Vir's Archive

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Deep Dive Pt 1: The Dwarves (and a new blogging focus)


A new direction...

So, up until now I have focused on showing off some of my (raw) work and trying to drum up some interest in Precipice through an extended sneak peak. I think its time to start moving away from that process into something that focuses on worldbuilding and providing background to my readers.  From now on, expect to see in-depth discussion on parts of the Precipice world that wont actually appear in the novel when it is published.  For those of you who stick with me, not only will you get some insight into the hows and whys about the Ecumene World, you will also get notes that will serve as a "director's cut" for your understanding of the book.

The tricky thing for you, dear reader, is that the nuggets of worldbuilding and setting background I plan to drop from here on out wont really have any direct context to the story until you read all of it.  Not sure what I mean... stick with me, I'll show you.

The Dwarves of the Ecumene World 

Kinda like the fantasy equivalent of these guys... 
Dwarves in the Ecumene World are different than many of the Tolkien-esque dwarves we find populating most fantasy literature these days.  In the Ecumene World the Dwarven race has suffered under the slaver's yoke for longer than any other.  Centuries ago, the Elves completed their near eradication of the free Dwarf clans, leaving the vast bulk of the race directly under the rule of the Eternal Empire.  Already accomplished miners, the Elves put those skills to brutal use -- making it so most Dwarves never see the light of day throughout their miserable and short lives.

In the modern Ecumene World, Dwarves are short, pale, and usually sport only scraggly wisps of hair.  Why?  Because that's what they would look like if they were forced to live a near complete subterranean life.  Their eyes are proportionally larger than the other races -- the better to see in the low light they toil under.  They are a short race -- the better to move about the stunty caves, crevasses, and tubes the Elves force them to work.

Dwarven lives in the Ecumene World are, to steal a phrase, nasty, brutish and short.  Many are simply worked to death.  Those that live to middle age are usually bred like cattle by their Elven masters to keep their population viable and productive.  Many are sold and traded like livestock.  Its a sad and tough existence.

Do all Dwarves suffer under the Eternal Empire's demands?  Hardly.  In fact, though small in number, there are still a handful of free clans that exist primarily in the western reaches of Dev'Arana.  These free clans are all that remain of a Dwarven culture that has almost ceased to exist.  The free clans constantly live in terror of the Empire and, as a result, are exclusively nomadic.  They constantly move in an effort to stay one step ahead of Imperial slavers and the Empire's war machine.  Many clan leaders live in perpetual terror that the Emperor will order a final completion to the pogrom that nearly wiped out the free clans generations ago.  So, the free clans move -- all the time.

One consequence of this constant movement is that what little historic Dwarven culture (such as art and literary achievements) have deteriorated.  Free Dwarves desperately hang on to the oral traditions of the halcyon days of their people before they were enslaved.  Unfortunately, those traditions are slowly being forgotten.  (note: I use the phrase "being forgotten" very specifically.  Thats not meant to be a lazy passive voice, but to suggest something more active and nefarious is going on...)

So, while the Elves may not have enslaved ALL of Dwarf-kind, they have all but destroyed the culture and history of the Dwarven people.  Dwarves, both free and enslaved, do not remember their heritage, their literary traditions, nor their social and cultural practices.  Dwarves, almost to the last, are ignorant of their heritage and legacy.  They are forced to focus almost exclusively on  immediate and short term basic needs -- food, water, and shelter.  If it doesn't have to do with survival, the Dwarves usually don't care.

Whats left in the modern Ecumene World is a sad shadow of what the Dwarven people once were.  Their ancestors would be (are?) ashamed.

+++

So, some of you might be thinking that the above description of Dwarf-kind really doesn't describe Grawfn at all.

You would be right.

Grawfn is special.  He comes from the free clans and is an example of what they could become once again if they would take the time to assess their situation rather than continually flee an enemy that largely doesn't care anymore.

Grawfn is an exception to the rule... and example that there are some Dwarves who had the insight and courage to have a vision beyond the day-to-day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Arrious Art Final


Here you go! (Art, as always, by the amazing hand of +Eric Quigley).

