Fan fiction:Fulcrum/Chapter 5

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Fulcrum is a fan fiction piece by Anyee, originally posted in 2003 on the original The Dark Library website. Reposted in the Fan Fiction Forum by silentwater. This story was started on January 12th 2006.


Chapter 5[edit source]

The path led through a break in the walls surrounding the plain. I found myself gazing onto what must have been, until recently, lush farmland. Thick grass grew all around us, barely covering the thousands of rocks and boulders littering the ground for as far as the eye could see. In the distance, I saw several small huts, two of which were engulfed in flames and teeming with demons. 'What happened here?' I asked Paige, leaning for a moment on one of the walls to rub my aching shoulder.

Paige looked at me oddly. 'Why?' she inquired, and resumed her scanning of the field, occasionally letting fly an arrow at a possessed bird. 'Well, for one, if I know what happened in this land I can better fight it. Second, because I am just curious. Thirdly because my shoulder hurts, and it needs a rest, but I don't want to waste healing potions on it.'

Accepting this, Paige began, 'There were once hundreds of good, simple folk that lived among the Rogues for protection. They grew our food, harvested our wood, and built our shelters. In return, we gave them schooling, protection from invaders, a place to trade, and whatever else we thought right. Those stones in the middle of the field have stood thus for eons, their meaning hidden from all but the highest priestess. The surrounding villagers respected the magical power they radiated, plowing around the stones and keeping their children from their circle. After the dark wanderer passed, though, the people began to change. They became cruel, greedy, evil. A few tried to attack these ancient monoliths, but the moment their axes hit, the field split open and erupted in a stony shower. The attackers, their families, and even the innocents, were all killed and the field is now barren.'

Paige ceased her story and I felt well enough to continue on. Walking quickly into the field, I sensed a several pairs of eyes watching us from the bushes nearby. 'Paige,' I whispered, but she had already used her inner sight. With a yelp, ten women jumped out at us, corrupted Rogues in the service of Andariel. They had coated their body in green and blue mud to blend in better with the murky surroundings and they carried clubs, swords, and all manner of melee weapons, eyes hellfire red streaked Rogue black.

I admit it was strange for me the first time I saw a dark Rogue holding an unwieldy lance, nearly laughing as she tried clumsily to run me through with its blunt end before I faced Blood Raven. The joke was over quickly when one of her sisters, carrying a club, shattered my pelvis with an ill aimed, but demonically powerful blow. From then on, I realized that the sickness eating through their brains had removed all sense and replaced it with pure animal instinct. I was afraid that Paige would be shocked by the sight of her former comrades in such a state.

Instead, though, she shook her head, sighed 'Again?' and began to fire. I twisted my body and kicked down three of the attackers in a single jump, whipping my claws apart as I did. The combined force decapitated two of the closest Rogues, and their spirits departed their defiled bodies with a shout and a burst of green light. Two more sidekicks and the third Rogue fell, her heart blown apart from the force. Paige had succeeded in reducing two of the other attackers to pin cushions, but was being backed into the wall we had just passed by the remaining fighters. She held up her bow defensively and continued to fire as I ran over and pulled the dark swordswomen off her. Several quick claw jabs and they lay dead near their comrades.

I gleaned some arrows and gold off their corpses, watching as their cursed flesh decayed before my eyes. One of them had a tiny fetish in her armor, glowing and inscribed with ancient language. I tucked it into my pack and walked towards Paige. She was holding her stomach with both hands; doubled over, blood streaming from between her fingers. I uncorked a healing potion, tipped her head back, and poured it down her throat. I watched the rivulets of life coming from her torso slow, turn black and then stop. She removed her hands and wiped them on her armor, glancing down only once at the rapidly knitting flesh. 'From now on, Rogue, you stay behind me. I am stronger, I wear better armor, and I am quicker. It will save us both time, pain, and money.' She nodded, almost resigned, reset her bow, and we continued forward.

I decided that we should clear the field before heading home for the evening. Midway across the field, I came upon a flat paving stone carved with the Horadric language. I stood over it and felt the rush of power come out of the ground as tiny blue flames burst forth. 'What is that?' called Paige, as she busied herself using carvers as target practice. 'Our way home, I replied, and ran towards her. She had taken out two small groupings of demons and was working on a third. I helped her finish that group and then said, 'Show me this ring of stones.' She gestured several meters away and we started off towards them.

