© 2000-2003 Imminent Storm of TWZ
Daniel Ayden woke after a lousy night's sleep. He had been having that dream again. Still, after five years he was haunted by that day in his dreams. It had taken him a whole year to emotionally recover from the loss of his best friend during that battle. "The Battle of Glory," he muttered to himself as he got up and went through his usual morning routine. He personally felt that the word 'Glory' shouldn't even be used in the same sentence as 'Battle'; how ironic to use it in the very name of the most devastating battle in the history of humanity. It was the same battle that claimed the life of his friend, a Small Green Dragon named, in the human tongue, Kukrret.
Daniel shook his head and tried to think about something different. He had a busy day ahead of him and he didn't need to be dwelling on the past. He opened his equipment closet and prepared to suit up. He had quit the army after the end of the war; his heart just wasn't in it. So he volunteered for the Edron guard service. They were a group of volunteers, mostly ex-soldiers, who guarded the city gates and also patrolled the roads, paths, and forests around Edron City. The island of Tohin was well separated from the mainland so the most they ever really had to do was make sure the roads were kept clear of wild animals, that travelers were protected from criminals, and other law enforcement duties.
He started putting on his armor. First on were his heavy linen tunic and (very worn) leather pants. He then put on his heavy boots that had steel plate built into them, as well as a pair of light steel greaves. Over his tunic he put on a hauberk of chain mail, and over that a light breastplate made of steel. The breastplate was painted black and bore the crest of the Edron Guard, a stylized Dragon silhouette, emblazoned in silver. To complete the armor he slipped on a pair of leather gauntlets. Last was a leather belt from which he could hang his sword and his knife.
He pulled his sword out of the closet. He removed it from its sheath and checked it over. It was a beautifully polished, solid mythril katana, handed down to him from his grandfather, before he died. He wiped the blade down with a cloth and checked the edge, it was razor sharp. He waved it in the light coming through the window and glints and sparks of light flashed off the blade edge and fuller. The slight bluish tint of the mythril gave the sword a look of almost glowing in the light. He sheathed the sword and buckled the sheath to his belt. Before leaving, he grabbed his leather pack with all his supplies he prepared the previous night. Over his shoulders he threw on a manteu. Lastly he grabbed his small dagger, usually used for eating but also good for fighting.
He left his home, a small dwelling that was part of the guard barracks; all guardsmen had their own small house. Edron was a bustling city of fifty thousand registered residents, but once you factored in the itinerant traders, foreign visitors, unregistered vagrants, and others, the real number of people in the city at any one time could easily approach one hundred thousand. Daniel's house was located in the northeast section of the city, outside the old wall, built when the city itself was first founded. In time the city expanded so much that a second wall system was built to protect the growing populous. Outside the New Wall a road ran circling the city. From this road one could access the three major towns outside of Edron, Zordin to the north, Cantin to the east, and Juton to the south.
Daniel really didn't expect anything out of the ordinary, giant spiders terrorizing the civilians along the road (giant spiders are not really "giant" but just very large, about the size of a large house cat), pickpockets preying on the influx of tourists that have been visiting the island recently, not much to worry about. Sure he had heard that Cyclops camps were becoming a problem on the mainland, and there were even reports of Orcs attacking small outlying villages. But Tohin was safely isolated from the problems of the mainland and the Tohinians worried little about them these days. Sure there was a part of Daniel that wanted to have something a little more exciting to do, but he was happy where he was.
He reported to the North Gate guard office to receive his assignment for the day. As he entered the command post, he saluted the commander on duty. "Lieutenant Daniel Ayden reporting for assignment, sir."
"Good morning Lieutenant." Lieutenant Commander Vidyen Dronell said, without even looking up. "I have you scheduled to patrol the Zordin road. Report back if anything unusual happens. You are to patrol until the halfway marker otherwise. Dismissed."
"Yes, sir" Daniel replied curtly. He turned and headed out of the office.
