The Wraith of WWI

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:42 pm

Sterling pushed through a rough patch of burned trees, shoving aside the cracked branches and debris under them, and looked out upon what had been Bezonvaux. The destruction he’d seen up to this point was nothing, vast and all-encompassing but distant to him, impersonal, but this was close to his heart. The town was completely destroyed. Almost nothing at all remained of the hamlet he’d known before but wreckage and blasted earth.

He walked forward numbly, his steps slow and measured, as a man in shock would but his senses were alert and on edge. His long ears twitched slightly, reacting to the distant sounds of the war but searching for any sign of life or habitation. His eyes darted from one shattered and burned-out building to another trying to make sense of the rubble and orient him to where he was. Everything smelled of fire, chemicals, and death.

From where he approached on the south-west there should have been a row of farm cottages; all of them were burned completely to the ground. There should have been fields harvested and plowed, waiting for winter to cover them in snow before spring would come and they would be planted again; there was nothing but cratered earth. Even the fences and livestock corrals were burned or blown to nothingness. He walked between the wrecks carefully, picking his way among the blast craters and debris. He’d known one of the farm families, the Charmonts, no sign of them remained at all. Beyond those cottages should have stood the smithy. It too had been reduced to metal scrap and scattered stone, only one corner of foundation remaining with the bullet-ravaged edges of the walls that had met there standing only three feet high. Three partial skeletons of horses were scattered in the scorched yard around the ruin. He stopped here and leaned against the broken wall and looked down what had been the only road in the town proper in blank despair.

The town’s three main shops would have been standing side by side across a small crossing path between the courtyard of the smithy and the rest of the town. All that greeted his gaze was a pile of charcoaled timbers between a crumbling wall and blast-scattered stones on one the near side and heap of rubble where the entire two story general goods store had collapsed in on itself on the other.

Beyond the remains of the shops would have been the Rubideaux’s tavern; “Le Rosier Sauvage”, “The Wild Rose”. All that remained of it now were collapsed burnt timbers inside three cracked and crumbling stone walls.

A cold emptiness clenched in his gut as he walked through the shattered doorframe and stood among the blackened beams and rubble. He placed a hand on one of the beams. It shifted a bit, crackling, but it was cold. This hadn’t happened recently.

One small hope flittered inside him as he bowed his head and mourned the loss of yet another piece of his past, a single tear sliding down his cheek. Perhaps they’d been warned, evacuated, and were still alive somewhere else beyond the reach of the war if there was such a place. Maybe he’d see them again. Probably not.

He leaned against the cracked stones that would have been the wall behind the long now missing bar and slid slowly to the ground, suddenly very tired.

“...green fields, away some...” a voice whispered in his mind, a completely contradictory image to the gray, black, and brown of his present reality.

---

“Master Akiyama!” Torra called out to the Battlemagus. “He’s stopped. He’s in a deserted town.”
Akiyama looked over at Torra, then at the rest of the group as they assembled around the scrying glass. Now was the time to strike.

“Din Tau,” Akiyama commanded. “Make the circle. Farstadt, make ready to transport us. Torra, is your device ready?”

“Yes, Master,” she said, her face full of pride and confidence in her machine.

“Excellent.”

Akiyama drew his sword and stood in a battle ready stance as Din Tau completed the circle and Farstadt began to chant.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:30 am

Sterling sat with his back still against the wall in a half doze in the late afternoon rain. The fall of the water was barely more than a mist that drifted through the air to settle on the charred floor of what had been a safe place for him, now just a burned-out hull of a tavern. The difuse light of the afternoon that filtered through the clouds gave a sort of silver glow to the blackened timbers and walls and muted the smell to a background tang. He registered these things distantly, his eyes barely open in slits under the brim of his acquired uniform hat, the long rifle that had come with it leaning against the remains of the wall at his side.

What he saw was more a dream than a memory, or perhaps a hallucination, or both. It was a vision certainly because it had no color and could not be real.

Lisenne Rubideaux was crying, her face hidden in a kerchief as she leaned against the shadow of the bar, her husband Poul arguing with their two now grown sons who were wearing French uniforms. The scene was silent, like moving pictures, but the message of it was clear. Jean-Michelle and Beau had joined the army and their parents were extremely displeased with them. It had to be before the war started, but how long before wasn’t clear.

