Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Penn's Woods
Current Game: Mass Effect
Chapter Seventeen: The Point of No Return
It had been nearly eight hours since the beast krkode had been slain and Rhett spoke those sobering words and yet not one of the warriors had said anything since they started out on foot again. Each man replaying the battle over and over in their heads, recounting every blow, still nursing their wounds...still remembering those words:
"If we are to do what we originally set out to do… we must find a different means of fighting the Dark Lord."
They were only two days out from Viper's fortress according to Tie Guy, and still no ideas of how to deal with him when they got there.
As they made their way, the forest, that earlier teamed with life, began to become quieter and quieter. With every step they took, the trees began to look less alive and more like gnarled fingers extending from the Earth, seeming to give warning of what lay ahead. Even the ground itself seemed poisoned, giving slightly underfoot and colored a reddish hue.
Legend had it, that these lands were once a great battlefield, thousands of years ago, where Forummites of old had done battle with a Great Demon from the underworlds of Spam. So many men died in battle that day that the ground was forever stained red with their blood, and no living thing could ever grow in the poisoned soil. So the lands became barren, a wasteland, between the land of GeeBee and Jkii serving as a warning to forummites today of the painful consequences of Spam and it's dark powers.
Finally, Havoc was first to break the dreadful silence, "I suggest we make camp soon, lest I collapse from fatigue!"
The others stopped and looked back at their comrade, they could tell that Havoc, though much improved, was still fighting off the effects of the poison.
Havoc could tell what weighed on his friends minds, "I have become a hindrance. I know time is our greatest enemy, and yet I slow you down." Havoc dropped his head and continued, "leave me. Go now, and you may still make up the time I've cost you. Sherack is counting on you, you can't fail the others..."
Rhett knew Havoc spoke the truth, but could not bear to leave his friend behind, "Havoc's right, we should make camp. We will need all our strength in the next few days ahead." Rhett began unpacking and settling in for the night. The whole time, in his thoughts, he knew this delay would cost them dearly.
Leon and Tie Guy followed suit and began setting up camp. Leon began to make the campfire. after gathering wood and placing it in the clearing he made, Leon leaned forward to start the fire. When suddenly he felt a hand grab him from behind and pull him backwards, causing Leon to fall flat on his back...
"NO!", it was Tie Guy, "No fires, not from here on out! I know Viper, and I know he will have scouts out, keeping watch over these cursed lands!", Tie Guy scanned the wasteland, his stare intense, almost as if his eyes pierced the shroud of darkness that surrounded them. Satisfied, for the moment, that they were indeed alone, he continued, "We can ill afford any battles before we reach the fortress. We have neither the strength nor the numbers to wage a war."
Tie Guy turned and silently went back to making camp, while a stunned Leon slowly got back up, still not sure what just happened. After a moment to regain his footing, he quickly turned around, and set his gaze on Tie Guy. Who, by this time, was getting ready to lay down for the night.
Leon strolled over to where Tie Guy was laying and promptly kicked the prone warrior, "Who made you boss, anyways?! I know what I'm doing, you don't have to throw me around!"
A startled Tie Guy looked up at his assailant and quickly replied, "If you knew what you were doing then why were you about to signal the hordes of Viper of our position and surely send us to our graves?! Face it, you don't know what your up against and have no idea where to go from here. Without me, you wouldn't stand a chance!"
By this time Rhett was trying to get in between the two men, but to little avail. "Stop it, save it for the battle with Viper! We can't do this if we're going to accomplish our goal!" But unfortunately, Rhett's words didn't have the effect he was hoping for.
"Oh sure, more commands from our High and mighty leader, Rhett!", it was Leon, "I don't know about the rest of you but I've had it with Rhett's commands and ideas! Look at where it's got us! We're stuck in the middle of a barren wasteland in complete darkness, planning to attack a warlord who we know is impervious to earthly weapons and yet that's all we have to combat him!" It just got worse from there.
Rhett was quick to rebuttal, "Would you rather the traitor Tie Guy lead us? Remember, he once was an acolyte of Viper's, who knows what he's capable of!"
