|The Story of Zax
Author: Teemuu PM
The unlikely adventures of Zax, a roguish tiefling. Read his story as he battle tax collectors, his giant ego, his reputation, scary girls, his magical sword, and more!Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 73 - Words: 428,536 - Reviews: 47 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 11-02-12 - Published: 01-08-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7723321
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Reduce the sail! ", shouted Sarin to the Crab sailors. The paladin's instincts for the boat were quite remarkable , and the crab sailors sensed and obeyed his natural leadership. Despite the large half elf's booming voice he was barely heard over the roaring waves and freezing winds.
Halvor and several burly sailors leaned hard on the tiller and the battered Crab fishing boat, the Sadaharu , lurched to port , barely missing a jagged chunk of ice. The big knight breathed a sigh of relief as their vessel once again avoided an icy watery grave.
"Oww! Quit it , I don't have your stupid booze. Can't you see I'm busy !", yelped Halvor as he was poked in the chest.
"You're sure in full denial mode , aren't cha? The guilty I heard are like that. ", fumed Kirgi as the boat struggled against the churning icy ocean.
"I didn't take your booze ! Look, you know me. I hardly drink. Why would I guzzle something that I have no idea what it is. ", defended the big knight.
Kirgi blinked blankly. "Your stupid logic games won't work on me. ", he finally sputtered.
"Look. No one took your expensive bottle of blue spirits. For all we know that crystal decanter was cracked and leaked by itself. You were hit by a boulder you know, big rocks kind of do that when they strike crystal. I'm actually surprised the whole thing didn't shatter. ", argued the knight .
Kirgi shook his head vehemently in the frigid maelstrom. "Oh no. That bottle was magical, Petrus said so. The decanter wasn't cracked. Don't you think I thought of that. I poured some water in and nothing leaked out. Just some odd spiced incense dust, and some miniature furniture pieces. ", stated the dwarf angrily.
Halvor stopped and it was his turn to blink blankly. "Wait...miniature furniture? What are you talking about ? Are you sure it even held alcohol? ", demanded the knight.
"Seriously you two , cut it out !", shouted Sarin over the strong chilling winds. " Look Kirgi, I would be pissed too if someone stole my booze, but now's not the time. We are almost at Frosthaven , and we're being battered by unnatural storms and waves. By all rights , we should have smashed into an iceberg or now, or capsized from these winds and waves. Only the skill of these Crab sailors have prevented us from meeting a watery grave. "
Kirgi paused and an apologetic looked crossed his face. "Sorry guys. I'm a dwarf and we kind of like our booze. And..and ...it was blue...c'mon...blue booze! It's not every day I get a bottle of swanky hootch. I was hoping we would all drink it together to toast our victory celebration. Maybe get blue tongues or something. I ..I guess I got really pissed when I found someone stole my liquor. ", explained the dwarf.
Halvor shook his head at the stupid dwarf , despite his anger, he knew they still needed the short ranger's skills. "Well... if you want an unusual victory drink, maybe we can fill that decanter with some other form of hard liquor. I'm pretty sure I have some brandy or some of the Darokin Agave juice . If you drink enough , I'm pretty sure you won't taste the difference.", offered the big knight.
A particularly strong breeze suddenly battered the arguing adventures. The knight and the paladin held onto whatever railings and rope they could find. For a moment the dwarf seemed to be caught in a cyclone of wind and it appeared he would be swept off the vessel. Just as quickly as it struck , the winds suddenly vanished leaving the boat in a momentary calm. The sailors seized the opportunity and righted the boat again . The storms raged around the small vessel, but something was keeping the waves and icy winds at bay from the boat.
Even though they were swept by fierce a storm the dwarf didn't seem to be fazed by the sudden change in the environment. He paused and thought it over deeply. Eventually the dwarf nodded. "That's a good idea. I should find some moss berry wine or maybe some potato rye and fill that swanky decanter with it. ", declared the dwarf still ignoring the sudden calm in the storm. He thrust his thick fingers into his pack and began searching through it, till finally he withdrew a fancy blue crystal bottle.
"Fill er up! ", he declared as he pushed the decanter towards Halvor.
The big knight looked at the dwarf keenly. "Err...Kirgi ... its already full. ", observed Halvor.
"Open the portal ! Do it now !", declared a wounded Jarl Darkaxe to King Frostreaver. The King simply looked stunned at the turn of events. Despite the warping axe , the staff of Kostchtchie, and the other Jotun relics they had been beaten. Even with his infamous Krigare warriors , the chieftan and his men suffered a humiliating defeat.