Poul gestured wildly and shouted silently at the two young men then turned and stormed away, fading out of view. Lisenne cried harder and the boys came to her, spoke briefly, then left as well toward where the door had been also fading away.

“You should have known something like this would happen,” a familiar voice said at his side.
Sterling’s eyes widened and his spine stiffened, but he didn’t look at the speaker. He knew who it was already.

“Shut up Lazaro.”

“Oh, John. That’s hardly polite.”

Sterling turned his head slowly to look at where the voice came from. Sure enough the image of his former friend, the Vampire Lazaro, leaned casually against the wall not six feet from him. The wall he leaned against appeared to be whole but only for a few inches from where his shoulder touched it. Sterling scowled.

“Oh, you’re not glad to see me.” The image said raising an eyebrow. “What a surprise.”

Lazaro was clothed as Sterling had last seen him, fine flowing cloak over a shining breastplate with garish but stylish trousers and long black boots. The high collar of his shirt accented the length of his hair. The vision, like those of the Rubideaux, had no color other than gray and silver like mist and rain, and his clothing was whole and beautiful rather than tattered and torn from a long battle.

“Shut UP,” Sterling said, his voice rising as he stood and turned toward the image. “This isn’t my fault. If anyone is to blame it’s YOU! You...”

“I would have taught you better,” Lazaro said, waving a dismissive gesture. “You know mortals are... well... mortal.”
Sterling closed his eyes tight, his fists bunching at his sides.

“You’re not here any more than they are. I know where you are. You’re...”

The harsh prickle of Magic washed over Sterling’s skin, making the hair on his arms and neck stand on end and sending is eyes wide open. An eerie quiet settled in as it passed. The visions were gone. Something was desperately wrong. The drifting light raindrops hung suspended in the air as if time had been frozen but this was no vision or dream. His scowl deepened into a gritted frown and he growled.

He’d thought they might have forgotten him again. They hadn’t. They were here.

“Mages.”

---

There was a brief disorientation as the translocation spell took hold. Everything faded to white. Then suddenly the group of mages was standing in the ruins of the smithy in Bezonvaux.

Torra was already kneeling to set her device down. It hovered about a foot over the ground where she crouched behind the lone remaining corner of the walls of the building and bobbed slightly.

Akiyama looked over at her and nodded. “Activate it.” He said firmly.

She pressed a finger to the red crystal inside the matrix of interlocking rings of gold, silver, and black stone and half-hummed, half-spoke the activation spell. She pulled her finger back quickly as the crystal flashed brightly then the rings began to move. First the black stone, then the silver, then the gold, all rotating on different axis and at different speeds. Finally the crystal itself rose up off of its holder just a millimeter and began to rotate counter-clockwise.

The air around the device shimmered for a moment, then the shimmering veil shot outward in a large bubble to encompass the entire ruin of the town and the fields and houses behind the smithy. A vast bubble, centered on the device, where time itself stopped. A Static Field.

“Good. Now Torra and Din Tau will stay here and mind the device, defend it well for the beast may attack it. Farstadt and Salazar,” Akiyama nodded to each member of the party as he spoke. “You will flank to the right. Waseem and I shall approach from the center.”

The group nodded and broke apart. Din Tau was already scratching a series of symbols in the ash at his feet.

---

Sterling peeked over the top of the broken wall and looked back toward the smithy. He’d heard Akiyama speak but the words were distant and distorted in the strange reality of a Static Field. And there was the fact that something was wrong with the field. It seemed... backwards somehow.

In point of fact it was backwards, or rather inverse, as the modifications that Torra had made to the device had reversed the shell so that time would be held inside rather than out. Thus the rain had stopped falling in place in the air where it hung and the piece of wall that crumbled under his hand drifted only a few feet down before stopping to hover in the air as well. Living things seemed to be unaffected other than being trapped inside the field but inanimate objects would slow, then stop, until the field was broken or turned off.

It was something that Sterling aimed to do as soon as possible. There was no telling how long it would last and there was little chance he could break the field itself without breaking the machine or mage maintaining it. Hard experience had taught him this lesson. It hadn’t been pleasant.