(and who is that guy with Arrious in the background?)





Those colors are just nuts amazing!  +Eric did a superlative job.  Arrious plays a very critical role in the overall story - as both foil and confidant to Jarious.  Its amazing to see him in full color.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Reflections on part 1, part 1.



sac·ri·fice
ˈsakrəˌfīs/
noun
  1. 1.
    an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.
    "they offer sacrifices to the spirits"
    synonyms:ritual slaughter, offering, oblation, immolation 


Some WIP art of Arrious and a "friend" by Eric Quigley
So, I have been on self-imposed writing hiatus for about two months now and only just restarted.  There are a lot of reasons for this... primarily among them is the fact that part 2 of Precipice was turning out to be a chore and not flowing as well as part 1.  I took a couple days to rally work on why that was -- and asked a few of the people that were reading my work for their insights.  The conclusion we came to was that my vision for part 2 wasnt near as clear as what I had for part 1.  This, I guess, was natural.  Part 1 was rolling around in my head for years... while part 2 was developing organically from the foundation of part 1.

So, with that knowledge in mind, I decided to take some time off and allow my ideas for part 2 simmer.  This coincided nicely with the fact that my time in Sri Lanka was rapidly coming to a close and a huge move (with the whole family) loomed.  I needed to focus on preparations, setting affairs in order, saying good by, and packing... not to mention a lot of traveling by air and car.  In the ample amount of stolen time here and there, I mulled over part 2.

In the interim, I visited Ireland, saw some cool castles, and made it back to the States with all its amazing amenities.

Part 1 was all about establishing baselines.  We now know the Car'Had members and have a fairly god idea about their motivations and capabilities.  Part 2 needs to be putting that all to the test.  Jarious is a leader, as established in part 1 -- why is that important?  What does he do with those skills?  Most importantly, how does he deal with the dark ignorances of his life?  At its core, Precipice is about sacrifices and the things people have to do in order to cope with their decisions made in light of those sacrifices.

Sacrifice, as my wise wife reminds me, isnt a sacrifice if there isnt discomfort and, yes, pain involved.

pain
pān/
noun
  1. 1.
    physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.
    "she's in great pain"
    synonyms:suffering, agony, torture, torment, discomfort 



  2. 2.
    careful effort; great care or trouble.
    "she took pains to see that everyone ate well"
    synonyms:care, effort, bother, trouble

And that was my revelation and a rekindling of the fire in my belly to write.  Part 2 is about pain.  I'm 52,000 words into this beast, and its time for the wolflings to experience the pain of their sacrifice.  There will be a cost to their actions.

There will be victory, death, small "G" gods, betrayal, paranoia, and destruction.  Stay tuned, after I do some editing, I'll post a chapter or two.

Funny, that also seems appropriate to the act of writing part 2. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Reflections on Part 15: Zombies! Procastination! Whoppers! Grilling Out!


Okay, I admit it... I took the week off from writing to catch up on s.4 of the Walking Dead.  I did slip in some light editing and took a lot of notes about Part 2, but in reality I think I wanted to give myself some time off before diving back in.

As a friend pointed out, my strongest chapters are the set pieces I have rolled around in my head for some time.  The Karsh scene is a prime example.  That has been a scene in my head for a coupel years now.  In general, I have a very clear vision for a number of events in the story and when I have that vision the scene translates into crisp writing and compelling images.  I am coming up to a series of major events and thought I would take the time to roll them around and approach them from a couple different angles so that I can make sure they are as strong as possible.  Plus, the scenes necessary to get to those momentus events are not as well defined in my mind, so I need to take the time to detail the lead-up as much as the execution.

... and that is the push/pull for me.  I want to keep forganing ahead as quickly as possible.  I want to put words on the page now.  But my best stuff?  It comes from marinating.  Think of it as fast food vs a nice grilled steak.  One is immediate, the other takes time.  I think those of us who are carnivores will always default to a well cooked and lovingly-prepared steak over fast food every time -- but fast food does offer its own distinct benefits (and I like fast food... a lot).

