Fan fiction:Fulcrum/Chapter 4
Fulcrum is a fan fiction piece by Anyee, originally posted in 2003 on the original The Dark Library website. Reposted in the Diabloii.net Fan Fiction Forum by silentwater. This story was started on January 12th 2006.
Chapter 4[edit source]
I awoke to the sound of humming. At first, my muddled brain assumed that my head was still ringing from my injuries, but as I crept out of the abyss of the unconscious mind, I realized that the noise came from outside my bruised skull. I lay there, regaining my senses, listening to the lilting tune. I didn't recognize the melody, nor did the notes resemble anything I had heard before, but there was something achingly familiar about it, a song that invoked a deep feeling of warmth that I didn't want to leave.
I tried to open my eyes, but something kept me from doing so. Moving was also out of the question. However, something must have alerted the person humming to my new consciousness, because it stopped and I heard the sounds of footfall on gravel moving away from me, then returning. They were not the same footsteps though; the first steps were purposeful, in long strides. These second ones were close together and very light, almost not touching the ground at all.
'Good, you're awake.' The voice - Akara. I heard a spell I didn't recognize and suddenly I was able to move my body. I opened my eyes slowly. I was in a tent, probably the healer's. I was covered in a thin blanket, which did almost nothing to hide my nakedness, and what was once my armor was in a neat pile nearby. Remembering my tortured right arm, I propped myself up on my left elbow and then straightened it to bring me to a sitting position. A wave of vertigo and I nearly fall over again. 'Slowly, slowly child,' Akara chided, 'you've just recovered from some severe injuries and my magic is only strong enough to return to you most of your functionality, not your full health.' I brought my right hand in front of me and exercised it. It was intact; moving it was painful, but not difficult. I seemed to have retained all range of motion and strength. I stood up, letting the blanket fall away from me, and moved sorely to my clothing. First the leathers, then my boots, then two rings and an amulet. My armor was beyond repair, but I had some spare in my stash outside, so it wouldn't be a problem if I had become strong enough to wear it.
As I inspected my garb, I asked Akara, 'How long was I out?' 'About two hours,' she said, then taking note of my surprise, continued, 'This encampment was built on a place of power. That is why we have a waypoint in town. People heal quickly here, you faster than most.' I suspected that Akara omitted how much her own impressive skills contributed out of modesty. 'Akara,' I began, 'I have never encountered someone who could perform a miracle such as this,' I opened and closed my right hand to emphasize the point, 'in such a short amount of time. I do not have much but if I could perform some act of recompense-' She interrupted, 'It is my duty as the head of the Sisterhood to heal those in need. To accept money for that service, even in this lean time, would be against all we stand for and would make me no better than Gheed. What you could do for me is to not return my charges, my Children, in such horrible condition.'
I stood quietly listening her rebuke, which was delivered in an even, gentle tone, but carried such gravity that I felt like a child in front of my masters again. 'The Rogue?' I asked. '-is fine,' she answered. 'She is outside fletching arrows.' I bowed my head, for a second, in acknowledgement and thanks to Akara. 'Though her injuries were more severe, she was far easier to heal. Your body seems resistant to some of my magics and you wouldn't stay still. We had to cast a spell of binding on you, the most powerful I've used on a mortal yet, so you wouldn't reinjure yourself.' Neither one of those statements was surprising to me, but must have been strange to an outsider. Assassins are trained to shun magic, for it leads to the corruption of the soul, no matter the source or the benevolence. We only allow ourselves a certain amount of voluntary contact, such as healing potions, but the realm of reviving the dead or throwing fireballs from our heads is disgusting and abhorrent.