First a giant albino dire lion of some sort had decimated their ranks. After a grueling epic battle, they had finally put the beast down, only to fight that little bitch sorceress. After an even more harrowing fight, Jarl Darkaxe managed to literally lay the boots to her . When he was about to finish her, some crazy quickling , or swift shadow creature attacked his remaining band. The creature was quick as lightning and its blow were accurate and deadly. The Jarl himself had lost an eye to the small creature, and was thankful that his retreating forces managed to cut their battle short.
They had managed to bring down one skyship, but two more were safely raining death on the giant ranks. The elven archers laid grievous volleys of arrows into his warriors, while being safely protected by the accursed lion warriors. His scouts indicated that fresh mounted warriors of the Boar and Mammoth were also closing in on their position . If they arrived while the giants were in such a confused state, Darkaxe knew they would be swept from the battlefield. The reports also indicated the mighty Hafgufa had turned against their own longships, and even now was systamically sinking them . Finally the King's trump card , the staff of Kostchtchie had been sundered. The Jarl knew little of the artifact's powers, but saw that it negated the human's magic, the only thing that was saving them. With such a sudden reversal in fortune the Jarl knew they must retreat from the battle.
"Open the portal ! Do it now !", repeated the Jarl but the King shook his head.
"The warping axe, the artifacts... they take too much out of me. I ...can't ..I do not have the strength to do it. ", said the king in a very tired, very small voice.
Jarl Darkaxe saw only red. The King's remaining body guards raised their weapons in defense of their liege, but Darkaxe swept them away in his rage. The Giant chieftain cleaved them both aside , and then buried his axe into the Frostreaver's chest in a single motion. The axe sheared through the King's heavy armor and embedded itself into his ribs. The last King of the giant's looked in shock as he fell to the ground. He tried to mumble something but only managed weak whispers.
"I should have done that ages ago! ", declared the Jarl triumphantly. He stood over his fallen foe and hefted the strange metal weapon, known as the warping axe. The axe was heavy, and the giant chieftan struggled to lift it. The haft of the weapon was heavy carved wood, but the head of the axe was made of some bizarre metal that seemed to twist and writhe on its own volition. The giant chieftain saw shapes of insects and dark aquatic creatures seemingly struggling in the metal, and noted a screaming face appearing to try to escape only to be pulled down by some chitinous appendage. It was bizarre and hypnotic to look at directly, and Darkaxe noted he felt pain in his eyes when staring at it.
The giant Jarl attempted to repeat the motion he saw Frostreaver employ in vain. He had hoped to open another rift so that his forces could escape. The giant Jarl was no novice when it came to magic items, and knew most items would imprint intuitively how to properly employ its magic. Unfortunately , the Jarl was unable to make the axe respond to his commands.
Darkaxe fell to the dieing King's side , and hoped the old tyrant had no expired yet. "Tell me the command words to the axe ! Although you do not have the strength to use the axe, I do ! I will end your suffering swiftly if you obey me. Do not be prideful and show me the way to rescue our people! ", the Jarl commanded.
Frostreaver grinned as blood escaped his lips." You..fool. The gifts of the Jotun drains the ...spirit ...of the user...but only one of noble blood can properly ...employ them. If...if it was ...so simple to let them drain...a subordinate...I would have ...given you ...the axe ages ago. ", gurgled the King with a defiant smile.
The Jarl Snarled in rage. He rose up to his full fury and wrenched the axe from the King's chest. " If our people shall die today. You shall die first !", he declared as he swung his axe downwards.
Stormfeather and Sharliss soared high above the storm clouds. Even with her supernatural constitution, the priestess found it a struggle to breath in the high altitude, but she noted that the Griffon Prince had no problems . A terrifying storm raged beneath them as the priestess guessed her fate.
"Don't look so worried. My order is actually doing what you want. With a few modifications ...of course. ", smirked Stormfeather.
Sharliss did not respond to the taunt , but her curiosity was raised.
The Griffon prince nuzzled her neck with cheek, sending a wave of revulsion in the priestess. "You should be thanking us. We are going to join my father . The great hunting bird, and a handful of hand picked knights are heading to the ruins of Frosthaven. Normally it would be impossible to fly through this weather, but we were given forewarning. We've taken appropriate preparations to reach our target, and accomplish our objective. ", whispered Stormfeather.
Sharliss shook her head violently to break the prince's contact with her neck. "I assume you seek to capture this artifact for yourself. My father and his friends won't let you have it so easily, even with myself as a hostage. ", she declared defiantly.
