Tainted Lies – by Jenno the Soldier

Darkness spread across the petrified forest, removing all light as it crawled between trees, rocks and dying grass. Barely any sound could be heard, except a slight clanking noise which gradually became louder and louder.

A small group marched through the stone forest. They were all clad in black armour and as the sun faded they blended in magnificently with their surroundings. Each member had a weapon or two, daggers, swords, shields, axes, staffs. The variety was extensive. At the front of the group marched a young man. He was well built and stood at 6 feet tall. His armour gleamed in the fading light. In his right hand he carried a double bladed axe; it gave off an intimidating shine to those around him. In his left hand rested a shield, it too was dark and it carried no marks upon its perfectly smooth and solid surface. The armoured leader raised his right hand and the men and women behind him immediately stopped. After a brief yet visible nod, the group shifted about, setting up a temporary camp.

With the last light shimmering on the horizon, Dagon moved next to a large, petrified tree which lay across the ground, now a historical monument to the transformation of the forest. He placed his shield and axe on the ground before bringing his armoured hands up to his head, from which he removed his menacing helmet. He was forced to blink for a few seconds as he took in the light before it vanished. Sighing deeply he ran his hand through his hair which quickly bounced back into position. The strands of hair were black and quite long; most of it was positioned neatly around his head, except for a few pieces, which hung in front of his face. His defined features lingered in an unmoved smile. At 21 years old he seemed as though he was in his 30s. There he stood for a while, his right hand resting upon the helmet that stood perched on the tree like an owl, constantly alert to the things before it.

Within an instant, his peace was disturbed as a shorter man walked slowly up to his right hand side. This new man only reached just above Dagon’s shoulders. His face was covered by a dark mask that only covered the bottom half of his face. Dagon glanced towards him slightly before speaking. His voice was deep and rough.

“Caith, do you really think this will work?” Dagon said as he glanced out towards the area where the sun had faded.

“Dagon,” the voice replied with some sympathy, “your plans always have the means to work,” his voice quickly held within it a commanding feeling and also, a hint of cockiness, “we just have to pull it off.” Caith’s voice was not as deep as Dagon’s, but it had a certain crispness to it. “If this strategy does work, then it will mean certain victory at Saltspray, which we could really do with at the moment.”

“But it will most likely mean that many of our men will lose their lives.” Dagon sighed; he did not wish to see a good Kurzick soldier die. It made him sick to the stomach.

Caith turned around so that he was watching the men and women setting up the camp. “They know that. And for victory against the Luxons, they are happy to give their lives.” His voice was softer now, echoing around them, sinking into Dagon’s heart, whom was now looking down at the dark, harsh floor. His mouth clenched tightly, but it did not take long for a long, deep sigh to escape. After a second, he looked towards Caith, changing the topic as to keep himself from depression and, in turn, his men from becoming demoralized. “So, how many are following us?” Dagon asked in a knowing tone.

Caith smiled and turned his head so that he was looking at Dagon. He knew that he had done his job extremely well. “I counted five, I followed them for a while and they didn’t send a scout to relay our position so I think these guys must be new to the game.” Caith replied happily.

Dagon nodded at the information as he slowly turned to face where the sun had left. His face was empty, no expression, no emotion; it remained a blank sheet of paper against the painted sky. He stood there for a moment in silence, contemplating. Eventually, he looked back at Caith; a small smile exposing itself from it’s hiding place very slightly. “How about we go and take care of them, only us two. Just like old times?”

Caith’s right eyebrow rose slightly. “We haven’t fought with just the two of us in a while” he said, his smile widening quickly. “I was hoping you’d say something like that.” he wittily chirped in.

* * *

They sat around the warmth of the fire, the heat projecting into their bodies, keeping them warm, keeping them alive. The elementalist, Kreedak, sat in the centre of the group of four; he had summoned the fire and was keeping it burning with one of the most basic techniques he knew. Breaking the peaceful silence they were sitting through, there was a rustle to Kreedak’s right, it came from the bushes. Without thinking, he stood up almost immediately and raised his staff; the fire began to cast its wicked flames higher. “Who’s there?” he called out to the darkness.

