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Life in the sands; Chapter 4: Jade and the others plot their escape.
Topic Started: Jul 19 2015, 11:45 PM (520 Views)
Gigantor
Advanced Member
[ *  *  * ]
Edgar considered what Jacintha said, a lot of it made sense except that their prey don't know predators have picked up their trail. He scratched his chin and thought over his options.

Edgar: No. We'll keep following their shite. Feel free and explore on your own if you'd like.

He turned and gathered his soldiers and kept moving. They followed the horse dung to a ruined city and Edgar could almost feel their presence nearby.
*****
Walker cursed himself for an idiot when he realized they'd left a trail for Edgar to find. He heard Jade's suggestion and nodded.

Walker: No more time to take in the sights. We should move through the buildings and hide the horses if we can then we can take to the tunnels and wait to be passed.

Hiding places were in abundance.

Walker: Raka, lead the group ahead and try to find a big enough building for the horses. I'm going to spy on our pursuers.

He wrapped his cloak around him and melted into the floor.
*****
From a ruined hut that, centuries ago, was used as a trading post, Boil watched the small party examine the statue of Caleb. He scuttled low on hands and feet to stop just under the window where he could listen and not be seen. Across from him was the Post's fireplace and chiseled into the stone was the plaque of peace that once meant something for the lost population and Boil's ancestors. But the Kelkerry moved on or were stolen and the Dei Lunathi were in low numbers and died off. That left the goblins and they were pushed deeper into the cracks by the raiding humans. Only a few goblins dared forage in the ruins. There was very little left of interest, the bones of the buildings had been picked clean decades ago but it was quiet and Boil liked to pretend he was the Boss of the place.

Occasionally raiders would trek down and hide out which was the opportunity Boil learned to exploit. If he was sneaky and didn't make a sound, he could pilfer a few goodies. And should an intruder wander off alone, those ones often found the point of Boil's knife.

This new group looked far different than any other before. They came with a whiff of trouble about them. Boil found that he wanted them to leave instead of checking them for shinies and tasties.

He especially didn't like the men. The one with the clumped hair and scent of smoke looked mean like an Orc Boss and the tall one felt wrong to him. He moved too confidently in the dark for a human and his cloak had no end. It was as if he wore the darkness upon his shoulders. Horse meat was enticing but Boil knew it was too dangerous to steal from this group. They were, however, safe enough to keep watching.

When the tall one disappeared Boil drew his knife and held it tightly. Boil was clever and sneaky, they couldn't have found him out. He crumpled into a ball with his knife pointed out above his knobby knees and held his breath, waiting for fate to be decided.

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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Jacintha simply nodded. She expected Edgar to go against her suggestion - that was just the kind of day she was having. NO matter - this was something she couldmanufacture as they went. As she directed her people to continue the search along Edgar's planned route, she plotted - she could engineer a collapse? Too risky. She would plant horse dung somewhere else? Absolutely not. She could scratch some other sort of mark, find some other sort of evidence...

And sooner then they anticipated, the trail of dung ceased. Jacintha hid a smile behind her stern facade as she watched Edgar's man report that to him.

Raka Managed to find an out-of-the-way spot that was sufficient for them and the horses to hunker down. As an after thought, he and the other women maneuvered (gently) some collapsed debris over the entry. The knook was cramped, but obscured, and very dark. He waited by the entrance with his hands opening and closing into fists over and over. Very distantly, he would hear the echo of a footfall, or whispers of chatter. He didn't like this stillness. And he was growing more and more envious of Walker's ability to move through this darkness like it was daylight.

If only I could light a hand on fire, I could... I could.... He pushed the thoughts away, and as he did, a soft hand pressed into his. He glanced over to see Shara smiling in the darkness beside him. For a split second his impulse was to shake her of and snarl something rude - but ... It was dark. Who would care? So he simply let it happen. He felt heat curl up his neck and into his face and down his arms to their hand, and the sensation was welcome and comforting. So like real fire. Hopefully enough to help him curb the desire.

Jade and Mid'gha were busy keeping the horses calm and quiet. Jade was comforted by the presence of so many living, familiar beings, that she didn't really feel the fear of discovery. Or she was in denial - that too, was possible. She liked to think that she had a great deal of confidence in her small group. Enough so to cover their own tracks and avoid detection.

