Chapter 98 = Saved from destruction
Disclaimer: All characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
32nd of Eira, CD 2156; Somewhere in the Crelata Forests
Another day was going by and still Darkmark had found no signs of any sort that might have indicated Mitski’s passage, or where the Marble Altar was. Just after mid-day he heard Karlo-Shin’s voice in his head again, muffled and distant, until he took out the Dark Octagram and held the black gem upwards.
What in the gods’ names are you doing?
“I’m looking for something…”
That doesn’t matter. Come back to me. This is urgent.
“This is important too, to me.”
Listen. I have something extremely important to tell you and I can’t do it via this telepathic link. You absolutely must come back to the ruins and visit me in person.
This concerns the fate of Chyrus! Nothing you are looking for could outweigh it.
“Even the ability to bring back the dead?”
What? …oh, the Marble Altar.
“How did you-”
Simple, really, I have seen Mitski find it in my visions, and I have touched your mind through this link. Regardless, it’s not there any more.
“What do you mean, ‘not there’?”
The altar and the structure containing it are both chaotic. They have to be connected to Chaos in order to be able to connect to the afterlife, too. Eirsir created it originally just in case he was felled in his mortal form, but it turns out he didn’t need it. Still, it moves from time to time.
“Can you tell me where it is?”
Maybe. Just come and see me.
“Fine. I’ll have to walk out of the forests though, I haven’t seen a clearing since I entered.”
That’s fine, just get on your way back here. Head south as you do, it’ll be quicker once you get out.
Darkmark put the Octagram away and turned on his heel, pausing for a moment to figure out which way was south-east with his compass, and started heading that way, going once more through the maze of trees.
The main inner hall of the Assassin’s Guild had a balcony ringing the perimeter with access to the offices of the higher-ranked employees, and Tsi-Lau was currently standing at the edge of the balcony, leaning over the railing as the rest of the guild assembled below her, as mixed in race as it was in skill.
“Many of you will probably
have noticed the increased guard activity recently. Our spies report that an
attack is expected from the east by the Yoshian army and that the
Taking a breath and letting her words sink in, Tsi-Lau prepared to say the meat of her announcement. It had been a tough decision, and she was dismayed to receive the information that morning. The guild as a whole had to be united, and for that an allegiance would have to be declared… but who to? The city was closer to Yoshian lands but had a sizeable human population, and Tsi-Lau couldn’t show bias on the basis of her own race…
“As the leader of the Assassin’s Guild in Corvan, I declare that in any upcoming conflict… we will maintain a neutral position.”
Nothing else she could have said could possibly have provoked such a sudden reaction. Immediately almost everyone began to shout and argue, and Tsi-Lau used a spell to amplify her voice so she could be heard. “ATTENTION, PLEASE.”
Allowing a moment for order to restore itself, she spoke again. “The guild will officially remain uninvolved in the battle. We will not aid either side on a professional level unless attacked. If you disagree with this decision then you are perfectly free to leave and never return; otherwise, we will fortify this structure and wait out any hostilities.”
Almost immediately the arguing started again, but Tsi-Lau turned on her heels and put her back to the crowd, before making a brief hand gesture and teleporting back to her room in a cloud of smoke.
“There… it’s done.” She said, striding over to the enormous cushion where Skafria lay, holding the egg against his chest.
“I heard the reaction from over here.” He said, chuckling and handing over the egg. “But in all seriousness you did the right thing.”
Nodding, then ran her hands over the eggshell, sighing. “I made the choice and I, at least, plan to stick to it. I expect most of the lower levels to desert and possibly a few of the higher ones, but I believe that they will eventually see the wisdom in my decision.”
“Hah…” She mumbled, picking up the egg and putting it in her lap. “That depends who wins.”
Somewhere in the Crelata Forests
“I really, really hate this place.”
Darkmark had taken out his sword and was hacking through any thorny plants that blocked his path, his patience with the entire forest run out. He’d had enough of the enormous trees that prevented him just flying out, the annoying clingy plants that pricked his legs, the burrs that stuck to his saddlebags, and the eternal uneasiness of the silence. Any sound, from bird calls to leaves rustling, was welcome in his opinion even though he ignored them, and it took him a few moments to fully comprehend the screams and shouts coming from up ahead when things started to get dark.
Rushing forwards, he identified some of the voices as Yoshian from the language, with battle cries, screams and curses in both Yoshian and the common tongue cutting through the air. Slashing through any foliage that dared to hinder his progress, he eventually stumbled upon a battle taking place between the ferals he had met earlier and some fighters who looked to be somewhere between soldiers and mere mercenaries.
