Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
A Letter from Balazar
This letter dates from after his exile but was discovered in the same archive as the others.
I hope this missive finds you well. My exile still pains me, especially the recent loss of my entourage which I told you about in an earlier letter. Alone I had made my way down from the Redlands to the Kingdom of Immther and then on to Balazar. In the capital of Lunar controlled Balazar I met with a rather wonderful surprise. The best servant I have ever had the pleasure to employ, Gregorious, was there waiting for me! You remember Gregorious do you not? I had been forced to let him go so that he could enter the employ of another so that some gambling debt I had incurred with the wrong sort to be in debt to would be forgiven. He told me that Moonson himself (no doubt feeling remorse at his having banished me) had hired him away from his most recent employers for the sole purpose of finding me and entering my employ once more! My jubilation at this chain of events was unprecedented. I almost turned cartwheels in my joy. In addition to Gregorious Moonson had sent two creatures of a curious race known as Groratorans or Maidstone Archers to act as my bodyguards. These are enormous creatures with no head but rather an extra arm placed where a head would be on a man. They have eyes on the backs of each of their three hands and are the most amazing archers I have ever seen! They also wield twin troll mauls to good effect. I have truly been blessed by Moonson! (Now if only he would take this curse off of me so I could return to Glamour! I have sent him a letter thanking him for this wonderful gift however).
Being in Elkoi was almost like old school week for who should I see there but that charming specimen Merodach the Black. Shudder. Meeting that cold blooded monster again was a pleasure I would rather have avoided. You remember Merodach and his brother Marduk don't you? They were those twin Scimitars of Yanafal Tarnils that made Shargashi look like members of Donander's cult. The grimmest, most heartless men I have ever met. And that includes my visit to Alkoth! Merodach informed me that he was in Elkoi to avenge his brother's death. (All praise Yanafil Tarnils for embracing that vermin to his breast. I'm sure he's an important member of the Legion of Doom). I shouldn't be so hard on the late, unlamented Marduk I suppose he at least had the virtue that you could get along with him as long as you didn't violate any part, no matter how tiny of the Yanafal Tarnil's moral code or threaten the Empire. With Merodach (who told me with a straight face that the only thing wrong with his dear departed brother was that "He was too soft." This the man whose allied spirit was rumoured to be scared of him? Too soft! I think not) you don't know where you stand at any time. It's impossible to know what might make him engage on a random killing spree of innocents. How he has managed to avoid breaking any of Moonson's laws is beyond me. Anyway, yet another reason to flee, err leave Elkoi. Oh before I forget I was informed that Marduk had been slain by a foreigner incarnating the Wild Mother, some sort of nature goddess. Bit his head off I understand, poor thing. And I'm not sure who I pity more, poor Marduk for dying or the Wild Mother for having to taste him. Seems that dear Merodach is looking for the foreigners who helped the Wild Mother and took all of Marduk's gear as well. I pity them.