Stormfeather laughed. "My dear. Do you not see the storm below us. The artifact, the 'Aaapallo Myrskyjen' has already fallen into the hands of the giants. They are using it to summon a massive blizzard so they can create a bridge to the iceberg of Ogremoch. If we are to use you as a hostage, it is to ensure that your father and his friends do not interfere with us. That is, if they are still alive. We are not the villains here, but the heroes. We seek to stop this earth king and recover the artifact. Our actions will surely convince the other orders that Lord Felwind is the only man fit to rule. "
"Support your father, or he buries you in a blizzard. Am I correct? ", guessed Sharliss. The priestess was clearly unimpressed by the simplistic plan.
"Ahh, you are a sharp one. You will make a fitting bride for me. ", declared Stormfeather.
A cold shudder ran down Sharliss's back. "Never. I only agreed to a political marriage on the condition you aid my father. I see you never intended it. ", spat Sharliss bitterly.
Stormfeather laughed again. " To tell you the truth priestess, I was expecting that your beauty and our imminent marriage would drive my sister insanely jealous. I was hoping that a beautiful rival like yourself would allow her to reveal her true feelings to me. Sadly it was not to be. "
Sharliss shuddered as she comprehended her words. She didn't think it was possible, but the Griffon prince suddenly became that much more colder and creepier.
The Griffon Prince continued, " No matter though, you are still a useful hostage, and you are still quite lovely. Father's plan is quite mad, but also quite ambitious. I am no fool and expect him to fail of course, there are too many factors against him. However, if he does succeed, recover the orb, and enforce his iron will to all of known civilization... I would think marriage to the Prince of everything would not be so unpleasant. If not, then of course I could always use another concubine or ...slave ...to slake my lusts.".
Sharliss squirmed at his breath and touch from the threat, but knew now was not the time to escape. She did not have the proper spells to return safely in this storm, and knew that she needed to be patient to make her escape. She silently suffered the Griffon Prince's touch.
The Griffon Prince gazed at the stars and peered below. A small glint of light could be seen through the churning blizzard and his griffon mount angled fearlessly towards it. "Hold on tight. We're going to meet an acquaintance of yours. ", smirked Stormfeather as they plunged into the storm.
Despite the whip being formed from heavy stone, in Overseer Uzrith's hands it was as malleable as any leather. Prince Frostreaver the thirteenth convulsed from the last lash and fell to his knees in pain.
"Orb ... Storm ... or ... girl ... die... ", spoke the massive earthen taskmaster. Though the giant prince was tall for even his race, he was dwarfed by the walking mountain tormenting him.
Frostreaver gritted his teeth, and rose up once again . He summoned a last surge of strength and channeled it nto the eldritch orb , before once again falling into a heap. Only the fact that the elementals were holding his sister hostage kept the Prince standing. Between the beatings he had taken from his earthen captors, and the strain from powering the Aaapallo Myrskyjen , the giant prince had reached the limits of his endurance. After conjuring another storm front, the captured giant prince fell to the ground.
Frostreaver felt the massive stone foot of Uzrith prod his limp body and he held out hope they would finish the job. The prince and his sister had failed their people, and their father. They could not defeat the elementals and failed to secure the artifacts of their people. When Frosthaven fell , most of their people fled, but a small contingent of elite giants remained to secure the remaining Jotun relics. They had not seen the light of day for centuries and were hidden in a trap filled tunnel within the city. Despite their security , Frostreaver knew that the relentless elementals would eventually recover them. King Frostreaver had tasked Prince Frostreaver and his sister Isula to retrieve the items before fleeing the city, else retrieve them and destroy them. Sadly they were too late. The mountainous creature called Uzrith wielded almost god like powers and eventually subdued the pair. Frostreaver expected the doom of his people , but the relics were somehow denied to his foes.
A band of humans had seized the temple and miraculously evaded its dangers . Frostreaver heard that there was a caste of infighting humans called adventurers that specialized in such endeavors but disregarded those rumors. Thankfully the legends were true and the humans were able to deny his more immediate foe their prize. The elementals raged and battered the interlopers, but they had retreated into an abandoned giant fort. Frostreaver though for sure they would be quickly overwhelmed by the relentless stone horde, but miraculously they repelled attack after attack. The prince knew it was only a matter of time before they too fell, but was impressed how long they held out.
Eventually of course , the humans were broken, just like Prince Frostreaver and Princess Isula. The giant did not know if they were defeated by brute strength or the elemental's surprising deceptions. Regardless of their method of defeat, the elementals paraded the Orb of Storms in front of the Prince and his sister. Frostreaver knew that they could not operate such a device, and only one of royal blood could. He knew they would break his body and his will , but swore he would resist their efforts to control him. Despite his iron will, the Giant Prince eventually relented. Especially after they threatened his beloved sister. As his broken body laid dieing on the frozen ground, he hoped that the ice bridge would not be fully formed yet. It would be his last act of defiance from his failed life.