There is also the maxim in writing communities that you should be writing... all the time.  If you arent writing, you arent a writer and are a lesser person for it.  That gets to me.  I want to be a writer.  I want to be considered a writer... and I want to pick up the little tricks to make me a better writer such as writing at least 500 words every day.  But I am discovering that holding to that schedule isnt doing my work any favors.  So, instead of personal deadlines of 500 words a day, I am slowly shifting to a chapter a week.  I like that pace a lot better and think it plays to my strengths.

So, yeah, theres that.

And s.4 of the Walking Dead is as good as it is gut wrenching.  Watch it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Precipice Part 15: The Murderous Aftermath


Arrious approached  Jarious.  The wolfling commander, along with Fovreh, Grawfn and Torrain were tending the many wounded left in the aftermath of the fight with the Elemental.  Arrious and Morrow had been sent some time ago to scout the perimeter of the battlefield and make sure there were no further surprises looming. 

Along the crest of the hill, Fovreh was administering poultices and using some minor magics to help stave off the pain of the lightly wounded.  Grawfn, not far away and covered in some guard’s rapidly congealing blood, was tending to the more seriously wounded.  Jarious saw that Grawfn was working feverishly and with a liberal amount of his healing salves and balms to try to keep one of the veteran guards from falling into an unconsciousness he would be unlikely to wake from.  Grawfn’s short and stubby arms moved with purpose and agility while shifting between the many bleeding wounds on the man while collecting various pouches filled with herbs and powders to prepare new concoctions and handing them to Torrain, who knelt within arm’s reach of Grawfn.  Torrain’s hands moved much less adeptly, but just as purposefully, while he struggled to follow Grawfn’s cadence-like barking orders regarding precise mixtures and measurements.  This was a process the two knew well, and Torrain was uncharacteristically patient with Grawfn’s impatience.  Jarious reflected that it probably helped that Grawfn was at the pinnacle at his craft, and that the Dwarf’s incessant and rude demands immeasurably increased the patients’ chance at life.  For that, even Torrain would check his ego and work diligently under Grawfn’s ever-escalating demands for “faster, better, and more precise…” 

As he closed the last few meters towards Jarious, Arrious looked over to Grawfn and Torrain, and shook his head in concern as the two struggled with a jetting vein.  While still concentrating on finishing the wraps for a splint Jarious addressed Arrious, “There isn’t anything else of value you could do for the man.  A third would only complicate things.” He paused, “You have something, Arrious?”

“Yes, brother, I do.  Morrow found something.  A dead sentinel.”

“And the sentinel’s guards?” Jarious looked up from his bandaging. 

“Dead as well.  Something got to them quickly.  The sentinel-shaman was still on his post when he was killed, the guards weren’t but a few steps away.” 

“What did it?”

“That’s the interesting part.  We may need your help.  Can you be spared?”  Arrious looked around at the injured and dying men scattered across the hill.  Many of the wounded moaned in a steady tune with the pain flowing through their bodies.  Others simply sat or lied down, completely silent.  A few mumbled to themselves as they simply stared off into space.  Only a few were strong enough to tend to their own wounds or the injures of those closest to them.  The only ones speaking above a whisper were Grawfn and Torrain.

Jarious looked over to Grawfn, silently asking for permission to step away.  While Jarious was commander, he had no problems deferring to Grawfn on all things healing-related.    

“Yes, yes.  Go.”  Grawfn waived his right hand in the air dismissively.  Globs of old blood flicked off of his fingertips and flew into the grass nearby.  Jarious lifted himself up by steadying his hands on his knees and pushing up with a slight grunt.  He hesitated a moment to take stock of the aches and pains – nothing too serious.  He had plenty of energy left and his mind still felt sharp. 

