Fan fiction:Bane Hero of the North/Chapter 11


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Bane Hero of the North is a fan fiction piece by Bane, originally posted on The Dark Library. The fiction series was recovered on April 14th 2010. You can find more information on Bane:Hero of the North article.


Chapter 11: The Gate(Part II)[edit]

Horthis stood above the great chasm, over looking its black walls and the fiery lake that round its way through his secluded domain, into the sea of Blood and Fire. Smoke and steam rose from the lake and drifted on unseen and unfelt drafts towards the red domed sky of the demons complex. Small pits that scattered the ground spat out green wispy thick smoke.

The demon turned his bony head towards his tower that lay above the great tundra where he now stood. The great black and blood red walls matched the natural surroundings perfectly, for did he not craft it with his own hands out of the very mountain it now stood upon.

Horthis smiled wickedly and considered briefly walking up the stone steps he had carved all the way up the mountain. He dismissed the thought shortly afterwards; the steps were there for a reason, for if mortals ever found his home would they dare walk so many steps? Of course they would, he knew, for mortal man was always the explorer. A tower in such a strange place would be of great interest to some who walked the realms above.

The demon had niggling thoughts running through his usually clear mind however, and for what seemed like an eternity, they plagued him. Grandium, his brother had shown himself after more than a century hidden away from the world, even Horthis had not been able to detect his brothers physical and mental presence that should have burned bright red on the spectrum of life. Grandium had brought him news of an old affair, one concerning the Way’ Far, The Gateway or the Gate as it was called, the door that linked this world to another.

Horthis took in a deep breath and thought again on what his brother Grandium had said. The idea of finding The Gate both intrigued and frightened the usually calm and confident Horthis. The Gate was not a toy to be played with, he knew that just as much as his brother for it ran many complications, if opened the Gate would start a new future for Sanctuary, one that could, with great possibility, overcome and destroy it. Horthis did not like the idea of being left in the dark for he almost always knew what was happening in this world in the past, present and future. He closed his eyes and concentrated, images of what was to come flashed past his eyes, but he could see nothing concerning the Gate.

They had searched for the Way’ Far before and with no luck whatsoever. If for some reason Grandium was once again searching for it did his brother have a vague idea of where it was? If found what would happen, had his home-world changed much after all the centuries he had lived on this one? Horthis did not know, but a few things concerned him still, would his brother allow him home and secondly, what would come through the Gate once it had opened.

The wind seemed to cry out in anger as it tore its way on the surface world, swirling and dancing violently on its sketchy journey. The dense forests that surrounded the well-ridden road to Kanton swung rhythmically to and fro in time with the wind, the leaves rustling their own melody. The flat grassy fields that could be seen in the distance seemed to sway slightly as well, every blade of grass moving in union, as if marching to an order from nature.

The mornings ride had been pleasantly warm, the sun had hung high proudly, softly touching the riders in its warm glow. By nightfall however, the weather had changed and was cold, colder than it usually was during the summer. It had been a long and hard few days riding as soon as they had left Hugo’s farm. The landscape had not changed since, the forests and fields rolled past and one could begin to think they were just riding a never-ending road something that was beginning to grate the barbarian’s nerves.

A light rain began to fall from the iron-cast sky which began to fall harder as the minutes passed eventually forcing the group to slow and stop on the muddy road. The lead rider turned round to face his two wet companions.

“We should rest, the rain will not let up tonight.” The other two nodded in agreement, the robes they wore were soaked through, water dripped from them to reinforce the barbarians idea.

“It is odd weather this!” Exclaimed Balkin, shaking the hood of his robe from his head, a heavy wet hand itching at his scalp. “Bloody irritating hood this.” Bane led the group slowly into the dense woods to the right but found no easy way through while riding. Instead he dismounted and took out his sword knocking away and slashing at the greenery while leading his horse forwards by the reigns. Balkin and Chiana fell behind, hacking at the overgrown shrubbery with all their strength.

It was not long before the group came to stop in a clearing, the trees that lined it seemed to give enough shelter from the rain, a canopy shaped like a dome. A rocky outcrop could be seen as well, under a tall tree where the ground rose higher. Bane could see that the mound in the ground had an entrance and perhaps it went further in.