"Orb ... Storm ... or ... boy ... die... ", threatened a stony voice. The broken prince noticed that his tormentors were not talking to him. A weeping voice relented , and even from the ground , Frostreaver knew they were doomed.
"We may not be the bravest , or the biggest...but we always win! ", shouted Captain Ramirez as he flashed his rapier across a crouched giant's nose. The wounded warrior involuntarily rose up, which resulted in him comically striking his head against the hull of the ship. The giant howled in pain and confusion , but was quickly silenced by a flurry of strikes from a band of swarming marines.
A small cheer rose through the Grommish ranks from the heroics of their captain, but a feeling of dread still prevailed through them. The Indomitable was grounded, its hull breach and they were surrounded by giants. The upper decks were barely fending off the attackers , mainly due to the height and fortress like design of the vessel, however the breach provided the enemy with an opportunity to pour their forces through. The height of the vessel was a detriment but they all knew the giant's superior numbers would eventually win out. No sooner had Ramirez dispatched the crouching giant then a pair of armored ogres took its spot.
A pair of large hands grasped the fallen giant and dragged it out of the breached hull while the ogres cautiously advanced with shield and morning stars at the ready. They were more armored then the barbaric hide wearing enemies they had so far encountered and advanced with military precision .
"Oh great, smart ogres. What will they think of next ? " , groaned Ramirez as he blew a wayward strand of hair back into place.
The Ogres were less cramped then the giant, and had their weapons poised to strike. A brave but foolish marine leaped at them, but one of the brutes took advantage of its superior reach and smashed the man into the wall. The other ogre had its weapon at the ready to cover his fellow as the pair continued their advance.
Ramirez bared his teeth in anger. "RANGE! ", he shouted to his dwindling men.
Several marines responded and got into position between the defenders or from cover behind a corner. A short hail of bolts and dragon golem fire were fired at the ogres, but their armor and heavy shields easily repelled the bulk of the attacks. A few did manage to sink into the ogre's flesh, but the brutes casually ignored the blows.
The ogres continued to press forwards. The captain knew that they currently tied the giants up in a bottle neck in the Indomitable's halls. If they continued their advance they would lose that advantage quickly. Ramirez gripped his rapier and knew only a fierce counter attack was their only hope. Regardless of casualties, he would not let the giants take his vessel.
As the Captain and his men prepared to charge, suddenly a slight shadow slipped by them.
"Ahh...ogre gladiators...or footmen. Strength and armor versus my speed and agility. A perfect clash of styles don't you think. ", commented a thin man with an arrogant elvish accent.
Ramirez glared angrily at Lord Quick , but he welcomed the elven duelist's presence. Even though he assigned the Royal Adventurer to employ his bow on the upper decks , the captain had to admit that the elf's skills with the blade would serve them well in these close quarters. Ramirez never thought much of the Royal Adventurer as an administrator or as a person for that matter, but he acknowledged his superior abilities in the arts of death. Even without his magic, the elf was as dangerous with the blade as his reputation hinted.
The ogres were confused at their new foe, but advanced methodically at him. One readied his weapon, while the other swung his morning star at the elf. Ramirez watched as the elf seemed almost oblivious to the danger, and for a second the captain wondered if the duelist thought his magic was still working. The weapon crashed into the floor, and Ramirez expected to see the shattered body of the elf broken on the ground. From the look of the ogres, they had thought they had finished the elf as well, but all were surprised when their was no sign of Lord Quick.
"Much too slow chaps. ", replied a muffled voice. The ogres and marines were not sure where the elf was or what was happening, when suddenly a blade emerged from the readied ogre's chest. The brute blinked in shock at the protruding weapon , then fell face first as it disappeared back into his chest. The other ogre swung around , but was greeted with a flash of steel. It stumbled back to the awaiting blades and clubs of the Grommers as it clutched its throat.
The giants were undeterred by the defenders' brief victory. They released a small pack of winter wolves at the Grommers followed by more traditional berzerker ogres. Ramirez knew it would be a desperate battle now . Most likely hand to hand against the ravenous war beasts. The marines raced to support Lord Quick , but the elf contemptuously waved them back. He then squared himself to the rushing horde, before releasing a blinding bolt of lightning into the enclosed passage.
"Our..our magic is back. ", exclaimed Ramirez in surprise. With their spells stripped by whatever antimagic field that had enveloped them, the Indomitable was easy prey. With their magic return however, then the Indomtibale's sister ships the Imperial and the Invincible would have a good chance to rescue them.
