Fan fiction:Bane Hero of the North/Chapter 12
From Diablo Wiki
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 12: The Gate(Part III)
“Are you sure of this?” snapped Balkin as he leant away from Bane. The barbarian was obviously drunk, and seeing things too if he believed his brother had changed in such a way. True, Bailey was not behaving like himself but the man had looked a little ill, all men acted a little odd when under stress and illness. His face reddened as he tried to ignore the rage building inside.
“Yes. I saw it with my own eyes and you know I lie not about such things. Where is the benefit in lying now? You know that there are things at work here.” Bane was not angry with Balkin and spoke calmly for he knew it would come to be a shock to the man that his brother had turned into some dark creature. Balkin looked down at the well-polished floor. It was not possible!
Chiana placed her hand softly on Balkin’s shoulder and looked at Bane with a nervous unsure glance. Balkin shook her off gently and sat back down on his stool, crossing his arms as he did. Bane looked around the bar, a number of people cast glances in their direction. Bane gave them an icy look and a scowl, baring his teeth.
Bane made a stride forward, towards the gathered people and spat on the floor. He was becoming agitated, agitated by what he had seen, annoyed that Balkin did not believe him and that these people seemed to be listening into the conversation. He tried to calm himself, if he let the anger building within him take over, the guards would no doubt get involved and blood spilt.
The barbarian sat down at his table, resting his elbows on the smooth surface. He glared around the room one more time, his head moved slowly from left to right, anyone still looking turned quickly away from the fierce eyes.
“Perhaps I could be wrong Balkin, but I did see it. It was no trick of the light and ale, it happened.” Bane had lowered his voice to but a whisper, loud enough however for his companions to hear.
“Then where is my brother, or what has happened to him?” Bane shrugged and noticed how nervous Chiana was becoming as she stared around the room and out of the circle-shaped windows.
“I do not like the mist.” She said turning back round with a shudder. Bane nodded and looked out the window, to see the white mist drifting like a cloud across the space of the window.
“It is fog girl, or smoke rising from the sewer. Sit down woman, you’re putting me on edge!” Bane tried to smile, but his humour did not reach Chiana, an impassive face continued to stare out into the dark streets.
“Should we meet this man tonight?” whispered Balkin, leaning forward towards the barbarian. He angled his face right, so that he could see behind him just in case anyone was trying to listen in.
“If we want to know what’s going on I think its best my friend.” Balkin nodded quickly and un-crossed his arms placing them on his knees.
“I’ll be watching him mind, strange fellow, didn’t even introduce himself with a name!” Chiana turned and smiled weakly placing her slender hand on Balkin’s shoulder. She sat down gently and picked up her tankard, drinking the liquid quickly with large gulps. Once she finished she slammed the tankard on the table and wiped her mouth with the silky sleeve of her shirt. She stood up again quickly and began to walk slowly towards the bar. Bane and Balkin exchanged worried glances.
“That was a bit quick!” Exclaimed Balkin, reaching out for Chiana’s empty tankard. He picked it up and tipped it upside down as if to make sure it was not a trick or magic. A tiny drip began to form at the handle-end of the tankard. Shaking his head softly he placed it back on the table.
Bane watched Chiana move to the bar, his eyes travelling across her perfect figure with the ease of a professional. He liked the girl and would not mind bedding her he decided as he took in a mouthful of ale. He suddenly shook his head. Chiana was a good friend, one that he did not want to lose; a physical relationship would confuse things.
It was then he noticed a commotion by the door, people were shouting and screaming. At first it appeared to be nothing more than a pub brawl, one that he admitted he wouldn’t mind joining, but closer inspection revealed the men who had entered through the door were dressed in the city-guard uniforms, swords shining brilliantly in hand.
The guards began slashing out at the crowd, and screams were cut short followed by gurgling cries. Balkin snapped up out of his chair and took a firm hold of his axe. Chiana rushed back quickly from the bar, where he saw a group of men arm themselves with barstools and bottles.
One quick look at the barman and Bane noticed he too was armed, with a sword. The burly barman did not enter the fray however, and looked desperately around himself. There, the man they had spoken to earlier was rushing towards the barman, a long cloak draped over his frame.
“What’s going on?” Shouted Balkin, as he took a step backwards to avoid a thrown chair. Bane shrugged his shoulders and flashed out his sword in a blink of an eye. The hilt felt cold in his hands; re-assuring him that it would be there if Bane needed it.
