Chapter Three: Unessessary Force

Chapter Three: Unessessary Force

A Chapter by Greystone

The hunter pounded his gigantic fist onto the table. His blond hair blew into his multicolored eyes: One brown, one blue. His pale skin flushed as he listened to the private who had been sent to tell the soldier's master the news of their failure. Then his face became tranquil, he put his two pale fingers together and his black sleeves rested on the table. His black hat hung on a hook near the fire, and he rested his expensive travelling boots on the table.

 

When the Private had finished, he said, "Sir, I assure you. There's no where else on the premises they could be, they've searched through the rubble several times. As much as I hate to say it, they're gone."

 

"GONE!" the hunter cried, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN, GONE!"

 

"I'm sorry, sir," the young private retorted with frank respect, "but we only found one body, the body of Sariel Stormbringer, inside the house. Now, there are another two in the yard..."

 

"John Stormbringer and... ah..."

 

"Susan Liae?" Put in Phillp timidly.

 

"Yes, Susan Liae, are of little interest to me." The private opened his mouth to argue, but the Hunter's cry disrupted him. "DID I STUTTER?!" His face flushed, and then he went back to his cordial voice. "No, The Children of Sang Real and Stormbringer blood are whom we seek."

 

"Why do we seek children, my lord? Surely there is not a threat in these whiny brats?"

 

"You have no business knowing that." A withering glare silenced any inquiries the private had been summoning the bravery to ask. "Your name?"

 

"Phillp, Sir."

 

"Well, Phillp, go and tell the fastest riders to go to every guard post and warn them of a coming from the west... Or possibly the south, if our escapees managed to reach the Belvadere ferry. Particularly, warn all people on the great road."

 

"Sir, if I may say, the chances of them coming from the south are rather slim."

 

Silence. The General behind the hunter's chair gave him an alarmed glance, and the Private was afraid. NO ONE corrected the hunter, as Phillp was quickly learning. He remembered what his brother had warned him about, how easy it was to be dismissed from the Hunter's merry band of men.

 

"Phillp, tell me, how long have you been in the hunting business?"

 

"Not very long, sir."

 

"I see. And what makes you think that, with it being common knowledge that my guard is watching the Great Road, that they will NOT attempt to flee to the south?"

 

"I don't know, sir."

 

"I thought not. AND YET YOU HAVE THE STUPIDITY TO QUESTION ME FOR IT!" He slammed his fist into the Private's Stomach, who fell to the ground, writhing in pain from his master's strength.

 

"You are dismissed," he said in evident disgust, "begone from my tent."

 

As Phillp hobbled his way out, wincing in pain from the blow, the hunter extended a finger to a General nearby.

 

"General Benett!" The General stepped forward, his hand immediately snapping to attention.

 

"YES, SIR!" He called in a military monotone.

 

"That Private of yours forgot to salute," he said calmly, "Ten lashes."

 

"YES, SIR!" The General said, and he strode from the room. The hunter sat there for a moment, and then he smiled.

 

"Clever, clever, children." He muttered to himself, "But don't worry, you won't get far."


***


"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'I GRABBED THE WRONG MAP'!" Henry roared, staring at the sheepish Violet, "WE'VE WASTED HOURS ON THIS MAP!"

 

His gold eyes flashed in the quiet forest sun, and Violet stepped back. Henry shouted again, taking a hunting knife from his belt and throwing it. It buired itself with a wicked-sounding 'thud' into a nearby pine, the hilt gleaming faintly in the endless saphire sky.

 

"Henry! Stop scaring Violet, something's wrong with Alexi."

 

Mirage's concern was just as sharp as Henry's knife, he hurried over to where Mirage was kneeling. Alexi did not look good. There were bags under his eyes from lack of sleep, and red blotches had formed in several places over his skin. Every time they had went to the great market on the road to Gilar, Alexi and Violet complained loudly. Despite their place of orgin, both of them were frail and delicate, and hardly ever left the shelter of the mountain.

 

Their mother had at first insisted that they would grow strong, travelling well and swiftly. Yet they had not, Sariel had (for once) been wrong, it and at the time it seemed about as possible as them finding their way out of the Tengarthurian forest. Henry looked at Alexi's wounds and finally replied.

 

"I think its Posion Ivy, sis. You got anything in our bag for that?"

 

Mirage groaned, "I have no idea! I'm not supposed to be the botanist of the group!"

 

"You know what can cure him, though. Mother must have shown you a thousand times, whenever John and I went fishing." Henry's refusal to call John 'father' had always confused Mirage, but today she mentioned nothing of it. She would chide him later.

 

"Hmmmm... Toil of Kelebi?" She muttered half heartdly, "That could be it..."