"Of course it is. ", sniffed Lord Quick. "I would not abandon my post if the position was not secured. Already your sailors are repelling the giants with those wands of theirs. I just came down here to practice my exquisite swordsmanship and to see what type of trouble you people are in . "
Ramirez regarded the elf's veiled insults coldly, but held his tongue. His ship's close quarter defenses were formidable but no match for the army of giants they landed in. The captain expected the sudden return of magic gave them a bit of breathing room, but they were far from out of danger. Ramirez signaled his men to be ready for another assault by their foes.
As the Captain and his crew waited tensely. Lord Quick yawned and strode to the breach in the hull. Ramirez was incensed by the carefree attitude of the elf, and half hoped he would be flattened by a boulder or a club.
The elf scanned the exterior and shook his head. "Our playmates have left it appears. ", frowned Lord Quick in disappointment.
Ramirez signaled his men to keep their positions as he scrambled towards the elf and the breach. He was amazed when he saw the giants had indeed fled the area. Did the knights somehow reach their position, did the Invincible and Imperial reach them ? He nimbly hopped outside, and scanned the area more clearly. The Grommish airships were clearly seen several miles from their position, raining their deadly payloads onto the giants below while the ranks of the Lion were locked in a deadly battle a significant distance from their position as well. All around the breach and the ship in general were slain giants , ogres and assorted warbeasts. Ramirez noted a few were slain by arrows or the Indomitable's point defense weapons, but the vast majority were slashed or stabbed to death.
The captain scratched his head as he wondered what had caused the giants to retreat from their position. From the wounds of the giants it appeared a company of knights descended on them, surely they would have remained to check upon the ship. He waved at one of his men above on the ramparts of the ships . "Who killed these giants? How many and where are they now ? ", he shouted.
The man above shrugged nervously." Two and umm...they're behind you. ", he replied sheepishly.
Ramirez scowled at the observer, and was about to shout his question again.
"Oh hey Ramirez...glad to see you're still around.", said a familiar voice from behind him.
The captain turned around and was greeted by the sight of his nondescript friend. He had a few cuts and bruises , but he appeared to be in a rare good mood. Next to him, was a tall dark haired elf, or half elf. She had a statuesque aura of beauty about her , accented with generous breasts and curves. She wore only light scant armor, but her bare flesh was decorated with intricate tattoos. Even though they never met, the captain knew she must have been the infamous Mistress of the Lion Blade. The savage sorceress of the north that was as deadly as she was beautiful. "My lady. I am honored by your presence. ", bowed the Captain in his most dashing voice he could muster.
"Ahh...the sight of a such a rare flower in this carnage , brightens my heart. ", waxed Lord Quick as he literally slid towards the Tattooed beauty.
The mistress of the Lion blade nodded at both and seemed to blush from the attention.
" Brita...Ramirez ... Lord Quick ", spoke Earl while introducing the trio. "So you said you wanted to meet the woman that would make me risk my life, your life, your crew and your ship for. ", smiled the assassin to Ramirez.
Jarl Darkaxe stared in shock , as his trademark Dark iron axe shattered in his hands. A streak of blue light erupted from it, before turning sharply and streaking towards a small figure.
"WHO DARES!", roared the Jarl , more from rage then reason , as he drew two wicked looking hand axes from his belt.
"My name is Isula, and I dare. ", challenged the small girl in the Jotun tongue. She appeared to be a pale human girl with white hair wearing ornate blue armor and wielding a runic spear. Despite her size , there was something about her armor and appearance that seemed familiar to the Jarl.
"Human whelp! I don't know what magic you used , but none shall stand between me and my prey! ", bellowed the frothing giant chieftain, ignoring the fact his opponent had shattered his axe effortlessly.
Isula shook her head, "First off...I'm not a human. Secondly... No one kills Frostreaver there , but me. I'm pretty sure I swore to kill him first, so therefore I get the right of first challenge. Lastly, no one strikes a member of the Royal line unless they share the same blood. Especially not a craven attack like what you just did. I haven't been around in awhile, but I'm pretty sure that's still a rule. ", the miniature giant said sternly.
"DIE! ", shouted Darkaxe, as the full fury of his berzerker rage took him. The Jarl charged the girl, but she stood her ground. At the last moment , a flash of blue light flooded the area, and Darkaxe found he was tightly encased by crystalline bars of force. Isula then leaped impossibly high before landing on the caged Jarl.
"You deserve to die for so many reasons, but I'm going to use the calling me a human excuse. ", she snarled, before plunging her ornate spear cleanly into his skull. The Jarl thrashed briefly before falling still.
"Is..Isula...is that you. ", coughed the shattered of King Frostreaver.
The miniature giant rushed to her brother's side. "I'm sorry...I'm here. ", whispered Isula, as all her anger and threats seemed to have vanished .
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry for your curse...sorry for using the sacred relics...sorry for this disaster...", said the giant king weakly.