“Barbarian!” The man who had approached them earlier cried out to Bane and rushed towards him, his face a picture of mixed emotions. Suddenly the man stopped and threw out his cloak. Bane brought his sword into a defensive position and watched as the stranger span on his heels withdrawing a short-sword and hand-bow that had been hidden by the cloak.
The man sent a bolt spinning off as a few armed-guards broke through the crowd. The bolt whistled as it cut through the smoke-filled air into the first guards throat. The guard fell back, a look of horror and shock across his face, a fountain of blood gushing out from his mortal wound. As the guard hit the floor the stranger placed the hand-bow into a device on his belt and withdrew it again after a click, ready for action with a new bolt waiting to be fired.
The stranger shot again and parried an attack to his right leg following through with his sword, stabbing the guard through the back. One more guard dropped back, a bolt in his eye. It was then that Bane himself was charged by a group of guards that had climbed through a damaged window in the main room. The lead man was a tall black man, with short black hair and simple leather jacket armour, his mouth open, screaming through parting lips.
Bane’s sword snaked forwards, thrusting its gleaming metal through the mouth of the attacker. Bane swiftly decapitated the man and slashed out at a second smaller and younger guard, catching the man on his chin.
Bane stepped forward and the oncoming guards stopped in their tracks and nervously looked at the barbarian and then at the two dead guards who were spilling their life’s blood onto the floor.
“Come dogs, my sword thirsts!” He gave a grunt, spit flying from his mouth as his rage maddened. He leapt forwards, his war-cry sounding out across the tavern. The leap took him through the front guard, which he felled as he passed separating the man’s head in one movement. As he landed he grabbed hold of another guards head and smashed it in with his own.
An arrow and bolt smashed into two more, thanks to the stranger and Chiana, who was currently kneeling on a table, short-bow in hand. A second arrow sped past Bane and thumped into another guard, who flew backwards on impact. Then a small throwing axe crunched into a guard’s chest, the blade biting deep. Balkin had joined the fray too, and was handling a set of throwing axes he had stashed in his pack.
“Quickly this way!” A deep but melodic voice he recognised as the bar-mans cried out from behind them. The man was standing by an open door that would lead away from the combat. Bane smiled at his enemies, and rushed over to a table sheathing his sword during the run.
Large hands gripped the table in an iron-lock grip, and the barbarian brought it up, his sinewy form bulging and rippling. His face reddened slightly with the weight of the thick oak table, his neck riddled with veins near bursting. Bane rushed forward and launched the table like a Frisbee towards a group of guards who had broken from the main melee, a large thunderous cry following the throw as it crashed into the men horribly.
Bane’s sword quickly flashed out once more as he rushed over to the barman, making sure that Balkin and Chiana were also doing the same. The barman gave Bane a nod and went through the door. Bane turned around quickly to see a few more men do the same, it appeared as though the guards were routing the mob in the main room. Bane took out a knife from his belt, a knife he had taken from a robber in the town of Tayla. He had once thought it would come in handy. He smiled as he round back his arm back and released the blade towards the crowd, hitting a guard in the jaw.
The doorway that led out of the tavern led into a large alley, flanked by large simple houses. Washing lines with clothes were spread across the alley, from window to window just above their heads. Bane looked up briefly at the stars and noticed a head was sticking out of one of the windows. It was an old woman, who looked frightened, her long thin greying hair stuck to her face; as soon as Bane looked up the old lady shot back into the room.
Bane swung round back to the door where a group of men were pushing against it and could seem they were struggling. The door opened and a savage volley of bolts crashed into the men by the door. Bane could see guardsmen reload their crossbows while others charged through the door.
A bolt whistled past his cheek, cutting his skin slightly while another found its way into his shoulder. A pain exploded in his arm. He pushed back the pain as if it were nothing and raised his sword, sweat rolling down his cheeks mingling with blood. The closest guard was hit by Chiana’s arrow, which caused the guard to slip backwards into his comrades.
Bane’s sword slashed across a guardsman’s stomach, then another’s arm and leg. The barman stood besides him, slashing left and right with fist and sword. To his left he heard a familiar battle cry belonging to Balkin and saw the small man shoulder-barge his way into the melee, his axe swinging.
To his left he saw a young blond haired man cut to pieces by bolts from the guards that had managed to squeeze through the door with their crossbows. He heard a deep voice shout out over the melee.