As its name suggests, the Zordin road runs from the loop road around Edron toward the town of Zordin. Daniel had done this patrol at least a hundred times and he had a fair idea of what to expect. Zordin was a mining town in the Zorithia Mountains, and was Edron's chief supply of iron and copper. He could expect to see a lot of carts loaded with billets of metal or loads of coal.
Daniel left the guard office and headed around to the stables. Horses were not used for transport in Tohin, there is insufficient pastureland for them, so Peco-Peco's1 were used instead. Peco-Peco's are extremely large flightless birds that are nearly as big as horses. They could be ridden individually or yoked to a cart to pull loads. Not to mention that Peco-Peco's are easier to train than Horses and display a greater intelligence. When Daniel entered the stables the caretaker, a middle-aged woman named Trisa, greeted him.
"Hey Dan, on patrol today?"
"Yeah, I got the Zordin run, is my Peco ready?"
She smiled, "Sure thing, Nikki is fed and washed. She's in stable twelve."
Dan yelled a "Thank you" as he ran off towards stable twelve. Nikki was Daniel's favorite Peco-Peco to ride, and he recognized her in her stable even before he could read the numbers over the entrance. Peco-Peco's come in many color variations, but the ones that live on Tohin have bright orange and yellow feathers on their bodies. Their beaks are large and parrot-like, colored blue with red swirling and striped patterns. The pattern of swirls and stripes on a Peco-Peco's beak is unique for each individual. Daniel instantly recognized the large circular swirl that was Nikki's distinguishing mark.
Daniel entered the stable and the large bird let out a squawk. "Yes, I'm happy to see you too" Daniel said as he checked over the saddle and harness. He then patted the bird twice in front of the saddle and clicked his tongue twice as well. Nikki then crouched down so Daniel could get on the saddle easier. He sat down and grabbed the reigns, patted the bird on the back of its head and said "Up-Up" quickly. The Peco-Peco stood up easily under the weight of both Daniel and his armor. He exited the stable and rode west to the main road through town and turned north.
As he left out the North Gate and headed a short way west along the perimeter road towards the Zordin road, a Peco-Peco cart was about to pass him, but stopped and waved him over.
When Daniel approached the cart, the driver greeted him. "Hello there youngster. You a member of the patrol guards?"
"Yes sir I am. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Nah, I'm ok, thank you. But I just came from Zordin after deliverin supplies. There's somethin down right weird goin on off the road. I been hearin odd noises and my Peco nearly spooked and almost broke the yoke twice. Ya might wanna be careful ridin up that way."
"Ok, thanks for the tip. I'm patrolling that area today, so if there's anything going on, I'll find it." The cart driver thanked him and continued on. Despite the fact that part of him would really like something new to do, the rest of him was worried. It's not easy to spook a trained Peco.
He continued on around the loop road and turned north onto the Zordin road.
Daniel rode north at a leisurely pace for a while. Bordering the road to the east and west was the dense northern forest. Daniel lost track of how long he had been going when his Peco-Peco suddenly slowed and stopped. The bird made no noise as it quickly moved its head back and forth. Daniel's hand instinctively moved to the grip of his sword. "So what's the matter Nikki," Daniel muttered quietly as he strained his eyes and ears for any movement or noise, "you smell something?"
The Peco snapped its head to the right at the same moment Daniel heard the sound. It was unmistakably someone calling for help. Daniel wasted no time. He quickly dismounted then dived into the underbrush heading in the direction of the voice.
As he got closer he heard heavy footsteps and the sound of armored bodies walking through the underbrush. And when he finally reached the person who was calling for help, his heart jumped for a second. Right in front of him were four Orcs carrying a loudly protesting woman. ORCS! The word shot through his mind like a bolt of lightning. Quickly he stopped dead and held his breath. They hadn't yet noticed his approach. He followed closely for several minutes before he decided to make his move.