 

"Doesn't 'Toil of Kelebi' treat extreme food posioning?" Violet said, "I was sure it did."

 

Mirage rolled her eyes, but Alexi nodded weakly. " 'The king can defend from the devil's red.' " He quoted. Henry and Mirage looked at him in amazement.

 

"How did you know that?" A bewildered Mirage asked.

 

"Do you remember the time I had a bout, and couldn't go swimming? I found a book that mother had borrowed from Mrs. Eldon, and it was the only thing to read. It mentioned a whole bunch of almost-rhymes like that one. Anyway... you're looking for Solomon's foil."

 

"Oh," Mirage said, "I guess it was Solomon's foil... the red berries?" Henry nodded, she withdrew a small vial of blue glass.

 

Pouring some of it on her finger, she rubbed the red blotches over it. It did look better, but not by much. The two eldest children, after sending ill-tempered Violet and sleepy Alexi to take a nap, looked at the useless map. A map of Zrael county, in fact. Henry and Mirage wondered where Sariel and John would have kept a map of the dangerous north east corner of Aborae Realm, but their minds were settled on other things.

 

From what they were able to guess, they were at least two leagues from where they should be. They'd passed the great heart tree, from where you could see the mountain of Ivea. Neither of them mentioned the tall chimney of smoke that rose from where their home had once been, but there was a silent agreement as to what the results had to have been. An agreement that most certainly did not require words to procure. The lines that had formed on the edge's of Mirage's mouth (from frowning too much) showed what she felt, as did the sorrow that showed in Henry's golden eyes.

 

"Well, we're lost." Henry said, "I've only a vague idea of where we are, and that wouldn't lead us anywhere but back to our destroyed house. The hunter's men are scouring the mountain by now, we most certainly can't stroll into the village and ask directions."

 

"I know that," said Mirage, "I also know that after you've passed through the heart of the forest, there is another path we could take." She picked up a strong-looking stick and made a make shift map of the Tengurthorean forest. "Right, so we are HERE." She said, making a large 'X' on the edge. "If we headed due east..."

 

"No!" Hissed Henry, "You KNOW what John said about traveling off the great road. Trolls live in Parfrey's Rock, Mirage! Trolls! No, we must stick to the Great Road at all costs."

 

"You mentioned that the Hunter's men would be scouring the mountain by now," Mirage pointed out, "Their next step will be the Great Road! If we pass the guard posts on the trail that leads to the Great Road, the one near Robin's creek, we'll be falling into the Hunter's grasp. He will have had time to warn them by now. In fact, I would not be surprised if he has also warned the Guard post near the sign of Netowona by courier to watch from the west. We cannot pass through the Great Road unless we have no other choice."

 

She paused, letting the truth of her words ring loud and clear within Henry's fleshy ear. "But we do have another choice. If we travel through Parfrey's Rock, we can cross the Great Road briefly into Zrael. If we journey around the four eyes of Rayson, it will save us the two weeks we would waste if we took the Belvadere ferry."

 

"What about the couriers? You said it yourself, they'll have reached Netowona's encampment by then."

 

"They'll have a warning that says to watch the west, not the east. We'll be perfectly safe."

 

"I don't like it," Henry said slowly, "This feels like a trap." Mirage shook her head.

 

"The hunter will never expect four unarmed children to pass through Twenobaga unscathed," Mirage said, "He'll expect us to hide here, in this forest. Which is why Parfrey's rock is another option, no one will be thick enough to think we've survived it. Even if the hunter and his group does, there are countless exits. The hunter will think we've died, or he'll think we've caught him. You know the legends of Parfrey's Rock-- you can hear or see anything from miles away. That includes enemies. If we hear a guard waiting, we can round the bend and take another path. Even the hunter doesn't have enough men to cover ALL of them."

 

Henry mulled over his sister's words in his head, the facts fitting together perfectly. After a great deal of consideration, he said slowly, "We could go, but we must travel by night."

 

"Henry, the trolls sleep during the day."

 

"The Soliders don't, Mirage. We can avoid the trolls. You see, they're generally big and easy to spot and/or hear..."

 

"Har har."

 

"Now, which way is it to Parfrey's?"

 

"I THINK its left..."

***

Violet and Alexi, upon waking from their nap, had not been particularly pleased with hearing they would be taking an alerternate route to Agna. After repeating her argument for the fifth time, the other two reluctantly agreed. They had no other route to take beside the Great Road, and they knew they would never make it without Henry and Mirage. Now, even Mirage was beginning to doubt her plan.