Apparently in the middle of moving, dropped bags of supplies and rolled-up tents littered the area, but the ferals were having moderate success at fending off their attackers, presumably bounty hunters, with casualties both conscious and unmoving being dragged away from the conflict. Darkmark swore to himself but turned around and tried to sneak up on the attackers, a small group but effectively trained and doing well in their tactics.
The first one was quite surprised as the silver, glowing sword plunged through him from behind, slicing upwards in a killing slash, but his cut-off cry attracted the attention of the others who divided their attention, several coming to fend off the new, better equipped opponent.
Even for Darkmark there were too many, especially with the trees and plants impeding his movement, and he tried to head into the mass of ferals while trying not to get impaled on a spear or struck by an arrow. Parrying a slash from the nearest human, he tried to run him through but his sword was turned by a concealed coat of chainmail, and Darkmark was nearly cut on the arm by a counterslash and an accompanying thrust by another of the bounty hunters.
With simple clothing on the outside covering up their armour they looked easy enough to beat, but as the brown Yoshi had just discovered they were more than met the eye, and he drew back, one of the other ferals nearby firing and missing with a bow. Hoping dearly that his subconscious powers would kick in, he raised his free hand and made a swift motion, focusing his energy to his fingertips where it manifested into a single bolt of energy and struck the nearest assailant, knocking him over against a tree, where he stayed. However, two others came forward to take his place and Darkmark cursed again, sheathing his sword.
Lunging for the closest, he grabbed a handful of his shirt and rushed another one of the bounty hunters, missing as his target dodged and slamming the one he had grabbed into a tree, winding him. Momentarily stunned, Darkmark barely evaded another slash, stepping back to avoid a follow-up and walking directly into the grip of another human behind him, who put his arm around Darkmark’s neck and raised his sword to attack. Quickly, Darkmark leapt backwards hoping to hit another tree, instead managing to miss entirely and stumbling, falling onto his attacker.
Rolling to the side as he was freed from the strong grip, Darkmark sprung to his feet and lashed out, his fist enveloped in energy that discharged when it hit the human’s chest, surging through him and knocking him out. An arrow whizzed past his head and struck the neck of another who had been about to attack him, and taking a brief look around, Darkmark could see that the ferals were finally winning through strength in numbers.
However, he heard a scream from behind him and turned abruptly; a sky-blue feral was backed up against a tree, the same one he had shared a tent with two days ago, about to be killed by a human raising a broadsword high for the finishing stroke. Immediately Darkmark leaped forwards, feeling a twinge of pain as an arrow went through one of his wings, stumbling over a tree root but still managing to get enough footing to draw his sword and raise it, intercepting the attack with a metallic clang before he fell to the ground in between the two, the human’s sword a mere inch from the face of the feral.
Both seemed shocked but the feral was first to react and grabbed a knife lying on the ground nearby, presumably hers, and leaped upwards from a kneeling position to jam the blade into the human’s throat, ripping it out as he gurgled and fell to the ground. Darkmark stood and prepared to help again, but the attackers had either been defeated or were running away, and the survivors were cheering and firing a last volley of arrows at the retreating targets, all of them striking the surrounding trees.
As calm slowly came over the group, the panting brown Yoshi heard a voice from beside him. “You…” The sky-blue feral murmured, turning to Darkmark. “You… you saved my life.”
Some of the other ferals who Darkmark had passed in the battle were looking at him, as well as the cloaked chieftain who was striding over, directing the others to help the injured. “You came to our rescue at just the right time.” He said, nodding to Darkmark. “We might well have won without your help but we would have suffered more casualties… thank you.”
“It was nothing.” Darkmark muttered. “I just happened to be coming this way when I found you.”
“If you say so,” The leader replied, breathing heavily from the recent exertion. “It’s not safe anywhere any more… we hoped to head south to where the forest is thicker, but we only got this far.”
Sighing and shaking his head, Darkmark sheathed his weapon. “It’s not safe anywhere any more…” he repeated, bringing his injured wing forward to heal it.
“Please, uhm…” The female feral said, catching his attention. “Please, come with us… just… just for one night.”
She looked at him with pleading eyes, clinging onto his arm in a manner Darkmark never expected of a feral. “Please… one night… just one night…”
“…Very well.” He said, caving. “I’m heading southwards anyways…”
Already the feral group was getting ready to move again, picking up the dropped supplies, most of which were carried on sheets or tied to sticks so as to be carried between two people. This kind of attack seemed to be something of a regular occurrence, and Darkmark clenched his fists as he headed to the group, doing his best to help those with minor injuries.
Everywhere I go… he thought to himself, it’s always the same… death and desperation… barely surviving…
But if it’s going to change, I’m going to have to make it happen…
To be continued…