Bane pointed towards it with his sword and tied the reigns of his horse to a nearby branch; Balkin and Chiana did the same. When Bane arrived at the entrance he stooped low to peer into it. His keen eyesight made out a simple dugout, where the companions could sit for a while, out of the rain and cold.

“Its big enough to fit all of us in, but we can not stand in there. You two go through, I will sit here so I can keep an eye on the horses.” Balkin nodded and plunged into the entrance, shuffling his way through slowly. Chiana followed her wet form brushing past Bane, a cheerful look on her face.

“Oh good a hole, lets all sit in it!” She whispered, loud enough so that Bane could hear. The barbarian shook his head and sat at the entrance, just out of the rain and the wind.

“Why is it odd weather?” asked Bane, prompting an answer from his short and tired friend, who was leaning against the dry earth wall.

“The rains are not supposed to be as harsh and frequent during the summer that’s all.” Bane simply nodded and returned to his duty, keeping an eye on the horses through the pouring rain that had somehow sneaked its way through the canopy of leaves and branches.

The night had been a quiet peaceful one, with the rain getting lighter as the evening had departed, Bane had fallen asleep easily, and did not feel he had to alert his friends to keep watch for he knew he was a light sleeper, any noise an intruder made would have woken the barbarian

“This is Kanton?” Bane asked, peering down the slope of a hill, peering over the tall town walls that surrounded the main town. Balkin nodded.

“Yes Bane, we are close to the sea as well, can you smell that air.”

“How far is it?” Balkin hesitated with the answer, as he began to think.

“The Gulf of Westmarch is about fifteen miles from here, behind those hills in the distance there.” He said, directing Bane with his outstretched hand.

“I would like to see it.” Balkin smiled.

“You will Bane but not now, let us head to town.”

“Where are we meeting your brother?” Bane asked, looking over the vast well-tended fields.

“In town. His farm is a bit further northwest of here, so we arranged a meeting in town; a tavern to be precise called The Lord’s Head. I am not sure where it is located but I believe it is situated in the north part of town. We can ask around if needed anyway.” Bane simply nodded while Balkin led the way towards the open city gates, where a line of people were waiting to be admitted into town.

As the group got closer to the small line, which consisted of two carts of hay, a cart stacked with chests and a group of about eight people on foot Bane noticed the aggressiveness of the guards who had stopped the line. Flanking the gates were armed guards, their faces stern, their eyes cold, tall and nasty looking halberds held proudly towards the sky.

“What do you have in those chests?” Bane looked down the nervous line and at the man addressing the cart rider. The man was dressed in a black robe, its hood cast a shadow over his sharp facial features and hid the robed ones eyes. His voice was low but strong.

The robed man approached the cart driver, two guards by his side who stood with hands on the hilts of their swords, ready to draw them.

“Open the chests.” The cart rider was nervous but protested.

“There is nothing but personal items for the lord of the Manor. The chests are locked.” The robed figure was not happy.

“Then unlock them, do you not have the keys?” The cart rider nodded but did not move from the cart seat.

“Surely, take this up with the lord sir, I am but a driver.” The robed figure stepped forward and struck the cart driver, who held his face in shock.

“The Lord of the Manor no longer runs the town, his stuff will be searched like everyone else.” The driver handed over a set of small keys for the chests, which were handed to a guard who rushed off to the back of the cart.

The robe figure instructed the cart to be searched out of the line, so that the others could move forward. Guards flanked the cart and escorted the driver to the side, where the guard with the keys began opening the chests. Bane watched silently as the driver was hit strongly again by one of the guardsmen.

“What is going on here?” whispered Chiana, leaning forward towards Bane. The barbarian shook his shoulders and turned his attention back to the robed figure that allowed the group of people through.

“Something is wrong here. This robed figure worries me.” Balkin replied, nervously looking over at the cart search.

As the three neared the robed figure two guards barred their way, one of them commanded them to dismount. Bane did not argue and quickly dismounted. His eyes met the guards, who did not look as confident now as they did in dealing with the defenceless cart driver.

A cold tingling sensation came over Bane as he peered over at the robed figure, who had now wrapped his hood even more around his face. The figure moved towards Bane, squeezing his way between the guards. A strange shadow was cast over the man’s face and even standing a yard away Bane could not make it out clearly.

“What is your business?” The voice sounded odd and high pitched from where Bane was standing, as if the robed figure found it difficult to speak. Bane looked over to Balkin who stepped forward.