There was a rustle again and Kreedak glanced over to the ball of fire that stood next to him, he was prepared. Suddenly, a man pushed his way through the bushes. He wore the same orange headpiece as the other four people, a piece of orange cloth which wrapped around their heads, leaving only their faces visible and for some, only their eyes. In his right hand the man had a long, smooth and slender sword and a large, shell like shield in his left. There was a large grin upon his face. “Kreedak.” he said “You need to learn to relax more.”

Kreedak had an angered expression upon his face; his features were tightly compact, bringing forth wrinkles in his skin. “Relax!?” he started as the fire next to him burst up even larger. His anger blatantly clear to the rest of the group as they watched him, slightly fearfully, “we’re behind enemy lines, following a group of fifty Kurzicks that are taking a rather strange route to Saltspray, which means they’ve got something up their sleeve, which also means we hold the future of our brothers and sisters there in our hands, so I’m sorry if I seem a little on edge Leath!”

One of the people around the fire stood up slowly and moved over to Kreedak. She rested her hand on his shoulder gently. “Calm Kreedak, fighting amongst ourselves is what the Kurzicks will want” she said softly into his ears.

The fire immediately began to return to normal, Kreedak took control of his anger a quelled it. He sighed, his head dropping. “You’re right Veal” he murmured, the remaining two Luxons that sat around the fire seemed to relax slightly.

A grin spread across Leath’s face as he went to say something witty but was stopped before he could begin to muster sound from his throat. Veal raised her finger pointing it in between his eyes. “Leath, unless you want me to make it so that for the next week you’re writhing along the floor in constant pan, I suggest you don’t say anything.” His eyes quickly widened at the threat for he had known Veal long enough to know that her threats were anything but empty. So, he meandered over to the other two Luxons that hadn’t moved from their position around the fire.

Veal’s complexion changed as she stretched her arm and placed it on Kreedak’s shoulder, she was now smiling warmly, comfortingly. They just stood there for a moment gazing into each other’s eyes.

In an instant, the wind picked up and Veal’s long black hair blew across her face, covering her left eye but her smile remained. Soon, a whistle could be heard as it flowed across with the wind.

Without warning, an arrow shafted its way into Veal’s arm and she immediately let out a howl of pain. Kreedak was quick to call out two words. “Veal!” and then, with anger struck across his face as he turned to face the direction from which the arrow had come, “Kurzicks!”

The rest of the group moved swiftly. Leath and the other warrior moved in front of Kreedak and Veal, raising their shields to halt any more arrows that may fall upon them. The monk rushed next to Veal and studied her arm carefully. He quickly pulled out the arrow from her arm and a trail of blood began to follow as the monk began chanting. Kreedak stood, a ball of fire raged around in his hand, reflecting the fire that burned in his eyes. The elementalist scanned the petrified forest before him, waiting to be attacked by wave after wave of Kurzicks. However, nobody came.

Except for the monk’s incessant murmuring, nobody made a sound. The warriors looked at each other nervously for a moment before bringing themselves to focus on defending their downed team mate.

After spotting a slight movement through the darkness, Kreedak catapulted the fireball at the spot; it proceeded to hit on the ground and burn itself away in a wisp of smoke. There was no time to do anything as the attack came. A tall man leapt out, covered in demonic black armour. He moved quickly and lashed out at the two warriors who, panic stricken, thrust their shields in the way of the mighty double bladed axe. The shields took the impact of the mighty blow and began to shake violently.

As Dagon made his move, two arrows flew over his head, gliding on the wind they flew, striking both Veal and the monk. The monk was hit in the upper arm and fell to the floor with the force of the arrow. However, Veal wasn’t that lucky. The arrow soared past the side of the warriors and had struck her in the heart. With the arrow still there, in her heart, she fell to the floor, movement no longer possessing her limbs.

With this Kreedak turned to face the forest as his hands became ablaze, he wasted no time in sprinting around the warriors, heading straight into the forest after the unknown marksman, a look of pure hatred and unimaginable anger set deep within his features, although any tears had already been evaporated by the boiling and unsteady ball in his hand.

