Assault at the Bottom of the Multiverse - Part 1

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Assault at the Bottom of the Multiverse - Part 1

Post by Dungeon Master on Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:47 am

Assault at the Bottom of the Multiverse
Part 1 - One of Many


Spinning the curved khopesh in a sideways motion, Hector took full advantage of the extra speed lent to him by his wings. Flowing naturally into another stab, stab, slice, pivot motion as he had done countless times before, the fight almost felt like another sparring match at the academy. Only here, his adversaries were not fellow cadets of the Silken Hand, but undead monsters whose very touch could rob even a tiefling of his unnatural life. Hector had not been prepared. When the 117th had first been ambushed in the tunnels, he had been in the middle of the formation. The veterans had flowed around him in their practiced combat pairs, and he had soon found himself in completely the wrong place.  He had found himself facing a scraggly, scarred thing, more hair than limbs, all dark and cold. Its black eyes had drawn him in, chilling him to the bone as his muscles seized up. Paralyzed, as the abnormal thing had kept coming, the fear it had instilled in him overpowered his nonhuman resistance. The thing’s mouth had opened to be bigger than it should, jaw unhinging unnaturally, jagged and broken teeth dripping ghoulish saliva. He had thought this the end: being eviscerated by this ghoulish black thing, only one day out of the academy. A rather disappointing end for the most accomplished marksman of his year. He hadn’t been killed. One of Gom Jabbar’s veterans had glided between them and unceremoniously kicked the feet out from under the undead thing. After basking Hector across the face with one of his leathery wings, the veteran had grinned at him.
“Recite the Sheik’s creed, and you will be able to control the fear cadet. We will make a blade of you yet.” He had then plunged his short sword to the hilt through the black mass in front of Hector, where the things head would have been. He pointed Hector towards a swirling melee, and flowed back to take up his place in the chaotic, but well-oiled machine of destruction that was Gom Jabbar’s 117th Weapon.  

That had been two hours ago. It might as well have been a lifetime ago. Hector had lost count of how often the seasoned veterans had moved out of their combat formations to take care of a threat he had missed. He had chided himself for the oversights, and had expected a scolding, but none had come. More and more he had been reminded that this was not the academy, and he could feel his spirits lift. For the first time Hector was feeling welcome, even at home. Here, in the midst of the heavy fighting, these men had shown him what it was to be brothers-at-arms. It was not the hawk over hawk he had become used to. Here, it was only natural for a warrior to risk himself and break formation for a new recruit. At the academy, that would have earned twenty lashes or a day in the pens. So far, no one from the 117th had been killed during the raid to open up a back passage to the ancient fortress of Tcian Sumere. Many had cuts and open gashes, and a few had contracted the yellow fever while fighting the undead. Hector had felt a strange sort of guilt, noticing that the more grievous wounds had been received by the veterans who had interjected themselves between him and the undead monsters. Walking down yet another dank corridor, Hectors thoughts were thrown back to the events this morning.

---

“Take this one. He is a fast runner, and have outclassed his peers as a marksman.” Hector had beamed at being singled out by assassin master Harun al-Rashied. Once at an academy sparring match, he had seen Harun defeat ten armed seniors with his bare hands. Hector knew he was amongst the best of his year. He had been working hard these last months to prove himself better than anyone, and had excelled at the shooting ranges. He didn’t even know he had been noticed by the taskmaster, who were more renowned for his close combat than his shooting skills. He proudly stepped out of rank and presented himself before the two legendary assassins.

Giving a broad smile, Gom Jabbar gripped Harun’s hand with force, his muscles bulging under his dragon tattoos. Both men stared intently at each other, their dark eyes gleaming in the light from the magical glow globes.