The main intent of this letter is to relate some droll events that I witnessed while in Balazar. My new entourage and myself had just left the citadel of Elkoi (the aforementioned capital of Lunar Balazar) immediately after the strange death of a Lunar official named Halcyon var something or another. Apparently he had been murdered by some barbarians who had entered the citadel with the express intent of slaying him. Well they succeeded quite well thank you and put the entire garrison into an uproar! Why they were even going to refuse to allow me to exit until the Groratorans and my letter from Moonson asking that all who see it give the bearer whatever assistance they can made them change their minds. They were suspicious of my leaving at night but I had already stayed in Elkoi as long as I could bear and no longer being able to ignore the insistance of my curse that I move on we were forced to leave Elkoi immediately. I had left my departure too long and by this time I was basically incapable of making a rational decision so we set off in the wrong direction heading north instead of east as I had planned on. When I had moved far enough away from the citadel to allow me to stop we halted in order to have a bite and consider our next move. While we sat there cooking a filling, but bland repast of porridge one of the Groratorans informed me that we were being watched by someone in the woods. Not fearing the locals I called out an invitation for the watcher to approach. He (as it turned out to be) did so and proved to be an outlander barbarian. Introductions were exchanged and he turned out to be a Praxian nomad of the sort that ride bison, named Greystone. He told me that he and his compatriots were just exercising due caution at the sight of a fire burning along the trail. I invited him to dine with me and he did so. One of the Groratorans (it may have been the same one or it may have been the other damn me if I can tell one from the other) informed me that there was a flying man hovering overhead. I told this Greystone that his flying friend could join us if he wanted. (One of the Groratorans strung his bow for added emphasis). The flyer landed and introduced himself as one Simon some sort of sorceror. We spoke for a while and exchanged superficialities. I told them of the recent goings on in the citadel and mentioned Merodach's presence. The Praxian seemed a bit upset at this news but I might have imagined that. They told me that they and their friends were travelling east and asked whether I would be interested in accompanying them. I said we would (misery does love company after all) but I told them flat out that I would not get involved with any fights they might have with Empire forces. I may be in exile but I am not a traitor! The companions of the pair I had already met turned out to be a Yemalian in gold plate baron something or another, another scruffy Praxian whose name escapes me, a absolutely stunning local with gorgeous red hair named Burning Willow, and one of those accursed Pentan horsemen that has caused the Empire such grief in the past. They had two horses with them, one of which was bearing a burden that looked suspiciously like a corpse on it. Obviously these were the barbarians that had murdered Halcyon var whatever, not that I cared aught for that.
We travelled cross country (not an easy task considering it was winter and the terrain was hilly) southeast from where we had met avoiding the trail back to Elkoi with the intent of finding the path that led eastward to Trilus (another Balazaring citadel - not allied with us) and on to Dykene, the destination of these barbarians. I had agreed to accompany them as far as Trilus where I had decided to visit awhile. We had travelled for a day or so when my new companions noticed that we were being followed by a file of Lunar peltasts. There were nine foot soldiers accompanied by an officer on horseback and their numbers caused my friends some concern. It seemed clear from their actions that the peltasts were in no hurry to engage the barbarians but would rather follow them wherever they were going. They decided that they would try and lose their followers. The terrain wasn't rough enough for that but they did decide to make a stand and see if they could scare the Lunars off. While they prepared themselves at the bottom of a dip in the land my aides and I settled down for a nice picnic lunch of ham and some horrible dried vegetables and grains that the locals eat. The four warriors on foot (the sorceror, the Praxians and the beautiful Burning Willow) prepared themselves for battle, readying their javelins (in the case of all but the sorceror who had a heavy cross bow instead and had risen into the air a bit to prevent his being attacked in melee). They made sure that they were just far enough away from the top of the ridge so as to be out of javelin range. The Yemalian and the Pentan meanwhile had mounted their horses (minus poor Halcyon's body which they stashed) and both armed with bows they moved closer to the top of the ridge.
The mounted Lunar officer popped over the ridge to be met by missile fire from the mounted barbarians, the Praxian Greystone who had a bow as well as his javelins and the sorceror. Yanafil must have smiled on the warrior as he took but a slight arm wound from this barrage. He quickly rode his horse back over the ridge and soon thereafter the peltasts came over the ridge and moved in to attack the foot soldiers. They rushed forward while the officer rode to battle the horsemen. He managed to befuddle the Pentan and exchanged blows with the Yemalian to no effect. The peltasts meanwhile had moved forward all except one who had been shot in the leg by the Pentan before he was befuddled. He stopped to heal himself (ah, but it was a pleasure to see well trained Lunar troops in action!) The javelins of the barbarians had no great effect (the peltast's using their namesake shields to good effect) but the peltasts' javelins took out the beauteous Burning Willow! She stood there as first one, then another javelin sprouted from her beautiful body, first in the chest and then the head. She toppled over obviously dead from this last wound. The barbarians all shouted in dismay at this and then attempted to get their god's to intercede for them. The Praxian whose name I cannot recall told me latter that he was almost swept up into his god's presence but fortunately he didn't have quite enough favour in his god's eyes! [Editor's note : missed his POW by one!] The others called in vain until the Pentan managed to get his god's attention and a mighty wind swept through the battlefield healing all the barbarian combatants! [Editor's note : down to 4 POW]
The peltasts retreated at this point back over the ridge to regroup as they no longer had any javelins (other than the one who had been wounded earlier in the leg - this fact will prove significant later on in this account). The barbarians let them go for the time being while they collected javelins. Meanwhile the Yemalian had chased the peltasts' officer off with his lance until the officer turned in his saddle and befuddled him! He then returned to the battle while the Praxian Geystone raced off to dispell his friends befuddlement. The officer returned and charged the Pentan trading blows from lances until the officer befuddled the Pentan. He then charged killing his mount turning him into a footman. Another exchange of blows crippled the Pentan's arm and he lacked the magic needed to heal himself. At this point the officer moved to attack the Yemalian.