Meanwhile, Dagon was battling hard against the two warriors; the young combatant was experienced in battle, whereas the two Luxons seemed quite new and rough around the edges. Nervousness was spread across their faces, Dagon towered above both of them and the power from his axe came crashing down upon the shields of the warriors, and the dents were becoming deeper and more consistent. It was only a matter of time. Leath was the first of the two to snap out of it. He lunged out with his sword aiming for the gut of the armoured Kurzick. However, a large and heavy shield moved in front of the sword and forced it back, not even receiving a scratch in the process. With his enemy’s guard open, Dagon wasted no time in launching his axe into the chest of the warrior.

The axe entered his chest and Leath could only look down at the wound in shock and horror. However, as the axe withdrew, the wound began to glow with a vibrant blue aura and the deep gash closed, as if the axe had never hit.

Managing to glance up, Dagon could see a large and cocky grin on the monk’s face. He stood a bit behind the warriors with his staff in hand and he was muttering his words of healing.

A disgruntled look swept across Dagon’s shielded face as he swept down low, aiming for the other warrior’s leg. His axe hit and immediately bounced off as the warrior’s body glowed blue, a thin line of grace protected him from Dagon’s fury. Dagon was beginning to hate this fight.

Elsewhere, further back in the petrified forest, Kreedak was in pursuit of the hidden bowmen who, with his arrows, had pierced the heart of Veal, his love.

Caith observed from his position, perched on a low lying branch, his eyes obediently scanned the area, watching Kreedak’s movements, planning carefully. He held his bow in his left hand and silently he withdrew an arrow from his quiver. Notching it in his bow, Caith drew back, careful to not make a sound. There was a fair distance between himself and Kreedak, but he was confident he could hit his target. He followed Kreedak with his eyes for a moment before letting loose, Kreedak heard the sound and turned to face a welcoming arrow, it greeted him just right of his left shoulder, beneath the collar bone. Kreedak recoiled slightly, and pain surged through his body, but no organs were hit. A warning shot.

However, Kreedak took no notice and he called a ball of flame to his right hand. Blood trickled from his wound as he went straight towards the bowman’s position. Caith wasn’t one to sit and wait though; he had leapt down from his position and was making his way towards Kreedak. He moved through the shadows, making himself as invisible as possible. But Kreedak was making sure he knew where Caith was. He was continuously throwing balls at fire at elusive ranger, who could no longer stay in one place for more than a few seconds. Caith knew he couldn’t dodge all of these shots forever and so he removed another bow from his quiver and notched it, ready. He came past a tree and Kreedak threw a fireball where he predicted Caith to go. However, he hit nothing as the nimble hunter had propelled himself into the air, facing Kreedak; he held his bow in his hand and a knowing smile on his face. He released the arrow and it struck Kreedak in the stomach, a critical hit. Fortunately, Caith managed to roll behind a tree; he quickly knelt down and began getting to work.

Kreedak took the hit and moved his hands around the arrow, the pain was unbearable. He looked ahead and could not see the ranger, his eyes watered slightly and the look on his face was filled with agonising pain and sheer rage. He moved as quickly as he could towards the tree the ranger had disappeared behind.

Kreedak moved quickly around the tree, hoping to surprise the bowman. However, he was the one in for the surprise, his foot rested on something uneasy and suddenly, he was engulfed in flames. The pain was intense; he caught a glimpse of the ranger to his left but this time, instead of charging, he fled, a loud scream escaping from his burning lips.

Things weren’t faring well for Dagon however as he couldn’t cause enough damage to his two adversaries without the damned monk healing them. And with the divine protection of the holy Goddess, the warriors placed themselves more on the offensive, creating more openings for Dagon in sacrifice of wilder, and stronger, attacks. He was, therefore, swiftly placed on the defensive, seeing as there was no point in him wasting energy attacking until the monk was taken down. Soon he was beginning to struggle under the relentless attacks of the Luxon warriors.