“Your best, brother ?” Gom Jabbar lifted one eyebrow, a twinkle in his eye challenging the smaller and much leaner assassin.
“And why not one of your more seasoned killers ? This one looks a bit fresh ?” Although the words were sharp, and clearly questioning his abilities, the delivery and the warm smile Hector got from Gom Jabbar told him that everything would be all right. He returned a weak smiled, as much as he dared without drawing the ire of Harun, who was staring intently at the assassin general. The taskmaster made a scowl as if his favourite wine had just been replaced with salamander piss, which in turn propelled Gom Jabbar into a roaring laughter. A laughter his veteran band of mercenaries were quick to join in. Harun’s men, on the other hand were silent as the grave, as was their master.

“He will do fine brother, I’m just messing with you. See you on the other side of the battlefield.” Gom Jabbar hauled Hector away, as the other assassin master was left standing, holding back whatever angry retort he had planned to throw at his brother. The veterans of the 117th, Gom Jabbar’s chosen weapon, gathered around Hector. He was dragged through their midst, while they clasped his hands, clapping him heartily on the shoulders and offering him welcomes. It was all rather alien to Hector, and he did not feel overly confident that it was anything but a charade. Later he had come to learn that it was simply the way of the 117th. Gom Jabbar would say ‘if you mistrust a man, never fight by his side. If you fight by someone’s side, you can never mistrust him.’ For the first time since he could remember, he felt like he truly belonged. Here amongst these men, in a two short hours he had learned what loyalty meant. What it meant to be part of something bigger than yourself. He could not describe it with any words he knew, but if he could, he would have called these men family.

The scouts had quickly located the back entrance to the fortress, which the master of Canton had indicated. It had not been free of opposition, nor had they expected it to be. Not knowing what to expect, Hector had told himself he had been prepared for anything. However, nothing could have prepared him for the bitterness, cruelty and unyielding hatred for life that the undead had. He had experienced a lifetime of fighting in those two hours. Each skirmish, each combat, had taken him to the edge of his abilities, and most adversaries had probably been beyond his skills if he were alone. But he was not alone. Not anymore.

A natural split in the tunnel, if anything in this realm could be considered natural, had been blocked by an adversary that had prevented even the legendary left hand of Abu Jafar from advancing. It had stood there in a pool of stagnant blood, its six arms seeping dark viscous fluid with heavy drips onto the ground around it. Its lower body that of a dragon like snake all covered in black bloodied scales, the upper portion of its skinless torso clearly female. The thing’s face was smeared with thick black blood, glinting in the unholy flames angrily licking from its sorcerer crown. In each of its six hands, it held a burning curved sword in a relaxed grip. The cold confidence and wave of unholy hatred of the creature had washed over the warriors as dark fear gripped at their hearts.

Hector had been the best of his class, maybe better than anyone in a couple of classes before. His body trained as a weapon, his ability to use his wings and natural weapons in concert with the enchanted khopesh and the master crafted recurve short bow were exemplary. However, he held no desire to fight a creature such as this. Amongst the seasoned tieflings that Gom Jabbar had brought on this infiltration mission, he knew he was a mere novice. And so, it had come as a complete shock to him when the assassin general had singled him out.

“Hector.” Gom Jabbar had been out of breath, his dark skin covered in a sheen of sweat and the blood of his men, as he had turned to the cadet. “This creature might be beyond us to take down.” Hector was quick to agree. More than three score of blades of the 117th had ben eviscerated and spread over the walls of the corridor in that first attempt to kill the undead demon. It now stood motionless in the mouth of the corridor, silently hating the life before it, but bound to its station. Even enchanted arrows had no effect on the creature, and it looked as unharmed as it had before they had attacked. “We will offer a diversion, another attack. When we do, you run.” Gom Jabbar secretly indicated an entrance to a smaller tunnel just behind the creature. “You find the elf mage, and you bring him here.” Hector was confused, and did understand why the assassin master had singled him out. He did not know what difference he could make. Looking into Gom Jabbar’s dark eyes, he realised this here was what gave meaning to his existence. To the gruelling years at the academy, to the hard training, to living in Canton at the edge of the Abyss, to it all. As he locked gazes with the assassin general, he saw the bond between the men of the 117th, and understood why any of them would die for this man. If he so wished, they would throw themselves on their weapons, for to him, they were brothers. And to be brother to such a being, only few would ever come to experience. In that one look, Hector too understood that nothing was more important than carrying out the wish of his commander. Gom Jabbar nodded. “You run Hector, run like you have never run before. Till your wings bleed, and your lungs seize up, and then you run some more. Find the elf mage for me, Hector.” Hector ran.