The peltasts meanwhile had regrouped and charged back over the slope wielding scimitars and peltas and casting magic at their enemies. Six of them attacked the three standing there (the sorceror, Burning Willow and the other Praxian) while the other three moved to pursue Greystone. The sorceror had reloaded his crossbow and was preparing to fire when the peltast who still had a javelin threw it at him. Unfortunately this peltast was much gifted by the goddess and was both quicker than the sorceror and possessed of a large multimissile spell. Three magical and one mundane missile hurtled at the sorceror and killed him! [Editor's Note : he bought a critical to the chest]. The nameless Praxian and the beauteous Burning Willow were left facing six opponents by themselves until the Pentan moved to join them. A scimitar blow to the head knocked the Praxian down and the Pentan was killed by a scimitar blow through the chest while battling three of the peltasts. Greystone managed to hold off the three he was fighting until the Yemalian managed to kill one of them with his lance from horseback. The Yemalian killed the officer's horse and at this point things looked grim for the barbarians. Only two of their number were still standing (the beauteous Burning Willow having been knocked down by a blow to the leg - and the peltasts promising her the "fate worse than death", while the Praxian was unconscious and the other two were dead).
The Yemalian moved out of spell range after being subjected to a barrage of spells from the peltasts and Greystone was moving to join him when the Yemalian tried to make a deal for his comrades who still survived. He offered to swap a black iron bastard sword for his live friends and the bodies of his dead friends. The officer said he would consider this but he would have to examine the sword first. Greystone moved forward and tossed the sword down. The officer moved over and picked it up. As soon as he touched it he tossed it to the ground in alarm and cried treachery! The peltasts moved forward to finish the fight but he waved them back. He stooped and picked the sword up and it seemed to my trained eye to be in communication with some spirit residing within the sword. He foolishly opened himself to attack and the spirit within the sword attacked him. The peltasts moved forward to aid him. After a brief spirit combat which allowed the peltasts to move past him towards the surviving barbarians the spirit now residing in the officer's body attacked two of his own peltasts from behind with the black sword killing one! The spirit in the body seemed to be a mite unsteady in its new home and the peltasts managed to kill their own commander's body in a very short fight. The Praxian having had his head wound healed a bit by Burning Willow (who had been lying beside him) had gotten up and joined the fight as did the other two barbarians but when the officer fell the fighting stopped again.
The senior most of the peltasts and the Yemalian negotiated and the two groups picked up their dead and went their separate ways. Greystone picked up the black sword and allowed the spirit within to possess (temporarily) his body. The spirit asked that he be allowed to stay in someone's body so that he could recover all the magic he had expended battling the officer and someone agreed to do so.
I haven't seen such an epic battle for a long time. It was almost worthy of a ballad and if my talents were in that area I might compose one. A pity that such doughty (and lucky!) fighters are not allied with the Empire.
Yours as always,
This page last modified December 16, 1999
Last updated September 25, 2016
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