That was the final straw, each man drew his blade and in the moonlight, you could see the anger and hatred in their eyes. The three men squared off and began circling each other in some dark and twisted triangular dance, and just as they raised their blades to deal their hateful blows, a stiff wind blew through their camp. But not an ordinary wind, it carried with it something else. Something damp, dark and vile. And as the wind blew through the nearby dead and gnarled trees, their braches seemed to give life to the cold wind, and with that life, could be heard laughter. A dark and sinister laughter that caused the hair on the back of the men's necks to stand on end.
And then a voice spoke, "It's him, he's tearing us apart before we even face him in battle", it took the men a moment to realize that the voice wasn't coming from the wind, but from Havoc. In all the commotion they had forgotten their sick companion. "Don't you see what he's doing to us. At this rate we'll never reach him, let alone destroy him." by this point they could make out Havoc's outline as he stepped from the shadows, "Now, more than ever, we must stand together and work as a team or we'll never defeat Viper!"
Suddenly Rhett,Tie Guy and Leon became very aware of how close they came to doing something they would regret for eternity. Each man lowered his blade and began to breathe normally again. They exchanged apologies and made ready for sleep. Leon suggested to take turns keeping watch through the night, and offered first watch.
And as Rhett laid down on his cloak, a frightening thought occurred to him, Havoc was never supposed to be with them. It was supposed to be just the three of them. Had Havoc not intervened, well, he'd rather not think of what would have happened. Rhett's last thought as he closed his eyes was, surely fate is smiling down on them, maybe there is a chance of defeating Viper...
The night was uneventful, and morning came to the barren wasteland. The four men woke to a foggy morning and damp dew on their cloaks. Every joint ached as they stretched in silence, each man afraid to speak of last nights events. And as they broke camp, the sobering thought came to each man. Today was the day they'd reach Viper's fortress. And as fear settled into the men's hearts, they began to make their way towards the very cause of that fear.
Tie Guy lead the party, as his sorted past, gave privy to the lay of the land. And as the day grew long, each step became harder and harder to make and the tension grew thick to the point of being unbearable. Still, each man continued in silence, fighting every natural instinct to turn around and go back. They knew their jobs and knew what was riding on their success.
It was midday when they first heard it, the battle cry of Viper's minions and thundering roar of charging footsteps, even the clash of steel came resounding over the hills to the west. The battle had begun, Sherack's men were now engulfed in full blown war.
Rhett was first to speak, "So this is it? We have failed! Even now Sherack and the others are falling to Viper's Spam army and Viper, himself, is still alive unchallenged!" Anguish filled Rhett's face as he looked on towards the hills.
Tie Guy knew, more than any, Rhett was right. Even if they ran, it would still take a good four hours to reach Viper's fortress, let alone do battle with the Spam Lord. Tie Guy hung his head in Shame.
Havoc tried his hardest to block out the distant sounds of battle, but it just was too much to bear. He knew it was his fault they didn't get there in time. He slowed them down too much, and now all of GeeBee will suffer because of him. All Havoc could do was drop to his knees and cover his head in disgust.
Leon saw what was happening, and knew he had to pull it together, "We can't quit now! If nothing else we should head towards the battle and at least join our comrades, and fight valiantly to the end. We owe them that much!", but it seemed his words had little effect.
Suddenly a voice from behind them startled the men, "You worry for your friends, do you?", the men turned quickly around drawing their blades to face the unknown voice. What they saw confused them greatly.
Standing before them was a frail old man, who's face was covered by a great grey beard that extended down well below his waist. The beard was so fluffy that it seemed the man's nose rested on top of a great cloud. On his head a great pointed hat, albeit the point had long sagged over to one side now with age. The wide brim that surrounded the hat, sunk down in front covering the man's eyes from view. He was dressed in long flowing, grey robes that nearly covered his rough bare feet. His robe, though tattered, was patched with great care, and somehow managed to carry an air of greatness with it. And though he slouched slightly, the old man was probably still six foot tall. Still not knowing what the man wanted or where he came from, all four men kept their weapons raised.
"Come now, do you think an old man like myself, would dare take on four great warriors such as yourselves? You can lower you weapons, if I wanted you dead, you would be." The old man than proceeded to take a seat on a dead, fallen tree, and began brushing his dusty robes off.