---

Hector was fast, but the undead were faster. He would not be able to outrun them for long. Already he could feel their rancid breaths at his back, threatening to drain his muscles of all their strength. His lungs were burning and his wings were aching from racing through the low corridors. An undead thing were right behind him, he could hear it whisper, taunting him with a promise of eternal oblivion. The fear he felt, washed all other feelings away like water draining from a tub. Never before had he felt such fear, and it spurred him on to sprint faster than he thought his body could physically handle. In the back of his mind, he was just about to marvel at his own speed, when his foot landed in a slippery fluid as he was rounding a corner. Blood. Think and slick, it covered the width of the corridor. Snapping up a fatigued wing, he succeeded in turning a catastrophic headlong crash into a badly controlled roll. As he came to a hurtful stop at the far wall, his right foot snapped at the angle with an audible crack. Through the pain haze, he heard the most unexpected sound from down the corridor: A child’s giddy laughter.

The things chasing him heard it too. He could see it gave them pause, as if they too were surprised by the laughter. It didn’t change their course, and they went straight for him. With his broken ankle, he had no hope of outrunning them anymore. The smell hit him from ten feet away, a reek of unwashed bodies and stale vomit. His heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was about to explode from his chest, and he could feel the sharp metallic taste of blood in his mouth. His stomach lurched, and he was happy that he hadn’t have time to eat that morning. His khopesh too unwieldy without the use of his feet, he flicked one dagger at an assailant while drawing another. The dagger hit home with a slick thud, but the undead thing didn’t seem to notice. Maybe it was the pain, maybe his training, but the whole situation suddenly stood clearly to Hector. In a surreal way, it was as if he could see himself from the outside, clinging on to his last dagger as the black things came at him. He could see the pain and defeat etched on his own face, and the cold glee in the eyes of his attackers. Eight feet. He gritted his teeth and tried to stand, but his broken ankle would not support him. Six feet. His shoulders slumped in disappointment as he fell back against the damp stonewall. Four feet. Opening his eyes, he yelled his defiance at the dark things before him. Two feet. Their ragged claws and filthy hands reached for him. Their swollen violet tongues smacked in delight at tearing into his mortal flesh. The dagger in his hand doing nothing to keeping them at bay. At the very last minute, he sprang with all his might. Using his wings to jump higher than a normal man, he almost knocked the wind out of his lungs as he hit the stone ceiling. The surprise manoeuvre had the desired effect. The undead slammed into the wall in a heap, buying him precious seconds to escape. Only with his broken ankle, all he had done was delaying his death, and he knew it. The undead things knew it too. Hobbling down the corridor, his dagger out before him, the undead came at him low and with vicious anger. He buried it deep in the neck of the first thing that jumped him as it bore him to the floor. Stale blood covered his hand and his face, but the thing didn’t stop. Growling, it clawed through the tendons of his arm, as it snapped at his face with its filthy teeth. His right arm useless, Hector instinctively threw up his other arm to save his face. Little good it did him, as the thing battered it aside with disdain, and tore a lump of flesh out of his neck. Hector could feel his lifeblood flowing freely, puddling under him as the other undead joined feasting on his flesh. As darkness claimed him, he heard the child call out to someone. Calmert.

---

“Broken ?” the child asked.
“They don't make them like they used to." A man answered with a hint of merriment.
"Are ye alive, lad ?" the child asked.

For a second Hector remembered the vastness of the Fugue plain, and the press of trapped souls wandering Kelemvor's realm in search of redemption. All of that was snatched away as he was painfully reminded of how broken his body was.
"Easy now friend. You've taken quite a beating." Although the words were meant to be reassuring, all Hector heard was the steel in the man’s voice.
"Hehe, I thought ye said: 'ye've taken quite an eating.'" the child replied.