He prepared his mind for the upcoming fight. He used a simple magic technique taught to him by a mage friend of his during the war. It was one where the user focused his energy on himself and used it to enhance muscle strength and speed. When he was ready he attacked.
He jumped out of the underbrush and slammed into the Orc carrying the girl. The Orc lost balance and dropped her. She quickly rolled away and turned to watch, shocked by the sudden turn of events. Daniel drew his sword and removed the fallen Orc's head. The other Orcs drew their crudely forged sabers. Even though they were not very well made, and not very sharp, a saber in the hands of an Orc was a deadly weapon even to a soldier wearing armor. Daniel now took stock of these Orcs, they were regular Orc Warriors, not very bright, but quite strong. No problem, he thought to himself.
Before the Orcs could counter attack, Daniel was on top of the second one. It managed to block his first swing but when it tried to lunge and stab him, Daniel sidestepped the attack and ran the Orc through the back as it passed by. Pulling his sword out of the Orc he turned back around to deflect a slash from the next one. He could see the other Orc circling around to the right to come at him from the side. He blocked another slash from the orc in front of him then quickly stepped forward and brought the hilt of his sword back and smashed the Orc in the face, sending it stumbling back. The Orc to his right now charged. Daniel jumped backwards to avoid the attack. Swiftly, with his free left hand, he pulled his dagger out and threw it at the charging Orc, hitting it in the side of the neck; it fell and didn't move.
The remaining Orc, now recovered from the blow to its face charged Daniel with sword raised high over its head. Daniel launched forward and sliced the Orc across its exposed torso, cleaving it in half. It all took less than a minute. That was almost too easy, Daniel thought to himself. Why do I get the feeling it isn't over yet?
Almost as soon as the last orc hit the ground he heard a woman's voice yell, "Look out!"
Daniel didn't even have time to think when in the corner of his eye he saw a quick flash of light glinting off a blade heading straight for his head. Instinctively he raised his sword and blocked the attack. He then jumped back and looked at this new challenger. When he did, his heart jumped again. Before him stood another Orc, but this one wasn't a regular warrior. The Orc wore a thick ringed chain mail hauberk with a tattered blood red cloth wrapped around it. In its hands was a ten-foot long halberd. Although he had never seen one before, he knew what it was. "Orc Berserker," he whispered in a slightly fearful voice. These were the elite of the Orc armies, stronger, faster, and far more intelligent than the warriors. "Oh crap, this is definitely a problem" Daniel commented to himself. He had had the advantage of surprise with the others, but no longer.
The Orc charged and thrust with the pointed tip of the halberd. Daniel deflected it wide with his sword and jumped sideways. He turned to face the Orc. The Orc planted its feet and jumped back, catching Daniel off guard. The Orc hit him square in the gut with the butt of the halberd's pole. Daniel stumbled and fell back then quickly rolled left to avoid getting hit by the halberd's blade. "Damn he's fast!" Daniel thought as he just barely avoided another attack. Suddenly a bright flash of light shot from behind the Orc and hit it square in the back, the Orc let out a blood-curdling yell. Daniel took the opportunity and swung as hard and fast as he could. His sword cut through the halberd's wooden shaft and continued completely through the Orc's body. The Orc hit the ground in two pieces. He then saw the source of the light. The girl that the Orcs had been carrying stood there, both arms outstretched, palms outward, the skin of her palms still glowing faintly. "You're a mage?!" was all Daniel could say before a Ruby Dragon burst onto the scene.
The look on the girl's face turned from shocked horror to shocked bewilderment as the Dragon spoke.
"Daniel!" It said in a deep, almost musical, voice. "What's going on here?"
Daniel recognized the big Dragon immediately. "Hi there Karruckt, nice to see you again. It seems we've been having some Orc trouble." Daniel motioned to the dead Orc bodies strewn across the ground, their black-blue blood all over everything.