"You can't die...you owe me a duel, brother. ", replied Isula softly .
"Take the Orb of ...and the warping axe...the horn of Aegir...I lost the..staff... there is no one left to use them...but you. Even..even if Darkaxe killed me, he could not use the relics...the cost is high...but use them to save our people...", begged Frostreaver before he fell silent.
A deep emptiness shook the miniature giant. She expected herself to break down into tears, but found she had none to shed. She only felt a void in her heart that she admitted had always been with her. During the battle with the Hafgufa , she felt outrage that her brother would resort to such foul magics. Their father King Frostreaver had made them swore never to use it. She felt her brother's presence and sought him out after the fight to seek vengeance and honor for her family. All the wrongs he had wrought on her would be avenged, the curse, his theft of her throne, the use of the forbidden relics, and many other past slights would be avenged that day.
Seeing her brother broken and dead however left her with no joy or satisfaction. She had hoped the void in her heart would be mended or filled, but she felt no closure from his death. If anything, the thought of her fallen people and her slain brother filled her heart with more grief. Even though the events of the past relayed by Darwen were revealed to her, she felt detached from them. Sir Njord, her exile , and even her imprisonment in that Shattered mountains felt more like a confused dream then reality to her. Why would she accept her exile so readily, why would she accompany a human of all things, why would she sacrifice herself to guard his tomb? As she pondered her past and her emptiness, she wondered if that was why she left . Perhaps the hero named Njord somehow completed her heart, perhaps that's why she accepted her exodus without a struggle. If that was so, it would be something she would never experience again, since the ancient hero had long turned to dust. Even his name almost forgotten by history.
A tear rolled down the giant's cheek.
"ISULA? Is that you!", declared a greybeard Frost Giant Warrior.
Isula stared at the venerable warrior and a hint of recognition crossed her face. She could not recall his name, but recalled he was a part of her Warhost, so many centuries ago.
"By Thryme! It's a miracle. I thought we would all perish. The Warping axe is too much for the King to use again, and we are surrounded by enemies. I hope to rally around the King and hoped for some brilliant stratagem to escape , but alas it appears he has fallen. With your return, we are saved! ", declared the giant. Several younger giants were confused at the scene of the greybeard conversing with the small human, but they appeared to have enough respect for the veteran warrior to stay their hand.
Isula nodded and grew to her full size. It was a simple artificial spell but it evoked the effect she wanted. She was still much shorter then her brethren , but her appearance caused them to cower and bow in reverence. She thought she would bask in their worship, but found no consolation in their actions. She simply picked up the bizarre weapon known as the warping axe, and with skill much greater then her fallen brother , cut a rift in mid air.
The giant host was confused at this small stranger, but knew what the rift was. Swiftly they retreated into the void that brought them here. As the last giant retreated Isula considered entering herself. She belonged with her own kind rather then with the stupid tiefling and his crew. She wondered if she could lead the same people that had forsaken and cursed her, let alone live with them. As she was lost in indecision the rift closed itself rendering her decision moot.
"You ...you did it Zax. ", stuttered Darwen in shock.
"I am both astounded and humbled by your deeds Sir Zax. ", bowed Erland reverently.
Zax held out his hands in protest, "No...no...no...I didn't do this. It was Adria. She used her eye long powers and gave it a gaze blast or something. ", rebuffed the tiefling.
"Eye long powers? You mean eidolon? Ridiculous! ", declared Petrus. "Unless I concentrate intently I do not have the full array of Adria's senses, but I do know what she's up to . Especially at such close range. I can assure everyone here, that my faithful eidolon merely deposited our reluctant hero and his steed before flying off to position herself as a tactical reserve. ", the summoner stated with Adria nodding in agreement.
Zax frowned at the revelation but he would not be deterred. "Bucky did it! I saw him. He turned around and mule kicked that critter in the Octo nads. It shot ink or something after the mighty kick and scrambled out into the harbor clutching its crotch in pain. ", declared the tiefling. When he noticed that his current version of the story drew many doubting looks he added, "Hey! Bucky is a tough little critter. I seen him beat a griffon ...and a shark! No one messes with Eight bucks here. "
Sir Erland held out his hand, "Your courage is overshadowed only by your humility. I understand your plight perfectly. True heroes do not seek fame, but are satisfied by their deeds alone. I often wished that my own reputation was kept more private. ", stated the Squirrel champion. " Let it be known that the defenders of Narwhal keep drove the monster off. Their blood and sacrifice saved the day, the rest of us just lent a helping hand. ", Erland declared with a wink.
Squire Rollo was about to protest but shrugged in agreement. The rest of the small band agreed as well before they started treating their wounds. Treekeeper Surry was the principal healer, but Squire Ogela seemed to possess some skill as well.
