Elizabeth felt a bit out of place. She was lying in a plush bed, lined with furs and large silken pillows. Her central nervous system was not bound by fatigue to the standard sleep cycle which was affecting her companions. She lay there, eyes closed and wandered the hallways of the stronghold using her auditory vision. Anywhere exceptÂ in a sealed and fully enclosed room there was bound to be ambient noise which reflected off solid surfaces, and she could trace this to its origins and learn the layout of the area. Lacking sound was not an issue for her either because she could emit a high frequency wavelength, undetectable by an ordinary human ear, yet still capable of mapping her surroundings.
Her avatar of ambient high frequency vibrations wandered down the stone hallway past the quarters of Bastian and Vax. She traced the hall back down the stairs to the room in which the feast had been held. Then she continued to explore, leaving the hall and tracing her path back to the entrance of the fortress itself. Penetrating solid surfaces greatly reduced the range of her â€˜Sound-Visionâ€™ making it hard for her to â€˜seeâ€™ more than a few feet past the huge oaken door. However she was aware of a moving presence on the outer perimeter of her maximum range. Curious, she attempted to form a general outline of this guard or whoever it was. Something was strange here. Instead of the bulky plate armor and mail coif, this man had ragged fur clothing. He held a massive crate in his hands, the contents of which were some sort of high density powder, like fine sand.
The man laid this crate out against the frame of the door and then rapidly retreated beyond the edges of her perception. It didnâ€™t take a genius to realize that this man was an intruder, attempting to explosively breach the entryway to the fortress. Elizabeth struggled to sense where the guards were, however, without movement on their part, they blended in quite well with their surroundings. She sat bolt upright and as quick as she could, threw on her clothes and grabbed her blade from the corner where it lay. No need or time to alert the others, the explosion that was sure to come would definitely serve that purpose.
A deep roll of thunder shook the stone floor beneath her feet. With the massive flood of sound echoing through the halls, it was like someone had shown a spotlight on the entire fortress through her audio-sight. The quartet of guards standing post at the entry gate had been slain by way of silently slit throat. The explosion had rent a ragged gap through the stone hide of the fortress and collapsed a 20 meter portion of the perimeter wall. A swarm of men sprinted through this gap now, lightly armored for rapid running and armed with short bows and scimitars, they overwhelmed the small remaining guard force in a the few seconds it took for Elizabeth to make it to Bastianâ€™s sleeping chamber.
He emerged rubbing the sleep from his eyes with one hand while he fumbled to lock the straps of his swords onto his belt with the other. Once the scabbards were affixed, he drew the rapiers, one in each hand.
â€œI suppose we better go get that brat and see what the hell is going on here!â€ Bastian was seriously upset that his first nightâ€™s sleep in an actual bed had been so rudely interrupted.
Vax came running around the corner of the hall as they were nearing his room. He was dressed in a long green cloak over his normal elegant attire. He held a yew longbow in his left hand and a full quiver of iron-headed shafts was slung over his shoulder.
â€œMilady... It seems that our enemies have taken the cowardly step of attacking while we slept. I fear that we may be overrunâ€¦â€ He cast a raised eyebrow to Bastian in greeting, and received a grim scowl in response.
The roars and clashes of brutal fighting could be heard from the feasting hall as they made their way down the stone steps. As they burst into the room they caught their first glimpse of their attackers. Wide-eyes howling savages armed with a variety of hacking weapons or clubs. Their flesh was drawn tightly to their gaunt, emaciated skeletons. They reeked of disease, yet fought with a strength and vigor that no human could possibly match. The virus devoured their tissue, but in return gave them formidable fever strength and shocking speed. The heavily-armed and battle-tested defenders, found themselves pressed mercilessly as the onslaught drove them back, slaying many of their number as they frantically tried to match the hordeâ€™s savagery.
Vax leapt out from the stairwell and cleared a table with a powerful leap, his foot catching the corner as he passed overhead, flipping it on its side with a crash to form a makeshift shield-wall. He motioned for the others to join him and then drew back his bowstring and released an arrow into the maelstrom of violence. A maddened berserker clenched his teeth almost to the cracking point as the virus fed him his own flesh as fuel. He saw Vax and gleefully raised his 2 handed axe over his head, only to have the shaft appear instantly protruding from his forehead. Vax slew a half-dozen more attackers with lethal head-shots before a pair of them kicked down his barrier and advanced towards him.
Elizabeth summed up the fight in her head rather quickly. At least a hundred of these barbaric tribesmen, amplified by the virusâ€™s strength, were quickly gaining the upper hand against the less than forty scattered and bewildered defenders. She knew that even her formidable powers couldnâ€™t change the tide of battle enough to save the lives of her hosts. She saw the Lord of the brotherhood covered in wounds as he tried to cut a path through the throng to where his son stood, backed into a corner by the rabid tribesmen.
Vax clenched his eyes shut for a second then appeared to leap straight for the two men in front of him. Elizabethâ€™s mouth fell open as she saw their blades hack through the young man in what surely must be a killing blow. Vaxâ€™s body seemed to shiver slightly, then faded into a cloud of mist and vanished. He reappeared about 20 meters away and Elizabeth realized that the image she had seen die was merely an illusion of light, created by mystical means. He loosed an arrow which skewered the skull of one of his assailantâ€™s, the bloody tip emerging from the surprised eyesocket.
The other fell half a second later, his throat impaled on a second shaft. Vax seemed to be well versed in the arts of illusion and archery.
Lord Haâ€™at turned to his son and their eyes met, the Lordâ€™s were grim, yet sad. He was alone and surrounded by a dozen howling attackers as we mouthed a few words across the room. â€œIâ€™mâ€¦ sorryâ€¦ my sonâ€¦â€ Then his head went flying from his shoulders and a black clad man with a fat, stocky frame strode forth casually in the madness of carnage and walked across the headless corpse at his feet.