“Get the archers!” It made sense thought the barbarian as he watched Chiana release an arrow that seemed to sing as it soared its way into a guardsman deep in concentration. He screamed as the arrow pierced his left eye, and dropped his crossbow with a clatter to the ground.
“We must flee before they surround the alley!” The shout came from the stranger with the belt-reloading hand-bow. Bane did not turn to look at the man but could feel he was near by, he heard the click of the trigger and a satisfying crunch as it made impact in a guards chest. Bane was surprised at how easily the small bolt had pierced the man’s plate armour. He had never really realised the power of the crossbow until this evening; already a large number of men had fallen to the weapon.
With more determination than ever and with his limbs feeling like they were on fire Bane pushed a man off his feet and sent him flying into the wall with a thud and a moan. Bane could feel pain once again but this time his leg had taken a hit, Bane could see the metal bolt sticking out from his leg muscle but did not pull it out. He roared and slashed out with his sword knocking more bodies back. There were so many of them!
Bane could feel he was losing control of himself that his wild and frenzied state would be fast approaching. With great effort he shook back the crimson vision that was blinding him. He wanted to be able to think now; he could not simply fight his way out. It was then that he noticed that many of the men fighting against the guards were fleeing, swords and bolts cut those who weren’t down. Bane turned and began sprinting for all his worth scooping up Balkin with one giant arm as he passed the slow runner.
“Here!” Bane could hear Chiana’s voice loud above the screams and shouts. She stood with the stranger and barman, while another larger heavy built man ducked through a door located down the alley.
“Quickly!” Shouted the stranger, waving his arms madly as if trying to be spotted on a mountain. Bane increased his stride and reached the door dropping the slightly insulted but relieved Balkin to the ground.
The door way led into a thin alleyway closed off by more buildings, at the end that laid a wall and a tall ladder. The group rushed towards it as if it were the very means to prolong their lives. Bane looked back but could see no man had followed them through, with any luck the guards were chasing the other group.
As they reached the ladder Bane wondered why the group had stopped and weren’t climbing. Bane had obviously missed a conversation because the tall well-built bald man began climbing the ladder. The man reached the top quickly and assumed a shooting position, taking out a long bow. He fired. The arrow whistled as it guided true through the alley hitting a target that had just emerged.
“Move!” Cried Bane as he helped Balkin move up the ladder. He noticed Chiana was taking aim and firing her bow, the cry that followed suggested she hit her target. The stranger withdrew his hand-bow, and Bane marvelled at the weapon as it fired off a bolt. Another cry filled the air.
The tall bald man carried on firing as if he were a machine, his aim true while his arm moved quickly to pull out another arrow. It was fast work, maybe just as fast as Chiana.
Bane allowed Chiana to dart up the ladder before him as his leg had begun to ache. He shook his head and turned towards the onrushing guards roaring like a trapped animal.
“Why are their so many?” He heard Chiana’s voice follow his roar it was shaking. The barman answered quickly, wiping sweat from his shiny forehead.
“I don’t know” the man shrugged, “nothing like this has happened before?” Bane heard the ladder creak as hand-bow man made his way up it. Bane did not hesitate and shot up the ladder. As soon as he reached the top the barman and Balkin pulled the ladder up, so that the guards would have to climb a fifteen-foot high wall to reach them. No chance thought Bane as he spat down at the rushing guards.
Bolts hit the wall inches from where Bane peered down, causing the barbarian to send a curse down towards the cowardly crossbowmen that were lining behind the swordsmen. The bald headed man sent another arrow down through the throat of one of the men reloading his awkward crossbow while Chiana hit one who had just began to take aim. The arrow took him up in the air and flung him backwards crashing onto the cold ground.
“Lets move!” Shouted the hand-bow man as he leapt up from his crouching position towards a set of stairs that led down into another alley covered in darkness. Bane looked around, torches lit up the area below them, while smaller amounts of light could be seen on the buildings around them, where guardsmen rushed along the city walls and its other buildings.
“Whatever the shadows want, they sure don’t go about it peacefully!” Exclaimed the bald headed man as he slung the bow and quiver of arrows over his muscled shoulders. He flashed a smile at Bane as he passed the barbarian.