 

Parfrey's Rock was the work of nature, but a man named Parfrey had been the first to find it. That was all anyone ever knew or cared about Parfrey, that he discovered Parfrey's Rock. The people of Ivea and Lunlia village avoided the jagged rocks, cliffs, and small mountains that surrounded the three hundred acres of land. There were stories from the local Taverna of faces staring down, hoping to swallow a weary traveller. Rumors of beasts that roamed freely the too-easily-traveled paths, panthers with glowing red eyes that served only their blackened souls...

 

"I think this is the right trail," Mirage whispered, trying not to look at a massive, cruel-looking face peering down at her from the rock.

 

"I hope so," Breathed Henry, staring a a tree's roots that impossibly clung to the side of a cliff, "The last three paths have been occupied by soliders, a banshee, and then there was that 'fun' adventure with the bat cave..."

 

"Oh, come on," Mirage said, "I'm sure this one will--"

 

"WHO DARES WALK INTO MY CAVE! I AM TITUS, THE BONE-RIPPER, THE SCOURAGE OF ALL TROLLS, AND YOU SHALL PAY DEARLY FOR YOUR TRESSPASSING!"

 

Titus most certainly lived up (in all entirety, right down to the primitive sense of anger) to his namesake. His long yellow fangs were leered in a suddenly pitiful mix of excitement, hunger, and, indeed; even power, at his soon-to-be victims. Small, beady black eyes stared out from the abyss of his red, not quite sunburned head, not even coming close to the nose that would make a bird of pray jealous. Long, dark horns of black ivory jutted from his forehead, scratched from fighting with the other male trolls over the prettiest females.

 

Lank, greasy hair, slicked with oil in place of gel, reached his strong-jawed chin, and bushman eyebrows black as night obscured the insect-like eyes. A thin neck came to end at a hairy, unwashed, heavily muscled torso, lean and fit despite his dirty (even haggard, perhaps,) appearance. There were thick and heavy chains of strong iron hanging from his wrists, which had been rubbed raw from the poison of the iron to the faerie. All in all, one must admit, he was small for that of his kind. A mere eighteen feet, he was far smaller then the other Giants, Ogres, and other gargantuan creatures—nearly as much as he towered over the Stormbringers at that very moment.

 

“Titus!” squealed Violet, “It can’t be the… the one that rips people apart and eats their bones, can it? Right? I mean… its not… The Titus?”

 

“No, Sis,” Henry put forward sarcastically, “The NICE Titus, the one that hands out candy pieces and pats goats on the head when they're feeling down.”

 

“Oh,” Alexi said in a voice resembling a pre-adolescent declaration, “That’s good, I never did like Titus, he always scared m—Err, Gyk.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Said Mirage, “Well, don’t tell Gyk, but he seems to be angry at us.” A silence that was crisp as the October breeze crept over the children.

 

“Henry, I want you to take the children and run. If I don’t make it out of the rock, travel to our relatives in Agua. They may not be the best, but they’ll make due until you finish your schooling. After that, come and see if you can’t find… Ah… me.” Henry’s placid stared at her for a moment, an unspoken battle of wills that, considering Mirage’s untamable temper; was sure to be short-lived.

 

“I will go,” Replied Henry, “But promise me that if he becomes too much for you, you too will run. You have the heart of a lion, but not the strength of one.” He paused, and then hugged his sister awkwardly before adding, “Good luck, my sister Stormbringer.”

 

“Good luck, my brother Stormbringer,” Answered Mirage formally, hoping no one saw her trembling fingers. As the other three children turned and ran, she drew her sword. Staring at her reflection in the gleaming saber, she ran at Titus.

 

“YOU!” Roared Titus, “You have awoken me, and it is you who shall pay!”

 

“Nay, Good Sir,” Mirage hissed, in a voice that was just like her Mother’s had been, “I beg you, take the forethought on why surrending would be saving YOUR life. I know that giants are not known for prethought.." She let this thought hover in the air a brief moment, "But I have a small amount of faith in you. Didn't stutter in your greeting, see."

 

“Brave,” Grunted the massive Giant, crossing his arms, “and valiant--by all means, valiant—but ill-advised. I am six times your size; miss, if your pathetic human eyes are blind enough they cannot see. I have more strength in one TOE then you have in your entire body, yet, you bid me surrender.” A pause as the giant’s idea of an eloquent, persuasive speech beginning to take shape, “what mysteries do you hide, woman? Perhaps, if you interest me, I’ll keep you as a pet and show you to the other giants.”

 

“I am no pet, unlike SOME I am far wiser then that.”

