Friday, October 12, 2007

Where There's a Whip

"Can we stop now?" Faile asked quietly. Though her voice was soft and slightly muffled by her mask of bandages, the winds that always circled her carried her words to everyone nearby. She did not, and perhaps could not, speak very loudly, it was impossible not to hear her.

"Faile," Azure looked back sympathetically. "I am sorry but we have to press on. Not only have we made the classic mistake of letting the man who cannot get fatigued set the pace of the march, but every moment we delay is another in which we might be discovered." His cyan and white silk robes fluttered in one of Faile's breezes, a random motion on an otherwise serene and utter constant person.

"Yeah!" From the head of the group, Corundar called back without stopping or turning his head. "What Blue said. We gotta get as close as possible to the Citadel before we get spotted. The Lord of this place ain't gonna run out of troops. If we have to fight out way to Cavitas, we won't make it very far."

"If you say so." Nyx punctuated her words with the sound of steel clearing steel. Her runesword now in hand, she kept walking forward at a grim pace, actually passing Faile and falling into step right behind Corundar. "I welcome a fight."

Now in the back of the group, Byrne nodded and murmured, "As do I." Her hand rested over the haft of her axe. Sensing her inner turmoil, her weapon's invisible blade began to pulse with fiery life. It could tell she wanted blood but did not understand its mistress well enough to realize that most what she wanted to do was bleed...

"I cannot say that a battle would be a welcome thing, siblings," Akasha's voice was clear and calm. "But please remember that if we come into conflict too soon, we will be fatigued and battered long before we reach the castle gates."

"That's what you are for."

"My healing is not infinite, Nyx, as you well know. The Dark One's troops are. If we get caught out in the open, we will surely fall before we even see Citadel Cavitas."

"I agree with you in theory, Akasha, but there's one thing you're wrong about." Corundar rumbled, literally and figuratively, to a halt at the edge of a wide crevasse. Before she could ask him to explain, he did so silently by pointing far into the dark distance.

There, surrounded a dim glow of corpselight, a massive tower of pale stone and titanic white columns. Even from miles away in the din of night, they could all tell that those pillars were carved bone. It was a nightmare of architecture, a maddening complex yet viciously simple construction borne from the terrible mind of a vile god.

Citadel Cavitas, the physical seat of Vecna's power.

Nyx was the first to speak. "Fine. We can see it now."

"I would still rather not fight anyone until we get to it, Nyx. Every battle before we reach the Dark Lord himself will only sap our strength and drain our resources."

"Your resources, perhaps. Every death makes me stronger. "

Azure spoke up again, trying as always to diffuse the impending argument. "Ladies, please. I think we can all agree that we would be better off getting to the Citadel as quickly as possible. Can we please no argue and just move on?"

The quiet winds rose up, moving along everyone's faces in gentle but insistent lashes. "Yes. We need to keep going. We cannot fight the Lord of Secrets and each other if we hope to survive this."

Byrne, quietly, murmured something under her breath. Unfortunately, she did so at precisely the moment when no one else was talking and there was still, empty air between her and the others. Everyone heard her voice but no one could make it out.

"What was that, Lady Fire?" Azure asked in concern.


"No, seriously. What did you say?" Corundar stared at her, his brow furrowed. "If you've got something to add, just do so."

She shook her head. "It wasn't important."

The winds flared again, this time carrying Faile's words like a small clap of thunder.


Byrne winced. Then, taking in a deep breath and looking down at the ground, she spoke just loud enough to be heard. "I said, 'Some of us don't deserve to survive.' That's all. Maybe some of us should die."

Before anyone could respond with more that a shocked look or grim eyes, a blur of iridescent white came shooting up over the edge of the cliff right in front of Corundar, soaring high over head to hover on wings of shimmering pearl. From the back of the sudden dragon, its rider shouted down to all of them with words of resigned hatred.

"Perhaps I can be of assistance with that!"