“I have come to see my brother, who lives here,” gesturing towards Bane and Chiana Balkin continued, “these are my friends who have kept me company on our journey from Galmnor.” The robed figure looked over the group and began to nod slowly.

“Very well, you may enter.” The robed one looked Bane over and muttered under his breath. “Be on your best behaviour barbarian, or trouble will not be far off!” Bane heard the words but did not react. The robed figure was a strange one, and the tingling sensation he had felt earlier was his senses warning him about the man. Bane had always followed his instincts.

Balkin led the way through the gates into the rather quiet town. Bane could not help feeling as if a dozen hidden eyes were watching him, his barbarian instincts were going crazy and Bane had to fight down the urge to go on the rampage.

“Did you notice how strange the man at the gates was?” asked Chiana, her eyes still looking back towards the robed figure.

“I do not like any of this.” Bane replied, staring around at the almost empty streets of the town. Windows were closed, shops and market stores apparently abandoned. The noise found in so many towns and places Bane had been in were almost non-existent; the odd shout from alleyways and houses.

“We must stable our horses.” Balkin said, pointing towards a long building towards the west of the main gate. Bane nodded and followed his small companion, Chiana in quick pursuit.

It had been a fast affair stabling the horses; the two men who worked them hesitated little and accepted little pay for the service. In fact they had acted very strange, appearing to be extremely nervous. When Bane had asked them about the man at the gate they had told him to be quiet, that no one should speak of the robed ones antics in the town. When Bane questioned them further they had told him to keep his voice down because others could hear. What did it all mean?

They had asked for little coin, if only to be rid of Bane and his questions the barbarian thought as the group made their way towards the tavern Balkin and his brother had arranged to meet in.

The streets were deserted, well almost. Armed guards walked in pairs throughout the cobbled streets, while the homeless lay in dark corners, wrapped in various cloths and cloaks to keep the cold away.

It was when watching one of these homeless people did Bane stop. He could have sworn he saw something behind the man. Bane looked closer, over the street and into the alleyway. He shivered suddenly as he took in the homeless man, who sat smiling, the top half of his face covered by a strange shadow that was cast over the robed figure at the gate earlier. A shiver ran across the barbarian’s body and his muscles tensed. It was then he also noticed he could not avert his eyes, no matter how hard he tried. It was as if he was caught in a trance. His blood ran cold.

“What’s wrong with you man!” cried out Balkin taking a firm hold on Bane’s arm, spinning the barbarian round. Bane shook his head and looked at Balkin, then at Chiana.

“Nothing…” Bane whispered, feeling the warmth return to his body. He looked over at the alleyway quickly but the homeless man was no longer sitting there. Confusion spread across his face as he turned back towards his friends.

“I am fine, I need to rest is all.” Balkin nodded but turned towards the alleyway he had seen his tall companion staring down. He had seen a homeless man sitting there but the figure was no longer in view.

“Let us be on our way Bane, The Lord’s Head is not far off now.”

The tavern was further than Balkin had made out which meant that Bane had time for his thoughts to dwell on what he had seen in the alley. At first he had thought he saw something move behind the man sitting on the cobbled street but on closer examination the man himself seemed out of place and not at all what he appeared to be originally. The same cloak of darkness had spread its way over the figures face as it had done with the robed one at the gates, was it merely coincidence? Bane shook his head and peered to his left, at Chiana. She looked concerned. Bane smiled as if he thought it would ease her worries but all she could muster was a quick and uneasy smile.

The Lords Head was not a bad place at all thought Bane as he looked around the barroom. When his companions and he arrived in the tavern the atmosphere had been pretty tense, those in the bar staring nervously over at them as they stood by the door. In fact it looked as unfriendly as the whole town had done so since their arrival.

It was an oddly shaped place thought the barbarian, with the bar at the centre forming a circle matching the shape of the main room, and many smaller rooms outside the circle, connected by short well-lit passageways. Tables of various sizes were scattered across all the rooms, while lanterns provided light as well as the large blazing fire in the main room and the small fires in the smaller rooms.

They had chosen one of the smaller rooms to sit, less crowded than the main room. The small fire had already died out during their stay, but a short man with yellow straw like hair wearing a simple leather jacket strolled in and re-lit it quickly. Bane had noticed the way the man had been quick, as if he did not want to be anywhere near Bane and his companions.

