Triad in Dark Ages
The ground had been soaked by rain for 3 days. Puddles crowded each other on the ground. Falling drops splashed and trickled down buildings and down ravines. Rainbarrels filled to capacity with water and then spilled over. A lone figure dashed through the streets. His body wrapped by a holocaust cloak as black as the night. He paused for a second at a wooden pole that marked the intersection of two roads. Gathering himself against the cold, he pulls out a paper scroll, bearing the seal of the Duke Alastair. Breaking the seal, he pounds a nail into the cold wood, turns on his heels, and sprints again down the road once more.
The parchment, soaking in the rain reads:
Reward: 250,000 Gold for the head of Lorcan Darklesh, murderer, rapist, thief, and tyrant to the royal crown.
“Come on, Tara. We shouldn’t be here, our parents will get worried.”
“Will you just relax Colm? They’re just mice. Admittedly big mice, but they won’t hurt.”
“But why? They don’t hurt anything? And they bite really hard!”
“Why? Because the crazy old man pays a few coins for the bits and pieces of food that they drag around. That’s why! We need money to buy armor, so we fight mice”
Tara brushed the mouse guts around with her sharpened stick and straightened her short blue hair with her free hand. She had liked it long, it looked pretty that way. Now she looked like a boy. And all the boys teased her about it. Even her uncle had called her a tomboy. She hated that. They were all jerks though so it didn’t matter. She ignored all of them.
Except Colm. Colm didn’t tease her. He was nice. Cowardly, weak, skinny and with flaming curly red hair, but nice. If he would just stop worrying about everything she woudn’t have to lecture him so much.
“Please Tara, can’t we just go home?”
“Why do you always have to be so weak? We need money. Our families need money. Your dad hasn’t worked in years. We need to get money. It’s that simple.”
“But we always end up—“
“Colm... over there... there they are.”
Colm said something in response, but Tara didn’t listen. Every time the small band of hunters walked through the high floors of the catacombs, Tara made sure she was there to see it. The proud warrior, wise wizard, a rogue, and a man in strange pants and no shirt she couldn’t identify. Power radiated from them, almost tangible to Tara. They were so noble, so powerful. So utterly unreachable. Tara had never even gotten up the courage to ask their names. She was too scared to even approach them. She stared blankly at where they had stood even after they had past, silently reverencing the ground they had walked on.
“Tara. Tara... Hello?”
“Tara, I can hear them, they’re talking about something over there.”
“Talking? Quick, we gotta go see what they’re talking about”
“No Tara, there’s spiders over there. Come back!”
Tara was past concern. She had to see her idols again, bathe in their wisdom. Perhaps they were discussing secret warrior things. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that Tara was not about to pass up. Colm tromped along behind her, determined not to be left alone in the catacombs.
“Taaaraaaaa....come on. There could be—“
“Shh! I’m trying to hear them.”
Tara strained her ears to hear the warriors gathered around a torch down the hall.
“Ok,” said the female mage, clothed in a dark purple cloak, “I’ll admit, 250,000 gold is a lot of money. But it’s Duke Alastair. I wouldn’t trust him to follow through.”
The rogue nodded in acceptance. “True, true. But the fact that nearly everyone in the kingdom has at least heard of the reward will probably keep him honest.”
“But could we do it? Darklesh commands a small army of underlings. They’re not strong, but there’s enough of them to cause a problem.” The monk argued.
“Don’t worry about the underlings,” retorted the mage. “A powerful enough spell can be spread out upon all of them. It may involve some preparations beforehand. But we can send Dermot to find out where they’ll be heading and set up and ambush. I’ll make a ritual circle and when they get close. Wham. No more underlings.”
The Rogue, obviously named Dermot, nodded in acceptance.
The Warrior finally spoke, deep and booming. “We are in acceptance then. Dermot will report on their whereabouts, Lucia will prepare a circle. Which will leave Zephan and myself to dispatch Darklesh.”
Zephan replied. “I won’t need your help Parlan, I’m still faster than you are.”