Hector opened his eyes as the two men before him chuckled at their own mirth. One, a tiefling like himself, fangs and horns, but no wings. The other, whose voice he had mistaken for a child’s, was in fact a scale-covered gnome. The diminutive creature winked and smiled at him, revealing long fangs like a dragons. Hector could still taste the healing draught on his lips, and was surprised to find that he could stand as the tiefling pulled him to his feet. He tested his foot as he took a second look at the two unlikely characters before him. The tiefling could have been any one of the Silken Hand. His leather armour black and unadorned, his demon blood warping his half-elven features into a curious combination of malice and wonder. Hector had seen those features many times. In fact, he had those very same features himself. Nothing stood out about the man, not even his compound bow seemed remarkable. His companion, on the other hand, was something else entirely. Wearing blue pants and green leather boots of a high quality, Hector thought the set would have been completed by a high-collar Evereskan silk shirt. Either the gnome had lost it fighting, or he had cast it aside on purpose, for he wore none now. His tiny chest was covered in blood-spattered scales, glinting with a coppery hue in the ghostly light of the corridor. His hands ended in long black talons beneath a set of gold bracers beset with rose hued gemstones. A golden battle gorget of the same style covered his neck, and around his head whizzed three crystals in lazy orbits. One lavender, one white and one grey. He was leaning on a peculiar weapon Hector had never seen before: almost the same height as the gnome, one end a pick-like serrated blade, while the other ended in a two-headed pointy hammer. The weapon was old, scored and dented from multiple battles. Where the gnome touched it, it lit up with an ember glow.
“Are ye done gawking, lad ?” the gnome tilted his head as he looked at Hector who couldn’t really come to terms with the small creature naming him as a youngling.
“What happened, I…” Hector trailed off as he was trying to understand. He had been dead. The things had eaten him alive. He reached for his neck, but to his relief, found no gaping wound. The two men were studying him, chuckling at some shared joke Hector was not privy to. Around them was a site of carnage. A black swath had been burned down the corridor and up one side. The stones were still red-hot from what could only be dragonsfire. Melted puddles testified to what had become of his assailants.
“I guessed you saved me.” Hector finally said.
“Ye guessed right.” The gnome stared intently at him. “Now why were ye in such a hurry on yer lonesome ?” Hector paused. Was this a trick ? He didn’t know these two, and apart from the fact that they may just have brought him back from the dead, he didn’t have any reason to trust them. The tiefling made a smacking sound with his tongue, and the gnome looked up a bit annoyed.
“Listen lad, we didn’t have to waste a healing quaff on ye, we could have left ye to go to whatever hellhole yer kind goes to whenever they die. No offence.” The gnome quickly added.
“None taken.” The other tiefling said, distractingly looking the other way down the corridor.
“I take it yer with the Silken Hand, since ye look like Calmert and all. If ye are running around alone, yer either a deserter, or someone important. So which is it ?” Hector was briefly blinded as the light from the gnomes strange weapon had shone in his face.
“Eh, I don’t think I am particular important…” Hector started.
“A deserter then.” The gnome hefted his weapon and took a swing at Hector, which he barely avoided by jumping back. The gnome moved with incredible deftness, rolling under Hector and hooking his one foot with the hammer end of the weapon, landing him sorely on his face.
“Now, now, Galean, stop toying with the kid, we have work to do. He’s clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just leave him. The Hand can take care of its own mess.” The gnome looked annoyed at the absentminded comment from the other tiefling.
“Galean, things are coming.” The assassin said more pointedly as he put a wicked looking arrow with a bone tip on his arrow and started down the corridor. The gnome sighed.
“I was getting distracted. And ye can't really let yerself be distracted when yer the distraction, ye know. “ He said to no one in particular, while taking the measure of Hector. Apparently he decided that he was not important enough to waste time on killing, which was a relief. The little thing seemed a bit unstable.
“I know what yer thinking lad. The gnome pointed to one of the floating crystals. Yer a distraction, not a dilemma. And whilst a dilemma is meant to be solved, a distraction is not.” With finality, he hefted his hammer, and peered down the corridor where the tiefling had disappeared into the shadows.
“Wait, please.” Hector finally stammered. The gnome stopped and gave Hector a look like he might kill him anyway. Hector hurriedly blurted out:
“The elf mage. Gom sent me to find him.” The gnome gave him a wide grin, showing way too many sharp teeth.
“I knew I didn't kill ye for a reason lad. That way.” Hector was somehow glad the gnome had pointed to the opposite corridor of where the other tiefling had disappeared. He didn’t dwell on it, but to be honest, he didn’t know what made him more glad: to be away from the undead, or those two dangerous types.

