps a skill finely honed with one so old. Though after you talk about hell and it may be connectivity that you're after.

You have a lot of facts jostling for ones attention in the first few paragraphs which I'd try to streamline.

The use of archaic weapons coupled with the more modern seeming ones and the machinery makes it hard to picture the city. Is it towers and forts? Is it an urban sprawl? Maybe some descriptions would better portray. Although that may not gel with the letter format.

Saluting is hardly a gesture fitted to warfare.

the roof of the battle. There, we will do battle. Is this telling the recipient of the letter what will happen in the future? I can't quite grasp this one.

dead kappa creature I think just dead kappa

With God’s sense of humor getting rather dry it was safer to carry two weapons. haha. I like that.

I'm not sure if parentheticals are appropriate.

All in all it is a good read. I like it.
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