They couldn't explain it, but the men felt very comfortable and lowered their weapons without argument. Rhett was the first to speak up, "Sir, who are you how did you come to this place? And for God's sake, how did we not hear you come up on us?"
The old man chuckled to himself, "Silly me, I have forgotten to introduce myself. I am ChrisC3po, and how I came here is not important. It's why you've come here, Rhett, that's important."
"How do you know my name, old man?" Rhett questioned, "and how do you know why were here?"
"My, my, full of questions aren't we?" Smiled the old man, "I know all about you and your men's quest to vanquish Lord Viper, and how even now your comrade's, Sherack Nhar's, army is slowly being overwhelmed by the Dark Lord's armies. And how you blame yourself for what has happened."
"But it's true, we have failed! Failed to kill Viper in time to leave his armies leaderless and defenseless for our friends!", Leon exclaimed.
"So sure are you", The man replied, "If you are cowards and quitters, perhaps I have wasted my time..."
"Now hold on, we're not cowards and we're certainly not quitters!", retorted Tie Guy, "It's already over, we couldn't have quitted!"
"Ah, but it isn't over.", ChrisC3po rose to his feet, "You merely perceive it that way. Change your perception, and change your outcome."
"But what does that mean?", cried Rhett.
"It means, young man, you change your outlook, and I may just help you.", the old man said sternly.
"Bah! What help can a decrepit old man give us?!", Tie Guy yelled, "Enough of this, we're wasting time! Let us go to the battlefield and help the only way we can now!"
The Old man looked to Rhett and gently said, "Let me see the stick you carry at your side."
Rhett obliged the old man and handed over his lucky stick, with which he slayed krkode earlier. The old man held the stick up high and began uttering words none of the other men understood. Suddenly the ground shook and a mighty wind blew around them causing the old man's robe and cloak to whip in the wind. His beard became white as snow and his voice began to echo throughout the land, booming with authority. The old man went from looking so fragile to standing erect well over six feet tall, his physique looking so strong and muscular. Rhett's stick began to glow an eerie candescent blue in the old man's hands.
Suddenly it was all over. The ground stopped quaking, the wind stood still and the old man resumed his slouched over position, but the old man's eyes still burned of white embers. The warriors stood speechless, not knowing what happens next. As it was, they didn't need to know, for the old man spoke next.
"Rhett, this stick is magically blessed and no longer obeys the rules of this world. With this stick, you can strike Viper down. But be warned, with this weapon comes great responsibility. No mortal man, should have such a weapon, but dark times call for drastic measures. Do you understand, what I've just said?", ChrisC3po stared deep into Rhett's soul and waited for a response.
Rhett understood what the old man said, but couldn't understand one thing, "Why Me?", Rhett asked.
"It is not for you to know why, but that you know what." The old man replied, "It is the will of the forum, that Viper be destroyed, and it is that same will that brings you to me." The old man then turned to the others, and as if he pulled them from thin air, he handed each of them an item.
"To Leon, a bow and quiver, take care my child for these arrows dispel the illusions of the dark Lord of Spam, use them wisely, for Viper will surely use his dark magic to confuse and disorientate!", with that, the old man handed Leon the magical bow and quiver.
"To Tie Guy, a shield of protection, forged by the gods to repel Spam in it's most purest forms. It will help shield you from your own past, which Viper will surely use against you!", He then handed Tie Guy the large shield which shone with otherworldly beauty.
"And finally to Havoc, I give you this cloak of invisibility, that try as he may, Viper will be unable to see or locate you even with his darkest magic! Simply clasp the cloak and it will activate." ChrisC3po then placed the heavy cloak on Havoc's shoulders.
"Now go my children! Use your gifts wisely and the Dark Lord will not prevail. Godspeed to you on your quest!"
The old man waved his hands one time and suddenly they found themselves standing before a gigantic black castle which stunk of death and decay. As they looked around, there was no sign of the old man, just desolation and emptiness. They could still hear in the distance the clash of steel and cries of the battle waging just a few miles of where they were now. They were not too late! there was still time!
Drawing Strength from the new-found hope, Rhett looked at the men, drew his weapon, and lead them into the dark unknown...
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand
Last edited by Havoc Stryphe; 06-28-2002 at 02:08 AM.