As Hector again found himself running down a dank corridor, he heard what sounded like a child’s voice singing a rowdy Westgate ballad of an elf maiden and three sailors. He shook his head in disbelief, and focused on the corridors ahead.

---

The chamber was bigger than any other he had run through. Something strange was happening with the shadows of the domed ceiling. Swirling like waves, they hammered against the inside of the far away dome, like water in a glass globe swung by a kid. The dim light of the negative plane outside was blocked by angry looking shadows crashing against the thin barrier. An eerie sense of foreboding filled the plaza. In a central ruin, a group of mercenaries were advancing in a familiar crescent formation. Constantly firing crossbows from the front row, the second row reloading as they changed places. Normally, the Silken Hand preferred to use this tactic at a run, which they were the only ones in Faerun to master. Since their commander had chosen caution, Hector surmised the enemy would be either heavily fortified, or protected from mundane blades. A whooshing sound made him look up. The swirling shadows dispersed as if smoke forced away by a great bellows, as a great winged beast flew over the mercenary formation. Propelled forward by great bat like wings, the vampiric blue dragon stopped in mid-flight for just a heartbeat. It beat its huge wings against its momentum, as it lined up to exhale its deadly breath weapon. Lightning dripped venomously from its elongated fangs, as it gleefully filled its undead lungs with air. Hector had not been prepared for the wheezing sound of iron claws trailing over rusty metal that followed as the dragon exhaled. The thunderous roar of the incandescent white-hot lightning that left its great maw permanently deafened the closest mercenaries. They died screaming, not able to hear their own voices, as their flesh and bones were melted together or splattered over their fellows. A great divide had been cut into the crescent, a full third of the formation plunged into screaming chaos, and probably more than a hundred dead. Those not killed by the annihilating blast barely had time to look to their own wounds, before the fallen started attacking them. Rising as undead monsters, with dead eyes glowing with malice, they clawed and bit at their former comrades.

Hector had come to a halt in the shadow of a great ruined column. A shadow that deepened for a brief heartbeat as a second vampiric blue flew over him from behind. This one was a female, and considerably bigger than its male counterpart was. Lightning danced along the membranes of her dark red wings as they beat the shadows away with every swing. It too spewed lightning on the formation. Not a condensed ball like the male, but a torrent of unfocused force bleeding out of the dragon’s extended jaws. Half one flank collapsed as men, armour and weapons were blown apart. Both dragons beat their powerful wings to gain an updraft, leading each other in a macabre mating ritual. Hot air thrust in his direction, and the smell of chargrilled flesh and cooked blood filled his nostrils. The dragons laughed. Hector didn't know draconic, but there was no mistaking the pure malice and glee coming from the two great beasts. The sound chilled his bones to the core and he felt dragon fear wash over him. He repeated and re-repeated the Sheik’s creed until the fear left him and he could control his body again. He saw others fighting the same fear, while the majority of the mercenaries held formation. At first, he thought their commander to be dead. The mercenaries had not reformed into the dark moon formation usually adapted to fight airborne foes, and they were still advancing steadily whilst firing. Less than half their number were still alive, and yet they pressed on as if obsessed. Against dragons. Against foes that could deal damage like this, any commander would have given the order to flee or disperse. Hector did not think himself any great military strategist, but he saw no merit in this. As a diversion maybe, but loosing mercenaries in these numbers were folly. Then it all became clear: He understood the single purpose of the cadre. In their midst, in a blackened valley of fused bones and melted flesh stood the Sheik Abu Emir Jafar. His pure presence fuelling the devotion of men stricken with dragon fear, bleeding and with scorched limbs and extremities. Here was the true power of the Silken Hand. One man in himself was nothing.  The will of the Shadowlord would be done. Hector felt his heart soar with pride at the determination of his brotherhood, and felt compelled to leap to the Sheik’s side, ready to die at his command. Keeping his body low to the ground, he used his small wings to carry him over the rubble as he sprinted towards the sheik.

