Merry Christmas: Chapter 24 of Serinity, end of 1st part

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Merry Christmas: Chapter 24 of Serinity, end of 1st part

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After weeks of tormenting the last Afridale, at the cost of three hundred thirty one brave elfin warriors and half a hundred Dragons, the beast is lead into the trap. Constant harassment along the way does nothing to improve the Afridale’s temper. Farms along the path to the volcano have been stripped of both two and four legged energy sources. Two towns, six villages and one small city left nothing behind them as they ran from Zarnar. For the last two weeks all the Afridale had consumed was a handful of starving deer and one small red fox. Without a constant source of souls to reinforce the two nearly depleted crystals in the mountains to the north, the last of the Afridale would have lost not only her magic but her life as well. The pits and traps along the line of march she’d been taunted into did little to actually harm her, yet each small diversion had drained more of her power. At last, in a small village near a large stream, the two legs made the mistake of thinking an Afridale was easy meat.

Twenty houses, a small common green and five shops huddled next to the stream. Behind rickety buildings, the Orcs readied their weapons, hoping to bring bloody justice to the creature that had pulled half a hundred warriors into oblivion. As the Afridale wades through the water, a horn sounds and six hundred blood-crazed Orc warriors charge out of hiding and attack. To their great and fateful amazement, not only is the Afridale not incapacitated by hunger, she rips through the warriors as if a whirlwind stirring dead leaves. Steel axes sliced the beast’s hide drawing blood. With horror in their eyes the warriors watched as mortal wounds healed, leaving not even so much as a scar.

Swinging her tusks like giant twin scythes Zarnar harvest souls as fast as she can touch her ivory to green skin. The roar of angered Orcs charging to their deaths is drowned out by the trumpet of a triumphant goddess. As more of their brothers in arms fall to the Afridale’s bloodstained ivory alter, the company commander orders his trumpeter to sound recall.

Defeat leaves the taste of dirt and ash in the company commander’s mouth as he watches what’s left of his company retreat in good order. Half the warriors he’d sent against the beast how lay broken and empty on the village common. The other half stumbles away in a shocked daze. The attack and slaughter lasted no longer than it takes an armed and armored warrior to run around a small keep.

Hate fills Zarnar’s eyes as she basks in the sudden influx of souls. Filled with the power of Orc souls she trumpets her defiance and begins tracking the retreating Orcs, hoping to find more easy meals. Three days later, her eagerness to harvest more Orc souls leads her down a prepared path straight into another trap.

In the volcano with walls taller than a dragon stretched straight up, a single warrior awaits the arrival of the ancient earth goddess. Pure sunlight shines down on the battleground as Serinity stands, waiting, for the monster. Her fists rest lightly on her hips. Her bronze scale cuirass darts glints of yellow light. Resting lightly across her back, Ascension awaits patiently. When the beast enters the natural arena, five thousand Orcs push boulders into the laboriously dug entrance. Zarnar has two options. Waste magic trying to move the boulders, while being pin-cushioned by steel tipped Elf arrows. On the other hand, she can take the sword from the impudent insect standing so foolishly in the center of the volcano’s floor. For Zarnar there is only the one choice.

Wave after waves of deadly missiles are launched from longbows drawn by expert marksmen. Within seconds of the attack, the air hums like a hive of disturbed bees as the arrows descend into the dry caldera striking the infuriated Zarnar. The third wave of arrows penetrates the last Afridale’s hide, making her look more like a red pincushion than a feared enemy. Another launch of arrows turns the ancient volcano into a darkened depression in the earth, leaving only the light of the glowing hatred of Zarnar’s eyes as they center on the barer of her sword.

Trumpeting her anger at being harmed by steel arrows, Zarnar charges across the rocky floor her tusks lashing from side to side, her long trunk reaching eagerly for the lone warrior that stands between her and her heart’s desire. In her eyes burn the twin promises of death and eternal entrapment in cold crystals, forever bound to Zarnar and her slightest whim.

Watching the Afridale, leave the barrage of arrows with no obvious sign of pain or incapacitation the young quatra readies for the coming battle. Her body and soul fuse into a single, focused force of nature, Serinity reaches across her shoulder, draws Ascension from its protective scabbard, and, as the monster draws closer, leaps skyward. Blue Helfire screams along the blade’s edges, touching Ascension’s point with the promise of eternal peace via a painful death, filling the canyon with unholy light while Serinity lifts higher into the morning’s brightness.