The field's evil was strong, and stronger still were the creatures that it called from the depths of Hell. First, demon hordes, growling and shouting, rushed towards us. Dispatching them was fairly easy, and once I dismembered a few shamans and their underlings, their comrades scattered, sounding a chattering defeat. The skeletal warriors, crouching behind twisted relics of trees were also relatively easy to remove from the field. The magics that held their bleached bones upright, swung their clubs and drew their bowstrings were no match for my well-placed claw or Paige's arrows. Soon, they lay in glowing piles on the ground, a fitting place for the now twice-dead.

However, the corrupted Rogues were not so easily dissuaded from attacking, nor were the foul satyrs that roamed before us, clutching polearms in their cloven hands. I was quickly backed into a corner by four such creatures, swinging their weapons with surprising agility into my crossed claws and glinting armor. I managed to kick free myself free, knocking one of the demons to the ground, shattering his legs. Somehow, I opened my mind and pushed the others away. They stumbled back a step, stunned. One was finished by a single arrow that soared over my shoulder and through his throat, which emitted a gurgled bleat as he fell. The other two quickly shook off their confusion and lunged towards me. Both of their axes connected with my torso. I felt the fire-scorched metal slice through my already aching shoulder and break my collarbone. The second axe slid off my chain mail and down my midsection, sparking and shrieking, but doing little more than superficial harm. I let out the my agonized sound of power I could and jabbed my fists forward, the tips of my claw and katar burying themselves deep in the demon's bowels. I twisted once and they dropped before me, still affixed to my weapons; I turned again and their innards spilled forth, steaming, on the ground. Only then did I withdraw my hands and wipe their blood on my leathers.

My shoulder was gushing freely and the extra twist I had put into my attack hadn't helped the fraying tendons and shredded muscles. It was still attached, by a tiny rope of nerves, the sheath of the chain mail, and luck. 'You're going to lose that arm,' remarked Paige as she continued to pick off the devilkin, finally taking out the shaman to prevent their bodies from springing back to life.

'Not if I can help it,' I said through gritted teeth, and opened a healing potion. I drank some and poured the rest into the deep wound. It steamed and boiled for a moment, then began to close the deep tissue, fascia, and skin with unnatural speed. I'd been careless, thinking too much about the future quests and not about the battle we faced in the here and now. I wiggled my arm a bit, ensuring that it did not heal unevenly, and turned to Paige. 'Okay, time to stop playing around. We clear this field from the outside in. Get ready.' I harnessed my training and accelerated the chi in my body, moving my body at speeds that even the most dedicated athlete could not attain. I directed some of the energy at Paige, allowing her to keep up with me. We began running around the edge of the field, spiraling towards the center every time we made a lap. It was hard to calculate how many of the sword wielding demons or club smashing Rogues we sent to a quick end, but by the end of it, the majority of the field was clear of standing foes.

At last, my stamina began to wane and I signaled to the panting Rogue that we should take a quick rest. We stopped moving near the north end of the field, near the wall that divided the pasture from the impenetrable wood beyond. As we caught our breath, I heard a chorus of thumps come from behind me, a position I realized Paige could not currently occupy. I mentally reviewed our run, assuring myself that none of the skeleton archers had been left standing, and so I turned around with some confusion.

Ten arrows, one in flames, flew at me from a distance of 100 yards. I was able to dodge most of them, catching one in my left shin. 'Paige! Get down!' I yelled and grabbed her by the collar, pulling her behind the wall. She tumbled to the grass beside me, wincing as she banged her already bruised body. I clenched my jaw, snapped off the arrow, and left the head inside me; the entrance point bled a little, but not enough to cause any interference with my fighting. My healing potion supply was low and this wound wasn't serious enough to warrant uncorking a bottle. Then, I unsteadily peered over the top row of stones.

Rogues. A whole mass of them, running towards my position; the leader stood in the middle, radiating a heat so fierce she scorched the ground at her feet. They were dressed in formal armor, wielding their bows with uncommon precision, moving far more easily and quickly than their demon-possessed sisters. No, these women had given their minds and bodies freely to Andariel, rewarded with extra strength, endurance, and speed. Their skin was burned a deep brown from the heat of their mistress' touch, but still they raged at us, the leader shouting encouragement as they descended on our hiding spot.