It was during this moment of desperation that a searing scream pierced the ears of the four men. It was filled with pain, an intense pain, which coursed through the veins, out of the mouth and into the heart of companions; the turtle lovers instantly knew whose agonizing scream it was. Their hearts sank and so too, Dagon was pleased to notice, did their guard. One to exploit an opportunity placed before him, Dagon pounced up his demoralized prey with the rage of a lion. Targeting the small animal off to his left first, Dagon crashed his shield into the distracted foe, who fell back on the ground in shock. Not wasting a moment, the black armoured warrior swung his axe from his waist; the blade glimmered over the lowered shield as cut into and then through flesh, blood and bones with the main sound coming from the head as it hit the floor. Interrupting any chant monk may have been planning, Dagon cleaved vertically and the devilish axe tore through the divine servant’s left arm, which joined the head on the floor. The body of the monk soon fell whimpering to the ground as the victorious Kurzick kicked him roughly in the chest.

Slowly, as if to mock the mere seconds it took him to turn the tide of the battle, Dagon moved over to the monk who seemed both lost and confused as to what was going on. Undeterred by the monk’s confusion and pain, Dagon raised his axe so that the spiked top hung only centimetres from his victims face. Beneath the protective gear, the warrior was pleased with both himself and the way things had turned out eventually. “So, monk,” he spoke with anger and malice looming strong, “where’s your Goddess now?”

Dagon was quite surprised to see the aging monk laugh as blood began to find its way out of his mouth, “my… Goddess,” he said, pausing, his breathing became heavy, “is securing passage… for your army… Kurzick scum.”

With his last breaths, the monk laughed away cruelly, dark blood splattered from his mouth as he began to drown, but still he laughed. Dagon watched, unable to land the killing blow. His dying adversary’s words had become much the focal point of contemplation, he considered them carefully. During this time, Dagon failed to notice the dazed warrior he had knocked down earlier rise again. As quietly as possible, having discarded his shield, the robed Luxon raised his sword in two hands and aimed to decapitate the Kurzick in revenge for his companions. Yet, all the vengeful sword struck was the ground, followed quickly by the Luxon. From his back an arrow sat on show, triumphantly displaying the accuracy of the ranger, who had placed it neatly through his spine.

A few moments passed and neither of the victorious moved. Through the thickening silence, Caith’s voice came slashing calmly, destroying the uneasy feeling that was creeping through the air. “Dagon?” His bushy brow peaked as he spoke the name of his life time friend. But there came no reply, the man stood still, draped in his black armour. The silence sank in once more but the ranger was not about to let up on his relentless destruction of the silence. His voice rose as he called out once again, “Dagon?” Finally, a response, the man turned slowly, as if his mind were lost within some deep thought which caused his bodily functions to slow down. His helmet covered gaze lifted up to look at Caith, or was it past him? Even the ranger couldn’t tell from such a long range. He went to speak again, taking a step forward to address his axe wielding team mate. But suddenly the man moved. He set off, sprinting, with a sudden burst of energy Dagon exploded past Caith and didn’t look back.

Taken aback, Caith could merely follow the dark blur as it sped right past him. For a moment he was in too much shock to say anything at all. But, eventually, his voice returned and he yelled the name of the diminishing blur once again “Dagon!?” No response, nothing, not even a glance. Filling his lungs, Caith tried one last time before he’d have to follow, using all his voice, all of his air, he called out. He wanted an answer to this strange behaviour, “DAGON!?” One last attempt, and as his voice passed on the wind, only silence followed.

Chapter 1: Getting By
Golden light glided over the vibrant leaves which sat waving softly in the intermittent breeze. Through the trees, only a few select beams of majestic sunshine could be seen faintly inspecting the ground. All around, it was quiet. Apart from the rare flutter of delicate wings or, high pitch tweeting of miniscule birds against the soft and subtle breeze, there was nothing. Only the sun was left to fill the senses, enveloping everything within its sight, the burning ball of life granted such peace and beauty that no fair maiden would wish to compare herself to its supernatural presence.

