Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 21

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Sin - By Firebrand, Chapter 21

Post  Firebrand on Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:21 pm

Chapter 21

Signe glanced at the gap in the wall. “They’ve been in there for a long time…” She started to move from the brush, but her brother silently held up a hand.

“You’d only draw attention to yourself. The shadows have shifted, and there’s no gap in the aerial patrol. You’d get everyone killed.”

Signe grumbled and fidgeted with her bow. “I hate it when you’re right.”

Lisana’s face was shining with sweat. “Ivan, how much longer do we think we can hold this?”
The wildmage shrugged. “As long as I have to.”

There was a crash from inside as four figures dashed from the hole in the wall. “We have it!” Damin roared. “We got the ring!”

Sascha squawked and darted out of the tree above them. Illiya cut in front of his brother. “Wait! If something goes wrong, let me be the first. Another sorcerer could change the tide of the battle.”

Sascha begrudgingly agreed. Thalia tossed the ring high into the air, and the raven swooped to catch it in his talons. The effect was immediate. There was a bright flash of light, a puff of acrid black smoke, and a figure tumbling across the plain. The man shouted in triumph.

“I knew it! That ring consumed all the counterspells Masgard put on it! You can’t stop it from doing its job!”

He tossed the golden circle in his left hand, and glanced down at his black tunic. “You know,” the mysterious man remarked. “These were brown when I was transformed. Well, I should be glad I’m not naked!” Then, he patted his belt. "My wand's gone, that bastard!"

Miika crowed with delight. “Illiya! You’re back to normal!"

Lisana blinked. So this man was Illiya Winterhold. He had gaunt features, and was rather taller than average. He had no facial hair, but a tousled mop of dark locks cascaded down to his shoulders. The man laughed. “So I am! Here, catch, Sascha!”

Illiya tossed the ring to Sascha, and the large raven caught it. There was another flash, and a great hulk of a man crashed down to the earth, also garbed in black. He flexed his impressive biceps and picked up a large boulder. The once-again human Sascha Winterhold hurled the stone at the Masgard’s tower, imbedding it in the ramparts.

“Good to be back.”

The large man tossed the ring to the last remaining brother, and Miika grabbed it in his beak. A third flash of light, and a third human tumbled out of the tree Miika had sat in. The young man was smaller than his brothers, but like them, was clothed in black.

“I think Masgard’s spell did something to our clothes,” Miika sat softly, patting the pockets. “Blast, I’ve lost my glasses.”

Signe clapped Sascha’s shoulder. “Good to have you back, big man.”

Sascha raised an eyebrow. “Where did I go?”

Miika groaned. “I think his brain is still raven-sized.” He paused for a moment. “Then again… I don’t think it was ever any larger.”

Illiya scowled at his younger brother. “Enough, Miika. We have work to do.” He began tracing sigils in the air with his fingertip. “Ivan, what do you want us to do?”

“We have to seal the breach,” Ivan replied.

Lisana glanced at her demons. “Where’s Sin?”

Damin looked down at his hands. “Still in there.”

Lisana clenched her fist around her wand. “Then we’ll have to hold until he gets out.”

Ivan shook his head. “Lisana, it’s too dangerous. I like Sin, but we need to cut our losses. For all we know, he’s already dead.” A loud bang resounded from the top of the tower. Ivan gestured with one hand.

Illiya sighed. “When I left him, he was going toe to toe with one of my stronger demons, one of the handful who defected to Masgard. Not many survive an encounter like that. We should retreat.”

“No,” Lisana said softly. “Sin wouldn’t abandon us. I’m not going to abandon him.”

Kelrick drew his broadsword. “I’m with you, Mistress.”

A giant black shape eclipsed the sun.

***

Sin strode down the winding tower steps. Any demons that did not shrink back from the sight of his blade would flee as soon as he lashed out at them. He felt raw power surging through his veins, an indomitable strength. Sin figured this must be what it was like to be a sorcerer, to always have magic on your fingertips.

He emerged into the ground floor’s main hall to find it in utter chaos. Masgard had about thirty demons in the tower, and at least fifteen of them were here, glowering at the hole in the wall where Sin’s raiding party had emerged. His troop of about thirty human warriors were also present.

