May 18, 2015
It took three long, danger filled days, but the warriors of Yig traveled off their thick jungle topped plateau and entered the hard wood forest that stretched between the mighty green topped peaks. Upon reaching a rocky ridge that overlooked a long valley, Mythcul called for a halt.
As Jack gazed down into the lush canyon that stretched roughly northeast by southwest, he half expected to see the Darken army ploughing through the trees below them. Since the sun had just passed mid-day, it confused Jack to see the warriors removing their packs and making camp. These men had pushed themselves beyond all normal limits for the last four days, but they disregarded the sunlight in favor of an early camp. It didn’t make any sense.
Unable to find Mythcul or any of the other Shamans, Jack located Shadowknife and had him accompany him to where Huth-allan-nith was hard at work cutting down a small groove of saplings. Jack guessed they would be about the right size for spears.
“Okay,” he said to the Splinter Darcarre., “Ask him why we stopped and what we are doing?”
Huth-allan-nith, who remained foul tempered on the best of days, looked quite put off by being forced to communicate with a Xemmoni, no matter which side he was on. He answered in a few terse sentences and then returned to the seven men he worked with.
Shadowknife regarded Jack with a wry smile. “I was informed that the Shamans are communing with your Yig. It appears that our various groups have slowed down the Darken army enough for us to be able to reach this valley before them. However, they remain uncertain as to how much time we might possess before the army reaches us. They should know the answer shortly.”
Jack spoke without taking his eyes of the men cutting through the trees. “I suppose worse things could happen. We would have a strong defensive position, if the army were to pass below us. Although I’m not sure how much damage we could do to them from this far up. We could create rockslides I suppose. But there would still be the issue of-”
A cloud of inky smoke blossomed into existence so abruptly that it left even Shadowknife startled and two figures appeared before him.
One he recognized only too well. Tynilia’s nimble body was the first to exit the lingering smoke, but she’d looked better. Her clothes were damaged and singed as was much of the rest of her. She took two steps forward and would have fallen, if Jack hadn’t rushed forward and caught her before she hit the forest floor.
The second figure proved less welcome. The large Splinter Darcarre, Met-A-Lock, who he’d seen latching himself onto Tynilia before he had left, hurried out of the cloud and moved in to help support the young female Stalwart. He eyed Jack as though he was upset that Jack dared lay hands on her.
Tynilia brushed both of their hands away, but Jack placed a light hand on her shoulder and let the power of his healing ability flow into her.
She drew a sharp breath, but then relaxed, if only a hair. “Thanks for that.” She appeared to be having a problem meeting his gaze and preferred to take in her burnt clothes. She caressed what was once a lacy black decoration on her top, but it crumbled into ash and drifted away.
After another glare at Jack, Met-A-Lock stepped away and conversed with Shadowknife in a different language.
Finally meeting his gaze, she looked up at him and her little body trembled. He wanted more than anything to just take her into his arms, but with so many warriors watching them, he held back.
“Jack, we were doing everything as planned. Both the Splinters and… our southern force struck at the Darken Army. We weakened and delayed it in every manner possible. While the southern Stalwart force cut off their supply lines and picked off stragglers, we stayed ahead of the army, laying traps and creating obstacles.”
“But then disaster struck, or maybe I should say Vile struck. He attacked just after dawn and brought four Ripperkah with him. He raged through our camp killing men by the Dozen. The Splinter Darcarre was all but destroyed and were spreading to the winds as we escaped. I saw their Shinto, Pit-Tal-icalli, trying to rally his men and make a stand, but I don’t see how he could have survived. Perhaps I should have stayed, but…” he eyes had lowered, but then found his again, “But I thought that maybe I could do more good coming here to you.”
He touched her shoulder with gentle fingers. “You did the right thing. We can fight together here. There would have been no sense risking your life for a battle you would have been hard pressed to win.”
Tears had appeared in the corner of her eyes. “No Jack, you don’t understand. I didn’t come here to fight by your side. I’m not like you followers of the forest. I can’t detect where your forces are. I’ve been searching for you for over a day. Vile attacked us a day and a half ago.”
She grabbed both his arms. “I came here to warn you! He’ll be coming for your group next, probably today.”
To be continued next Monday
May 11, 2015
They set out early the following morning. Jack, Mythcul, and Huth-allan-nith led the eighty warriors of Yig into the thick forest. Jack had never experienced such a powerful force who followed his God, but compared to the army they opposed, it almost felt like a wasted effort. Still Jack had to remind himself that they also had the jungle and the earth itself as allies and the Darken army would soon not know what hit them.
It only took two hours for the group to receive its first assault. More of the giant trollish things that Jack had fought before assaulted them, but before they could do much more than show themselves, the shamans caused the earth and forests to erupt with the powers of Yig. Trees twisted and crushed. The jungle floors opened up to swallow beasts whole. Almost before it started, the battle was done. Jack had never gotten a chance to assist and figured that might have been a first for him.