Now however, the bar was filling up, and for the first time since their arrival laughter and music could be heard. Bane peered through into the crowded main room. It was packed and covered in smoke, he could make out the men with the musical instruments dancing and smiling away. The barbarian smiled, it was as if he had somehow ended up in a different town.

Then Balkin came into view, walking away from the bar, looking disappointed. Bane watched as the man shuffled and squeezed his way through the crowds of people. Had he found his brother?

“Can’t find him anywhere but do not worry, my brother will not leave the place until he has found us.” He called as he neared the table. Bane nodded.

“What happened out there in the street?” Asked Chiana as Bane leant away from Balkin. Bane had noticed Chiana had not relaxed since the incident in the streets.

“Nothing, I just thought I had seen something down the alley. It was my mind playing tricks on me.” Chiana’s eyes widened and she moved closer to Bane, her words but a whisper.

“Did you not see the man in the alley?” Bane’s blood chilled. Bane did not answer.

“I saw him Bane, I saw the look on his face as he stared at me. He was smiling Bane, but not a nice ‘hello’ smile, one that scared me.”

“I saw it girl.” Chiana continued.

“The shadows across his face too, like the man at the gate.”

“How could I miss such detail, especially when no shadow was being cast across in the direction of the man!” Chiana looked relieved, and leant back on her seat.

“I thought I was going crazy.” She said as she started to drum on the table lightly.

“It was just trickery girl, nothing to worry about.” Bane did not believe the words himself, but desperately wanted too.

“I am not so sure Bane, it can do nothing but worry me. I froze when he looked at me and I could not turn away from his gaze.” Bane knew the feeling, it had happened to him also.

“I said to you before it was nothing to concern ourselves with. When we have helped Balkin and his brother we will be going back to Galmnor.” Bane placed his hand on Chiana’s shoulder and knocked back his ale.

- - -

The jungles of Kehjistan stretched out as far as the eye could see. The great stone monastery of the Zakarum Church looked out of place sitting next to the slender works of nature. Birds could be heard singing in the distance while other great and strange animals called out as well.

Kabana leaned forward on the balcony, and took in a long deep breath. He had been at peace since the council meeting more than a week ago, his mind put at ease after the troubling first Council Meeting by Arch-Bishop Lazarus, who had visited Kabana a day later.

The Council had met the following morning, to draw up a conclusion and plan of action. Kabana was not worried that he had not be called to the meeting, just glad that he did not have to watch his superiors fight amongst themselves.

He was shocked at the display of some members of the Council, but in truth felt and understood their anger. The Zakarum Church had worked hard over the past few years and although the visions of Akarat were received by some well, it had been slow. Only eight churches existed in the Western Kingdoms, five of them in Westmarch, two in Entsteig and only one in Khanduras, and those who had opened their hearts and minds to a new religion the numbers were small enough to cause some concern.

In truth Kabana had placed a barrier around himself when he was in the Western Kingdoms. He allowed himself to believe things were better for them, the Church. Now he knew it would take a good many years for it to catch on, and that he may not be alive to see it because it was early days yet.

When Arch-Bishop Lazarus arrived at Kabana’s door shortly after the meeting he had looked both relaxed and relieved. He mentioned nothing of real concern apart from one piece of news that Bishop Medici had apologized for his outburst in front of the Council. Kabana had seen how Medici had questioned his words of corruption in the lands they were trying to spread the Light. Now, only a day after Medici had apologized. Kabana shook his head. He was reading too much into small things, but why did it bother him still.

Lazarus had also brought him news of the actions that were being taken, that more agents would be released into possible corrupted areas, and that Kabana was going to be sent back out soon, after a good rest. He had had the good rest part and now was aching to get on with something.

All week he had been doing those duties he had not missed since his work in Ensteig, addressing men below his status dressed in all his glorious armour, attending meetings with other officers in the Zakarum Churches small but well trained army.

Looking over the balcony he could see men marching in sparkling silver armour, young men who had taken a vow to serve the Zakarum Church devotedly and honourably. Kabana smiled sadly, it had been more than six years now since he had taken the oath, how time went by so quickly. Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door, snapping the paladin out of his thoughts. It was followed by a calm and respectfully toned voice.