A raiding party of about oh, who knows how many Goblins picked their way with practiced ease through the darkness. Several tunnels down and closer to the deeper chutes into Wag-Hog-Gig Territory was where they had climbed, and they smelled (Oh how delightful) the smell of men. Once in a while, they came up this way to see if some desert folk could be taken, or leftovers from other goblin tribes could be stolen. This was, in fact, one of those times, and the idea of eating manflesh sent a quiet, hysterical glee through the group that they spied the numbers from the darknes with anxious eyes. The leader - or well, whoever spoke up first - decided it would be a great idea to tryand get around so they could attack seemingly from everywhere!

A common, and popular plan. The others agreed and scattered like hundreds of ants in an anthill.

The darkness stirred with life.
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
The first hoots and slaps of bare feet on stone were picked up by Boil's large ears and he was cursing even before the goblin drums began to play. Boss Hognose always showed up with his clan at the worst times but maybe this time could mark a change. Boil would have to blend in with his cousins to avoid a beating but with so many goblins running around, it shouldn't be hard to overrun even the tall man and his cloak of night. Boil secretly wished for that one to be found by some of the others.

The humans he'd been watching chose to hunker down and stay with their horses. If they only knew how wrong they were for that choice. Maybe Boil could pilfer a trinket or two before the blood started. By the sounds of the goblin drums, he had plenty of time.

On light steps he snuck out of his stakeout position and avoided sight lines as he stepped across the alley to where the humans were hiding. He moved to the back of the building and climbed the crumbled wall and slipped through a crack. Inside he pulled himself up into the rafters and shimmied until he was above the mean one.
******

Edgar nearly strangled his scout who reported the end of the trail. But before his hand closed around the fragile neck he managed to check his rage with logic.

Edgar: You said there was a monument? I want to know more about that.

He commanded and was instantly filled in though the foreigner's identity was more of a mystery to them. It seemed Jacintha was right again but there was a small chance, just a sliver, that they only realized their trail was marked.

The beating of the drums pounded and with it the throbbing pain of his sudden headache.

Edgar: Goblins....of course. Call everyone together, we're going to cut our way through them, after a few hundred of them drop they'll learn to leave us alone.

He drew his sword and readied for battle.
*****

On his own, in the darkness, Walker wasn't tethered by his weight or slowed by the length of his stride. Now his cloak shifted into tendrils and reached out around him. Wrapped in its embrace, Walker was made into a shadow like the creature on his back. It didn't move by step or wing, it moved by shadow and dark place.

In a cavern, Walker could be anywhere he wanted. And yet, he was the last to become aware of the goblins, his focus was centred on their pursuers. He watched Edgar and Jacintha as they prowled below following their steps all the way into the ruined city. Watching military untied moved was so uniform and precise, even in the limited glow of torch light but when the goblins announced themselves, the uniformity splintered. Until Edgar and Jacintha barked commands that reformed the squads.

With the new danger present, Walker moved to investigate the extent of it. Perhaps this was what they needed to escape, but he had to make sure escape could be possible. As a shadow he slipped from one place to another, discovering an alarming amount of goblins pouring through a veritable web of tunnels leading deeper into the earth.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Jade caught herself holding her breath when she started hearing movement. It sounded right next to her, their persuers were so close. scrabbling and scratching seemed to echo down the cavernous corridors, confusing her sense of where they were coming from. Mid'gha patted her hand comfortingly, and made herself busy stashing the blanket of horse poop and soothingly seeing to the horses.

Raka was not doing theirmounts any favors, tense as he was. Shara's hand inhis seemed to be unbelievably fragilt though, which at least gave him the incentive to be mindful of his grip. It was something to distract him from the urge. He hated being in the dark.

--

When the drums began, Jacintha drew her hooked blades and called for her men to form up. Little blessings - it would be impossible to track anything during a goblin raid. The little bastards left such chaos in their wake that whatever trail they thought they were following would be all but gone.
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
Edgar drew a pair of kathar, hand held weapons that extended blades from closed fists. Normally he would fight a horde of goblins bare handed but he had top lay things safer while his body continued to fight the poison. Especially when he was so close.

The warrior was ready, the first rush of goblins comprised of the weak, sick and young all trying to achieve the same thing, usefulness. They were the fool hardy goblins that most often fall to blades, tiring their prey before the real fighters moved in. He cut through several goblins then heard the shift in the drum beats. Edgar grabbed the nearest goblin, held him up above his head as the first volley of stones rained down on them like hail.