A short man in a black cloak stood behind the demons, shouting orders at the top of his voice. His cloak fell away, and Sin caught a glimpse of a bloody stump where his hand should have been.

An involuntary hiss of breath escaped the young man’s lips, and a few of the keener-eared demons turned towards him. “Master,” one of them rasped. The creature had talons like a hawk on his hands. The demon looked almost like a warped version of Anjaru, if the Air Master was caught in between his human and animal forms.

Fenris Masgard bared his teeth in the cruel facsimile of a smile. “Seize the boy.”

Sin held his sword in front of him. A sword was a tool for killing, but the only blood this one had shed had been that of Mary’s servant-demon. But now he would once again raise his blade to protect the innocent.

Some demons shrank back from the steel, but their fellows surged forward. Masgard’s human mercenaries were unaffected by the iron, robbing Sin of his principle tactic. Even though he was a fair swordsman by now, the odds were just stacked much to high against him. He could only hope to divert Masgard’s attention long enough for Mab and Chifumi to get back to his friends, and get them away.

He drove his sword through the abdomen of a demon that drew much too close, and watched as the creature sank to the ground, claws grasping at it’s bloody chest.

Sin never found out if it lived or died.

He blocked and parried as much as he was able, living on borrowed time. He sliced into several demons, leaving minor wounds but causing them to writhe with iron poisoning.

The human mercenaries pressed their assault, and Masgard drew closer. He muttered to himself as his wand flicked through the air. Sin felt a spell brewing, and a powerful one. “Fall back!” Masgard shouted, and his troops dove out of the way, leaving Sin in full view of the strike.

A shadowy mass shot from Masgard’s wand. Sin tried to dodge, but found himself rooted to the floor. A strange feeling welled up inside him, and the talismans around his neck began to burn.

“Enough of this foolishness!”

Spears of lightning emerged from the tip of Sin’s sword, striking and counterbalancing Masgard’s dark magic. The lightning forced Masgard back, knocking the man off his feet. The demons stood in stunned silence, and the humans were no better.

Sin turned and ran.

His mind was racing. He had used this same power before, when Reyaf had pursued Anjaru over the walls of Castle Town. Then, he had lied and said it was the doing of one of Harrison’s talismans. They were certainly tied to this, but they were not the cause. It didn’t feel like magic either, and he wasn’t actively casting spells.

Well, it had saved him, so he wouldn’t question it now. His chief concern was escaping this tower, as fast as possible. He came to the hole in the walls, only to find five demons gathered around it. “Get back!” he shouted, waving his sword. Three of the demons did just that, but the last two held their ground. Sin brought the sword closer, and at the last second, the two demons lost their nerve.

Sin dashed out into the cool air outside, gasping down great lungfulls of it. He sprinted towards the forest as Masgard’s avian demons swooped at him. There was a sharp cry, and one of the demons fell to earth on broken wings.

A falcon was battering the demons above Sin’s head, it’s claws curled into lethal fists. The bird dove, and with a flare of its wings, returned to it’s human-esque shape.

“Master Sin!” Anjaru gasped as they ran. “I’m sorry, but we had no choice but to leave you! How did you get out?”

“Slipped past Masgard’s minions,” Sin hissed. It was sort of the truth. He wasn’t ready to tell his friends about what really happened yet. “Masgard’s a little… shorthanded.” He grinned at the demon. “Did you get the ring?”

“Thalia’s doing, I assure you. And yes, the Winterhold brothers are back to normal.”

They raced into the tree line, and Lisana threw her arms around Sin’s neck. “We thought you were dead!”

Sin hugged her back. “No. I’m all right. A little shaken up, but all right.”

Kelrick hefted his longsword. “What’s it like in there?”

Sin took a deep breath. “I think they may come out soon. And there’s a lot more of them than there are of us.”

A man in dark clothes smirked. “Maybe not. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

“Who is—?”

“Illiya Winterhold, at your service.”

Sin let a laugh escape. “You look younger than I expected!”

“I’ll try and take that as a compliment.”

A woman with sharp-angled features nodded to Sin. “I see you made it out.”

