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Shadows of Honor (Part 9)
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(( Nine down, one to go. ))
Soth, Bream, and Kalistra moved deeper into the darkness of the cave, their descent surprisingly easy and, for the most part, uneventful. They had encountered several pockets of the creatures they had been battling but nothing that even seemed like it could have destroyed an entire battalion of rangers, let alone Randardor himself. Still, they had been destroyed, and that was a clear marker that there were still many, many more of those things somewhere down here.
“Keep ya eyes open,” Soth reminded her allies, “and ya minds sealed. We can’t let dese creatures gain da uppah hand on us wit’ us being dis deep in dere territory.” Bream and Kalistra nodded.
Soth’s glowing eyes scanned over the roof, walls, and floor of the tunnel, inspecting each by the light of her torch. They were all completely smooth, except for a long series of strange incoherent designs that ran along the full length of all the sides. Clearly these caves had not formed naturally, and the further they went down the more apparent this became. The tunnel began to round out deeper in, like the inside of a can. This only caused the trollish dark ranger what they would find at the bottom.
She found out sooner then she had thought.
The arched entrance to the final chamber of the caverns stood before them. Soth pulled back the string of her bow and strung an arrow, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. She nodded and Bream and Kalistra went to either side of the doorway. She counted down the seconds and then charged into the final room, Bream and Kalistra ran in behind her to provide cover. Instead of entering the battle they thought they would find, however, each one of the three was yanked forcibly into the air by an unseen force and their weapons were tore from their grasps.
They struggled against the invisible grasp that held them, but gave up when their attention was pulled away by a massive figure moving out of the shadows. The first thing they saw was a face, or what they guessed was supposed to be one. It had to recognizable features; ears, nose, or mouth, and even its eyes were barely visible. It looked at each of the three hovering figures before it, and a maddening, evil – even by ranger standards – laughed filled the minds of each of them.
Foolish mortal creatures
!” it yelled within their minds, Soth covering her ears reflexively to try and block out the sound – to no avail, of course. “
Your kind dared to make your dwellings on land held sacred by those that serve
Your kind dared to slay those that serve when we came to claim what is rightfully ours
Soth looked around. In the surrounding shadows she saw figures moving, and an occasional flash of light revealed the gruesome sight of slaughtered and mutilated beyond recognition. Despite herself, a feeling that she had not felt in some time welled up inside of her; fear. “
Your kind came to slay us within our home
,” Soth turned her head back to the creature as it spoke just in time to see a corpse float up to about eye level with the three rangers. Unlike the others it had not been torn apart too ravenously that the other rangers had, allowing it be identified as Randardor, Son of the Blightcaller.
You know this one
,” their captor said, “
you were sent to find him
Yes, he is important to your leader
.” Randardor’s corpse burst into flames. “
Return to him, return to your leader and give him this message; leave, leave and we shall not follow
he fails to heed this warning, then we will come for you all
If he fails to heed this warning, then you will all die
The world around Soth began to shift with what he guessed to be a teleportation spell. Everything went black and, mere seconds later, she found herself in the top floor of the Shadowed Spire. “What?” Nathanos said, standing up and looking at the three rangers that had just appeared out of thin air. “What is this? How did you get here like that?”
“Masta Blightcaller,” Soth said, struggling to stand – her legs weak from the shock of teleportation. “We ‘ave been given a warnin’. Does creacha’s plan ta return wit’ greater numbers.” She paused here. “Randardor has fallen against dem.”
Nathanos seemed to reject what Soth had said at first, but after a few seconds he slumped back down into his chain. “My Son… Dead…,” he muttered, seemingly lost to despair. The sadness that filled his dead eyes, though, was quickly replaced by sheer rage. He looked back up at three rangers. “I care not who or what this thing claims to be! Nobody stands against the Dark Rangers! Nobody disgraces the Blightcaller name and lives!”
He stood up, the fervor clear in his voice as he yelled out orders, orders that echoed all the way down to the bottom of the spire. “Rangers of the Dark Quiver, hear me! Gather your weapons, your armor, your power! Gather yourselves for battle! The creatures we have fought against to keep this land as our own will come for us! They will not get far! By the Grace of the Dark Lady and might of the Shadows, we will fight them back to whatever dark corner of the earth they come from! We will slay them all without mercy!
PREPARE FOR BATTLE
!” The Dark Ranger General stormed off to gather his own equipment.
Bream and Kalistra hurried off to prepare themselves for the coming battle, but Soth remained. This was madness, pure insanity incarnate! Nathanos was a charismatic leader, but a part of Soth – a part she had thought slain in the Chapel of Forgotten Shadow – spoke to her with clarity, and even the darker side of her nature seemed willing to listen now.
No, she could not stay here. If she did she would be slain alongside the rest of the Dark Quiver when the monsters she had seen came to claim their land. She turned and headed for the bottom of the spire, making it seem as if she was going to prepare herself for battle. She would wait until the fighting started then escape in the confusion of the battle. She would not meet death this day, not if she could help it.
Dark Ranger Marrah returned. She had been sent by Nathanos to watch the cave entrance and return when the creatures began moving. She relayed a report of what she had seen, an expression of worry on her face. Nathanos, however, only seemed to slip further into anger. “The creatures have broken through the barricade and are on their way to destroy us,” the Forsaken yelled, turning to face the assembled masses of the Quiver, his fist clenched in rage. “They will not find us easy prey, fellow rangers. We will meet them on the field of battle when they arrive! They will bring the fight to us and we will meet it with the full fury of the Dark Quiver!”
A resounding cry rose up in response to the Blightcaller’s words, all dark rangers adding their voices to it. All, that was, except for Soth.
The troll was at the back of the lines, alongside those rangers whose job it was to fire down volley after volley of arrows on the creatures when they arrived. She would be able to sneak away with ease from this point, one or two people might notice her absence, but she doubted that they would survive to report it to Nathanos, and she was sure that the rangers would be too occupied with their battle to try and stop her.
“They’re coming!” Dark Ranger Ariel yelled, peering over the hills to the west. “I see them!” Soth looked too. Yes, they were coming, and they were doing so in a force so massive that she could contemplate that it was real.
“Archers!” Nathanos yelled. “Fire!”
Soth raised her bow. One volley, then she would leave. No sense in risking her life any further. She let her arrow fly alongside the hundreds of others, and grimaced as they found their marks in the bodies of the creatures. Some, the smallest of them, died, but the vast majority just kept coming, not even slowed by the arrows that covered their bodies.
The front lines of the Dark Quiver fired off their own arrows then rushed to meet them head on. Nathanos gave the order for another volley, apparently disregarding the life of those on the front lines, and the moment those rangers around her drew back the strings of their bows Soth turned and ran.
She never once looked back.
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