Before the killing blow Serinity aims at the Afridale’s head can land, the beast’s trunk lifts and slaps her to one side, away from her ivory tusks. Missing the mastodon’s head completely, Serinity manages to slice a large chunk off the beast’s ear. Twisting in midair, Serinity swings Ascension to score a line of open flesh along Zarnar’s side before she tucks her knees under her chin and lands, rolling away from the monster’s back feet.

The pinpricks of the arrows, along with the sword’s bite, have taken their toll. Zarnar’s powers have been shriveled by the need to heal so many wounds. Weakened by the onslaught, the Afridale slides to a stop nearly slamming into the volcano’s wall, and then gathers her strength for another charge.

Regaining her feet, Serinity turns to see Zarnar sliding to a stop, turn and charge again. Carefully the young quatra readies her body for the next attack. Instead of leaping at the Afridale’s head as before, she waits for Zarnar to come within range and then suddenly moves to her right. Ducking under the beasts swinging tusks, Serinity manages to slice Ascension through part of the Afridale’s left foreleg’s ankle, crippling the beast for several seconds, until Zarnar’s magic can heal the wound.
“So, there is weakness in you,” mutters Serinity as she watches Zarnar stop, turn and then, instead of charging mindlessly, shake her head as if trying to understand why her enemy isn’t laying smashed and bloody on the ground. Moving more slowly, the Earth Goddess lumbers toward her enemy.

Standing quietly with Ascension held loosely in her right hand, Serinity watches the Afridale’s change of tactics with a warrior’s eye. When the beast charged mindlessly at her, she had the advantage of speed and guile. Now, as the great beast lumbers toward her she knows that it’s time to switch tactics and finish this fight. Gathering her energies, she launches herself straight at the swinging tusks, running as if the gates of Hel have opened just for her. Half a heartbeat before the tusks impale her, Serinity jumps and lands on the right tusk, trusting in the warding spells she’s conjured to keep body and soul together. Using the momentum of her charge and the sway of the tusk, she makes a second leap and lands on the great beast’s neck, just behind the huge head. Riding Zarnar is like standing on a ship’s deck in a storm. It can be done, but it takes concentration. Regaining her balance Serinity lifts her arms high and then plunges Ascension deep into the monster’s neck, severing the spine, paralyzing the monster long enough to allow Serinity to finish her quest. Fear and loathing meet as one in Serinity’s voice as she casts the spell that draws the last Afridale’s soul into the sword and then sends it northward to trap it in the great crystals buried deep in the mountains of the Dwarves. The death of Zarnar brings the promise of life to the world, and an end to the fear created by the ancient goddess.

Jumping quickly from the falling mass of the mighty mastodon, Serinity lands lightly on her feet then braces herself on the trembling earth as the monster’s empty husk slams onto the ground. Walking up to the mountain of flesh and fur, the young quatra lays Ascension on the corps and draws it across matted hair, cleaning the few bits of smoking blood from the still flaming blade. Carefully sheathing her sword, Serinity walks away from the fallen Afridale and up to the eastern wall of the canyon.

Looking up she calls, “Someone toss down a rope, will ya?”

The silence that lay across the battlefield after the defeat of the last Afridale is suddenly broken by the sound of thousands of Orcs giving voice to victory. More sedate in their celebration of the victory, the Elves raise bows skyward and give thanks to their gods.

Standing near the canyon’s rim, Duke Esrailess gives his orders to waiting warriors and watches as they rush to drop a long knotted rope to his daughter. His eyes fill with pride as he watches her scramble up the rope. When Serinity reaches the top of the wall, she turns to survey the carnage on the volcano’s floor.

“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to claim the tusks as my spoils of war.” Turning her attention to her father, she sees the pride in his eyes before he tries to cover it with a not to subtle cough.

“You’ll have to ask the king,” replies her father in an emotion-choked voice while pointing to his father.

After hearing her request, King Ralph nods his head and says, “Your kill, your trophy.” Turning to one of his generals, he gives orders for the tusks to be removed and shipped to House Serinity at Milesport. Once the tusks are cut out, the tunnels under the volcano’s floor are to be collapsed, burying the last Afridale’s body under tons of volcanic ash and stone. “Since ice and snow couldn’t hold her, maybe packed earth can,” King Ralph says to himself.

“Now, young lady,” King Ralph rumbles as he returns his attention to his granddaughter. “May I return to the business of running the kingdom without you disturbing my peace of mind for at least a week?”

Tossing protocol to the wind, Serinity hugs her grandfather and stands on her tiptoe to whisper in his ear, “We’ll see, grandpa.” Patting him affectionately on his cheek, she grins and says, “We’ll see.”

Serinity and the living god The next half of The First Book of Serinity.
More rampant silliness.

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