Edgar: they're using slings. Get to cover, they're holding us back while their fighters try to hunt us down.

A simple regroup was all they needed. He dropped the dying goblin, it's caved in head oozing brain and blood down his arm. He found cover with his unit behind a wall facing a statue.
*****
Boil waited and listened for the change in the signal. The prowlers were on the move while the flood pressed around the defenders and the escape routes. He could hear the thuds of stones raining down. Something was under attack and was holding Hognose's attention.

He looked down at his treasure trove of victims. They were watching the doors and windows and none were aware of him. He could take whatever he wanted. But first, he needed a trophy for his mantle. Carefully he reached down with a knife in one hand and gently lifted one of Raka's bladed dreads and with a quick cut he pocketed his reward.

One of the prowlers outside got too close to a horse nose and the black steed squealed and reared up. The thunder of her hooves shook the structure and caused Boil to lose his grip On the beam. He let go of his dagger in the fall to catch a handful of Raka's hair and pull himself onto the man's shoulders.
******
Travelling through shadows had limits. There was no way Walker could breathe in the world his cloak brought him. He had to step out to fill his lungs, it as like swimming including the feeling of weightlessness that came with floating in water. More often ins his shadow jumps was Walker becoming aware of Scorpio's active attention. The power of the stone seemed to hum and give a warm sensation through up his arm.

It sometimes felt like he had another traveler with him.

Upon stepping back into the physical world, Walker was under instant threat from the goblins. He blended with his surroundings but it was a weak skill against glowing goblin eyes. His tusks were used often to dispatch scouts or those that sought him out all while moving toward Edgar and Jacintha. If an opportunity presented itself, he knew Raka would demand that he take it. Or they could leave. Perhaps the goblins would help convince them.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
When Raka's horse reared, the woen were the first to react, instantly hands-on to soothe the finicky beast. Raka, however, struggled with anassailant. Both hands closed around the small goblin body, and he wrestled withit unil he had at least one hand around its neck. He snarled angrily at the nasty little creature and squeezed. He felt a boil of heat unfurl in his arm, but he clenched his jaw and stifled it, instead forcing a tighter grip around the neck of the goblin.

The horse was easy to calm. Then Shara moved to Raka's elbow and gently gripped his arm. "Raka, stop, it is unarmed."

Raka hissed, "Goblins don't need weapons. He tried to rip my throat out."

Shara reached out towards Raka's clenching hand. "Maybe... Maybe he can help us find a way out! Let him go!"

Jade and Mid'gha watched anxiously as Raka slowly loosened his grip - allowing for air, but not for escape. His eyes gleamed with malice at the creature, so focused on his anger he did not notice the absence of a dreadlock. Jade, however, did notice the tip of a bladed dread hanging from the goblin's waist. She clenched her jaw to prevent an inappropriate laugh from escaping.

"If anything just keep him around until Walker gets back. We need to know whats going on out there." Jade whispered. The other women nodded. Raka, without taking his eyes from the runt, nodded grudgingly as well.

----

Jacintha blazed a path through the filthy creatures, an arrowhead of activity with her at the point of her group. There were hundreds of them, and she spun, flung, chopped and sliced through them with the mechanical aptitude of totally memorized katas.

They were of no issue to her. A thin cut around the shins here and there wouldn't be enough to take her down - her leathers were thick enough to prevent any real damage, and she could smell no acrid odor of poison among these goblins. She became one with the rhythm of the motion, so much so (and this tended to happen when she became fluid) that she broke a bit ahead of her group, wading into the mass of goblins.

As she did a spin dip to scoop several goblins off their feet, she came up and brought her blade within an inch of someone's shadowy neck. He was half swathed in shadows, likely if she had been any farther away she would have midded him entirely. But there he was.

Scorpio.

Jacintha smirked. Then she lowered her blade, meeting his dark eyes for a flash of a moment. And then she turned her back on him and continued back towards her men.