Pushing aside thoughts of desperately needed rest, he followed behind Arrious, allowing his brother to take the lead while he focused on the remnants of the battlefield.  Things were quiet except for the approach of a handful of Junction residents who were coming to help tend the wounded now that the danger had passed.  Arrious led Jarious along the path of upturned soil and dirt that the Elemental created as it pushed its way through the ground – its sole source of locomotion – at once part of the earth but not.  The trail, which stretched on for hundreds of meters was a consistent two meters across, exactly as wide as the Elemental was.  The trail itself generally followed a direct path, diverting here and there only when Jarious’ impromptu command had done enough damage to necessitate the Elemental’s attention. 

Arrious led Jarious to the far end of the Elemental’s trail, which was the beginning of its rampage and marked the location where it emerged out of the earth.  Morrow, who had arrived to the battle last, but in time to help with the clean-up, stood alongside the mound of earth, silent and still as he waited for Jarious to arrive.  Morrow pointedly did not meet Jarious’ eyes. 

Jarious started to worry. 

Near the mound were three badly abused bodies, a spellcaster and two armored soldiers.  Jarious immediately recognized them as a sentinel and his two honor guards.  The sentinel-shaman’s robes were torn asunder and little more than rags, leaving the spellcaster nearly naked while sprawled out on the ground.  The shaman’s body was badly bruised and bloody, with brown congealed blood clinging to the edges of gaping wounds.  The honor guard, one man and one woman, were no better.  Their sets of armor were in shambles with numerous pieces savagely ripped off and strewn about the field.  All three had their eyes completely removed, the black sockets still leaking crimson blood in slow, tortuous drops.   

Jarious’ breath quickened.  These were the sacred guards of Junction, a duty respected by every resident.  The sentinels stood magical vigil over the edges of the city, warding off the numerous eldritch and spiritual dangers that gravitated towards large congregations of humans.  Without the sentinel-shamans and their unceasing work in the spirit realm, Junction could never have grown to the size it had.  Sentinels were the silent guardians of what passed for human civilization since the fall of Kandarod.  At one point in his childhood, Jarious wanted very badly to serve in the city guard and then serve as the honor guard for a sentinel.  The guards were a revered career, largely due to their close association with the sentinels.

“Gods.  The eyes,” he cursed.  “Arrious?  Morrow?  What am I looking at?” 

“A murder, we believe.”  Morrow

Jarious looked over the ripped, stabbed, and torn bodies.  “This isn’t the work of the Elemental.”  He stated matter-of-factly.

“No.  It’s not.”   Morrow’s deep voice crested just above the sound of the wind.

“You see it too.”  Arrious confirmed.  “The wounds, they aren’t from the Elemental’s bludgeoning fist.  The sentinel and his guards weren’t crushed, they were stabbed and torn to shreds.”

“Wild animals?  Orcs?  This close to Juntion?” Jarious asked.

Morrow bent over the shaman’s naked form. “We aren’t sure… probably Orcs.”   He pointed first to one deep stab wound in the shaman’s chest, then another and another.  Jarious saw the sentinel had no less than six deep stab wounds and a series of similar but smaller wounds. “Here and here.  These stab wounds.  They aren’t from the axe.” 

Jarious agreed.  “They are not from a sword, either.”

Morrow sat back on his heels, still crouched over the sentinel and the guard, made a fist, and mimicked a thrusting move.

“Any chance those wounds are the result of long-shaft spears?” Jarious asked.

“Javelins, more like.” Arrious responded. 

“Piss on me.”  Jarious immediately scanned the horizon for anything out of the ordinary.  “Orcs.  Here?  This close to Junction?”

“We think so.  Yes.”  Morrow replied flatly.  “The eyes…” 

“Yes.” Confirmation, denied until that moment, flooded Jarious.  Feral Orc females, the ones most likely to hunt, usually preferred the simplicity, versatility, portability, and speed of the javelin.  They could fight on the move, in close quarters and at range with deadly skill.  The fact that the females usually hunted in prides meant that the loss of a single javelin was never a problem, as the others always had more to share.  Many of the wild Orc prides in western Alt’Arana, the region Junction occupied, practiced a form of debased death ritual where they proved their prowess by spearing the eyes of their enemies with the javelin that made the killing blow, then eating their prize.  Jarious had seen the ritual once before and barely lived to tell the tale. 