“Alright, alright, we shall see how fast you are. We’ll meet back by the crossroads in—“
The centipede had crawled up behind Tara so silently that she hadn’t even heard it until it was nearly upon her. It’s fangs dripped with some unnamed poison and its eyes glowed in the eerie darkness. Colm froze in fear, certain he was about to die. Tara readied her wooden blade to defend herself, determined beyond anything to protect herself and her friends. Behind her Zephan and Parlan stood in shocked silence at the young girl standing so strongly against the deadly beast. There was something about her.
Their thoughts were scattered as Lucia finished her spell and the centipede screeched in pain, engulfed in a powerful flame. In an instant it was reduced to a dark scorch mark on the ground. Fearing discovery by the hunters, Tara snatched Colm by the arm and ran up the stairs and into the light.
“Who was that?” asked Dermot.
“I don’t know,” replied Palm, “she looked so...”
“Tomboyish?” quipped Zephan.
“...strong.” Lucia finished. “And the boy was almost--”
“Hey, hey! We’ve got work to do people. I’ll meet you later.” Dermot melted into the shadows and disappeared.
“I hate when he does that.” Said Lucia.
“Tara, I know I’ve said this before, but this is a really bad idea.”
“Shh! You little complainer. I’ve told you a hundred times. Since they had to set up the ambush in the woods, they’ve had to clear out a lot of animals. Each of these mantis eyes is enough to live off of for weeks! Besides, I’ve waited for months to see them in action. I want to see how the professionals pull off an ambush. Now sit still and just watch. They don’t know we’re here.” v A bit farther down the dirt road sat Palm. He sat hidden in the bushes and stared down the brightly lit forest pathway, waiting patiently. He felt rather than heard or saw Dermot “materialize” behind him.
“Lucia just finished the circle, you can’t see it from down the road. Zephan is up in the trees on the other side of the path. Darklesh should be here in a matter of minutes. All is ready.”
“You’ve outdone yourself Dermot.” Replied Palm.
“Hey, what do you want to do about those kids?”
“Nothing.” Said Palm. “The girl’s smart enough to stay far back. And she’s kept them pretty well hidden. You’ve had a time keeping tabs on them, haven’t you.”
“Humph.” Spoke Dermot, and he disappeared. v Palm smiled to himself, still staring down the road. He hoped that girl would keep herself alive for a while. She certainly had potential, perhaps she would awaken to the warrior path. The thought had barely formed in his mind when he saw the puffs of dust in the distance. Darklesh was coming.
Inside the shaded comfort of the horse-drawn carriage, Darklesh sat with a map of the region, lines drawn where he would soon move his forces. It would be a good month.
“Sir Darklesh? We have located the ambush. They completed the magical circle, but we’ll make sure the mage doesn’t live to cast the spell.”
“Good.” said the gravely voice. “Don’t let them disturb me.”
“Yes sir.” The rider on his horse rode ahead to give the word to attack. It would be a good month.
“Steady on,” thought Palm, “Just a little farther and we’ll wipe all of your little forces to the wind, then we’ll collect that gold and—“
Lucia’s piercing scream broke his thoughts. He turned around to see the mage with a sword in her side, one of Darklesh’s minions standing triumphantly behind her. In an instant, she fell to the ground. Then all hell broke loose. The black-armored underlings of Darklesh fell upon each of the heroes. Palm barely had time to draw his sword. This was not the ambush he had planned. With the mage down, it was only a matter of time before they were overwhelmed.
“ZEPHAN!” Screamed Palm, “Get your speedy feet over to Lucia with a red! We need the spell cast!”
“I’m busy!” Replied Zephan. He began to beat off his attackers as best he could with his hands and feet, twisting and kicking in incredible ways. He disarmed a few of his attackers, spun around and planted his feet into their face. Their heads rattled around inside the helmet for a second before the fell.
Palm swung the sword in a wide arc, cutting easily through two of the opposing solders. Another 3 sprang up in their place, and Palm did all he could to parry their attacks.
