Friday, November 18, 2016

An Old Tale, Pt. 3

The robed figure stood for a moment and contemplated. He sported a neatly trimmed goatee and his hair was cut short. His robes were jet black, lined with dark purple and he carried a strange glass device in one hand. On the other hand Hamish could see a ring flash he stroked his beard. He stepped into the middle of the room and chuckled. "So arrogant and so naive you all were." Walking closer to Shade, he inspected him closely before turning to the rest of the room. With a start Hamish again saw the resemblance between the two. The man's eyes swept across the rest of the gathered group, each transfixed in their spot until his eyes fell on Thorvald. He regarded him for a moment and then said, with a twinge of true remorse, "and the mighty Thorvald. Loyal and strong...shame what must happen next." The ogres stood impassively and watched as the cloaked man threw back his hood and raised his hands as if to cast a spell on the whole room.

Hamish cried out and threw his axe at the man, momentarily disrupting him. The ogres, confused, drew curved scimitars that rattled and buzzed and looked to the members of the party, still frozen in place. This gave Hamish an opening and he took a gamble. Sprinting into the room, he ran to the closest members of the party; Tom and Rayla and cuffed them both hard on the back of their heads. His gamble paid off as both immediately sprang back to motion. It took them both but a moment to realize the danger of the situation and Tom began firing arrows at the ogres while Rayla woke Thorvald and Draymun, shouting "we're under attack!" They too joined the fray. Hamish ducked under the buzzing, sparking blade of an ogre and slid on his knees to reach Shade, slapping him on the back and waking him.

Shade looked up and met the eyes of the mysterious dark-robed man and Hamish realized at once the reason for the similarity: they were the same man. The Shade he knew was younger and perhaps more rough around the edges, but there was no mistaking the look in the eye, the tilt of the head. And the rings. The rings they both wore were exact copies of each other.

"Hello, Vailien," spoke the older version. "I wondered if you'd show up. You know, we always did find ourselves in the most difficult places at the most inopportune times." The ogres, bloodied but still ready for action, stopped as their leader spoke. Thorvald and Draymun, who had shifted forms, stopped as well but stood ready, flanking the brutes. Rayla ran to Hamish and helped him to his feet. Dark Shade clucked his tongue, "you can't beat me. I have the benefit of experience, my spells are more powerful and my tools," he waved his arm at the ogres, slavering and growling, "are more plentiful. The only choice you and your friends have is to give up...or die."

Shade stood still for a moment with his head bowed and then looked around. He took in each member of the party in turn. When he looked at Hamish he nodded his appreciation and Hamish felt pride blossom in his chest. But what could they do? They were out-manned, trapped underground. They possessed neither advanced weapons nor overwhelming magic. He knew in that moment that Shade had to submit, had to give up whatever treasure the nega-Shade sought and live to fight another day. Looking at the other members of the party he saw that they had realized it too. Shade turned toward the pedestal and picked up the strange glass and bronze device and began to walk toward his evil copy. Thorvald raised his hand and growled, "we'll fight, we'll die here." But, seeing the resignation in Shade's face, he dropped his hand to his side and went silent. The dark one smiled a toothy grin and reached his hand out expectantly.

Shade met his eyes and said, "just one thing." Dark Shade rolled his eyes and spread his arms wide in a gesture of conciliatory condescension. As if allowing Shade to speak was his greatest sacrifice.

Shade gritted his teeth, "even in the darkest times and against the greatest odds, vengeance will fall!" He ran his fingers across the dials on the face of the time compass in his hand and then slammed it on the evil Shade's chest. For an instant Hamish could see them both darkly outlined by a burst of white light brighter than anything he'd ever seen. There was a loud tearing sound and waves of energy radiated out from the two figures transfixed in the middle of the burst and then they were both gone.

Dark blobs danced across Hamish's eyes but he tried his best to participate in the ensuing scrum. The party was quick to subdue the ogres who swung wildly and without direction. One went down under a rain of arrows, the other crushed by blades and claws and teeth. Rayla tended to the wounded and then the party looked around the room. Shade was gone and with him the time compass. For a time they were silent, each alone with their thoughts until Thorvald hefted his weapon, grinned wildly and said "well, you heard the man, let's go get some vengeance!"

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