He watched as the mages broke into groups and left the smithy, a large blonde man with a beard and a wand followed by a young darker skinned, probably Persian, boy who couldn’t be older than his late teens moved out and away from his position to his right while a much more formitable but shorter Japanese mage with a bright sword followed by a plump Spaniard walked straight toward him. The Japanese mage had to be the main force and probably the one in charge. He didn’t see a seal mage or a machinist but they had to be there or the field wouldn’t be.

“Well... at least they brought enough people.” Sterling said to himself quietly. He had fought single mages before, and groups as well when they tried to subdue, capture, or kill him. Anything less than three he now considered a personal insult. Since they obviously knew where he was he decided on a direct approach and walked confidently to the broken doorway of the tavern leaving the rifle where it was. It wouldn’t be any use against a mage anyway unless he or she were exceptionally stupid.

“John of the Hunter Clan Sterling,” Akiyama called out when he saw him, issuing a very ceremonial and traditional challenge. “Last survivor of your family. Kinsmir. I am Master Battlemagus Hiro of the Akiyama Clan. I have come to collect you for the Order. Resist and you will be destroyed. Surrender to me or prepare to do battle!”

Sterling stood still, head high, listening to the challenge. He was familiar with tradition and Samurai and knew that until a fight was declared that there would be no combat. He made his reply in the traditional manner.

“Master Battlemagus Hiro Akiyama,” he called, his voice clear and confident. He stood tall with his hands folded behind his back and looked very much like the soldier he was dressed as. “I am John Sterling. I hear your challenge. What forces have you brought?”

“I bring five men with me,” Akiyama replied. Technically it was four men and a woman, but in combat everyone is a man. “I have brought lighting, fire, knowledge, and two others that I will not reveal to you.” He did not have to declare anyone that hadn’t been seen yet, nor name who held which. “And I have brought myself and my sword. Will you yield?”

Sterling nodded at each declaration but did not at the last question. “I will not.”

“Then it is to be Combat?”

“It is.”

“Very we... FARSTADT NO!”

Akiyama was interrupted by a long bolt of pure blue lightning that struck the burned doorjamb next to Sterling, exploding it into splinters that showered and pierced and could have severely damaged or killed a regular man. The bolt traced back to the wand in Farstadt’s outstretched hand. Sterling rolled with the blast, cursing, then yelled from a crouch behind the wall holding the rifle.

“YOU BREAK TRUCE!”
~
Sterling

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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:14 am

The shattered explosion of the doorframe slowed, then hung in the air in a starburst pattern, a gap in the spray of it where Sterling had been standing. The electric bolt hand strayed to an iron nail that was still in the frame instead of striking it’s intended target. Sterling stood up straight and fired the rifle he held through the debris at Farstadt. The bullet too began to slow immediately, the muzzle burst of it blossoming in slow motion to hang in the air like a fiery flower. Farstadt and Romero instinctively ducked from the bullet, the latter throwing himself flat to the ground, as it sailed over them and stopped several feet behind where they were standing. Akiyama gripped his sword and ran forward, Waseem behind him with flame encircling his hands from the bands on his wrists.

Sterling leapt over the wall and made to run toward where Farstadt and Romero were, sidearm throwing the rifle in a spinning motion toward Akiyama and Waseem. The sheer force behind the throw made it sail at almost normal speed through the air.

Akiyama slashed at it with his sword, easily parting the steel and wood of the weapon with his, and shouted a “KIAI” as it cut. A sharp line of force issued from the tip of his blade as is swept down in an arc, tearing up ground and cutting off Sterling from his charge. The halves of the rifle spun to the sides and bounced once each on the ground before stopping in the air at insane angles.

Sterling hauled up short, the line of power from Akiyama’s sword throwing up dirt and debris like a curtain before him and turned toward the attack as a gout of pure flame shot from Waseem’s outstretched hands to flare around him.

Dark power manifested around Sterling in a cloak that the fire danced around and died against but the heat of it made him grunt and turn away. Pure red light bled through his eyes and he threw himself back with incredible speed and force, colliding with the already broken wall behind him to crash through it sending pieces high into the air where they hung in a splayed arc.

Sterling cursed and rolled with the motion again, once more coming up against the back wall behind where the bar had once stood. This time, however, he punched it hard, crushing a hole through the blackened stone and ducking through it into another small alcove that would have been a storage building but was now just a small meeting of two burnt walls.