“Mab,” Sin said sharply in reply. “Did the monkey make it?”

Mab preened. “Of course. And Anastasia too, thank you for asking.”

Anjaru whirled. “Mab? The Mab? Queen of the North Wind?”

Mab smiled, baring her teeth. “Of course, Air Master. Pleased to meet you. There will be time to chat if we survive this, so shall we focus on the task at hand?”

Anjaru nodded curtly. “Of course, my lady.”

Illiya raised a hand. “Now. I have a plan, but the spell I need to do will take some time, especially without a wand. If Masgard and his demons attack, I will need you all to cover me.”

Sascha Winterhold grinned. “No problem, brother. I’ll just hit him with a rock.”

Illiya smiled indulgently. “Yes, of course Sascha. Hit him with a lot of big rocks for me.”

A crash sounded from the distance. Signe whipped around, an arrow already in her bow. “The party’s starting.”

Ivan’s palms sparked with magic. “Chifumi, Miika, stay with Illiya. If he needs help, come get us. We’ll hold Masgard as long as we can.”

The Foresters ran down the path to the open plain before Masgard’s tower. Anjaru and Mab shifted to their bird forms and winged off through the trees. Damin and Kelrick each took one of Lisana’s flanks, allowing her to focus on her spells while they fended off attacks.

Sin moved forward, but felt Thalia’s hand on his shoulder. “Stay with me, human. Watch my back, and I’ll watch yours.” Sin nodded, and Thalia changed into her feline shape and clinging to the leather on his shoulder with her claws.

When Sin emerged from the Dark Forest, his allies were already locked in battle with Masgard’s troops. Magic flashed as Lisana and Ivan traded strikes with the demons, and Masgard himself.

Sascha roared and heaved a fallen tree trunk into a flying demon. Anjaru shirked as he dove from the sky, his talons sweeping dangerously close to Masgard. A frigid blast of arctic air surged from the north, conjured by the now-human Mab.

Thalia leapt from Sin’s shoulder, reverting to human form as she did so. Her icicle nails flashed, biting deep into the arm of a human mercenary. Sin threw up his blade in a diagonal ward as the mercenary turned on him.

“Thalia, get to the other demons!” Sin called. “The humans have iron!”

Thalia hissed, but nodded. Her slim traveling dress flared around her ankles as she whirled, driving a pylon of ice at a charging earth demon. Kelrick cast a disk of black and red hellfire at the advancing demon force, scattering them.

Sin did a mental estimation, figuring there were about thirty to thirty-five fighters on Masgard’s side, to his own side’s ten. No matter how skillful or experienced Sin’s allies were, they simply did not have the advantage of numbers.

Only he, Damin and Signe had any steel at all, and between the three of them, they would be hard pressed to use that against at least twenty-five powerful demons. Lisana and Ivan had considerable magical talent, but Masgard had proved himself more than capable. Whatever Illiya’s plan was, Sin hoped the Winterhold man executed it fast.

There was a roar from inside Masgard’s tower, and a giant dark shape hurtled from the gates. “Hakkon!” Sascha cried with alarm. The giant demon swung his club, and Damin had to dive out of the way.

“I knew I should have killed him when I had the chance!” Mab shouted. She dove towards the giant, only to be swatted out of the way like a fly. Hakkon had been driven into a berserker rage, a fury so deep that he ignored all pain.

He hurtled towards Lisana, his club ready to swing down. “No!” Sin shouted, and sprinted towards Hakkon’s legs. The giant’s wounds had been healed, by magic no doubt, but if Sin could hamstring the brute again, Lisana might have the precious seconds with which to deal with him.

A loud cry sounded from the Dark Forest. Seventeen demons shot from the trees, and slammed into Fenris’s small army. Three demons, two bearing a feline facial structure and the third the stocky build and muzzle of a bear, began to beat Hakkon back.

A demon that ran past Sin shifted into a large fox, and ripped out the throat of a human mercenary in one smooth motion. “Stay careful, human” The voice was gravely, coming from a bestial throat, and the demon was gone as quickly as it arrived.