Gentle tapping fell upon the wind. It seemed distant, but drew ever closer. Impatient feet fell quickly against the ground with so much elegance and pace that the amount of sound escaping from the patterned tapping seemed unnaturally minute. Four men stepped briskly into the angelically lit woods, leaving the persistent sun to fry leaves in their stead. There was something easily noticeable about these four men, apart from the two large crates they carried between them in pairs, each was wrapped in white robes which sat out pompously against the sea of green and brown that surrounded them. Not only this, but they were bald as well, not a single wisp of hair covered their sweat glistened heads. To say that they stood out was an understatement; it was easy to say they looked like four ettin trying to hide themselves in a flock of moa.

Unlike the usual monks who could be seen traversing the paths between the monastery and Ascalon, these four all had swords swinging freely from their waists. These implements of death were not often associated with men and women of purity and divinity. This served to show to passer bys that whatever was in the two crates was valuable.

With cautious steps and alert eyes, the armed monks made their way through the woods via the shortest route. However, as they neared the exit, their fingers twitched closer to the hilt of their blades as they came to a halt, between them and the entrance into the glaring sun stood a steeled demon. Black as the night sky, he descended up on his prey as steadily and sullenly as Grenth himself. With anxiety, they glanced at each other before looking behind them, planning to make a hasty retreat. However, as the monks made to fall back, a cloaked man hastily swept across the path, leaving a small group of leaves flustering up into the air in his wake. Apart from this, the contact which the shadowy figure’s boots made with the ground was eerily none existent. But the bow glared out menacingly from his hand.

Nervously, one of the monks gestured to the others with a quick lowering of his head. Interpreting this as the order it was supposed to be, they lowered down their crates safely onto the grassy surface. With their objective safely on solid ground, they quickly wrapped their sweating, anxious hands around the hilts of their long swords. One of the men, the one who had made the silent order moments ago, took a few brief paces towards the armoured man. It appeared that this broad shouldered monk was in charge of the group as he removed a tightly rolled up piece of parchment from a pouch which lay on his waist.

“You!” the man called out with a loud, bold, voice to the silent soldier who stood waiting. It seemed as though this monk was very brave, or extremely stupid. As he began to unroll the lavishly decorated parchment, and golden eagle crest stood upon an emerald green background. As it unfurled, the monk continued, “by order of the Ascalonian Ambassador’s Guild, I ask you to step aside and let us pass, or suffer the consequences.” With these last few words the shielded head looked up, the black slits burrowing into the unprotected mind of the daring monk. Slowly, a ‘chink’ sound steadily became louder as the warrior made his move. First of all he took slow steps, but with each pace he quickened his tempo until had broke into a quick jog. This monk was no novice; preparing himself, he cast the Guild banner to the ground and drew his long sword and proceeded to grip it firmly in the face of this approaching threat.

Closer and closer and closer, it seemed to take forever for the armoured man to reach him, but the monk was ready, he’d seen combat before. He swung sharply for the armoured head. However his swing was abruptly stopped by the warrior’s right hand. It was not only this that the monk noticed, but the fact that the warrior had not slowed his pace at all and was still moving. The warrior spun and struck the monk on the side of his head with his left armoured glove, which knocked the divine disciple out cold. At the same time, he slipped his right hand onto the hilt of the monk’s blade and calmly claimed it as his own. Now armed, he headed for the three remaining monks.

With all six eyes looking at him anxiously, the man beneath the shell couldn’t help but smile a little. This was going to be too easy. With a sudden realisation, the monks all drew their long blades and moved in to attack. The first man yelled some form of battle cry at the top of his voice as he swung in high from the shoulder, the armoured man’s pace failed to alter. Instead, as he walked forward, he brought his newly acquired blade up to meet the monk’s attack. Steel clashed and grinded, but the monk quickly fell to the ground as the armoured warrior used his movement to slide his own blade down the monk’s, to land his elbow into the surprised face of the white robed healer. However, as soon as that monk had hit dirt, the next was already swinging to chop the warrior’s head off. With no time to counter with his own blade, instincts took over and the armoured man charged at the monk, ducking under the blade, he grabbed around the disciple’s waist with his arms and calling upon his strength, the warrior flung the man over his shoulder and onto the ground behind him, where he landed awkwardly on his head. Continuing his walk, the successor looked behind him at the man he’d narrowly avoided just to make sure that he was out. Confirmation that he was seemed to come in the quickening of his pace.