One man had been thrown against a tree and lay limp on the ground, but when Mythcul’s mystic healing got him up on his feet, the men let out an excited cheer.
Jack’s smile joined the others, while the men gathered up their weapons and moved back into their marching order.
While he waited, a patch of darkness fell over him.
“So are you going to introduce me to your new friends,” a shrouded voice touched his mind.
“Shadowknife,” he said aloud. “Yes, we might as well get this over with.”
The Splinter Darcarre’s reception was cold, but no fights broke out and besides a few muttered comments, they left the Xemmoni alone. Although Jack doubted the man would ever admit it, he stuck close to Jack for protection.
More creatures from the Dark Alliance Xemmoni races assaulted them throughout the day, but they were either beaten back or destroyed. When the made it to camp without suffering a single loss of life, it improved their spirits and wild songs and chanting were taken up by the warriors as they prepared the overnight camp.
Shadowknife had volunteered to patrol around the camp and after his return, he drew up into the lingering shadows under a cluster of tree near where Jack prepared his blankets.
“Your group did will today. Someone would have to be a fool to attack such a group of Stalwarts located on their own turf.”
Although Jack felt little friendship toward the agent of darkness, but did enjoy being able to converse. “We’ll see if it will be enough to tip the scale when we engage the enemy’s true force. Any clue to the main army’s location?”
“Last I heard it still headed toward the northeast, straight to where you pointed it. I believe both your allies to the south and my Nest to the east have begun their hit and run assaults on the Darken’s flanks. Both thought it best to have the army enter the outskirts of the mountains and forests before such assaults commenced.”
“I can’t fault them there, but I’m sure they play a dangerous game.”
“A game that we will soon join.” Shadowknife moved slightly a greater darkness within the black.
“Do you know if the two southern forces are in communications with each other?”
“I believe your ally Tynilia is assuring that this is the case.”
Jack winced at her name. He had grown fond of the independent woman, despite their differences and her already belonging to another.
Shaking his head, he left the Darcarre to his shadows and bedded down for the night. Sleep eluded him and when at last he drifted off, he was plagued by troubled dreams.
To be continued next Monday
May 4, 2015
It had been a long two day march and through each step of the way, Jack had ruminated over how far Darken’s army may have travel. The fate of Tynilia also weighed heavy on his mind. Although she was involved with another man and the follower of the darkest of the Stalwart gods, he remained concerned over her safety.
Yet, the time had come for him to do something he had dreaded during the entire trek. He would have to enter the village of Yig and not only explain his unannounced exit, but somehow convince them to ally themselves with their fiercest rivals. It was not a task he looked forward too and he figured if there had been a means to return to his own earth at that moment, he would have taken it.
“Might as well just get this over with,” he said as the outskirts of the village of Yig came into view.
“As you wish,” Shadowknife said in an even voice. “I however, will take my leave. I doubt my presence would make anything easier for you. I will remain in the forest until you have completed this task. Summon me, but giving two sharp whistles and I will return.” Then, before Jack could reply, the Darcarre faded into mixed shadows, like he had never existed.
Nodding his head, Jack drew in a deep breath and proceeded toward the front gate of the village. The wooden gate had been left open. No guards manned the log wall and Jack strode into the village like he owned the place. Both men and women ceased what they were doing and stared his way open mouthed. The hush was replaced by chatter and the villagers that weren’t present began to exit their homes.
Mythcul was one of them and his wise eyes regarded him with a silent appraisal. The village hushed as he walked slowly toward Jack. He paused a few feet before him and their gaze met.
Jack tensed until the old shaman’s face cracked into a grin. Then he laughed as he embraced Jack into a huge hug. The village erupted in cheers and as one rushed forward and ran their palms over his shoulders and legs.
When Mythcul pulled away a figure appeared. It was the warrior Huth-allan-nith and the somber man that Jack had experienced some issues with, moved forward and clasped Jack by the arm.
Jack looked around with a grin of his own. “Maybe this isn’t going to be as bad as I thought.”
* * *
Jack had almost forgotten about the language barrier that he had between the villagers, so the discussion moved slowly at first. Still, everyone was well aware of the army pushing into the mountains and the need to do something or perish.
Jack won a few popularity points when he conveyed how he had aimed the Darken army at the Tezcatlipoca village instead of theirs. This proved useful when he was required to tell them that they would not only be fighting alongside the Tezcatlipoca followers, but far worse, the Splinter Darcarre. He heard grumbling, but like every other group, they figured letting enemies fight enemies would be a win/win proposition in the end.
Although the meeting nearly stretched until dawn, the leaders agreed to meet the enemy out in the field. If the followers of Yig helped insure it broke against the walls of the Dark Ones, then their village would remain safe. Although it went mostly unsaid, everyone knew that if the army of Darken destroyed the Tezcatlipoca village, theirs would be next.
The leaders would be allowing the warriors a day to rest and prepare, but had agreed to set out at dawn the following day.
Jack claimed the small hut he had been given weeks before and luckily had no one disturb him before a well deserved sleep claimed his weary bones.
To be continued next Monday