"That's not like you . ",whispered Darwen to Zax as she motioned him away from the others.
Zax shrugged. "What do you mean ?", he said half heartedly.
Darwen shook her head. "You know perfectly what I mean. Normally you are the first person to claim credit or at least bask in the mistaken impression others have. You could have gone down as a legendary hero for defeating the Hafgufa for what you did .", stated the elf.
Zax chuckled at the comment. "Please. There is no way I'm going to attach the victory over the half goof ball to myself. I value my reputation , thank you very much. I rather be known for kicking kittens or smacking babies then beating a half goof ball. ", explained the tiefling with a smirk.
"What? Didn't you see the creature you fought ? I was bigger then a war galley! It was the size of a small keep! How could that hurt your reputation! ", asked Darwen with a raised voice. Her sudden outburst caused some heads to turn , but Zax waved them off by giving the elf a quick kiss, then a wave to the onlookers. The curious crowd smiled and drew their own conclusions as their attentions returned to the healers.
"Look Darwen. Sure that thing was big, but its all about story telling. Nobody back home has seen a Half goofball before and I doubt most people here have even heard of it. If wild tales start spinning about how the Heroic Zax defeated the Half goof ball then they will laugh, and worse yet they will question the legitimacy of my other stories. I rather like my current reputation and legend as a matter of fact. So I rather not attach this bit of hokey lore to my name.", whispered Zax.
Darwen's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Wait...I heard from Adria you took full credit for defeating a tribe of goblins, when all you did was curl into a ball and scream. You also relate your obviously bloated story about rats in the sewer on numerous occasions. You are telling me , you rather be known for defeating rats and goblins then the dreaded Hafgufa.", pried the elf.
Zax gave her an incredulous look. " Well yeah. Huffguffa or however you say it, sounds stupid and doesn't conjure an images of dread of fear from the common man. Goblins and rats however, that's a different story entirely. Rat's are dirty filthy creatures, that bring a sense of feral savagery even in a completely urban setting. They evoke disgust more then danger, but since they live in packs in the sewer, they also bring a sense of unknown fear. They are kind of like clowns, except not as dangerous but just as scary. Everyone is afraid of clowns. Especially the sad looking ones. Goblins are short and vicious and full of sharp teeth and blades, they are pretty scary critters. That's why parents tell bad children to beware of goblins under the bed, not ,let's say, owl bears. ", the tiefling explained in a lecturing tone.
"Parents tell bad children goblins are under their beds because they are small, owl bears would be too big. ", retorted the elf.
"Whateva...you get the idea though. ", shrugged the tiefling.
Darwen nodded solemnly . As Zax began to return to the line the elf reached out and grasped his arm. The tiefling stopped and turned towards her. The elf was at a lost for words, and the pair stared at each other uncomfortably .
"Zax...I'm sorry. ", she finally stated as the tiefling began to walk away again.
Zax smiled and returned to his companion's side. "Sorry for what? ", he said with a sly grin. The tiefling noticed Squire Rollo waving to him, indicating he saved them a spot in line. The tiefling waved him off , and wrapped his arms around the despondent elf in response. Rollo nodded knowingly and turned his attention away.
Darwen reluctantly played along with the act and drew the tiefling closer. "I'm sorry I doubted you. I ..I thought you were going to run away with Adria. I thought you abandoned me to the beast. ", she stated with downcast eyes.
Zax examined her face, and noted the defeated expression on her face. He simply smiled and hugged her again. "Hey, don't think running away didn't cross my mind. I've fabricated numerous plans on numerous occasions to run away to Irendi, and possibly become a druid. In everyone one of those plans , I have a lovely elven companion at my side. " , he admitted with a smirk.
Darwen blushed and held tightly onto Zax. " Why would you want to run? You have everything right now. Fame, fortune, ...even respect from one of the greatest warriors alive. You just have to survive to enjoy it, and I'm here to help you with that. ", teased the elf.
"Living up to my reputation is a fine tight rope you know, its great to be known as a hero, but sometimes people want you to do actual heroic deeds. Even with such a beautiful body guard at my side , I rather avoid all the sharp weapons pointed at my direction . ", explained the tiefling.
Darwen thought over his words and nodded, "I'm still sorry for doubting your courage. You've come through for me time and time again, yet I still harbor doubts about you. It's..it's I don't feel worthy of you. Don't laugh. I of all people know the truth about your carefully fabricated reputation, but believe it or not , its more truth then lies. You really come through when it counts, and ...and I can't even muster enough courage to believe in you. ", admitted the elf in an empty tone. The pair stood silent again as the world stood still between them. " I've really enjoyed our time together but maybe you should seek more dependable , reliable allies. ", said the elf softly, each word a dagger in both their hearts.