“Nothing to stir the blood as good as a fight, that’s what I always say!” He shouted merrily back at Bane who had to agree with the man. An arrow whooshed past him and hit the wall, exploding as it did so in a shower of wood and metal. Bane’s heart raced and he looked towards the direction he judged the arrow to have come and saw a guardsman notch another arrow.
“Chiana!” Bane cried and pointed towards the archer. A click was heard; soft but clear, moments later a bolt snaked its way towards the man and struck the guard in the arm. The man cried out and dropped his bow, shaking his wounded arm in frustration. He heard the man cry out in agony a heartbeat later as Chiana unleashed an arrow towards the man, one that knocked the guard back hard. Bane wished he had his bow, the training Chiana had given him would be useful now he thought as he gave the thumbs up to the girl when she brushed past him.
“Poor bastard!” she whispered with a smile. Bane shook his head, the girl had calmed a lot since the fight in the tavern.
Bane jumped the stairs and could see the hand-bow man was rushing to a small hatch on the ground. Bane rushed forwards, ignoring the pain from the wound in his leg. He looked forwards and could see that the man had opened the hatch and was climbing down into the depths.
He passed another alley, where torchlight could be seen and screams heard. He heard fighting off to his right, possibly only round the corner of the next building. He began running faster but slowed as he noticed the bald headed man do so.
“What’s wrong?” Bane called out to the man who replied only with his bow. More guards thought Bane as he rushed besides his new companion. The bald headed man seemed to calm when Bane stood besides him, he noticed the man had missed his first couple of shots.
Bane rushed the small group of three guardsmen thankful that one was cut down by a savage long arrow. Bane roared as he parried an attack, countering with a quick and deadly lunge that pierced the man’s throat. Bane pulled the sword out quickly, and struck out with his free fist, almost knocking the last guard off his feet in one small stroke. As the man stumbled backwards an arrow thumped into the guards poorly protect face felling him instantly. Bane turned and nodded his head as thanks to the bald headed man.
Suddenly he felt a shiver run across his body, where was Chiana and Balkin, had they somehow ran off somewhere?
“Don’t worry about your friends barbarian, they have gone with the barman, Kiln. He knows his way round here just as well as I.” His voice was soft and calm seeming to re-assure the barbarian and lift his spirit.
“I hope so, or there will be hell to pay!” He shouted out as loud as he could, the sound echoing down the alleyways.
“We had better get going too!”
The hatch was closed and locked quickly once they had climbed the ladder down into the foul smelling darkness. Bane looked down the tunnels and noticed the dying torches on the wall lit up the area badly, and flickered shadows across the room as scary as any nightmare creature. Bane could not stand full height and had to lower his head through the ancient tunnels.
“What is this place?” He asked, spitting into the sludge.” The bald headed man could just about fit his height in the tunnel but did not look back.
“These use to be used by smugglers, essentially it’s just our sewers but these tunnels stretch out to the Gulf of Westmarch. Pirates and merchants use these passageways to transport illegal goods into the city. Not been used by ‘em for a while like, not since the Shadows.”
“Who are the Shadows?” Bane asked his patience almost running out. “Why was the tavern attacked?” The bald headed man stopped and turned around thrusting out his hand.
“First lets introduce myself shall I. My name is Shrug.” Bane took the man’s hand and firmly shook it, noticing the man also had a firm hand shake. Shrug continued. “The man in the cloak who I believe you met earlier is Galin.” Bane nodded.
“My name is Bane.” Shrug nodded and turned around again and began walking, worryingly looking up at the ceiling, especially when just rectangle bar windows revealed the buildings above them, and the men that ran them.
“I will tell you all I know, so will the others but first we need to get home, until then, keep your eyes peeled, there are more things down here than just shit.” Bane nodded and whipped his sword out and scanned the walls and murky knee-deep water.
“What is usually down here?” Shrug laughed nervously and replied quietly.
“You don’t want to know, just keep your eyes on the water and walls, especially the water.” Bane’s heart began to race, he could hardly see through the murky water in the darkness, even with his eyesight.
“If anything brushes you barbarian, stay very still. You got that?” Bane nodded.
For what seemed ages the pair waded through the water, through narrow passageways and giant rooms. Bane began to find his concentration waiver, and that was when he felt it.
The touch was soft and tickled him, causing Bane to jerk his leg quickly. Ripples in the water snapped Bane’s attention back. He felt the brushing sensation and looked forwards towards his companion. Shrug was dead still and looked pale, as if he had seen a ghost. The man slowly moved his head towards Bane’s direction and cursed softly.