"What are the filthy [orcs] doing here?" (The word [orcs] being spoken in the Dragon tongue) Then another Ruby appeared, a much older and slightly larger one. Daniel quickly saluted and bowed. This was Galluckt the Ruby Dragon from the Battle of Glory who was with Daniel and his dead friend, also the Bahamut of the Ruby clan in this area. Galluckt surveyed the carnage, "You have done well, young Clan Friend. I see your skill has not diminished since we last met. We shall take care of this now, we will hunt for any more of the vermin. Report back to your Bahamut young Clan Friend."
"Yes sir, Galluckt." Daniel saluted and turned to the young woman. "Are you alright to walk?"
"Y-Yes..," she said in a shaky voice.
"Alright then, follow me back to the road." As Daniel walked back to the road he kept his sword drawn and his mind on edge. There had never been Orcs on Tohin for as long as Daniel could remember. He had studied them during his military training, but never actually expected to run into any here at home. This was deeply disturbing. Well, I wanted something more exciting to do didn't I, he thought to himself. Then a voice came back to him from his childhood, it was his grandfather saying 'be careful what you wish for...'
When they got back to the road Daniel's Peco, Nikki, was still there waiting. Nikki was at ease and even squawked a greeting when Daniel walked up to her. Daniel finally started to relax. He took a cloth from one of the saddlebags and wiped the Orc blood off his sword and sheathed it.
"Thanks for helping me back there," a voice from behind him said.
Daniel turned and saw the young woman whom he had rescued. "Oh... No Problem, it is my job after all," he said pointing to the crest of the Edron Guard on his armor. "I'm Daniel Ayden, Lieutenant in the service of the Edron Civil Guard."
The girl chuckled slightly and smiled, although she still seemed shaken. "I'm Kizna Dean, Junior Class B Mage of the Thais School," she said as she held out her hand.
Daniel removed his blood-splattered glove and shook her hand. She was quite an attractive young woman of about nineteen or twenty with red hair and blue eyes.
"So what exactly happened? If you don't mind telling."
"I don't mind at all," she replied. "I was just walking along the road and then these Orcs jumped me. I must have been knocked out or stunned or something because I can't remember anything between the attack here on the road and being carried on that...thing's back. And now, I think I'm starting to feel a little dizzy."
Daniel ordered the Peco-Peco to lie on the ground and he helped Kizna sit down on the ground and lean against the bird. He then started a closer examination for injuries. He didn't see any blood soaking through her clothes. That's good he though to himself. He then checked her head. Sure enough there was a nasty bruise on the right side on her head, just above her temple, in the hairline.
"Looks like you have a concussion. You definitely shouldn't walk any more than you have to. Here let me help you up onto the Peco-Peco."
As they started the walk back to Edron, Kizna on the Peco and Daniel walking alongside, all was quiet except for the sounds or birds and the breeze blowing through the trees. During a break for lunch, Kizna spoke up "So, those dragons back there were ... friends of yours?"
"Oh...yeah," Daniel had almost forgot that she had said she was from Thais. "Here on Tohin dragons and humans get along quite well. I had a close friend that was a dragon, but he died. After I got back from the war and took up the guard service I've become real familiar with most of the clans in the north."
"You fought in the war? But that was five years ago. You couldn't have been older than..."
"Fifteen," Daniel injected, "too young if you ask me. It's a time of my life I still find it hard to talk about."
The rest of their trip back was quiet, neither spoke. Kizna became too tired to talk much from her head injury, and Daniel was lost, deep in thought.
Something just doesn't feel right. Crossing the Tohinian Sea is far too dangerous and time consuming for a simple marauding band to just come to harass travelers. Better to just report back before jumping to any conclusions.
1 - The term Peco-Peco is barrowed from Ragnarok Online. (Back)
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All names and places borrowed from other sources are copyright of their respective owners. Some material is referred from:
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All other materials including character names and story are Copyright of Christopher John Rogers, Alias Imminent Storm ©2002, 2003.