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The Last T'aldhariem
The dark and gloomy streets of Tel’andeir were silent, with not a sound daring to puncture the silence. A red, smoking light cast shadows upon the shattered city. Broken spires and caved in buildings provided no shelter from the cold, ruthless night. The shadows danced in tune with the fires, merrily dancing to the tune of death. Fine, woven carpets were stained red and scorched black.
A great, crackling fire flared up at the center of Tel’andeir, and screams tore at the blood red moon. Hopes and dreams of mercy and life died with the fire, with the innocents of Tel’andeir. The eyes of the people darted back and forth wearily, searching desperately for an escape from their dreadful fate. Creatures of varying sizes blocked all escape routes. Most stood tall, half again as tall as a man with two rippling, grotesque arms. They had cruel, twisted horns topping massive, black heads. Long, sharp snouts protruded from their faces with black, beady eyes. Thick, black breastplates rounded into steel pauldrons and vambraces. Their forearms were bare excepting a chosen few with festering gauntlets, designed for burning any skin it touched. Their legs were covered by knee-high greaves, though the upper legs were bared. The black armor glittered in the light of the dancing flames.
Revan spat in disgust at the pitiful sight of the broken people cowering dejectedly in the street below him. These people were a disgrace to the name that had been given to them by those that had earned it. Those that had truly fought for the title, and had died defending it. A name that was respected and feared throughout the land and signified their purpose as a shield of hope against the forces of the Dark, the T’aldhariem. Every man, woman, and child had powers specific to them, and this was what had given them their immense power. Nobody could determine what they were capable of and so never challenged their great cities spread throughout the land, Tel’andeir had never even touched by meager footpads. Though these weak people did not deserve that title, they could never be as brave and strong as the ones who had come before. And now these, creatures, disgraced these great streets with their evil presence. The people shied away as one sniffed the air, and cowered under its glare.
Revan was one of the few remaining Relocaters, a band of men and women who could shift to any place within their range of sight. The others rested on the roof behind him, four including him. The rest were gone, dead, their souls taken by the Dark. He nearly spat again at the thought of the Dark, the great being the T’aldhariem had fought against for hundreds of generations. Revan turned his mind back to the other Relocaters. Only two were armed besides himself, and one had been injured in their skirmish with the creatures. He shifted his double bladed staff to his other shoulder. I will not let them die, Light, I cannot let them die. A bird’s cry rang out from the next roof, and Revan stiffened. He cast his eyes back to the streets as he had let his mind wander, and another bird’s cry rang out as a patrol rounded the corner, dragging some more people to the fire they had built in the Great Square.
Screams sprang up again from the direction of the Great Square as if the thought of it had revamped its bloodlust. “It is time.” He muttered to the others. The two still standing nodded and their images flickered as they shifted. He didn’t even glance up at the flicker of motion, for he knew it to be one of the two. He stood from his perch on the shingled rooftop and stood over the edge. This had to work. And he leaped from the rooftop, arms spread wide as the air caressed his cheeks. Revan twisted in the air, smiling at the surprise painted on the creatures’ faces.
The guard was still looking up when Revan ran him through with his staff. His howl pierced the night as Revan wrenched the blade out and spun, neatly removing the head of another creature. Hope bloomed on the prisoners’ faces as the other two Relocaters appeared, cutting down a good number of the creatures with their poisoned blades. Six of the creatures still remained, now all facing them warily. One of the Relocaters flickered, and with a roar the creatures on the ends of the group spun their spears in wide circles around them. The one on the right had his cut short as he crumpled under the weight of the Relocater, and a knife bloomed in the other’s back. As he fell both Relocaters shifted again to stand by Revan’s side. My turn.
Revan stood behind the four creatures, their armor glistening in the night. He thrust out his boot, taking one to its knees with a blow to the back of the knees. He spun his staff, cutting through the tendon on another’s thigh muscle. Their shrieks filled the night as they all turned to confront him. They would never catch him.
He threw a knife that had before been concealed within his coat.
As the knife felled one creature, Revan ran his staff through the creature that still clutched his thigh in pain. He released his staff as he ducked backwards as a black sword neatly sheared a piece of his blood red hair.
He thrust a knife through the creature that had swung his sword. It fell to the ground clutching its stomach. He threw himself upon the rolling black mass and took a firm grasp on its horns. He placed his knee on the back of its neck and twisted with all his might. Its neck bent beyond what a normal human neck would have and further still. It bucked backwards attempting to throw him off, but Revan’s grip was too strong. It fell to the ground and Revan twisted with all his might. He felt the snap as he felt a tingle on the back of his neck.