I gathered up my belonging and then I remembered the magical belt and claw. 'Akara, do you have any skill in identifying magical items? I have removed some from field of battle and I want to determine whether or not they will be of service.' She answered, 'I do not, but I have a small supply of translation scrolls, which may be of service in interpreting the items' markings. You may purchase them, if you wish.' 'I do,' I said, finding my money pouch, 'as well as a supply of healing potions.' She found the scrolls and potions in the small chest near her own bedroll. I purchased the items and began to leave the tent, when Akara stopped me. 'You have several injuries that will not heal, not with what I have here. Your back scars, the spiral scars on your arms, assorted brands, and this.' She placed her hand on my belly, below my navel. 'You know you cannot have children with this injury.' I bristled for a moment, then remembered my place, but she must have sensed my disquiet and withdrew her hand. 'I do not mean to offend,' she said. 'No, it is alright. The scars are ceremonial. No one but the Master of Shadows himself could heal them. The brands I keep with me for memories. And this injury,' I placed her hand back on my abdomen. 'I have borne a child. I cut her out of my body and severed the cord with my own blade, and then used that same blade to ensure I could not have another child until my tenure as an Assassin is over. Only I can heal this wound, and I will not do so, for there is no use in a pregnant MageKiller. But thank you for your concern.' I think my tone stopped any further inquires and she let me return outside, but not without a final question, said to my retreating form. 'Who is A'Dhar?' I paused, the kept walking, saying so only she could hear, 'My brother.'
I found Paige sitting cross-legged near the fire. She had a pile of arrows near her feet and was patiently affixing new feathers to the split pine branches. I went over to her, but Kashya got in my way. She grabbed me under my chin and stared into my green eyes with her black, flashing ones. She spoke in the ancient language she had used to commission Paige. 'I understand the ravages of war, and the casualties that come with it, but should you choose to continue bringing my soldiers back to me in such a state as Paige, I will leave you impaled on your own blades outside the camp as a warning to travelers.' I maintained my silence in the face of my superior, but I returned my stare and allowed my mental energy to focus through her shields, where I made contact with her inner self and allowed her to do the same. We stood like that, eye to eye, mind to mind, until she released me and pushed me aside. 'We share the same dark places, Kashya.' I told her, 'Your scars and my scars are not dissimilar. 'Go to your work Assassin,' was her only reply.
Paige looked up at me, her face dispassionate as it had been before. I stepped carefully over her work and went to my magical equipment lying on the floor near Warriv. First, though, I opened my stash and removed some ring mail. When I found it initially, it was too heavy for me to wear, but the last few days had increased my strength and agility immensely. I brought the wrought metal garment over my head, and sure enough, I was able to move fairly easily, though not as easily as with the leather. The links were cool against my skin and though it caught on my hair, it was superior protection from demon blades. I sat down next to the belt and pulled out the first scroll. I lay the belt on the scroll and was surprised when the scroll disappeared and I could suddenly sense the belt's magical properties. It would increase my ability to rebound from sudden strikes and offer some protection from venom. I fastened it around my waist and filled the small open pouches with potions. Next, I identified the claw. It would add the element of fire to my attacks, and at that I stopped.
Magekillers have a single purpose: to seek out those whose studies have crossed the boundaries of Light into the murky, hell-bound realm of the Dark and terminate their existence on this world. No one is safe from our blades, from the lowliest sorceress teasing her younger siblings with bursts of lightning to the most experienced necromancer raising the bodies of his comrades to join his unholy quest. We keep ourselves pure of the corrupting magic and train our minds and bodies in lieu of being enslaved to elemental forces. Wielding a weapon that allowed me to hit my enemies with fire could be considered a violation of my code of an Assassin, or it could be part of our vow to master the forces that so easily corrupt our foes. I sat in quiet reflection, considering fighting with only a single claw and purchasing a shield of some sort to hold in my other hand, but I considered the loss of attack power and mobility too important to ignore. I resolved to use the claw and accept whatever consequences using such a weapon would bring.
'Paige.' I ordered. She looked up from her arrows. 'Help me with my claws. Be careful with the right one. I'd like to be able to eat with a fork at some point in the future.' She placed all the arrows in a quiver and came over to me. She, more gently than before, secured the katar to my left hand and the new claws to my right wrist. We walked over to the portal. 'Ready?' I asked, and she nodded assent.
