Contest Entry – Vanguard into IlshenarReturn to: 2002 Contest
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|VANGUARD INTO ILSHENAR BY AZRAEL OF CATSKILLS|
Draw a tankard of ale and gather round the fire, merry friends. I bring to you a tale of my recent journeys, with Sparhawk, in the land of Ilshenar!
Twas after a successful night of repelling the nearby demon clan, that I felt drawn into the wild, taking the fight to the foes of Torm. Sparhawk was of like mind and eager to test his mettle against the pantheon of enemies in the newly discovered region some call Ilshenar. Through the swirling ether of the Skara Brae moongate we found our way to the shrine of Sacrifice. Nay, not the shrine we know, but another, strange and alien…
The night seemed somehow darker, and the air was sweet with honeysuckle, masking the danger that lurked close at hand. We fed our restless steeds, which somehow sensed that things peculiar lay wait in the dark forest at the border of our vision. Being mortal men and not possessed of the infravision of our elvish kin, I spoke the ancient words of power, “In Lor”, as Sparhawk quaffed an onyx liquid. He winced briefly from the taste, new to the tools of adventure, and then we stared deeper into the periphery.
“Come, let us see what we can find”, I said, and we rode forth to the east at a trot.
Soon we were amongst the trees, strange sounds playing tricks off the mountainous walls of the vale. The cool breeze brushed our cheeks making us feel alive and vital.
“Azrael, look here!” I turned to find Sparhawk marveling at a small luminous being, no larger than a hare, yet humanoid, hovering head high.
Astonished, I looked on. “That may be a fairy, my friend. The ancients spoke of such, but I relegated it to myth. Pray good brother, look, but don’t touch. If legend serves the truth, their frail form belies their true power.”
With a nod, he nudged his mount onward. Soon the forest was alive with the things, perhaps sensing our alignment with the forces of good, and returning to their normal ways. Ahead, I spied a single silver horn, seeming to belong to the sound of hoof falls, but, whatever the creature was, it eluded me with shaming grace and ease.
Pressing forward we made our way into a strange glen. Monolithic stones, tall as a troll’s head, were placed here and yon. Their purpose I could not discern…
Without warning there came a crashing of leaves and breaking boughs on our flank. Our horses reeled, and I fell to the ground, stunned. Sparhawk held his seat, and as I regained my feet I saw him grope for the kite on his back. I caught Bane on the run, managed to get a foot in the stirrup, and wheeled about before my arse was fully planted in the saddle. Two huge eyes, yellow and fierce, broke the tree line, high as a house, and my blood quickened as the thing let out a deafening roar.
“Od’s Blood!”, I cried, “What madness is this!?”
“To me, Azrael!”, Sparhawk shouted, a shiny blade appearing in his grip.
“Rel Sanct, Rel Sanct!” I uttered, hoping to make the difference in what I reckoned to be a mortal battle. I saw Sparhawk’s back straighten as the magic ran through him, and felt the wild rush fortify my limbs with inhuman strength and agility. The pommel of Black Razor was then in my hand, and I ripped it urgently from the scabbard. Eldritch runes lit the glen with the blue of an October sky, but as I saw the massive coils undulate forth from the forest, I knew it might be the last time I held the ancient blade.
A huge claw raked the gilded paint from Sparhawk’s shield, as he parried the first blow. Shaking his head, no doubt to clear it, he let forth a battle cry, “For the glory of Torm!”, and let into the scaly beast as few might find courage to. A half-breath later, I was at his side, my steel clanging against the rocky hide of the armored lizard.
The beast reeled high in the air, sucking in breath, and we put our shields together and ducked beneath, as it let forth a fiery gale from its gargantuan maw. The flames roiled about us with a crackling hiss, but our training saw us through with lesser burns. We could not feel them for the adrenaline coursing in our veins. Rushing in we rained blows on the dragon’s breast, and suddenly a wound appeared. The monster was a mortal foe! Suddenly there was hope.
“It bleeds, by Pelor, it bleeds!” Sparhawk bellowed, but his celebration was interrupted as the creature fell on me, seething fangs piercing my magical chain tunic. Gazing at heaven, too anguished to cry out, I managed to turn Bane and make a short retreat. I gasped for air, my lung punctured.
“Poison!” I hissed, speech failing me.
Quickly, my brother in Torm aided me with a bandage, applying a healing salve of magical concoction. Regaining my senses, I imbibed a bitter liquid.
“Azrael, it comes!”
I looked up, wanting to stare my fate in the face. Then something odd occurred. I cannot be certain it was not the poison, but there appeared to me a shining visage. And it spoke to me in a thundering voice.
“You shall not fall today, paladin. Your path lays another way, and through me…” I felt a strange calm come over my troubled heart.
“T-Torm!?”, and then the vision dissipated, like smoke into the sky.
“Brother, the beast is upon us!”
Straightening in my saddle, I raised the Black Razor with a strength I did not possess. Relief washed over Sparhawk’s face, as we turned together to make our final stand.
“For Torm!!!” we screamed together, unleashing a godlike flurry of blows upon the approaching worm. The serpent reeled in anger, shock, and pain, its essence pouring forth in a sanguine torrent. Sparhawk drove forth his blade, spiking the beast in the gullet to the hilt. With a thunderous crash, the dragon fell, shaking the ground all around.
“I-I saw Torm”, I looked at him wild-eyed.
“Tell me later brother, you are wounded.” His eyes, showed uncertainty, but I did not press the matter.
After some battlefield doctoring, we found a great nest in the woods nearby. We spilled forth the golden yoke of a half dozen immense eggs, and discovered not one but two magical helms! There was coin as well. Better than 2000 gold, and several gems in the bargain.
Battered and weary, we sought the gate, making our way back to the Gentle Rest Inn where we put it’s namesake to the test.”
Last modified: March 27, 2011