The final creature of this patrol stood before him, its spear driven through the carcass of the one with the broken neck, the exact spot where Revan had been mere moments before. It snarled in rage and pulled out its shivering, black blade. Revan bent into a fighting stance and pulled a dagger from behind his belt. The creature bellowed in rage and rushed him.
Revan felt the blade graze his chest as he stabbed.
He slashed through the thick metal plates protecting the creature from behind.
The dagger left his hands, headed for the creature still charging where he had originally been.
He picked up a black spear and planted it against the ground as the hilt of the dagger bloomed from the side of the creature’s unprotected neck. It stumbled as a dark hole welled in its side and a massive red slash formed on its back. It did not even have time to bellow once more before it was impaled upon its own spear. Tainted, red blood bubbled out of the many wounds it hosted.
Revan stood behind the spear, already evaluating the worth of this venture. The other Relocaters stared at him in wonder. The group of T’aldhariem was smaller than he had originally thought, for one had been killed during the fighting. Revan cursed as he lifted the head of one of the women. They had reached the Great Hold! Revan’s fists clenched as he spoke his mind, “The rulers are dead then.” It was more of a statement of fact than a question, but she answered with downcast eyes.
“Yes, I and my escort are the only ones left alive from the Great Hold. We would have been murdered too if not for you.” The princess’s voice trembled as she told him of the breach on the Great Hold, and even Revan shivered despite the heat. He turned to the other two Relocaters.
“We are leaving.” He said, “Get the others; there is nothing more we can do here.” He turned his back to the great flame that fed his shame and his guilt. To the remainder of his family, of his clan, of his people. The princess looked into his eyes as he turned, seeming to search his eyes for something he could not fathom. One of the Relocaters disappeared, already on his way to the others they had saved.
“Shouldn’t we at least try to aid our people, the ones being led to the fire?” It was stated like a question, but had the force of a command behind it. She stuck out her lower lip in anger as he shook his head wearily.
“We can’t spread our already meager forces; they would be slaughtered before they could take down even one of those creatures. Besides, I can’t risk the ones I already saved from being murdered by those things!” Revan was quivering with rage by the last word, and he nearly spat it out.
”I saw as well as anybody else how you handled them. You could definitely handle a few patrols by yourself, especially if I was there.” She said with a quick smile, but it faded as the screams started up again. “And they call themselves Lichs.”
“I have heard of what you can do princess, but the both of us could not take on twenty Lichs, let alone the full legion I have seen marching through the streets. And how are we supposed to convince the others to use their powers when they know what lies in wait for them? Tell me that princess, I will not lose those I already have to maybe save one or two more. The outcome is not worth the losses we would face.” The princess broke the gaze she had been holding on him, looking down at her feet.
“You speak wisely, for one so young.” She replied after a moment. Young? She is at least as young as I! “I will never be able to forgive myself for leaving my people, my mother taught me to place your subjects before yourself. Even if you have to ride at the head of the column to show you will sacrifice yourself for them.” She said, looking into his eyes again, but lowering them again under his unflinching and cold gaze. As she looked down he thought he saw the glint of a forlorn tear running down her cheek. She threw herself against him as more ran down her youthful face. He wrapped his arms around her as she cried into his shoulder. “Why did they have to die?” She wept, “It’s not fair! Why did I survive when they were murdered so? I didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye.”
Revan’s heart went out to her as tears streamed down her face, her eyes large, brown pools of anguish, fear, and guilt. He released her as the group of survivors rounded a street corner, guided by the Relocater Revan had sent. “It is always a time, but it is not always ours.” He murmured as she wiped away the tears from her face, regaining some of her regal composure. Revan turned his mind away form the princess and back to the people who had as much fright painted on their faces as he felt. He turned down a side alley and took up a leisurely jog, one the people could keep up for hours no matter how tired or weak. Though fear drove both him and the people to greater speeds, and soon they were out of the city, making their way to the foothills nearly a mile away.
As the party topped the crest of the foothill, the screams of agony and pain from the broken city stopped, draping the valley in an eerie silence. Suddenly, a great roar rose, shaking the earth with its immense magnitude. Everyone of Revan’s party turned and looked on in grief and anguish as the Great Column, a massive pillar that stood high above the blackened walls, began to tip. Cries rang out from the people as it slowly crumpled.
Revan’s eyes grew stony and he collapsed to his knees as the Great Column toppled. It’s over; we have no more to fight for, to live for. The world will crumple before the might of the Dark. Once more the Dark will rule the world as it did a thousand years ago , and I am here again to witness it. His lips curled up in a smile that never reached his eyes. Again, for I am the last of the T’aldhariem.