Their ranks now swelled with these strange new demons, Sin’s allies fought back with renewed vigor. Illiya came from the forest, shouting out directions. “What is all this?” Ivan shouted back.

“My old demons, and those of my fellows, Light rest their souls!” Illiya ducked out of the way of an arrow before resuming. “They all scattered to the trees, and went a little feral, but I called them back. They will help us, my friend.”

Sin blocked the hacking claws of demon with matted dark hair and strange tattoos. He shrieked as the steel burned his skin, and Sin delivered a sharp kick to the demon’s abdomen. His sword came up… and paused.

Harrison had always taught him that demons were like humans. They were different in many ways, but they could think and feel like humans could. They weren’t like horses, or sheep, or dogs. They were closer to humans than anyone could ever realize. He couldn’t bring himself to end this creature’s life.

The demon snarled and leapt at Sin, it’s claws going for his throat. Sin fell back with a cry, and his eyes unconsciously closed. There was a roar, a clang, and then the weight on Sin’s chest lifted.

A masked, cloaked figure stood before Sin, a blue lion pacing around him. The demon lay on the ground, cleaved into two bloody halves. “You hesitated,” the figure said, turning slightly. “He was your enemy, and you hesitated. He was only a demon. Why didn’t you kill him right there?” He wiped the sword he held in his left hand along the grass, cleaning off the blood.

Sin shook his head. “Just because he was a demon doesn’t make him any less than me.”

He heard the smile in the figure’s voice. “I see. You’ve learned well.” He nodded to the lion. “Come.” They disappeared into the crowd of fighting demons.

Sin sat on the ground for a moment, the chaos of battle swarming around him, trying to gather his thoughts. Who had that been? He, for the figure had sounded like a man, had certainly not been a demon, not if he could command another demon like that, and be obeyed without question.

Sin pivoted to his feet as Mab released a tempest at Hakkon. The giant buckled, and Mab began to suck the air from his lungs, as she had in the tower. This time, Sin didn’t stop her. Hakkon had tried to hurt Lisana.

The young sorceress hurled a bolt of indigo light at Fenris Masgard. The dark sorcerer retaliated in kind, hurling a pulse of midnight-black energy at her. Ivan dove in between them, hurling a green scythe-like construct at Masgard’s attack.

They exploded on contact, allowing Lisana’s bolt to continue on. Fenris tried to throw up a shield, but barely succeeded in drawing the glyphs. Lisana’s superior force blew through it, and hurled him against the walls.

Kelrick sprinted across the battlefield, placing his boot on the sorcerer’s chest and kicking his wand away. Illiya darted over, and picked it up, turning it over in his fingers. “Yes, this will do quite nicely.” Then, he whirled on Masgard’s demons.

“Flee! Flee this place! If you run, you will be shown mercy!”

Several of them did just that. The feral demons Illiya had called upon made quick work of the rest. Lisana strode purposefully through the fast-clearing battlefield, her wand leveled at Masgard.

Signe nocked an arrow, pointing at Fenris’s forehead. “If he tries anything…”

“I’ll handle this, Signe.”

Lisana traced a glyph in the air, a quick three looping strokes. Her wand pulsed twice, and then a bolt of white light crackled from the tip to Masgard’s brow.

The man screamed for three seconds, and then fell silent and limp. Lisana recoiled from the carcass, and collapsed onto the ground. Sin ran to her side and placed an arm around her shoulders.

“I killed him, “ the young woman gasped. “I’ve never killed anything before. I've killed a man.”

Sin murmured consoling words. “It’s all over now. It’s okay, Lisana. We won.” Lisana only nodded, her eyes very distant.

Kelrick cracked his knuckles and raised his arms high. “Hellfire!”

A raging black and red inferno erupted from his palms, and soon engulfed the tower. When Illiya and Sascha cried out in protest, Kelrick silenced them with a glare. “You can build again. We have to wipe this blemish from the world.”

Hakkon’s corpse fell with a crash, shaking the earth. Any remaining demons of Masgard quickly fled, seeing their master’s broken body. Ivan surveyed the chaos with a sigh. “We won. At what cost, I do not know. But we won. Peace is restored to the North.”

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Firebrand

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