 

Booming was the laugh of the humongous giant, a deep chuckle that shook all of Parfrey’s Rock. The soldiers guarding the entrances and exits felt it in their very bones, as did Mirage and the other (retreating) Stormbringers. Let me now explain something to you, my dearest reader: A giants’ true power lies not in his fists. His strength is an asset, certainly. When human pray is scarce, it may be their key to survival. Nay, the true power of a giant lies in his power of the laughter. As with the Siren’s song, it covers reality with the tantalizing scent of safety. It seeps into you, like water through a crack in the floor that was never quite repaired.

 

So it was that Mirage Stormbringer underwent her first battle intoxicated as the local drunkard.

 

“And what, pray tell, use is your wisdom to a giant?”

 

“Why, sir! I am a woman of science,” Mirage said, with an air of practiced civility that Sariel had thought her incapable of and sharp emphasis on 'science', “my secrets are all but ‘useless.’ ”

 

The Giant’s beady eyes gleamed greedily, as Mirage had guessed they would. “And what might one of these secrets be, mortal? Every word you speak prolongs your life, answer well.”

 

“Were you aware that electricity is conducted through metal? It travels faster then the horse, faster, even, then the swiftest shooting star.” The giant frowned.

 

“ ‘Electricity’?”

 

“I suppose you’d like an example, mighty Titus.”

 

“Yes. Yes, I would. Let me see this power of ‘Electricity.’” Mirage bowed as low as she could manage, her nose nearly grazing the gravel-paved ground. One thought, from her mother's book, rang in her head: 'Stormbringers are the only ones immune to their own stormbringing.'

 

“As you wish," replied Mirage, changing her tone suddenly,"for your life is in my hands. I am your humblest, most loyal, most treasured--”

 

“Don’t overdo it, fool.” Said Titus curtly, mentally running over ways to prepare human dumplings.

 

Mirage lifted her sword, and thrust it into the giant’s right foot. Blue blood spilt from the metal-forged edge of the sharpened saber, and a made howl borne of pain at its worse pierced the night air like a horn of cavalry to a despairing army.

 

“WATCH!” Screamed Mirage. Her soft voice hardly carried over the anguished cries of the beast. Raising her hand, she summoned the lightning to her. The weight of hiding her talents was lifted, in its place; the familiar tingling of power in her fingers came like an old visiting friend.

 

A friend that beckoning to be exposed to full potential. The lightning traveled down her arm as the wind bellowed and blew her hair wildly, and the fatal blow was struck as the power of electrocution journeyed into the iron blade. Fire came into the giant’s blue blood, the pain from heat relieved as cool death came to help Titus onto the path that would last him the rest of time. It was said often in Mirage's time that there is no rest for the wicked...

 

As his dead, empty eyes remained ajar, Mirage witnessed that firsthand. Removing her smoldering remains of a blade (which was now caked in the horrible-smelling blue blood), the Stormbringer made her way down the path she found her Sibling’s tracks on.

 

She was in no hurry. She had just killed a beast of myth; after all, she needed some time to get over her accomplishment. Her father had always said that hunting for his family had made him feel proud, but Mirage merely felt exhausted and empty. She wondered if John had said this entirely for his offspring’s benefit. Lost in thoughts similar to this, she continued on.

 

Henry’s warning crept into her head: “You never know what you’ll find buried in Parfrey’s Rock.”

 

Shadows began to leap onto the jagged edges of wall as she sprinted, ghosts and ghouls and goblins leered hungrily at her from the specific direction of her imagination’s fancy. She stopped as a voice found its way into her ear. An official, power-hungry voice.

 

“We’ve got ‘em, sir! All three!”

 

“You have no right to hold us here,” Henry’s voice answered the mysterious man, “We are citizens of Aborae and Lunlia, thus, I demand to know what we are to be charged with!”

 

Another voice answered, one that Mirage had heard only once before in her life: “Because you are a Maelstrom, Henry Stormbringer, and I have been charged with the pleasure of killing you.”


***


Mirage knew the hunter’s voice, and fear began its corruption of her victorious thoughts. The joy she had conceived from slaying the Giant, like the lightning, flashed and then died. Stepping from behind the rock, she put her sword at the source of the evil voice’s neck.

 


“You’re the hunter,” she said evenly, echoing again her mother’s musical voice, “You have destroyed my family, and I’m going to kill you.”
 



© 2008 Greystone


Author's Note

Greystone
'Maelstrom' means the same thing as 'Stormbringer'.

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Added on December 23, 2008


Author

Greystone
Greystone

Fort Atkinson, WI



About
I've been writing for about five years. Mostly, I focus on fantasy, although to be honest I've dabbled horribly in Romance, Science Fiction, and modern-day roleplays. I enjoy drawing, painting, wood c.. more..

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