“Kabana, you are needed at the Barracks!” Kabana shook his head slowly and walked over to the door.

- - -

Bane looked across the table, past the empty tankards and over to Balkin. The man looked stressed. Bailey had still not shown and it had been at least three hours since they had arrived at the tavern. Balkin sat swirling the remains of ale that were left in his glass.

It was when watching the man do so did he catch something at the bar. A man dressed in simple white and brown clothes was talking to the bar-owner. During the conversation the pair kept looking over at Bane, particularly Balkin who was no longer paying the surroundings any attention, Bane believed Balkin was ready to leave and head straight to his brothers farm.

He noticed the barman point at them, and the man asking the questions gave a nod and raised his hands as if to say thank you. The man walked confidently but with haste. When he arrived he addressed the table, his voice low.

“I hear you are new here?” The man looked over his shoulder and coldly stared at Bane, then Chiana and Balkin.

“We are…yes.” Balkin replied sitting more upright rather than remaining in his chair slumped into it.

“What is your business here in Kanton?” the man asked nervously.

“I have come to meet with my brother, he owns a farm near here, and Bailey is his name.” The man nodded and looked Balkin over. He appeared to relax slightly.

“You do not appear strange outsiders, no mark of the shadow on you at all.” Shadow! Was the man talking about the shadow’s cast over the face of the mage and homeless man?

“Shadow?” The man nodded and narrowed his eyes.

“Yes, I will explain later. There are many odd things happening here strangers, ones that I myself cannot explain or begin to understand. There has been trouble here in this once good town, trouble in the farms as well.” The man pulled up a stool and sat before Bane, brushing his chest. He looked around him and back towards the barkeeper who was still watching the table.

“I will tell you later friends but I will give you but a warning, do not trust easily here strangers, people are never quite what they appear to be.” Before Bane could reply the man stood up and turned to leave but hesitated. He turned back round and looked at Bane while stroking the hilt of his sword.

“Meet me here at closing time strangers, I will tell you all I can without the threat of daylight and unwanted prying eyes and ears. Farewell.” He turned quickly and did not look back. He effortlessly moved through the crowd and vanished out of sight.

“Talking of strange people…” muttered Balkin as he watched the man go. “Didn’t even introduce himself.”

“I agree, but his offer interests me. Something is not right here and we have now been warned.” Bane looked about himself more now, and kept his hand firmly on the hilt of his sword. The cold steel in his hands was reassuring as he stared at the people in the tavern. He noticed a few looking towards him with suspicious glances.

“But you heard it from him, don’t trust anybody he said, loud and clear and seeing as he did not even give his name I think we should decline his offer.” Bane whipped round and stared icily towards Balkin.

“Perhaps your brothers troubles are directly linked with what that man is so worried about, something appears to be troubling more than just farms around these parts. Remember what Hugo had told us, that the people that were harassing him were not just simple robbers. They had spread into Khanduras as well. Perhaps the man can not be trusted but I am willing to take that risk Balkin.” Bane leant back and stared at the fire unwilling to further any conversation regarding the matter. Balkin looked surprised.

“It was only a suggestion lad, merely looking out for our own safety.” He turned from the barbarian and looked into the barroom where he caught a familiar looking body in the crowd.

“Bailey!” He called out, high above the music and din of the tavern but his brother did not seem to respond. Again Balkin called and Bailey turned to see the man calling him.

“Come sit brother!” He called again standing, eager to shake Bailey’s hand. Balkin was relieved to see his brother for he had began to worry about his brother; thoughts such as were they too late to help had run through his mind.

Balkin looked Bailey up and down. The man looked disorientated and pale, his eyes were tired, and he wore a black cloak around his round figure. He went to shake Bailey’s hand but his brother hesitated, rather looked the hand up and down first before offering his.

“Hello brother.” Bailey said, his voice a little quiet, he coughed shortly afterwards.

“These are some of my friends, the big man’s Bane and the girl is called Chian…” before he could finish Chiana had spoken.

“I think I can introduce myself Balkin but thank you, I am Chiana.” She stood up and offered out her hand, which Bailey inspected before shaking. The three sat back down. Balkin leaned in close to his brother, putting his arm around him.

“You look a bit ill.” Bailey did not answer him. Balkin screwed his face up and looked worryingly towards Bane.