That should give him the message. At least he sould take the hint to run. Edgar would not let him escape - and the ONLY reason she did was because Dima willed it. He was lucky. She would have loved to dig into him.
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
The goblin war parties were hooting while throwing. Stones and poking through wall cracks and windows with speaks and crude swords. Edgar knew the gpblin attacks were diversionary only. Now that they had their blading surrounded, they thought they had the advantage but they were playing into the grim warrior's hands. His soldiers stood ready, some had even knelt down to fix armour, scratches or sharpen their blades. Each of them had been in heavier attacks than this; and they knew what their leader was waiting for.

Dust shook from the rotted beams snowing down over him. A loud grunt signalled larger players entering the field of battle. He'd read how goblins in the desert had taken to cornering young trolls to raise for themselves, it seemed the information was accurate. The arrival of the trolls was perfect timing for him. By the grunts he heard outside, he counted two trolls. His face broke into a wide, sadistic smile as his eyes narrowed like a tiger before the lunge.

Edgar: Stay put boys, I'm feeling peckish.

*****

Boil's breath was caught somewhere between his chest and the mean one's iron grip. He knew not to fight, this one would kill him without a second thought, this one was a survivor, the goblin was merely an option to get him out. So the goblin submitted to the larger male's will.

Boil: Yesh, Boil know. Boil knows! I help you. Lemme go, lemme go.

He whined and blinked often at the women. Boil was a survivor too.

When Raka let him go, he dropped to the ground beside his knife but made no move to take it.

Boil: Come. Come wit me.

Boil padded on barefeet in the next room and slid a stone slab along the floor. He pointed then hopped up and down until everyone was through, then he took them out into the street and after several sudden stops to avoid the other goblins, Boil led them away from the city and into th goblin tunnels. They weren't deep when Boil turned.

Boil: In here. This get you out.
*****
Jacintha had Walker dead to rights. She had surprised him completely, only his instincts managed to react quickly enough to get his tusk pointed under her chin, a failed kill strike.

When he withdrew, it felt like he was given permission to breath. Somehow unknown to him, his body wasn't shake into a pool of person. Scorpio rushed into his head with a delayed reaction, now his body was brimming with power crying for release to destroy the woman.

Walker didn't feel the same way. In everything he experienced at the Palace or under Dima, this woman wasn't responsible or at the heart of anything. She had brought him no harm or threat. As she backed away, his weapon lowered and he stepped away.

Walker: When I'm stronger, I will challenge you properly.

Then he faded into the shadows where even she couldn't follow. He followed the turbulence of light caused by the goblins casting burning pitch into the buildings they were too lazy to search and it soon became clear they were cantering one place in particular. Walker watched from the hanging spires as two large trolls, blinded by embedded spikes and ridden by a goblins. The hulking creatures tore into the crumbling walls.

Walker could see movement in the gaps and one of the trolls erupted as Edgar exploded through its chest. The warrior rolled into the street trailing intestines. He got to his feet and held a kidney in his fist. The goblins watched silently, the other troll, no longer at the control of the terror stricken goblins, roared and flailed wildly, killing his two riders in the tantrum.

Edgar turned slowly and watched the raging creature, he rose the kidney to his mouth and took a large bite before dropping it and leapt at it. His kathar blade punched through the troll's cheek and destroying its jaw then grabbed its head and followed it down to the ground. He finished it off with several punches to the skull. The goblins began their retreat, as did Walker. He abandoned the gamble of a surprise attack, the wiser move was to return to his friends and secure their escape.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Grudgingly, Raka released the little mongrel. Once again struggling through the passages withthe horses was troublesome at best, chaotic at worst. They heard the trolls roaring in the distance and their primal urge was to break free and run. It took no little effort from Shara, Mid;gha and Jade to calm them to a degree where they could be led into the claustrophobic tunnels.

Aries kicked at the back of Raka's mind, the shouting and rhythm of battle echoing around them waas like ghoofbeats of his anxious stone. He kept his hands clenched into fists as he watched this goblin - Bloi. How pleasant - and allowed himself and his charges to be led down tunnel after tunnel.

The mules though antsy were surprisingly quiet - perhaps they somehow knew the danger attracting attention would cause. The black mare had her ears back and was stomping urgently. As they stopped to regard the direction Boil had indicated, Raka gave the creature a very close look.

Shara reached out to touch the walls and murmured, "Its very short in here. Barely enough for the horses."