Back in the crypt again, the bodies of the demons had already disappeared due to the voracious rats that inhabited its depths. We walked out of the tomb, following the path of shattered barrels and bone fragments. We reached the surface and I decided that we should continue toward the Rogue monastery. We found the path and began walking north. Immediately, we were set on by huge hairy beasts, their stench and noise both overpowering us as we stood, back to back, on the path.
'Brutes? But they aren't usually aggressive. Why would they attack us now?' Paige wondered aloud, firing a few cold arrows to slow their progress towards us. We retreated back behind some low shrubs, but they kept advancing, unnaturally fast. 'Maybe it is because they think we are the same as the corrupted Rogues and demons in this wilderness. Maybe they think we are intruding on their territory, but most likely their simple animal brains have been altered by the evil energy emanating from the basement of your monastery.' Paige continued to fire, her arrows hitting the beasts' extremities. She didn't want to harm these creatures because of their former, gentle, nature. However, her warning shots and they continued, roaring and grunting.
All talk was ended when a brute finally reached us and a tree-trunk sized arm came down at me. I deflected his blow with my claws, a move I hadn't previously tried, and found that it worked better than expected. I shoved my left blade into his heart and he groaned once, falling to the ground dead. The others didn't slow their pace, confirming my suspicions that they had been turned to the evil forces working against us. A normal animal would run from the death of one of its pack. These were now killing machines, their size and power clearly outstripping the Rogue and my own. Our only advantage was speed. 'Drop back, Paige!' I yelled and she did, running forty paces behind me, stopping and continuing to fire. I stayed near the corpse of the dead beast and watched as his seven companions surrounded me. Their hits were clumsy and slow, but when they hit, they hurt. I concentrated on quickening my attacks and one by one, my attackers hit the ground, dead before they could cave in my skull with their beastly strength. In the distance, one more approached. I ran to him and struck him with my right claw. To my surprise, I was suddenly covered in deep cuts. His aura had been charged to inflict as much damage on me as I did on him. I couldn't hit him without killing myself.
'Paige, this one is yours. I can't touch him.' Paige kept firing, running back, and then firing again, chilling him with the force of her magic attacks. I ran in the opposite direction, trying to distract him and keep him from getting to close to her and knocking her unconscious, or worse. Towards the far end of the plain, I saw a dead Rogue's body, her bow and some arrows lying close by. I picked up the weapon, not bothering to remove my blades, and ran back towards my hireling.
I lined up an arrow with the brute's head and let one fly. It bounced off, barely scratching him. I slowly readied another arrow and released the bow string. This one went into his shoulder and he turned around, furious and startled, and came back towards me. The bow was so much slower than my claws, but I had learned to wield one while sorceress hunting with an Amazon tribe. I let him approach, holding my ground, and got off another six or seven shots before he finally reached me. The bow offered no protection from the punch he threw. I dodged the main force, but it still dislocated my shoulder, making further use of the bow impossible. I threw it down and I began to run. He followed me to a deep pool near the edge of the stone walls demarcating the edges of this field. The energy emanating from the pool was palpable and I discerned its immense healing powers.
I let myself hit him a few times with my remaining working arm, feeling the triple force of the blow all over my body. Immediately, I stooped down and drank from the pool. My arm was still in shambles, but all the cuts on my body had healed. Two more hits from my claw and a final arrow from Paige left the brute in a hairy heap on the floor. He had spilled a glowing weapon, a sword of some sort, some gold and a few potions. Paige approached me, panting but unhurt.
I was cleaning off the sword and storing it in my pack as she came to me. 'I have never seen someone move as fast as you do. What manner of Magic is that, Assassin?' 'That is not magic, Paige, that is training. That is strength and the power of the Body and the Mind.' Leaving my pack on the floor, I found a large stout tree a few meters away. With a yell, I slammed my shoulder into it, returning my arm to its socket. Paige watched, horrified, and stood there as I returned, gathered my things, and beckoned her back onto the path.
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