“I am fine,” croaked Bailey as he stared over at the barbarian nervously, Bane caught the look.

“Tell us why people here are afraid brother, Kanton does not appear friendly at the moment, not like it use too when I came to visit. How is the family?” Bailey once again hesitated to answer but stared at his brother coldly.

“They are fine.” He whispered before covering his mouth to cough. The sound was terrible and Bailey wheezed afterwards and appeared to be struggling to breath. Balkin patted his brothers back roughly.

“What problems do you have on the farm brother?” Bailey went to answer but paused.

“Everything has sorted itself out brother, there are no longer any problems here, everything is fine.” Balkin appeared shocked and looked over towards Bane once again who was also stunned.

“You can go home brother, everything is fine.” Bailey stood up quickly but Balkin placed his hand firmly onto his brother’s taller shoulder.

“Can I not see the missus and the kids?” Bailey shook his brother off him with ease and more strength than Bane had suspected the man to have.

“Yes brother, but not tonight, I have some jobs to do.” With that Bailey smiled weakly and left the room and his troubled brother who had slumped into his chair once again, readying the next full ale to be dropped down his throat.

- - -

The footsteps were loud across the passageway but did not seem to bother the heavily cloaked figure that walked with haste. Each step echoed brilliantly across the stone walls and arches.

The man licked his dry lips and could feel he had begun to sweat beneath the thick black cloak he wore. He shook his head and wiped his sweating palms on the cloak, switching his great staff from hand to hand. He was worried and had reason to be, it was not usual for him to have a meeting with such a powerful creature the likes in which he served.

He had good news though, news that would help the creature in its coming battles, a war which he would have to fight against the armies of the Western Kingdoms, a war which could prove difficult to win if other allies to the Civilised lands come into play. He smiled; he knew why the demon had set him this task.

The cloaked figure paused as he arrived at a pair of large iron doors that finished the highly unspectacular walls of the passageway. He felt a cold sensation run down his spine and hesitated. Did he really want to go through the doors? As if in answer to his question they opened before him smoothly and slowly.

He looked forward nervously but stood up straight and held out his tall gnarled staff before him closing his eyes. The room the door led him to was black as pitch, nothing he could not handle though with magic.

Once his eyes were closed his neck muscles tensed and those around the mouth did also before he spoke three words of magic. He waved his hand slowly before the top of his staff and suddenly a ball of fire burned atop it, floating about an inch or two from the staff top. The man opened his eyes and could now see the room before him in greater detail.

He had been in the room once before, the last time he had seen his master, but was told that it would change almost constantly. Indeed it had from the last visit. Instead of a great chamber filled with fire and red gases and clouds was a colder appearing room. The walls looked like they had just been clumsily erected, grey as the great Church in Kehjistan. Before him was a long stone table that stretched out from a giant marble throne.

The figure moved across the room and stood before the simple looking throne. He guided the light from the top of his staff at the corners of the room also for he knew the demon enjoyed hiding.

“Come out Grandium?” He called, a hint of fear in his voice, something he cursed for he did not want to appear afraid. There was no answer and so the figure shouted again, louder.

“There’s no need to shout mortal.” The cloaked figure looked above him and swallowed his mounting saliva. The beast was clinging to the ceiling! He hated looking at the physical form of Grandium, it may change shape a lot but every one chilled the very blood in his body and gave him a bad feeling at the pit of his stomach.

Grandium’s large spider-like frame glided across the ceiling as if it were ice and made its way down the wall close to the throne, the head of the demon firmly on the cloaked figure on the entire journey across the ‘ice’ ceiling and right the way down the wall, it was a haunting sight.

Grandium put one of his arms up onto the throne as if he were a man simply leaning on something and relaxed his body on the cold stone floor.

“Hello monk!” he whispered, the sound of it grating violently in the figures head as a high-pitched voice rang out. It laughed wickedly before changing form before him. The metamorphism was both incredible and twisted thought the cloaked one as he stepped away from the demon. It had changed itself into the shape of a man, but the physical form was too big for a man, more like a Wendigo, the giant beasts that were common in the forests of the Western Kingdoms. There was no reply.

“Come now Zakarum man, lost your tongue?” Grandium laughed once more and stepped closer to the figure; intimidation was a key part to Grandium’s style.