She exchanged a look with Mid'gha, who had her hands calmly within the sleeves of her robe. Jade felt claustrophobic, and had sweat beaded on her brow. Her eyes darted to and fro, and Shara had a calming hand on her elbow. She never did like enclosed spaces. Her wings fidgeted like a caged bird.

Raka glanced around once, and heard it then. Tiny footfalls. A manic little chitter, like a laugh in the distance. A snarl tore at his face and he lunged for Boil in rage. "He's led us into a trap!"

And it was like the hall exploded with activity. Goblins poured out around them. The black mare pulled away fromthe women and began stomping erratically. The mules fled from the mad horse, and Mid'gha stood between the young ladies and the oncoming hoarde.

Jade squinted into the shadows, gripping at her bag like a cudgel, willing Walker to appear.
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
The goblins surrounded the prey that Boil had trapped. They flooded the few remaining paths with stones, spear points or simply filled the spaces with goblins. Boil was pushed further and further back as the bigger goblins shoved ahead to score the first kill.

This was Boil's triumph. It was Boil who should be celebrating. This would make him a Boss and he could start his own tribe and take some wives. Boil bit the upper arm of the next goblin to try and shove him, the goblin howled in pain while others around began to laugh and egg the scuffle on. Boil smashed the goblin's head with a stone and walked forward, his brutality had earned him a few clear steps before a goblin twice his size purposely stood in his way.

Tuktuk: Them's ours now. You get some booty but Them's ours now.

Boil: No! Boil tricked'em. Boil trapped'em. Boil is being the boss of'em.

Two goblins from the crowd jumped on Boil and tackled him to the ground. Leaving Boil to struggle, curse and spit. He often bit when a body part was presented but they managed to subdue him.

Tuktuk: Bring Boss Boil. He watch.

Boil cursed the way Tuktuk mocked him but he was the weaker and they dragged him to where he could see his captives. Goblin Warriors were beginning to surround them and preparing to jump in the pit to attack.
******
Walker felt a growing sense of anxiety that felt foreign. It quickly blossomed into fear and suddenly Walker was compelled to find Jade. She needed him. Something was wrong.

He found a congested tunnel where the goblins seemed to be cornering other prey separate from Edgar's army. Which could only mean one thing.

Walker ignored the lure of Scorpio's temptations and plunged deep into his primal instincts, those that kept him alive during his trials. He gripped his tusks and stepped from the shadows in front of the nearest goblins. It took some time for the distracted creatures to notice the tall figure, the moment they did Walker was swinging and felling.

I'll save you Jade. He thought as he tried to massacre his way through to her.
*****
Fiora: This is boring.

She complained, draped lazily over one of the few cushioned chairs in Dima's tower. The magus sighed and out his scroll down.

Dima: What is, child?

Fiora gestured to the outside world she was spying through a large window.

Fiora: The palace is so droll and predictable. You've gone and let all of the interesting people leave again.

Dima: My dear, sometimes you have to sit quietly to allow time for everything to build up. The excitement you seek cycles as does everything else in this world.

Fiora: Don't patronize me. You don't have to deal with the Sultan's childish sexual harassment or pretending to enjoy all e ladies tittering about the man hoods of their kept men. Couldn't you end this bogus chase and let me play again?

Dima groaned and sat across from Fiora.

Dima: Here's a small secret to whet your appetite. Aries and Scorpio have been stirring lately. Wait a while longer.

He patted her hand gently then his demeanour turned to ice, he stood straight, returned to his desk and resumed reading his scroll.

A moment later Aries kicked, and kicked hard.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
The Goblins seemed to have no end - but Jacintha knew that before long they would retreat to wait for easier prey. They had already taken out a slew of the front men, and Edgar had scared off at least half of them with his antics with the Trolls. She slashed her way through effortlessly, relishing the look on the shadow's face when she had let him go.

She chalked that up to one of her own private victories.

Jacintha took a moment to get her bearings and took note of a smaller group of goblins tracking away but not with themain force. Deduction concluded that there was where the rest of the rodents were. She scanend the goblins. Several had been surrounded by others as they fled - and upon closer investigation she saw that they had barrels. Powder kegs for bursting through the walls. Excellent.

Edited by Oru, Nov 17 2015, 04:27 PM.
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Oru
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The wave of Goblins seemed endless. They had already killed a slew of them, even more being scared off by Edgar's incident with the Trolls. Jacintha and her men spun out and spiraled about the chamber thinning their ranks and regrouping after a pass. It was during this apart time that Jacintha took stock.

