An eleven chapter saga of swordplay and sorcery
|Previously: Kael and his raiding party have attacked the fortress while most of the enemy troops are away. Battling their way through the skeleton garrison, they press deeper into the fortress, seeking the evil sorcerer Kelmar...|
It had been a bloody fight to reach
Kelmar’s chambers. On several occasions they had encountered groups of
guards, and after each encounter had left only dead and unconscious
bodies behind them. Though Kelmar’s arrogance had lead him to post only
a small number of defenders here, each of the three companions bled
from cuts and scratches, a painful reminder of the near-misses that
would have meant their own deaths and not those of their enemies if
they had not been so fortunate.
The three men now stood back to back in a wide hall
in a wide hall, surrounded by both Kelmar’s soldiers and a number of
the hideous Thrait. Kelmar himself stood upon a wide dais at one end of
the hall, flanked by two huge Thrait bodyguards, an amused smile
touching his lips as he studied the trio.
He was old, very old - Kael could see that. His hair,
grey and long and thinning on top, and the lines in his face told him
that. Despite this, he stood upright, proud and strong, as if age had
not diminished his vitality. A short sword was held by the sash at his
‘Siman, Tarabus, and the outlander,’ he said flatly,
almost mocking them. ‘How pleasant it is to see you all. Perhaps some
of you are harder than I imagined. That you got out of Varl alive
is testament to your determination, but to see you here in my chambers -
that truly shows you are not all the spineless worms I believed you to
‘You are the spineless one, Kelmar.’ Siman said
grimly. ‘You are the one who slaughtered our families and children. You
are the one who allowed himself to be seduced by the vile texts of
Orta, and their promises of wealth and power!’
‘Promises that have been fulfilled as you can see,’
Kelmar smirked. He spread his hands wide and gestured to the rich
furnishings of the room. Tapestries and silk hangings adorned the
walls, the floor of the room was covered by many exquisitely-made rugs,
and dotted around the rooms were representations of the vile toad-god
Orta, cast in gold, with gems studding the bulging eyes.
‘Orta well rewards those who do his work. And
punishes those who defy those that preach his word. The citizens of
Varl would do well to remember that.’
Think you that he would let you slay one such as
myself? One who has been instrumental in ensuring his work is done?’
‘Did you, Tarabus,’ he said, pulling out his sword
and levelling it at the man, ‘Think you could cut my throat and be rid
of me? Orta himself brought me back from the dead to ensure that you
were all punished for your insolence. My army will follow me to the
end, follow me until you are dead to the last man, woman and child. The
riches I can give them ensure their loyalty to me- as I said, Orta
rewards well those who do his work.’
‘We would rather all die than bow down to your vile
god and his filthy rituals!’ Tarabus screamed at him.
‘Then that is exactly what you shall do, every last
one of you.’ Kelmar sneered. Perhaps after my blade has drunk its fill,
I will have my men drop your corpses upon your kin in the town, lest
they forget the price for such effrontery as this.’ He looked at his
soldiers. ‘Take them! And I want them alive!’
The room exploded in a fury of violence.
Sparks flew as steel clashed upon steel and the trio were assaulted on
all sides by baying men and Thrait alike.
Though outnumbered, the companions had one
advantage - Kelmar had told his men to take them alive, and their blows
were tentative, without real power. Kael and his party had no such
limitations, however, and many of their attackers went down with their
skulls split, or staggered off screaming with an arm or a hand missing,
or some great gash that opened up on their body like a bloody,
They could not last forever against these numbers
though, even with their tactical advantage. Slowly but surely the press
of men and Thrait was beginning to take its toll upon them, their
strength failing, their hope of victory fading. All they could do was
fight to their last breath, and die rather than being taking alive to
fall victim to that accursed vampire sword.
All seemed lost. Tarabus had gone down, a well aimed
blow from the pommel of a sword had seen to that, and he lay motionless
upon the floor, an egg-sized lump on his temple bleeding profusely.
Siman was fading, his sword now slowing, his breathing hard.
Kael too, was nearing the end of his strength, and
he knew he would soon fall where he stood. His own shouts rang loud in
his ears as his rallied his last reserves, another attacker reeling
backwards in a fountain of his own blood, cleaved from shoulder to
breastbone by Kael’s great sword.
‘Come, dogs - come and try to take me alive!’ he
spat, a grimace upon his face and that strange light in his eyes.
Drenched in gore, his serpentine locks caked with drying blood, he
‘I do not go quietly, maggots! Pain surrounded my
entrance to this world, and I intend my exit to be the same!’
There was a moment’s hesitation as they faced the
madman in front of them, and an almost stunned silence in the howling
throng, their confidence wavering as they realised that neither he nor
his companion would simply throw down their swords and surrender. They
would pay in blood before they took them.
Then there was confusion. Shouts from the other side
of the mob, and men went down screaming as they were run through or
sliced open as if in a charnel house. Men died as they turned to face
this new foe, and others died as they turned from Kael and Siman.
Whatever was happening, they wasted no time in taking advantage of the
Both men and Thrait were dying by the score as Kael
and Siman fought with renewed vigour, finding new reserves of strength
as their hopes of victory were resurrected. Both of the men laughed out
loud as they realised what had happened.
Olver, Ivon and Gurshan had entered the battle! And
Cara was with them, sword in hand, fighting as insanely as her rescuers!
Now the defenders, attacked from both sides, began
to panic, to flee from the battle that had suddenly turned against
them, to run screaming as they realised that their cause was lost. Many
were felled like matchwood as they lowered their swords and turned
away, hamstrung by the reunited party.
‘Cowards!’ screamed Kelmar. ‘Fight like men! I
His hired army paid no heed, and soon they were
fleeing in a mass panic, their only thought to escape the carnage
It did not take long before the room was empty save
for the companions, and Kelmar and his two massive bodyguards, silent
but for the groans and screams of the injured and dying, writhing in
their own blood on the floor.
‘It seems your Army are not so devoted to your cause
after all,’ Siman said to Kelmar. ‘It would appear that money does not
furnish them with true loyalty , let alone a spine!’
Kelmar stood and stared contemptuously at the seven
people in front of him.
‘Do you really believe I need those scum to
destroy you? You killed me before, remember? This time you shall not be
so fortunate. My blade thirsts for your blood, come quench its needs!’
‘My blade also thirsts,’ said Kael. ‘Though it is
your blood that it desires!’
He rushed at Kelmar, and the rest of the band went
with him. The two body guards leapt forward to protect their master,
and were set upon by Kael’s companions.
Kael swung his sword, under Kelmar’s attempted
parry, the sword disappearing into the belly of the other man. Their
was no blood, no cry of pain from his opponent, only a counter strike
which was only just short of a killing stroke had he not managed to
dodge it in time-it caught him on the upper arm and opened a long wound
His own sword had gone through the man as though he
were as insubstantial as thin air! Where it should have killed him, it
had had as much affect as a knife cutting smoke! Kelmar’s blade had
flashed red as it cut into Kael’s flesh, and his arm felt weak as
though the sword had drained something from him. What manner of evil
He dodged a second blow by Kelmar and swung his
sword again, this time slicing through his neck with enough force to
separate his head from his body. Kelmar merely laughed.
‘Fool!’ he sneered. ‘You cannot harm me! Your sword
will not harm my flesh! Your death will be exquisite!’
Next: Chapter Eleven:
The Final Battle
back to Chapter Nine: Into the Keep
The Crimson Blade is copyright by Chris Gordon. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)