Going to have to split them up, he thought as he slid around the outer wall and eyed his options.

Another shattered building, this one made entirely of wood but not completely burned to the ground, was only ten yards away across a small street. He made a run for it pulling on his supernatural speed.

“Ki-AI!” echoed from behind him, and another line of deadly force tore across the ground half way through the street after he had passed.

The Battlemagus is good. Very good. But only human.

Sterling dove into the timbers and crouched, waiting for what he hoped was the next assault by the younger mage with Akiyama. It was an unorthodox plan but one that could be very effective if used at the right time. If he was lucky the other mages would be there as well.

Sure enough he heard the sound of pounding sandals and boots outside in a few moments, and there were more than two sets of them.

“He is still in there,” Akiyama said.

“You’re sure?” someone else’s voice, probably the big blonde man with the beard.

“Yes. Waseem, burn it.”

The younger mage chanted for a moment then the fire began in earnest. Magic flame didn’t spread like normal flame at first, it developed and went where the wielder desired if it was controlled properly. This fire was very controlled. Soon the entire building was a ring of fire that was creeping inward along broken and previously charred timbers.

Fire was a strange element. Being ethereal in nature it wasn’t effected by the Static Field the same way as the rest of the physical world was. It danced in slow motion but never stopped. It’s growth was retarded somewhat by the field but never completely. And the color was just a bit off if one looked close. Sterling was very close, and noticed with a sort of fascinated fixation at the beauty. More gold than yellow, more crimson than red, more bronze than orange.

Smoke, however, behaved exactly as it should and soon there was a thick cap of it hovering silently in the air above the blaze.

“All of it,” Akiyama said calmly. “Don’t leave a path for him to escape without being burned.”

Excellent, Sterling thought. Now...

“I don’t think we should,” began another voice from beyond the fire. It had to be the plump man. He didn’t get a chance to finish the statement.

---

Farstadt and Romero were standing together between the burning building and the wrecked inn. Waseem was in front of what would have been the front door on the main street of the devastated town. Akiyama was angling around to get a better view of the other side.

Then the burning wreck exploded.

It was as if a bomb had gone off at the center of it. The pall of smoke above the building quivered, then vanished as it dissipated. The earth itself shook in a massive convulsion. Shattered, flaming timbers lanced out like spears in all directions. Hot, heavy stones of the base of the walls and foundation were blown up and outward in the wake of the lighter wood. A shockwave of incredible force drove all of it outward, defying even the power of the Static Field for several seconds. Two unexploded shells of artillery that had hammered the building simultaneously detonated under the heat of the fire and force of the first blast, adding flying shrapnel to the mix of hell issuing forth.

Romero was rolled hard against the tavern’s outer wall, socked and dazed from the concussion and impact.

Farstadt was not so lucky. He was speared through the chest with a timber, hit by several pieces of shredded metal, and thrown full force into the wall just before the shockwave washed over them and crumbled it.

Waseem fared worse. A gout of his own fire was funneled and shot directly at him, covering the entire left half of his body before the blast extinguished it and blew him in a smoking heap across the ground. Most of the other debris missed him save for one small stone that glanced off the top of his skull as he rolled rendering him mercifully unconscious.

Akiyama, more alert and faster in reflex, brought his sword in front of him in a shielding arc and was simply blown up and back, sent flying over the ruined building across the main street to land nimbly on the ground in a crouch.

Torra winced and cowered over her device, not from fear of injury but from fear of debris from the explosion getting into it.

Din Tau, once the shockwave had passed over, looked over the wall at the source of the detonation.

In the center of a blasted crater, at the focus of a now frozen blast pattern of wood, stone, and metal, in a cleared space about twenty yards in radius, stood Sterling in his full Kinsmir glory, laughing.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:35 pm

Akiyama came flying back over the building which he’d been launched over, propelling himself forward in a long jump with a backward swipe of his blade, to land before Sterling and charge through the remnants of the explosion with a battle yell. His sword was at held parallel to the ground at chest level, the point toward the monster before him.

Sterling did not hesitate either, locking eyes with Akiyama and running toward him with equal speed, his claws extended out to his sides and teeth bared in feral aggression. Dark chains trailed him and spiraled out to the sides above and behind his legs giving the illusion of smoke following a huge, furry, meteor.