“Damn!” Bane could feel his heart race once again. He decided he would have liked it more on the surface, out of the frying pan, into the fire he thought.
“What is it?” Beads of sweat began to form on Shrug’s head.
“Don’t move Bane, damn sewer snake!” Bane shook his head softly, he had never heard of such a creature.
Suddenly he felt something tighten round his wounded leg, and Bane cried out in pain as he felt a sharp pain run through it, numbing the leg almost instantly. Bane fell to his knee and just about managed to keep his head out the water. Suddenly he felt it pull at him and before he knew it he was gasping for breath and under the water.
The strength of the snake was incredible Bane thought as he was dragged through the water. He could see the long strong form of the creature circling around him, wrapping its long body around his. He could feel he was loosing his grip on the sword and his leg felt as if it were being constantly stabbed. The creature worked quickly, too quick, if it got my arms locked up, that’s it for me, he thought as he noticed the snake squeezing his body together. Bane cursed himself for not paying enough attention. He had done it before and look where that had gotten him.
With a great effort Bane began to struggle free, but it was not working so easily. The creature had him in an iron-grip, one that Bane started to doubt he could break from. He lashed out with his sword but could not get the power he wanted behind it as the snake had wrapped its way up his arms.
His lungs began to cry out for air. It would only be a few feet above him he thought as he struggled to break out of the beasts grip. His lungs were screaming. He was going to die. Suddenly the beast released its grip and shook widely, and Bane felt a hand grip his arm.
Air, precious life giving air filled his crying lungs.
Bane fell back against the wall breathing hard; Shrug looked quite relieved next to him and continued to hack the beast with his short sword.
“You were lucky barbarian, if you were built less than that it would have crushed you.” Shrug reached into the blood filled water and withdrew the snake by its head. It was a hideous creature.
Bane snarled and struck it with his sword, out of sheer terror more than anything. He had never seen such a creature. Its jaw was wide open, large fangs on the top and bottom jaws dripped with a black liquid while a great thin pink fork shaped tongue hung from its mouth. Its eyes were round balls of darkness. He had not felt as disgusted by a creature since the Black Spider he faced and killed what seemed like ages ago now.
“Nice isn’t he?” Bane nodded and attempted to walk. He stumbled forwards but was caught by Shrug, who dropped the snake back into the murky waters.
“Things have been down here since as long as I can remember, poisonous bastards. Got you pretty good which means you ain’t got long.” Shrug helped Bane walk. Poison, not the first time that had happened to him too. He smiled weakly as he began to feel cold.
- - -
Kabana paced up and down the line of troops that stood on the tiled courtyard besides the great Temple of Akarat. He smiled as he noticed that each and every man had come here proud in full polished and shining battle armour. White cloaks tipped with sky blue flashed about madly in the warm wind that blew through the buildings and the courtyard. Thirty young men, fresh from the rigours of training, ready for use to do their duty in the spreading of the Light.
All good men he smiled, he liked that. Men that, although green with battle experience, would bravely serve and die for the Church. That meant one thing, in battle they would not let you down.
These thoughts brought up images of the face of a barbarian he had met, a friend he had made, Bane had these qualities and although was wild and had no faith in the Zakarum Church the barbarian had earnt his respect.
He looked over the troop once more with a smile, his very own troop of bodyguards. He had never had a bodyguard before but now thirty lined up before him each man sworn to him, as was the code of the Paladin.
It had been a kind gesture he thought, very kind of Arch-Bishop Lazarus to give him them, it made him feel slightly special, almost like a king of some fantasy land. He tried to push out the niggling thoughts that just kept popping up in every smile. Why? What do they expect from you?
He could not answer these questions; they were like a great puzzle to him. Perhaps they would be sending him back to the Western Kingdoms, this time with a small army, but no one had either confirmed or denied this, which left Kabana confused. He knew he had a meeting later, with the council themselves and had noticed the barracks extremely busy the past couple of days, did this mean the council wanted him to leave soon, back to the western Kingdoms.
Kabana could feel the heat of the jungles now though, and as he walked across the front rank he could tell his men were also finding the heat troublesome locked up in the heavy plate mail armour.
To his right, two men stood by his horse, one held the reins, the other a handful of scrolls, each labelled clear enough. Kabana nodded and walked over to them stopping before his horse. He stroked it gently and turned to the man with the scroll, whispering.