Finally, the remaining monk, he was already on the floor, clasping his hand and the arrow that now went through it. Lost in the midst of their fear as the armoured demon had approached, the monks had forgotten about the cloaked man that had cut off their retreat, and as the three of them had charged, the monk at the back received the arrow through his raised hand, it forced him to drop his sword to the ground, he had been quick to follow. The young monk tried desperately to stop the bleeding, but he dared not touch the arrow out of fear of pain. As the warrior stood above him, it seemed that the monk’s attention was focused solely on his hand. Looking up at his companion, a voice escaped the armoured face, “check the crates.” With a nod, the cloaked man took several silent steps towards the now unguarded crates and carefully removed the tops from them, sliding them next to the boxes. After gazing over the contents for a few moments, the mysterious man looked up and simply nodded his head.

With a brief sigh of relief, the warrior moved his gaze down to the monk that lay before him. With little delicacy, he grabbed the monk by both of his shoulders and dumped him up against a nearby tree. Yelping, the monk gritted his teeth as pain surged through his body, the warrior froze for a moment as he looked at the monk’s face. He looked so young! He had to be 16 at the most, for a child like this to be sent out, the thought made the warrior’s blood begin to boil. Bringing himself back to the situation at hand, he spoke out to the monk with a gruff voice, “hold still for a bit, this is going to hurt.” Taking the young monk’s hand in his left, he carefully wrapped his right hand around the tail end of the arrow and with a moments pause; he snapped it off whilst at the same time removing the head with his left hand. As the scream began to erupt from the robed man’s mouth, the warrior had to quickly cover the boy’s mouth with his hand. Holding his hand to his mouth, the armoured man took the monk’s injured hand with his right hand, he didn’t want to do this, but it appeared the shock of the injury and pain had driven the thought of the boy’s studies and knowledge from his mind. Muttering a few words from beneath his helmet, blue light swirled from the warrior’s right hand and rested upon the monk’s injured hand, enveloping it with its light then, as the light faded, the wound had disappeared.

Clearly shocked, the monk looked at his own hand with wide eyes, as if it were not his own. “Y…you…” he choked up through the short, panicked breaths, “you saved me? Why?”

Looking at the young man through the small slits in his helmet, the warrior replied, “Kid, if I was going to kill you, why would I have gone to the trouble of making sure I didn’t kill the other three you were with?” A look of confusion over the monk’s face led the warrior to believe that perhaps this young one thought that’s exactly what he’d done to his companions. Looking over his shoulder at the three bodies on the floor, they were all out cold still. He turned back to the monk, speaking again, “they’re not dead, but when they wake up, their heads will most certainly be pounding.”

“So… so you’re not going to kill me?” The young disciple looked up at the warrior as the man stood up; the stutter in his soft voice was starting to fade away.

Shaking his head, the armoured man chose to adjust his armour slightly before he spoke with an awkwardly timed question. “Kid, what’s you’re name?”

As expected he received a strange look in return, but he did, fortunately, get a reply after a few moments of silence, “I’m Yun, sir.”

Through his helmet the warrior frowned for a moment, that wasn’t the kind of name he expected to hear in Tyria, it reminded him more of his home. Clearing those thoughts away immediately, he looked down at Yun with a brief nod, “well, Yun, I’m sorry.”

Confused, the young boy‘s features began to scrunch up as he automatically returned with a question, “for what?”

Not sparring a second, the warrior brought his armoured fist roughly across the monk’s face, knocking it against the tree. “For that” were the only words that came out of his mouth, but were followed by a long sigh. With all of the monks now unconscious, he made his way towards the crates.

“You know Dagon,” the spirited voice of Caith said to him as he made his approach, “you could have just knocked him out before healing his hand.”

^