At ten feet apart both of the combatants launched themselves at each other, one slashing with a sword, the other slashing with the claws of his left hand in two blurred arcs of motion. There was a muted, tearing, crashing sound as they passed behind one another. Claws lashed out and mage-forged steel sliced. Fabric and flesh, fur and energy, cut and tore. Where the sword crossed a dark chain it flashed bright white for a moment, the chain echoing the flash deep black, and sparks flew. Each skidded to a halt with their backs toward the other.

The robes across Akiyama’s back were torn but the flesh beneath was whole. He’d slid his body expertly to avoid being raked by Sterling’s claws. The chains had either missed him or been blocked by his slash as they’d passed.

Sterling, however, had a vicious cut across his shoulders just under his neck. The pain from the wound was incredible, like nothing he’d felt in centuries, and blood flowed freely from the wound. It was already beginning to heal, but much slower than usual from the pure power of the blade; it suppressed his vampiric healing.

“Ow.” Sterling grunted as they turned back toward each other.

“Yes, monster,” Akiyama said as Sterling’s blood sizzled and boiled off the glowing blade. “No regular weapon. A Gaian Blade.”

“Son of a bitch.”

Sterling shot a chain toward Akiyama as blood trickled down his back, aimed straight at his heart. He parried it easily, the chain and blade sparking wherever they touched, then wrapped the chain around the sword and focused energy. The chain dissipated in smoke. The force of Order energy overwhelming the Chaos that the chain was made of. Sterling pulled back the severed end of the chain and held it in his hand, looking at it even as it reformed the wicked blade hook that tipped the others as if from nothing.

“It suppresses and destroys all things that are not of Order, Kinsmir. Even your mighty power.”

“Well, crap.”

“So you’ll have to fight on more even ground. Shall we continue?”

“Absolutely,” Sterling replied with a grin. It had been too long since he’d had a good fight.

While they were speaking Romero had regained his senses and rolled over to check on Farstadt. It was too late for the blonde mage, he was dead, his body being overtaken by the Static Field now that life had left it and resting at a strange angle on the ground, blood not leaking from his wounds. Romero quickly fished through his satchel, rifling through papers and scrolls with ancient runes and magic language written on them, looking for something that would be of use for Waseem who still lay unconscious but moaning on the ground in the middle of what was left of the street away from the primary combatants.

He crawled over to Waseem and rolled him over, wincing at the horrible burns over his body, and placed a small strip of paper on his forehead. The boy quieted immediately, slipping from simple unconsciousness into a deep coma that would only lift once the paper was removed. It was one of the several emergency items that Romero carried, one meant to save someone near death until they could be seen to with better care. In short, this situation. He sat next to Waseem and searched through his satchel for another item, his eyes flicking up occasionally to look at Akiyama and Sterling.

Akiyama strode purposefully toward Sterling, his sword making a slashing figure-eight before him and sending out waves of hard energy that slashed over the ground and through the air which could cut saplings at a distance. Sterling countered with his chains, blocking each wave with a resounding clash and stepped toward Akiyama. The touch of the sword may destroy the manifestations of Chaos but the energy sent out was all Akiyama and had no such power. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t dangerous, however, as one of the waves split it slashed over the back of Sterling’s hand, opening a long gash from his knuckles to his wrist. Then the two fighters closed into close quarters.

It was the hard and fast kind of fight that masters have, one centuries old and experienced the other trained hard his entire life, nothing like in moving pictures of novels where the fighting is elegant and staged. Swipes and blows followed one another with deadly speed and accuracy, blocks and parries fast and furious with little regard for style when focused on true life or death substance. A swipe of a claw batted away by the flat of a blade, a cut of a sword across the midsection sparking off of a curl of chain, the snap of teeth dodged just in time but still close enough to smell the breath of the opponent. It was anything but pretty and astoundingly beautiful all at once.