She had noticed the other group of goblins retreating apart from the main group - and they guarded soemthing among them, something they piled around and about. It took Jacintha maybe a moment to conclude that they were carrying barrels of powder - to facilitate blasting through walls when the trolls were elsewhere.

Excellent.

She dove into the goblins, hacking and slashing until the got to the barrels. She pulled one from the throng and left the others, bashing and slashing her way throught he frantic mess to where she had suspected the other goblins were headed - easier prey.

She was rewarded by a burst of light and a wave of hot air. Her eyes widened. He had used his stone - this was perfect timing. She laid the barrell down and snatched a torch from a fleeing goblin. She twined the fuze, lit it, and went back to the fray.

In moments the explosion rocked part of the wall and her trip back to the group became dodging falling rock and debris.
"They're caving it in! Raka is caving in the tunnels!"

----

Raka left his chain coiled - the quarters were too small. But he still had his scimitar and he made as good use of it as he could. Jade was bashing at them with the sling of horse poop, and Shara and Mid'gha were trying to avoid the swinging bag, the scimitar, and the black horse's prancing and kicking.

Raka was holding up well. At least, better, when Shara let out a shriek somewhere behind him. He turned, slicing a fresh goblin in half, dropping it from where it clung to Shara's skirt. It was in that second that the Ram kicked. It kicked hard. He felt it unfurl, and knew it was unstoppable at this point. He couldn't control it.

Raka's eyes burst into flame and he snarled, turning back to the main mass of Goblins. He felt his face twist into a cruel smile. 'Should have let us pass." Then he threw out his hand and incinerated the goblins within ten feet of his arm, a straight, vicious arc of white, blue, orange, red flame jetting out from his splayed hand. It lit the hallway, shook the tunnel, and blasted the others with heat.

a moment later something exploded down the tunnel from whence they came.

The horse reared, the donkeys panicked and kicked. Shara and Mid'gha were thrown appart. Jade made it to Shara's side behind the furious Raka as he spun and blasted charred corpses of Goblins before him. It just... it felt so good to let go. To finally let out the fire. He basked in its heat, he was untouchable here, these goblins were nothing to him, couldn't compare to him.... He pushed them back, fire roaring.... How dare they even think they could have what was his? How dare they think they could contain us!

Then Raka stumbled and hesitated. Where was his sword? He had dropped it. He saw the corona or red around his vision and tried to grabble with the fire, cursing himself in his carelessness. He pushed it back down, rolling back for his sword to fend off others...

But most were already fleeing. He let the tip rest on the stone ground as he panted. He had no idea what the others had been doing in his time apart. But they were regrouping just out of his line of sight, so he brought the scimitar up again and got back to his feet.

-----

Mid'gha scrambled to the side, pressing herself to the side of oen of the cave walls. There was chaos about her as Goblins scrambled by. One came at hr with a rough shiv, but she kicked it square in the head, sending it ass-over-teakettle down the hall into several others. She watched mesmerized as Raka wielded the fire. It was getting very very warm in there, and she was about to try and fetch the crazed donkies when something tugged on her sleeve.

Looking down she saw it was Boil. She gave him a scolding glare, the perfect disapointed look any mother could give a child and waited.
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
Tuktuk led Boil into a separate tunnel, away from the goblins attacking (and losing to) Raka. It didn't take long for Boil to know what was going on and wasn't surprised to find that he was trapped in a dead end tunnel with Tuktuk blocking the way out. The larger goblin was smiling revealing cracked yellow teeth.

Tuktuk: Tuktuk bash Boil's head and be boss. Tuktuk be boss and then decides if Tuktuk keep as slaves or decides if make them into feast for Tuktuk.

Boil was shaking his head as if to deny the other goblin his plans. The big goblin shoved Boil hard and sent him tripping to the ground.

There was an explosion further down the tunnel. Tuktuk stumbled and turned from Boil. The smaller goblin bounced back to his feet with a rock in hand.

Boil: Boil is boss!

He screeched and swung the rock colliding with the side of Tuktuk's face, sending his lizard skin headdress flying and his jaw cracking. The big goblin stumbled and Boil jumped on his back and continued hitting him over and over again until Boil's hand was covered in blood and Tuktuk was no longer moving, or breathing.