I whipped out my bow and launched a few shots at them. My accuracy had improved across the day as I remembered the proper use of a bow, allowing me to fell the one nearest to me with four shots to her chest. Paige had already stood up and, dodging behind a nearby ash tree, was launching cold arrows at her former comrades. I reset my claws and jumped out. 'Take out her minions. I'll deal with the one in the middle.' Paige assented, and I saw a look cross her face. Pure determination, the concentration that only anger can bring. I ran towards the group, knowing that their weapons would be of limited use at short range. Sure enough, they began to back up, fleeing a few paces, letting go one or two arrows, and then turning and running again. Paige stayed behind me, riddling their bodies with her well-timed shots.

Soon, though, it was only the leader of the group and I. Her minions had fallen, screaming as their souls dropped to the burning Hells, leaving her alone in the middle of the field. She stared at me, at least a foot taller than myself, her burning body wavering the air around her muscular figure. Her eyes peered through me, cruelty lashing forward from those Rogue-tuned pupils, and her mouth turned to a cruel sneer as she glanced over my shoulder to my companion. 'Join us, child. The powers of Darkness are collecting and soon none shall be strong enough to resist. Join the side that will win and rule the world. Behold, my skill is greater than yours, than your Assassin pet, than Kashya herself. Come unto us.'

Paige glared back at her with a stare that I could feel even with my back turned. 'Never, you murdering *****. You have no power, no skill, and no ability that was not stolen from those greater than yourself. You were nothing as a human and you are nothing still as a demon. I will watch your corpse rot in the open air.' With that, she fired three arrows in rapid succession at the chest of the demon-Rogue, who staggered as they hit true, then stood up and laughed.

'Child, you know nothing of what I am or what I can do. But you will learn. I will show you.' The dark one lifted her bow and put forth three arrows in a single volley, two of which must have hit their mark, because I heard my compatriot shout in pain and then crumple to the ground. The demon turned to me and smiled. 'As for you, assassin-'

I lunged at her, clipping her shoulder with a claw, only to feel a burst of fire rebound from her skin and crisp my arm. I cursed quietly, reminding myself to find a magical ward against fire attacks. I concentrated, summoning my tiger spirit and accelerating my chi in two deep breaths, and soon enough I was furiously pounding at her with my fists. She was tougher than she looked, this raven-haired Rogue. Still, I could feel her resistance fading as I released a swift kick into her stomach. That set her off balance enough for me to land another three hits and channel my tiger into her. More fire burned me and I could feel my skin peeling away slowly as the battle continued. I was winning the fight, but I feared my injuries would cause me to fall before I had finished off this denizen of Hell.

The dark Rogue kept firing, but more slowly now than when we first started. Her armor was ragged and falling apart, her body riddled with slowly closing wounds, which still showed the viscera underneath. The demonic forces that amplified her talents had given her super-strength, but now even that was failing. Just a few more hits, I knew, before she would lose her life, but I too could barely move. My limbs were aching and every strike felt like it hurt me as much as it hurt my opponent. I, too, was close to death. I gathered my strength for a final attack, realizing that my chi was as spent as my bodily health, and threw myself at my foe. I hit her powerfully and then slammed to the ground, too tired to execute the finishing move properly. She towered over me and pulled back the catgut on her bow. Two arrows flew out and caught the demon Rogue right in the eyes. She screamed, staggered back, and collapsed nearby; her body exploded, leaving behind her magical bow and an assortment of gold and healing potions.

I picked myself up, leaning on my claws, and crouched in front of the haul. I collected what I could fit in my pack, leaving behind some old gloves and a cracked belt. Paige walked over to me, arrows still protruding from the side of her head and torso. 'Thank you for this armor,' was all she said to me, extending a hand downwards. I gripped her wrist and pulled myself upright, looking around as I did. The field was silent, except for some wild birds, and the catcalls of a small band of demons near the magic stones.

'We'll go back to town and take care of those in the morning,' I said, walking over to the waypoint. Paige didn't seem to mind that suggestion as she trailed behind me to the flat slab. The sun was already setting, with the purple and gold sunset casting long shadows over the ruined field. We stood on the waypoint together and I mentally activated the ancient spells that would take us home. The land before us shimmered and vanished, replaced in a flash with the familiar town.

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