“Hand me the scroll, the one with their names on it.” The man nodded, an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
“That’s going to be a task, all those names to remember.” The man’s voice was low and friendly. Kabana screwed his face up as he was handed the appropriate scroll.
He slid the band off and unrolled the scroll slowly, he was pleased that he had not chosen to wear his gauntlets; it would have made unrolling the scroll difficult. The top read:
Kabana looked down the long scroll. Each man in front of him was presented here, in writing. He noticed three columns heading the main list entitled Name, Rank and Origin. There were a lot of unknown origins here he thought as he followed the list down.
It would take him a lot of time to get to know the troop, each man. It was something he was willing to do however, as not only did it result in respect from the troops, it usually brought about new friends, something he enjoyed doing.
He looked up from the scroll towards the men who stood at attention and called out the first name.
- - -
Bane felt dizzy, his eyesight blurred. He looked around the room, his eyesight covered by a white sheet of blurriness. He knew he was lying down, possibly on a bed, wrapped up in quilts that were currently warm. He shook his head violently as he sat upright, using his right arm as leverage. He felt slightly weak, just as he had done so when he had last woken from a deep sleep. He looked down at his arm and leg, they were wrapped up in a white dressing.
“Easy now.” Whispered a familiar voice. A soft hand touched his biceps, then his face. He turned to see a tanned pretty girl brush his hair from his face.
“Chiana?” He spoke softly, as if unsure whether or not he could still talk. The girl sat closer to him, stroking his sweating face.
“Yes.” She smiled and sounded happy.
“Where am I?” Bane shook the girl off him and stood up, wavering on his legs. He looked around the room with his head feeling groggy. It was small but the ceiling rose high above them.
The room was simple, a small table and bed made up the rooms decorations, along with a small desk next to the head of the bed, a tall candle burned upon a highly decorative stand. There was no window to the room.
He walked over to the table where a series of beakers and tubes linked up. In the glass beakers ran purple liquid. A small cup and spoon were sitting next to the apparatus. Bane studied it with a blank expression.
“It was used for the poison.” Bane nodded and held his head.
“I do not feel well, my head is pounding like I’ve been drinking all night.” The barbarian grunted and punched a wall in frustration, causing Chiana to jump back. Bane roared like an animal, like he had done when fighting the guards the other night.
“How long have I been asleep?” He asked, calming again, one hand pressed firmly against his head.
“Two nights, we were getting worried.” Bane screwed his face up and brushed the apparatus from the table. It smashed against the stone floor, spilling the liquid in a sizzling frenzy. Steam rose from it and drifted towards the ceiling.
“Careful.” She said with an embarrassed look spread across her face. Bane shrugged angrily and looked at the broken glass on the floor and the puddle of purple liquid spread out like blood.
“I’m angry.” He muttered and walked out of the room quickly, pulling open the door and slamming it shut behind him and began a fast pace down the passageway. Chiana ran after him.
“Calm down Bane, these people helped us remember.” She shouted as she ran out of the room, not shutting the door. Bane stopped his giant stride. Yes, the snake, the poison.
“We are guests now Bane. Behave like one.” She walked over to the angered barbarian slipping her hand into his.
“This way Bane, lets introduce you to some people.”
The room was large and grand. Two great statues lined the giant oak doorway that had led into the room, stone guards bearing shields and spears. They reminded him of the stone golems that had sprung to life and attacked him in the sewers in Galmnor.
Bane began to study the room and the people in it. A large rectangular table was located before a large chair upon a raised platform. It looked almost like a kingly throne. The table was long and shone with polish and the light from the candles and torches that burned upon it and the stone brick walls. A long red carpet spread out beneath his feet and ran its way under the table and towards the ‘throne’.
Around the table sat a group of gathered men and women, Balkin among them and the men called Shrug and Galin. They all looked up and over at Bane and Chiana as they entered the room, sorrowful faces on each and every one of them.
Chiana led Bane to an empty seat and pulled it out loudly for Bane and sat next to him. Bane slowly sat down on the chair and leant back against it, feeling comfortable.
“So you are awake!” Exclaimed a tidy middle-aged man with tied back blond hair and good clothes, the mark of a rich man. His voice was soft and commanding. He saw a younger man dressed in a red suit and hat with more finery next to the speaker, a man who looked crudely over at Bane with a disapproving stare. A high-pitched voice rang out from his tiny mouth. The young nobleman brushed his brown straw like hair from his face in a fancy fashion.