Zax's expression turned sour. He grasped the elf by the shoulders and shook her abruptly. " Oh no, you are not leaving me now. I like Sharliss a lot but I'm only helping her because of you. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be up north in this stinking city in the center of this crap hole backward civilization, I would be relaxing in my manor in Grom City. Lastly, I should be sailing to Irendi right now on the Acheron, but do you know why I'm not ? Because I know the only person I care about won't be on board with me, because she has a need to connect with her people. Listen to me, we've had our ups and downs the last little while, the mantle of duty attached to my Champion title, that flirty skank elf Captain, even the woefully scant time we've been able to share , however the one thing that has always remained constant is that you've always...I mean ALWAYS have been on my thoughts. I don't care if you suffered a moment of weakness, I bet battling legendary hoof gustas does that. Adria told me staring at the thing drives one batty, so I certainly won't hold that against you. All I'm saying...is if you leave now, I will follow you. I don't care how awkward or stalkerish it will be, I will follow you till you accept me or stab me. ", declared the tiefling in a state of half panic.
Darwen blinked in stun disbelief. "I...I didn't expect that response. ", she said numbly as she tried to process all the tiefling had said.
Zax summoned all his courage. "I love you...Are you happy?" , he blurted abruptly then finished with a sigh.
Darwen blinked again then smiled, "Yes. ", she replied as she kissed him lightly and gripped his hand tightly.
The pair were the last to be checked by Treekeeper Surry. Ogela had already expended her limited healing and was assisting squire Rollo to prepare their mounts before they moved out. Darwen had quite a few bumps and lacerations , but Zax was relatively uninjured.
Erland stood by Surry's side as she administered healing to the oddly smiling Bladesinger.
"In the future, you should not refer to Narwhal Hold as the "stinking city in the center of this crap hole northern civilization. " , at least not while you are in the confines of the city and within possible earshot of its citizens. ", grinned the Grand Champion in a smile that looked more like a challenge then a warning.
Zax looked fearfully at the much bigger, battle scarred warrior. He noted the squirrel on his head looked ready to leap off his helmet and tear his throat open . "Errr... you heard that ?", gulped the tiefling nervously.
"Super Squirrel hearing. ", shrugged Erland as he pointed to his ears.
"Pfffttt...I think everyone heard it...at least bits and pieces of it. I think the "I love you ...are you happy ?", bit at the end was a nice touch. It sounded close to a forced confession , then an admission of endearment. It was all very over the top and melodramatic. ", snorted the Treekeeper .
Zax and Darwen both blushed at their observation, and without thought, both took a step closer to the other and gripped their hands tightly again.
"Do not let my old maid companion's bitter comments weight down your heart. ", laughed the Grand Champion. The mood lightened, but Zax noted Surry's eyes narrowed menacingly at Erland.
"Sir Zax, I am not boasting or prideful when I say I am a good warrior, but despite my skill and deeds I am not a truly great warrior. To be a great warrior , you need more then skill at arms, you need a strong heart. The ability to care and love those around you , and more importantly to let them know this. Your admission to your companion was quite brave and touching , and for that I salute you. As warriors , we both know that the next battle might be our last. However, as warriors, we know to be always on guard , physically, spiritually, and emotionally. ", stated Erland sagely. Normally the Grand Champion radiated a much more youthful aura then his aged appearance suggested, but at the moment he looked like an old man full of regrets. "To declare your love like that takes some courage. To let your defenses down like that, especially when there was significant doubt in your lady friend. ", added the Squirrel Champion.
"Thanks...", replied the couple simultaneously.
After the pair left, Surry looked at the Grand Champion suspiciously. "Well that was different. I thought you were going to point at them and laugh . You know, flaunting your superior alpha male position and demeaning your subordinates who indulge in all that touchy feeling crap. ", chuckled the Treekeeper.
Erland shrugged, "I mean it, it took courage what he did. "
"Did you do something similar with your own lovely wife before the eve of some grand battle in the past ?", teased the tree keeper.
Erland snorted derisively, "Declare my love to Helga? Hah! She would be the first to throw that in my face. Harpies refer to my wife if they need to describe someone in a shrewish manner. "
Surry laughed lightly at the comment before rejoining the rest of the band. The skirmish at the harbor was won , but the battle was far from over. Even though some reports suggested the giants had vanished as swiftly as they arrived, they still needed to sweep for stragglers .
"When I was young...there was a girl . ", stated Erland blankly when he was left alone. The Grand Champion stared off into the clouds and a distant look took him. " I only knew her briefly but I was too scared to state those words. ", he said regretfully to himself.