Leaving the dead goblin in his wake, Boil followed the waves of heat back to where his captives were fighting off goblin attacks. The mean one was bathing the area in bright flame, scorching any that came near. When the fires abated and he picked up his sword, Boil slipped down during the chaos and found one of the women. When he tugged on her arm she gave him a scolding look that somehow made Boil feel uneasy and ashamed.

Boil: Boil will keep promise. Follow, follow.

He urged.
******
Edgar felt the boom of the explosion and heard Jacintha's warning. Stalagtites fell from the stony ceiling and skewered one of Edgar's soldiers. He cursed then called for his men to follow Jacintha and her band.

The rats may had escaped him. He would regroup on the surface and send his men into the bowels of hell if he needed to. He wouldn't fail.
******

Walker was trying to slip through the throng of goblins to reunite with his group when the explosion rocked the tunnels. It was odd, he could've sworn by the heat that Raka was ahead of him but the explosion had come from somewhere behind him. Had he gone the wrong way?

While holding his breath to remain in the shadows he concentrated on the sensation that had led him this far to find Jade and chose to trust it.

Then Aries kicked, the temperature in the air rose to uncomfortable levels. Barefoot goblins screeched as the hot stone burned the soles of their feet. Scorpio tossed and turned, demanding release like Aries. But, through force of will, Walker denied the stone and continued his search for Jade. As the goblin press changed directions, they flooded back his way.

He definitely knew which way to go now.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Jade and Shara kicked and swatted at any goblins that made it past Raka, and soon enough there were no more Goblins to hit. After that point, Jade went right for the horse and the donkeys. She crooned soothing words at them, gently caressing their necks, and trying to keep them together.

As Jade calmed them, she looked over at Raka.

Raka ran the back of his hand across his forehead. After he stopped his fire, the waves of goblins had receded, but not stopped. He utilized all that harsh training to carve a swath out of them with his scimitar. Thankfully, they were less bold with fewer numbers, and they sounded a shrieking retreat. He snarled after them like a beast himself, the metal tips of his dreadlocks still steaming from the heat.

Raka felt something at his elbow and spun to face it with blade raised.

Shara put a hand on his arm, and he met her eyes. They were calm and steady, and they held him. He felt the berserk drain out of him, and his scimitar clattered to the floor. When he made to step back and fetch it, Shara stopped him, grasping at his arm. He started to mumble something, but she stepped in closer and pulled him into an unexpected embrace.

"I was worried for you." She mumbled into his chest.

At first Raka didn't know what to do with himself. Then he gingerly returned the embrace with one arm. "I had it."

"I know." She pulled back and smiled up at him, but she didn't let go of his arm.

"We also seem to still have a guide." Mid'gha said from the other side of the tunnel. She looked over at the goblin - Boil, as it were, and gave him a smile. "It would seem that this was a misunderstanding, and our Goblin friend still wishes to deal with us."

Jade smiled at Raka and Shara, happier beyond words that they could have that moment. She had seen Raka soften in these days out in the desert. Not as if he didn't still train, and he was no less strong - but he showed more of himself now. It was nice, and it was nice for him that Shara encouraged it. She brought out such good in him.

When Mid'gha spoke, Jade looked over at the goblin in surprise. When Raka started to make his predictable retort, Shara was the one to interrupt him.

"We can't stay here. Besides, It isn't something Raka can't handle, as Boil can plainly see. Were he to have any more... misunderstandings along the way, that is." Shara smiled at the goblin.

Raka swallowed his flat negation of Mid'gha's choice of guides. He'd already led them into one trap. He let a little fire run from one eye to the other before squashing it again, just to Show Boil he still had some in him. "If I were you, I'd be sure that this next path is the right one."

Mid'gha tutted, and achingly got back to her feet, dusting herself off, and adjusting her headwrap. "Now now. I think we've all had quite enough excitement for one day. Shall we be off then?" She extended her hand to the goblin with a grandma's approving smile. She had a good feeling about this one. Funny enough, the little creature with his hands covered in gore reminded her of another foul tempered little boy.

"But... Walker?" Jade protested.

"Walker can find you anywhere." Shara said. Before anyone caught the romanticized notion in her words, she continued. "We can leave something, maybe?"