“A barbarian, a savage, is this who we have been waiting for, hardly seems worth the wait.” Bane screwed his face up and silenced the man with one wild look.
“Because we are civilised men we should introduce ourselves in a civilised manner don’t you think so?” The young man gulped and simply nodded. The blond haired man continued.
“May I introduce Sir James Ferol,” he said indicating the younger man. “My name is Cork, Lord of the Manor and Kanton.” Bane nodded respectably.
“You have met some of the people at the table, the rest are my officers.” Bane looked across the table at a rather tall well-built middle-aged man with a square facial features and long black hair. The man nodded.
“I am pretty sure it was fate that guided you to us barbarian for we are having problems here in this town. Some answers you seek can now be answered, but bare with us for a lot of it is merely speculation.” Bane nodded and leaned forward, his headache vanishing.
“You are in charge of the town?” Lord Cork nodded.
“Yes, and right now we are in my keep, the one place safe in all of town, away from the corruption of the monks you have no doubt seen. Well at least I hope it is.” A man coughed to his right, Bane recognised him as the barman from the other night.
“The troubles started about a month back, or on those lines. The monks started off quite peaceful, settling down in the town with no seemingly bad intentions. They made friends with many traders in the town.”
“They became aggressive however, regular beatings of merchants and peasants occurred, for no apparent reason. It was then that people started to go missing, some not turning up, and some returning as cold lifeless bodies. The most disturbing of these are the ones whom you know, your friends as it were and they come back still alive.
“They are some what different. Your friend here says this is true about his brother.” Bane looked over to a stern Balkin, who sat with his arms folded nodding.
“Have you noticed a shadow cast across the faces of the monks?” Lord Cork asked Bane, eyebrow raised in curiosity.
“When we arrived here the monk at the gates hid his face in shadow, and a simple beggar on the streets was the same.” Lord Cork nodded gravely.
“These are troublesome beings, your friend has told me what you saw the night of the attack at the tavern. Please for all our sakes can you confirm this and speak of what you saw.” Bane nodded and told his story, how he had followed Balkin’s brother out into the streets. He told them of the meeting and the strange way they talked. The last part seemed to send shivers up his spine as he pictured the transformed face of Bailey. He looked around at the table; many of the faces were pale. When Bane finished there was silence, each man and woman left with their own dark thoughts.
“What you saw we have named Shadows Bane, for they are not men but creatures of the hells.” Lord Cork spoke up once more, trying to keep his voice from trembling.
“Why have you done nothing?” Asked Bane, angrily eyeing Lord Ferol, who averted his eyes to the floor.
“We have barbarian but we are now merely prisoners locked up in this stone keep. They are dangerous people and have more than just metal to protect them but magic as well.” Bane’s skin crawled at the mere mention of magic.
“Two nights ago, the attack at the Lord’s Head was the most aggressive act I’ve have seen the Shadows organize since the start of the problems. We believe you were the reason for this, that they had seen you following Balkin’s brother.” Bane shrugged his huge shoulders.
“Perhaps, perhaps not.”
“We can not be certain of it but I am sure you and your companions had something to do with the attack as I said. It matters not now for it is past, and we must plan the future, more importantly, plan to rid Kanton of such creatures!” Lord Cork raised his voice towards the end of his sentence, bringing his fist crashing onto the table. The noise startled some members on their seats who jerked upright.
“Were they not your guards who attacked us in the tavern?” asked Bane, looking a little suspicious. He went to place his hand on the hilt of his sword but found nothing there. “Where is my sword?”
“Those were not my guards Bane, those are all here in the keep now, protecting myself and my family and friends. Those men were mercenaries, bandits and so forth who have hired out their service to the Shadows.
“They are a troublesome lot, constantly patrolling the pass from Kanton to Galmnor, stopping those who spread word of the Shadows. As for your sword it is back in your room.” Bane nodded, he hadn’t seen it but the man was probably right for he had not studied the room in great detail due to his anger and pain.
A knock came at the door, once, twice and a third time. The table’s occupants turned towards the door that creaked open slowly. A tall man wrapped in firs and pelts confidently strode through, his face a picture of hardness, scars littering it like roads on a map.