A series of detonations sounded in the air above him. He felt the updraft of air wheezing with great power towards the dragons. Around the two majestic undead he saw a dozen black spots the size of great shields materialize. It was as if the plane had been punctured by great claws, and the very reality was being sucked through the black holes with great force. To where he did not know, but the damage the implosions were wrecking on the undead dragons were immense. Wings, claws and scales were buckling and turning in on themselves as the great beasts were curled up by astonishing force and ripped apart. Chunks of flesh and bone rained down among the surviving mercenaries. In their midst, Sheik Emir Abu Jafar stood with arms stretched wide, a tornado of shadows swirling about his powerful form. His eyes smouldering darkness as he commanded the power of the Shadowlord, wisps of smoke escaping from behind his eyes. Within moments, the two mighty dragons had been reduced to scattered remains of bone and dust. A roar of triumph rose up from the assembled mercenaries. “Abu. Abu. Abu.” Hector took up the chant as he approached his fellow mercenaries, raising his fists to the sky in shared triumph.

---

He had had quickly been pointed down another dark corridor. The mercenary commanders had understood what he had been sent for, and Hector was glad not to have to explain. He had not been running long before he had come to another halt. Too many mercenaries to count blocked the way forward. In the silent hall, the press of bodies seemed to have a sound of its own. Like a huge wet pillow. Breaths held, hearts in their throats, the throng witnessed a duel that would become a Silken Hand legend.