Dermot, dejected that he had not detected the advancing enemies, sprang from shadow to shadow, striking with a knife or setting traps wherever he could. He turned too late to see the black form looming over him, and the axe caught him squarely in the shoulder.
The hunters were losing.
Tara sat in stunned silence. Her heroes were loosing. It wasn’t possible. The black men had fought dirty. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t FAIR! She wouldn’t set still, she wasn’t going to let it happen. She grabbed her stick, set strong in determination.
And she charged.
Palm swung his sword back and upward, catching the side of his foe’s armor. Red streaked across the armor, but only superficially. The black man chopped downward, and it was all Palm could do to parry, but it threw him completely off balance. The next strike would be the last. Suddenly, the black man screamed, dropping his sword. Palm quickly lunged forward, driving his sword through the man. He looked down and saw Tara.
“What are you...” Palm stuttered.
Tara looked up and smiled. She had stabbed the wound with her wooden sword, paining the black man long enough for Palm to finish the job.
“Thank you little one. But if this onslaught keeps up, I don’t know how much longer any of us will last.”
Colm sat in the shadows of the bushes. Cowering in fear. He didn’t want to loose Tara. He didn’t want to die. But there was nothing that he could—
“Colm.” v “Eh? Who’s there? Who said that?”
“Colm, it’s the mage. We need your help”
Colm was confused. He wasn’t hearing the voice; it was just, there. “But I can’t help you, I can’t help anyone!”
“Colm, I’ve felt within you, you have the gift. I’ve felt the strength of the mage in your aura. You can complete the spell.”
“Complete? What do I do?”
“I need you to be strong for me Colm, I need you to be brave. Can you do that?”
Colm thought to himself. He had never been brave. He had never been strong. He couldn’t be a mage. It was preposterous. It was impossible.
“Yes,” Colm said, “I can.”
“Good lad, good lad. Now, run out into the circle in the road. Stand in the middle, facing the coach coming down the road.”
Colm gathered his reserve, planted his feet, and sprinted as fast as his stubby little legs would carry him. He reached the circle unnoticed. “Ok, now what, now what?!?”
“Gather yourself now Colm. Hear my words. Let them repeat themselves in your mind.”
Colm heard the words. Ancient incantations, he felt the energy in the words, he began to feel the magiks form themselves.
“Do you feel that Colm? Can you feel the energy?”
“Yes.” Replied Colm, almost lost in a state of euphoric power. “I can feel it.”
“Push it outward Colm, out as far as you can.”
Colm gathered his reserve and pushed.
Darklesh closed his eyes. The sounds of pain from outside gave him joy. That would teach them to try to defeat the great warlord Darklesh. He would move unchallenged across this realm. It would be a good month.
The cart suddenly stopped. Darklesh looked up at the doorway, but no one appeared for a few seconds. Suddenly, the door was ripped off its hinges. And in the doorway, battered but standing, stood Palm and Zephan.
Darklesh stuttered. “But the screams I heard. You should be dead.”
Palm smiled. “Those were your men screaming. Our backup mage took care of them.”
Zephan then spoke. “And now, sir, we are in need of your head.”
Lucia sat on a stone, nursing her wound. Tara threw down the empty red potion. Colm walked over with Dermot, nursing a similar wound.
“What’s the matter,” prodded Lucia, “couldn’t disappear fast enough?”
Lucia turned her attention to the young ones. “Now both of you, I want you to listen. Today you both awakened to your new powers. You have a long road ahead of you, you will need someone to teach you, and I think that we would be honored to do just that.”
Colm and Tara looked at each other.
“Well, we’d love too, but there’s one thing we need to do first.”
“Honey! Where have you been? Your father and I have been worried sick.”
“I’m sorry mom, but I can’t say long, I just had to give you this and tell you I love you. I’ll be back every once in a while! I’ve got a lot to learn!” Tara yelled as she quickly ran back to the mysterious figures by the roadway.
“What the... What could she have to give me?” She opened the pouch and spilled out more gold than she had ever seen in her life.