“All goes well in the east, especially the fools in Kehjistan. I believe I have the Council there pretty tied up; they hang on every word I speak.” Grandium reared back, a smile spread across its face.

“The Council were fooled, they believe your words?”

“Yes, many actions are to be taken, one soon which would be of interest to you. The Zakarum Council have decided to send a group of men, armed knights they have been forming, into the west.” Grandium appeared to raise an eyebrow.

“How interesting? Then they have split their forces, which will make them an easier target to destroy, I do not want the Zakarum meddling in my affairs in the west, if they are allowed to do so they would help the fools in the ‘civilised’ lands and prove a nuisance.” The man stepped back, further from the demon as if he suspected the thing to lash out at him at any moment.

“Good work monk, you have been a very useful ally. Return to the fools in Kehjistan and await further instructions.” The man nodded and walked hastily out of the room, before Grandium changed its mind.

- - -

Bane pressed his back against the cold brickwork wall that lined the alleyway and breathed quietly, trying to relax. The last thing Bane wanted now was to be spotted by Bailey. He had kept close to Balkin’s brother ever since the man had left the Lord’s Head in such a strange manner.

The whole incident in the tavern had shocked Balkin; the man had looked as though he were about to cry. Bailey had appeared odd to Bane and Chiana, he was nothing like Balkin had made out, and it seemed Balkin had noticed too. He had acted strange, enough to make Bane follow the man.

Bane had watched Bailey move and it had also been odd, he appeared to melt in the shadows of buildings, he would dart in and out of cover and look around at times, possibly looking out for people who would follow him.

Bane was pretty sure however, that he had not been spotted, he had used all of his skill to stay hidden so that he could find out where the man was going. Peering round the edge of the wall Bane noticed Bailey had resumed his walk after he had paused briefly.

Bane turned the corner and made for the alley he noticed Bailey had slipped through. The streets looked ghostly thought Bane as he noticed a mist drift between the buildings, made more eerie by the light of the lanterns that swung in the gentle breeze. He heard a bird cry out in the darkness above him, and could see the light of the moon hanging in the black sky.

Perhaps he was simply being paranoid, that the events of the day had simply gotten to him. A lot of strange things had happened since their departure from Galmnor. Hugo’s farm had interested him, the events puzzling but now, when he arrived at the town of Kanton he noticed just how unsettled he was becoming. Still, he thought, it gave him something to do apart from drinking the night away.

It was then that Bane noticed Bailey had stopped, away from the light of the streets under a market stalls striped canopy. Bane knew he was out in the open now and had been lucky to spot Bailey with his back turned to him; if the man had been facing the other way all Bane’s efforts could possibly have been ruined. He quietly crouched and moved behind a stack of boxes near the market stalls, pushing them aside slightly so that he could watch Bailey.

Bane looked to his right where he had no cover despite any light being cast over him. If anyone noticed him in the boxes would they call out? Where were the guards he suddenly thought, staring up above the buildings towards the walls? He could see none, and during his stealth mission he had not seen any occupying the streets, or anybody else. It was as if the whole world had stopped and that he and Bailey were only ones left in all of Sanctuary.

He turned behind him and noticed a couple of small boxes up against the wall. He smiled and pushed them silently over to his right. When he turned back he was surprised to hear voices. He looked harder through the mist and could spot two other men talking to Bailey, their identity hidden by the hood of their cloaks.

He could make out their voices clear enough but they sounded somewhat distorted, as if the very words they spoke were not meant for their vocal cords.

“It is done?” screeched the one standing before Bailey.

“Yess…no more problemss from man-thingss.” Bane’s eyes widened, Bailey’s voice had gotten higher pitched and sounded as if he were hissing out the words. He watched as the three briefly looked about them.

“Good, we can go back now.” Hissed the one who had spoken first. Bailey nodded.

“I can’t stand wearing this form, itches, itches like Scanta worms.” Bailey stepped back and threw down his hood.

Bane looked closer, was Bailey’s face moving around. He shook his head softly and closed his eyes; it couldn’t have could it? No it must be the light and fog. Bane raised his head once more to see. It was changing; the shape was thinning around the cheeks, the front and back of the head moving outwards. Was that some kind of beak he saw form at the front of the face. The back of the head was now firmly a yard from its original position, thinning out even more as it continued to change shape. In the dark Bane shivered and wondered just what he had seen.