Jarious shivered.  He quickly looked at his compatriots to make sure they had not noticed.  They did not make any indications they had seen him unnerved.  

(continued next week...)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Precipice Part 14: Bring the Beast Down!




... [continued from part 12]

The Elemental’s fist came down again, this time to finish off one of the wounded guards that was no longer mobile enough to stay out of the Elemental’s path.  Its attacks were uncoordinated and appeared to focus only on the wounded and those directly in front of the Elemental.  Jarious ordered the men to concentrate on flanking the Elemental and only occasionally stand in its way to slow it down. 

Again, the creature’s massive fist swung in, a green ball of light streaked in and struck the Elemental’s hand dead center.  Arrious’ arrow flew true, and its enchantment was enough to disrupt the Elemental’s form.  At the impact point, small arcs of green lightning danced on the creature’s form and then radiated in irregular patterns across the Elemental’s body.  The Elemental’s swing abruptly stopped, all the momentum from its attack evaporated in a magical flash.  Two heartbeats later, the interrupted swing continued - this time slower and with no momentum.  The break in the attack gave the injured guardsman the crucial time he needed to get beyond the Elemental’s arm radius.  The remaining guard and volunteers took the initiative to continue their attacks, hacking away at the creature and removing large patches of dirt and detritus.  The Elemental healed much of the physical attacks against it, though Jarious could see the guards and irregulars were, indeed, slowing the creature down. 

“AGAIN!” Jarious yelled at Arrious.  “Drive it back.”  The creature didn’t show any meaningful emotion, and it was immune to pain, but Jarious was sure he was finally turning the tide of the battle. 

Arrious was not a fast bowman.  His strength was in his unerring accuracy - easily the best, steadiest, and most consistent archer Jarious had ever known.  Luckily, speed wasn’t what Jarious needed at that moment.  With the remaining guards and irregulars pushing at the Elemental ’s flanks and the shaman assaulting the creature with spirits, what Jarious know needed was deadly accuracy. 

Arrious swiftly drew and knocked an arrow from his quiver.  His trained hand pulled the string back as he lifted the bow and aimed in one continuous action.  Jarious saw Arrious mouth the word “now” and the mage finished the incantation for the sickly green incandescent manifestation of the spell that slithered from the spellcaster’s hands onto the arrowhead.  When the spell was completed, the caster stepped back and Arrious exhaled slowly, holding completely still and waiting for the right moment to strike. 

There.

The arrow loosed with a purpose, defying attempts by the wind and sky to slow it down.  It flew true and struck the Elemental  just as the construct's other fist was at its apex in the midst of a swing.  Again, the green magic erupted into arced lightning on the Elemental ’s fist.  Again, it stopped moving for a few heartbeats.  Again its renewed swing was perceptibly slower. 

“Again!  Press the advantage,” Jarious exhorted.  The Elemental had lost the initiative, but the humans had yet to truly capitalize.  They simply didn’t have enough crucial magic to hold it off. 

“Need help?”  Jarious turned around to the familiar voice of Fovreh. 

“Tyrant’s balls, about time.”  Jarious pointed to the guards and militia.  “Help them bring it down.”  

“Fine.”  Fovreh, annoyingly relaxed, began a spell that took only a few seconds to complete.  He reached outwards with his right hand which was enveloped in blue swirling light.  The light shot from his arm towards one of the two remaining guards.  Jarious noted that Fovreh chose the last remaining guard that had not yet been wounded.  The guard’s axe flashed a brilliant blue like the color of the sky on a humid summer’s day, and the next swing that made contact with the body of the Elemental  saw minuscule lightining arcs, like those of Arrious’ enchanted arrows.  Again, with the lightning came sluggishness from the Elemental . 