Sterling was cut in half a dozen places by the time they broke from the initial exchange, a hard and painful kick from Akiyama to his midriff forcing them apart by propelling the mage backward. The power of the Gaian Blade extended to the body of the wielder as well if they knew how to use its power, and the mage certainly did. Akiyama was gouged and bruised in as many locations. Each man fell back a pace from the other, both breathing hard from exertion though it had been less than three minutes. The dust and debris kicked up from the fight hung in the air around the men who had circled and jockeyed for position and superiority, forming a kind of makeshift arena that partially obscured the action inside from view to the others watching.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: The Wraith of WWI

Postby Sterling on Tue May 01, 2012 10:39 am

Meanwhile Romero had found the scroll he was searching for in his satchel. He unrolled the top of it and looked over the runes that glowed there in blood-red ink. He spoke a brief incantation and the runes flashed then he threw the paper toward Sterling. It unfurled, lengthened impossibly, and shot forward to wrap around Sterling like a binding bandage.

“What!?” Sterling shouted, looking over at Romero as Akiyama seized upon the opportunity and charged.

Sterling flexed against the parchment and his chains sizzled along the inside of the binding, shredding it to pieces just as Akiyama struck with a vicious thrust that caught him straight through the midriff.

“Ki-AI!” Akiyama punctuated the strike.

“Hrk... UNF.” Sterling answered, blood showing at his mouth from the impaling.

“YES!” shouted Romero.

The blade sang, vibrated with the pure power of Order, and burned inside Sterling like fire. Akiyama turned it upward, angling it to slice up through Sterling’s vitals. He was sure of his victory and had forgotten what and who it was he faced.

“No...” Sterling growled in Akiyama’s face, bringing a knee up into his crotch with an impact hard enough to lift the smaller man a foot off the ground. The shock of it froze Akiyama in place for a moment.

A moment was all that was needed.

Sterling reached back with a fist then punched Akiyama hard in the face, knocking him back and pulling the sizzling sword free. He followed this up by stepping fast forward, using his supernatural speed, and hit him twice more in the chest and stomach, each impact punctuated with grunted words as blood flowed freely from his the wound in his stomach.

“Still.” Punch. “Just.” Punch. “Human...”

With the last word Sterling kicked Akiyama hard in the chest, his chains lashing out over his shoulders to slice into Akiyama’s upper arms. Bones cracked and flesh tore. Akiyama dropped his sword and flew backward, sliding to a halt and laying motionless, his blade ten feet away from him on the ground.

Romero watched in horror as Sterling turned his baleful and glowing gaze to him, unable to comprehend that Akiyama had been defeated so quickly and completely after striking what should have been a fatal blow.

“Gaia... no...”

“Yes,” Sterling growled, striding steadily toward the kneeling archivist.

Romero had the good sense to try to run but before he could rise to his feet and bold Sterling was there, standing behind him as he turned, claws glistening with his own blood in the light and sparkle of the Static Field.

“Worse for you, troublesome wretch.” Sterling said, his voice full of hate. “Interfering like that... you get life, not death.”

“N...” Romero began, but he didn’t even have time to finish the short word.

Sterling slashed him deep across the chest, shredding his robe and flesh underneath down to the bone, but the wound was not fatal. The blood on Sterling’s claws was a mixture of his own and Romero’s now as he reached forward and gripped the remains of his robe and hauled him up to press his nose against the man’s.

“Feel the curse of eternity.” He said with finality, then threw Romero back into the ruins of the tavern with a crash that knocked him unconscious and caused the remains of the wall to fall over and cover him.

Akiyama moaned, drawing Sterling’s attention. He walked over to the prone man calmly, knowing he was no longer a threat wounded as he was and without his dreadful weapon.

“And you,” he said looking down at the fallen warrior. “You fought with honor. You get a choice. Life or death.”

Akiyama looked up at Sterling with a mix of admiration and hate but with no trace of fear or dread. He’d always known he’d fall in battle sooner or later and was, in a way, proud that it had been to such a monster as this instead of to a lucky assassin or of old age.

“Death,” he said with finality. “A clean death.”

Sterling nodded down at Akiyama, his expression one of respect for an equal, then knelt beside him. His chains writhed around his body one of them coming forward to poise the blade at the end directly above Akiyama’s heart.

“Respect, Master Akiyama.” Sterling said, then plunged the blade into the man, ending him quickly and cleanly.

Din Tau watched all this silently, unable to do anything to aid his companions from inside the circle he’d drawn to protect Torra and the Field Generator. He took in every detail, every nuance, and every word he could hear and see, his mind storing it all to be processed later. When Sterling stood and turned toward them he ducked back behind the wall.