Vax hung his head in pain for a moment, then raised it again, eyes burning with a boundless and unquenchable hatred for this malefic murderer.
Grang chuckled to himself, these â€˜warriorsâ€™ were no match for his transformed tribe, they were merely a brief episode of excitement on his inevitable path to glory and true power. His eyes scanned for the girl, and found her in the span of a secondâ€™s time. She had slaughtered a swath through the savages and the dismembered corpses were piled in pieces at her feet. Her wide bladed sword came down upon the skull of a man as he leapt at her, splitting the bone in half and continuing through his torso, cleaving it into two identical potions erupting with a generous spray of warm blood and slippery organs. Her left hand jabbed out with a kinetically enhanced punch, bursting through the face of another attacker and her fist exploded through the back of his head in another shower of meat and fluid. Bastian was slaying his fair share, stunning the maddened men psychically, then elegantly impaling them with a flourish of his gleaming blade.
â€œA shame to kill a helpless man in such a mannerâ€¦ but I could never hope to match their speed, thus since they â€˜cheatâ€™â€¦ then so shall I!â€
Elizabeth had two choices now. She could stand and fight, which would surely mean the deaths of her new friends, yet maybe she could slay most or all of the attacks, or flee and help her companions make it out of the building alive; she opted for choice two.
The last standing member of the brotherhoodâ€™s guard died with a horrible scream as he was hacked into four pieces by the drooling sea of murderous marauders. Vax yelled out to his companions as the threesome fled from the banquet hall, followed by the hyena like laughs of the tribe behind them.
â€œI can get us out of here aliveâ€¦. Follow me!â€
Grang grinned from ear to ear as he saw Elizabethâ€™s lithe form disappear down the bend of a staircase leading to the strongholdâ€™s cellars.
The door behind them slammed shut, a bolt falling automatically in place, sealing it behind them. A second later it shook, nearly torn from its hinges by a fearsome blow. They had mere moments respite before the tribe would be upon them again. This passage way was cramped and dark, lit only by the flicker of a dim lamp that Vax had grabbed from the wall as they passed from the feast hall. A splintering crash sounded from behind them as the bolted door was finally torn apart. High pitched squeals of glee and excitement came following at their heels as the manic pack descended the narrow staircase and entered the blackened darkness of the hall.
Elizabeth saw the desperation of Vax and Bastian driving their weary legs onward, while she herself felt no fatigue as she ran at the lead.
â€œKeep going! Iâ€™ll slow them down a bit, Iâ€™ll be right back!â€ Her two companions looked at her like she was speaking in some kind of insane language they had never heard before. Just behind them Grang turned the corner of the narrow hall, at the lead of the pack, his legs carrying him with surprising quickness, despite their flabby girth. Elizabeth pointed her left hand at the fat man, before releasing a measured bolt of electro-kinetic energy which lashed out like a glowing blue snake to take him squarely in his chest with enough force to split a normal man in half. His ribs were crushed inwardly by the blast, yet he stood unwavering like an oak tree in a light breeze.
â€œOh my godâ€¦ not ANOTHER one of these guysâ€¦â€ Elizabeth really didnâ€™t feel like wasting all her energy on this pig, who seemed to heal as fast as she could inflict damage.
Grang hungrily eyed Elizabethâ€™s curvaceous figure with a greedy gleam in his eye while she stared defiantly at him.
â€œPerhaps my blade will make him feel pain, at least it will wipe that grin off his face!â€ She drew her espadon and sprinted across the stone floor to close within melee range of the mocking leader.
Bastian shouted for her to stop, but by the time the words had left his lips she was already bringing her blade to bite into this ball of blubber and disease. Through the leather bound hilt of her sword, she could feel the powerful impact as the cutting edge cleaved through the surprising resistance of this manâ€™s knotted flash. It was like trying to hack through a solid oak tree. The blade became stuck as it cleaved halfway through the generous torso, and Elizabeth clenched her teeth as she tried to yank it free. Faster than she could perceive, she realized she was flying backward through the air, stunned from the impact of a crushing blow.
Grang twisted the blade from his own abdomen and wielded it crudely about his head, his lack of skill in swordsmanship was obvious.
Elizabeth snapped to her feet then staggered briefly in front of her startled companions who had barely began to advance to aid her, their weapons still not fully out of their scabbards.
She reached up and touched her lip; it was moist with a trickle of synthetic blood, dribbling down from a nasty crack in the skin. She wet her fingers with a few drops and fell back; her face open-mouthed in feigned shock, then as the obese man approached his helpless victim she flicked the blood into his beady eyes. The liquid was composed of billions of cell sized single-purpose robots. Their main function was to reunite themselves with the body so that they could be relocated to any damaged areas.
Grang squealed with a shrill, hideous shriek as the warmth radiating from the infested host attracted the singularly focused cells and they dug through the cornea of the eyes, not unlike drops of sulfuric acid, as they attempted to re-establish contact with the broken communication chain originating from Elizabethâ€™s consciousness.
â€œThey will disburse throughout his frontal lobe, cutting directly through the tissueâ€¦ I could stop it if I touched himâ€¦ I could send a signal using his nervous systemâ€¦ but for now, you will find him paralyzed until the virus is able to eliminate themâ€¦ I think the rest of his mob will most likely wait for their leader. Iâ€™d say we have a few minutes to be gone before he snaps out of it!â€
Bastian looked at her, his eyes blank with a total lack of comprehension. However the â€œBe gone before he snaps out of itâ€ portion seemed to click quite well. He grabbed her hand and waist and knelt rapidly.
â€œAre you hurt? I can carry you if you wish!â€
(To be continued...)