“Finally,” Jarious thought, “the axes and swords did something besides give the soldiers and irregulars a false sense of confidence.”  Fovreh mumbled a few obscenities for reasons Jarious could not comprehend, and let loose a series of similar long-range enchantments.  They didn’t do anything more than make the weapon magical, but that’s all that was needed.  Plus, Jarious knew the simplicity of the spell meant that Fovreh could cast it from a distance.  More intense magical processes required proximity to work.
 
Arrious’ arrows continued to fly, hitting critical areas of the Elemental in yeoman-likefashion.  Now with stronger enhancements on their melee weapons, the men under Jarious’ ad hoc command began to make real damage on the Elemental ’s form.  Dirt, stone and earth were hacked away and not replaced.  With each hit, the Elemental slowed more.  Even the spiritual attacks appeared to be doing significant damage where only a few seconds earlier they were only a nuisance. 

In the corner of his eye Jarious could see Grawfn run in from the city directly towards a large collection of the dead and dying.  Rather than axe in hand Grawfn had already pulled his poultices and waterskin. 

Arrows flew.  Spirits attacked.  The wounded were administered to.  Soldiers and irregulars swung their weapons with renewed vigor.  Jarious commanded.  The battle was in hand, but he was damned sure he would not allow some overconfident fool to piss away their advantage. 

The Elemental, reduced to half its colossal size to something akin to simply "huge," unexpectedly exploded, its magical essence unable to hold its humanoid form together any longer.  The closest men fell back, and shielded their faces from the earthen assault, but no one seemed to be seriously injured in the immediate aftermath – simply very, very soiled. 

Jarious looked for Gral, but could not see him among the living. 

“Good day,” Fovreh muttered to no one in particular.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Precipice Part 13: The Fight Continues (continuation of part 12)


...

Jarious pointed at the men vainly fighting the Elemental.  “Shield them.  I don’t care how you do it, but get those guards some sort of magic to make that Elemental’s fists hurt less.  We need time, and those men can buy us a few minutes.”  Jarious looked over his shoulder, hoping one of the wolfings would arrive son.  He looked back at the mage who was already moving his hands in slow circular patterns to start the invocation needed to summon magical energy which he would then craft into a spell. 

The shaman had stopped his interaction with the spirits and stared at Jarious, the look on his face was expectant.

Again, Jarious had no time to deal with fools.  “Order one of your spirits to find the shaman Morrow and guide him here.  He is probably already on his way.  When Avorian’s messenger found me in my mother’s house, I sent the messenger to find my compatriots.  With luck, some or all of them are not far.  Find Morrow.  Then find the mage Fovreh.  Then the warriors Arrious, Torrain and Grawfn.  In that order.” 

Jarious turned back to the battle and shouted for two of the guardsmen who were slowed by injuries to form up a second row.  Gral barked the orders in response, ensuring his guardsmen followed Jarious’ directions. 

“Oh.”  Jarious turned back to the shaman.  “And once one of your spirits finds one of my men, then concentrate on finding reinforcements.  The closest guard keep should be in the leper district.”  Jarious paused to meet the man’s eyes, “Find my men first, only then will you raise the guard.  Understand?”

“Yes commander.”  The shaman turned away from Jarious and started another ritual.  The shaman began to whisper into the air, his eyes darting to the invisible spirit-things that danced around his body.  Without looking at the shaman, Jarious repeated his request, “Morrow.  Fovreh.  Grawfn.  Arrious.  Torrain. ” 

Jarious ordered the two wounded guards in the back row to back off from the fight and stand guard next to the spellcasters.  The number of able-bodied guards was steadily dwindling.  Only six appeared to still be largely mobile.  The heavily wounded, each bent over in their own personal agony while holding broken or fractured bones, moved to the back, still looking forward at the Elemental and trying to stay out of its way. 

The defensive line was one more broken arm away from crumbling.

The Elemental surged forward.  Gral barked orders and the Guards smartly shifted and hacked away at the looming earthen creature’s flanks.  Still, the effort was giving too much ground too quickly.  The Elemental was only about 300 meters from the first buildings and what would prove a much more difficult fight if it could start ransacking buildings.  Jarious had fought smaller Elemental s before in a city environment, and it was a miserable experience, not the least of which was because of the high death count in each case.  An Elemental  of this size would be devastating to Junction.  It had to be stopped.