“They’re dead,” Din Tau said to Torra. “He’s coming.”

“What do we do?” Torra said, her eyes wide and cornered with tears. “He’ll kill us too! Oh NO.”

Something else had drawn her attention. The Field Generator was glowing azure instead of red now, and one of the rings was slowing and appeared to be out of balance. Small sparks began to issue from the device.

“It’s absorbed too much energy,” Torra said, beginning to panic. “The field is going to collapse. It’ll explode!”

Din Tau looked from the woman to the device, then had a thought.

“Explode?” he asked.

“Yes, all the energy it has stored is going to be released! Din Tau, we have to do something!”

“Right.” He said as the idea clicked into place. He picked up the device and threw it over the wall toward Sterling.

“NO!” Torra screamed and tried to scramble out after it.

The device bounced once, twice, then fell to the ground half way between the smithy and Sterling with a clattering pop.

The collapse of the Static Field was spectacular. First the outer edges of it shimmered blue, then red, then it began to contract slowly like a deflating soap bubble. Every time a piece of suspended material from inside crossed the threshold of it the lost energy that it had was regained and it flew up and away, shattered, or burst into flame, or a combination of all three. The contraction of the field accelerated as it drew inward, first at a crawling pace, then at a faster clip, and finally as a rushing wave of inverse force.

Din Tau hauled on Torra’s back, trying to pull her back into the circle, but couldn’t get her completely inside before the field intersected the malfunctioning generator.

Sterling wrapped himself in his chains and crouched down low to the ground, bracing for the inevitable.

There was a deafening boom, one that rattled the ground with a force like an earthquake, one felt on more than one plane of existence as the generator shattered and released all of its stored energy. The outgoing shockwave caused vapor to materialize in the air, forming a solid wall of white as it expanded first slowly, then faster, then blasted outward with the force of tons of explosives. What was left of Bezonvaux was obliterated in a matter of moments.

As the shockwave crashed over Din Tau’s circle it tore off both of Torra’s legs that were outside the edge, and one of her hands. The circle itself flashed into a protective and impermeable sphere, the devastation washing around it like a stone in a stream. Akiyama’s body was blown away, Farstadt’s was shredded. Waseem, saved by the shielding paper, lay burned and unconscious in the middle of the blast area. Romero, saved by the fact he was already buried in rubble, lay unconscious in a cairn of stone.

It was a full two minutes before the sound of the explosion had died away, and rubble rained down for another two.
Din Tau opened his eyes and took in the sight. Everything was destroyed, either blast cleared or rubble. But one thing still stood. Sterling.

The creature stood, and walked toward Din Tau, limping slightly at first but straightening as his regeneration took hold and repaired his legs. He came to the edge of the circle and stopped.

Sterling stood before the wounded Torra and defiant Din Tau in his glowing sphere. He tapped on it first with a claw, then with a chain, and found it completely impervious to his touch, harder than stone or steel, and unbreakable as the will of the young mage that had conjured it from the circle on the ground.
Sterling smiled, wide and awful in his full form, at the boy.

“Nice work you did,” he said, true admiration in his voice for the talent that the mage possessed and the mind driving it. “You’re gonna go far, kid.”

Sterling turned away from the glowing sphere and began walking west through the wreckage of the town.

“Hopefully we won’t meet again.” he said over his shoulder as he walked away.

“Don’t count on it, Kinsmir.” Din Tau said evenly.

Sterling vanished into the smoke and fog carrying Akiyama’s sheathed sword.

---

Early the next year Sterling was working on a freighter. Not a large ship but not a small one, and fast. It brought him back to his earlier sea-faring days in mind but that wasn’t the important thing. What was important was the destination of the boat; Japan.

Once again Europe had become too hot an area both in terms of the Mages’ influence and looking for him and in the area of the normal human condition. War may be where he excelled and what he was built for by the powers that be but it wasn’t something that he was prepared to actively seek out again just yet.

Hopefully the ship would be undetected by the ever patrolling U-Boats as it left Calais under blackout and steamed through the straight and into the Atlantic. It would be a long journey. He began to sing, softly, one of the old sea shanties he used to sing with other shipmates long, long ago.

END
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Sterling
Shifter Darkly
Shifter Darkly
 
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Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 2:41 pm
Location: Always where you least expect me.


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