The man strode in smelling strongly of body odour. His clothes were covered in dirt while a wicked looking axe was strapped to his back covered in dried blood. His heavy boots echoed around the room. The man sat down near the end of the table and relaxed, placing his dirty boots upon the clean table.
Lord Cork did not seem annoyed by the man’s attitude, a mischievous smile spread across his face.
“Good day to you Oxan.” The man nodded and smiled back, looking over at Bane, then Balkin on the table.
“I heard what happened, grim news. New faces as well.” His eyes hovered over Chiana, who looked as though intimidated by Oxan’s stare. Bane stared at him coldly, but the man simply gazed back at him.
“These are friends.” Oxan turned to Chiana.
“Pretty one too.” Chiana smiled weakly at his comment and placed her hand on Bane’s elbow, silently communicating to him not to do anything rash.
“This is Chiana, the man opposite her is Balkin while the man here,” he said indicating Oxan’s gaze towards Bane with an outstretched hand “is Bane.” Oxan nodded to each of them curtly and turned his attentions towards Lord Cork.
“Anything to report?” spoke out Galin, stirring from his previously motionless position. The man coughed afterwards, his voice sounded strained and weak.
“Not much, only that activity has been increased in the ‘Den’.” As if Shrug had noticed Bane’s confused expression, the man spoke out.
“Its what we call the place near the woods outside of town, near the farms. Its where the shadows seem to live.” Bane nodded and craned his head towards Oxan.
“They’ve been a howling and screaming in there. Stuff almost made me blood run cold and my heart jump out of my body. Never heard anything like it before.”
“Does not sound good, perhaps they are moving on to a new stage of whatever they are up too. I don’t like it; perhaps it is time to get our plan in action.” Many nods followed Lord Cork’s stressed sentence.
“Good. Then shall we proceed?” Another middle-aged man dressed in a simple green guard uniform stood from the table and walked over to a large red curtain. The man pushed the curtain away and dragged out a blackboard, which he hurriedly placed onto the table with a thud.
Bane’s keen eyes studied the board expertly. From what he could tell it was a top down view of the city, obviously drawn from a plan. He could see the keep towards the middle of town. The man in green pointed towards it with his finger while stroking his thin black goatee with his other hand.
“This is where we are, the keep.” His voice was confident sounding; he had a matter-of-fact tone when he spoke. “Because of our position in the centre of town, and the hatred the Shadows have for us it will be very difficult to leave our position without being spotted.”
“It can be done however. From what reports I’ve received I can safely tell you of the number of guards the Shadow employ through the streets and walls of Kanton, and the way they operate.” Gilan leaned forward and addressed the speaker.
“How do you know the information is reliable?” The man in green smiled.
“We don’t, but are certain it is near accurate.” The man pointed to positions on the map, indicating the strength of men located here, the size of patrols on the streets and walls. It did not sound good. Nor did the plan.
The idea of sending a carriage forth to Galmnor was a risky one he thought. Surely a messenger on horse would reach the city quicker than any horse drawn box. The plan itself to get the cart out of the city was also risky. A group of men to distract the main force of guards away from the gate, while the others fought to get the gate open, and clear the streets for the cart to leave. Once the cart was gone the group would have to remain on the walls and over look the carriage, shooting any man or creature that burst out from the dark woods. Bane voiced his concerns.
“A horse rider with a message would be far quicker than carriage.” Lord Cork nodded his head.
“You are right and we have considered this. A man on horse bearing news of our troubles will also be sent forth, but the carriage still goes.” Bane nodded.
“Will you be helping us barbarian?” asked Oxan, who had taken his boots off the table.
“It does not look like we have much of a choice in the matter, besides the dogs attacked me, not I them. What concerns me is our escape if we succeed in opening the town gate.” The man in green spoke out once more, his voice beginning to annoy the hot-tempered barbarian.
“It will dangerous, but a sewer hatch can be found by the steps that lead to the winch, for the portcullis must be drawn up. Once in the sewer you would head back here, to the keep.” Again Bane did not like what he was hearing, what about the damn snakes? He simply nodded and stood. He spoke softly.
“Count me in Lord Cork!” With that Bane looked at Chiana and nodded at the gathered people before walking out of the room, shutting the gates behind him.
“Fiery spirit that ones got!” Exclaimed Lord Cork happily; reminding Chiana of the master thief Travin she had worked for in Galmnor.
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