First though, it had to be stopped from making it to Jarious’ position with the spellcasters.  While closing in on the city, it had veered slightly and was now rumbling towards Jarious’ position.

“Mage?  Shaman?  Finish whatever spell you are working on, we need to move shortly.”  Jarious evaluated the magical creature’s speed.  “And I mean very shortly.”  The spellcasters muttered affirmatives.

Just as Jarious was yanking the mage’s arm to force him to break concentration and move, he saw welcome movement from the corner of his eye.  Arrious was running in at a full sprint.  Once he realized the situation, he pushed himself even more, eyes forward, sweat covering his brow, and spittle trailing from the side of his mouth.  As Arrious approached he placed his hand on his sword and adjusted his momentum to take him away from Jarious and towards the Elemental. 

Jarious shoulders slumped ever so slightly in relief.  He now had resources he knew he could use.  As he pointed to a new spot on a small hillcock for the spellcasters to mount and continue their efforts, he placed his tongue against his upper lip and let out two quick and sharp whistles.  Arrious immediately slowed down and looked at his brother and commander.

Wordlessly, Jarious shook his head no.  Arrious pushed his sword back in its scabbard.  Jarious then pointed to the horizon with his fore and pointing fingers.  Arrious slowed to a stop, withdrew his bow, and feverishly worked to string it. 

“Pour it on, fools!”  Jarious yelled at the guards and spellcasters.  Arrious was a steady hand with his bow.  So steady, in fact, Jarious knew no better shot in all of the freedlands.  He needed to buy Arrious the time to string his bow correctly and find a good position to fire from – both of which required concentration and a steady hand.  Jarious needed to keep the Elemental  as far away from Arrious to keep his older brother steady and calm for the next few seconds. 

Another guard fell.  Only three remained.  They hadn’t broken as Jarious would have anticipated, but their strikes were now nothing to the Elemental .  Only the spells and spirit strikes were slowing the monstrosity at all.

It was up to Arrious. 

Jarious grabbed the mage’s chin and forcefully pointed to Arrious as he finished stringing his bow and stood up to begin the draw.

“That man there with the bow?  Run to him now.  Take his arrows and enchant them…”  The mage opened his mouth to object, likely to ask what spell effect the arrows needed.  “Horseass?!?  It doesn’t matter,” Jarious preemptively interrupted.  “Get to that man and cast any spell that will cling to those arrows.  Now. Do it now!" 

The mage ran as if his life depended on it. 

It did.

In the few seconds it took for the mage to run to Arrious, more relief came.  Hardscrabble men armed with a motley assortment of weapons came running from the city.  Irregulars.  They were all wearing red pieces of cloth tied around their right arms, the symbol of volunteers to the patrol.  They were unseasoned fighters and would trip over themselves as they wildly swung their weapons.  In a normal situation, Jarious would see them for what they were, a dangerous nuisance on the battlefield.  In this case, Jarious planned to use them as essential fodder to buy time for Arrious to do the real damage. 

“You men!  Rally around Sergeant Gral!” Jarious ordered the new arrivals to Gral’s position.  The city guard commander was on a knee, crucial steps away from the trajectory of the Elemental.  He continued to command the remaining men, only two of which appeared uninjured.  The dead and dying trailed behind the Elemental along a path of upturned soil and rock, serving as grim markers of the Elemental ’s path. 

The volunteers blindly ran forward, obviously aware of the supreme danger but ignoring their senses.  The Elemental’s fists swung in long, raking arcs as it systematically fought the new arrivals.  Fist swing after fist swing saw more and more of the foolhardy volunteers crushed to death or desperately gasping for air as their chest collapsed.  Still, they pushed on, motivated by Gral’s exhorts and the fear of what the Elemental would do to their homes.  They stood firm as their friends died. 

...

To be continued...