In a circle of broken and scattered dead, an undead monster stood, haughtily awaiting the next move of the gathered army. Dead mercenaries were piled so high, that a sort of fighting pit had been created. The monsters blazing sorcerors crown illuminated the gruesome scene in stark ice blue light, as it crowed and challenged the mercenaries to dare attack it. Standing on powerful cloven hooves, the undead monster rose higher than two normal men. It’s elongated horse-like skull dripped gore from its many kills, and the yellow pinpricks of malice deep within its eye sockets promised eternal torment to anything still alive. It was clad in archaic armour made up of stone prayer tablets connected by heavy chains. In both of its clawed hands, it wielded a double bladed axe, of which one alone would have taxed the strongest of men. It wielded these with such deftness and strength, that shields and swords were shattered with equal ease. A dark baritone laughter rolled from the creature, as blue mist seeped from its many kills to close what few cuts it had received. The unholyness of the creature covered the entire chamber in a sense of foreboding.
Hector pressed through the men until he could see over the bodies onto the slaughterhouse stage. One man had entered. A man who did not show pause or fear of the grotesque monster before him. As the man threw away his skullcap helmet, Hector caught a glimpse of the almost physical anger emanating from the assassin master, Harun Al-Rashied. The monster said something in a tongue Hector didn’t know, as he beckoned the man forward. Harun did not reply he simply looked at his adversary with a fury that would have had any cadet run for his life. The creature spoke again, and laughed. Harun drew a set of punch daggers sheathed on his hips, and spread his arms in a clear invitation to fight. The creature laughed harder and swirled its axes with practiced ease. Blood spatter sprang from the axe heads, some landing on the assassin master who pointedly ignored it. Harun spoke a command word, and with a high-pitched whine, the two daggers exploded into green fire. The blades turned almost white with intense heat, and the air around the daggers evaporated, coagulating into tangible shadow, which bled to the ground only to scatter like ash. The monster fell silent. It might not have considered the man a threat, but it must have realised the pure power invested in these weapons could hurt even a guardian of its magnitude. With a roar, it charged Harun. Head low, both axes swinging in an interwoven pattern, promising death or dismemberment to anyone coming close. Blood and dust sparked up as its powerful hooves thundered across the macabre arena.
Its first double swing did not connect. Harun had been standing still until the very last possible moment. The return of the axes were meant to catch an opponent in the back, cleaving him in half. However, Harun had neither dropped into a roll, nor veered off to one side, as a normal fighter might have. With a powerful jump, the assassin master had sprung straight up. As the two adversaries collided, the Calimshite buried one dagger to the hilt in the neck of the undead creature, using the balled fist of his other hand to push off the creature’s wide chest. The two disconnected with a thunderclap as great chunks exploded from the creatures’ neck, and its necromantic flesh burned with hungry green flames. The monster staggered as black blood bubbled up and spilled up over its archaic armour. Harun smiled a patronizing, overconfident and premature smile. However, the monster was not defeated. Blue ghostly light gathered around its wounds, crawling from deep within its chest, closing the hole. The undead monster crowed. The sound was a hollow bark filled with anguish and promise of pain. The creature whirred its skull head as if to chase away a fly, and looked at the small human that had dared hurt it. Ghostly light played around its clawed hands as it again spun its deadly axes. This time it didn’t charge. This time it took the measure of the assassin master. It swung low, and Harun sidestepped. It swung high, and he retreated. Every time, the secondary axe cleaved air or dirt where a normal combatant would have been. The monstrous undead started pushing Harun back by making great scissor like cuts. Weaving and ducking, the assassin master avoided the deadly blows. Harun threw punches, but had to fall back every time, as a return swing from an axe threatened to taken his head. The monster was preternaturally fast, ghostly light leaving residue in the air when it swung its great weapons. Both combatants looked for openings, as the brutish creature pressed the Calimshan repeatedly towards the ring of dead bodies. Every time Harun got close to the mound of dead, he would have to perform some gravity-defying feat to avoid falling or being stuck. The creature laughed continuously with that low baritone that sounded like boulders grating. With more great cuts, it worked the smaller assassin towards the north end of the pit when it made a sudden jump forward. Swinging both axes in tightly controlled arcs, it delivered a double downwards swing with great force. The Calimshan was in the middle of a jump, and had no footing to dive to either side. In an attempt to starve off the monumental power of the axes, the assassin master brought up the two daggers in an X, and was promptly pounded into the ground. A flash of light and a torrent of air, burst in all directions as the axes met with the magic daggers. Those closest to the arena were lifted off their feet. Unbelievably, the assassin master still lived. Pressed to his knees, he held the huge blades at bay with his two small daggers crossed in front of him. His entire body was strained to the breaking point, and his eyes were weeping blood.

“On my word, you will die.” Harun said defiantly to the beast, blood cascading over his broken lips. The grating sound of the undead’s laughter grew stronger as it pushed down even harder. Harun raised his chin and looked with defiant anger at the monster, blood escaping the side of his mouth. He painfully wrested a blade over the haft of a giant axe, the unholy axe head cutting into the iron guard on his forearm, drawing blood. The creature guffawed.

“To me!” Harun yelled. “Kill it. Now!”
A moment fleetingly passed before anyone registered the order. Then a hundred mercenaries of the Silken Hand rushed forward with blades thrusting. When the monster tried to withdraw, it found its weapons locked by the blades of the assassin master. A less angry man might have smiled as the great brute was hacked at from all angles, but Harun did not. The press of bodies carried the monster to the ground. Eventually it gave up its axes and fought back with claws and horns, killing men by the score. But without its deadly weapons, and beset on all sides by the Silken Hand, it was no feat for the master assassin to slide his two Darkblades in under its chin and rip out its throat. As the monsters was destroyed, hacked apart and burned by green fire, the malicious light behind its gleeful eyes turned black.
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