Mid'gha kicked the blanket full of poop. "He can follow that. I'm certainly not picking up anymore."

The girls exchanged a nervous chuckle as Raka picked up his scimitar again, sheathing it at his side. He kept one eye on the goblin always. "Fine. Lead on, Goblin."
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
Retreating left a bitter taste in Edgar's mouth, and following Jacintha to safety made it worse. It didn't help that he thought he saw her flash him a smug smile as they fled the falling rocks. Still, the weaklings would have to breach the surface and his fleet above would pick them up for certain. He would just have to wait a bit longer.

Edgar: Topside!

He shouted over the thunder of stone falling on stone.
****
Shara's words were truth, Walker would likely find Jade anywhere and it was no difficult task to do so in the tunnels. With a few shadows strides he brought himself up close to the group without revealing himself. He hesitated when he saw the goblin leading them. Was it a trap? However his impatience to see Jade urged him to rush the situation and leapt ahead of the line and stepped out in front of Boil. The point of his tusk appeared under Boil's chin and Walker looming tall above him.

Walker: Explain yourself goblin.

Boil screeched as the shadows parted to reveal the man. It was a good thing he didn't drop to his knees in immediate submission, he did throw up his hands and start begging for his life.

Boil: Boil sorry! Boil keep promise to Baba. He no stay by the Shadow or the Mean one. Boil know. Boil know!

Walker withdrew his weapon and checked everyone over with a sweeping glance. No obvious injuries anywhere though Raka was covered in blood, Walker suspected little if any of it belonged to him.

Walker: Edgar and Jacintha are headed away from us. We've escaped.

He thought how she let him go but kept that detail to himself for now.

Raka was flushed, the smell of smoke and char was heavy about him and his presence was making Scorpio lash about. No doubt the fires of Aries were unleashed. He gave his friend a nod.

Walker: You saved them. Good work.
*****
The magus was standing at his window, watching a hawk pluck a dove out of the sky when Aries was unleashed. The sudden rush of power was a sudden climax of power in his mind that left his skin numb for minutes after.

He didn't need Wretch's reconnaissance to pinpoint his prizes but the time still wasn't correct. It was getting close though.

Fiora must've seen a physical change, she came up behind him, cuddling up behind him with her breast pressed against his back to distract him, or soften his will. Her constant attempts were amusing though sometimes tedious.

Dima: Get off me woman. You needed only to ask and I would've answered. The Aries power is raging and with it I can feel the scorpion shifting. Soon it will be time to collect them.get ready.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Jacintha let out a piercing whistle that had her crew going off to the exit from whence they came. She dispatched as many panicked goblins as she could and before long, she and the others were marching back out through the hole and into the twilight of the desert. She wiped the back of her hand across her brow, and opened her mouth to command her men - when two of them fell, gurgling to their knees.

Several more rough crossbow bolts flew in her direction and she dove to the sand, shouting for the benefit of those who had not come out of the home yet. "Raider Ambush! Six crossbows at the least!" Then she pulled out her hooked blades, rolling up to her feet and charging in the first direction. She let out a tiring whistle and her men regrouped to do the same.

Inside, she couldn't believe her good fortune. This should give her query enough time to cover their tracks. Which would mean a loss for Edgar. Exactly what Dima had intended.

-----

Raka felt more then saw Walker's approach, and watched in muted malice as he threatened the little goblin guide. He spared the fiend a snarl whenever he looked in Raka's direction, but Shara's hand on his elbow spared the goblin from anything worse.

When Walker addressed him, Raka was ready to snap something witty back, and opened his mouth to do so - but Walker only told him he did a good job.

A good job? He used his stone! What if -What if -

But instead of arguing the point, Raka gave Walker a smirk laced with gratitude and some tension eased from his shoulders. My he had changed. Shara's tiny smile told him that she thought so too.

Mid'gha hummed quietly to herself, unphazed by today's events (seemingly) much to Jade's amazement. As they followed the twitchy little goblin, Jade attempted to give her wings a stretch at any available opportunity; wider cave passages, any openings in the stone, even if she crouched and stretched them up. She couldn't wait to get out of these confined spaces.

Soon enough, a breeze carried with it the smell of the desert. Mid'gha smiled and took out a piece of jerky she had saved extending it to the goblin. "I smell an exit. Very good!"
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Gigantor
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[ *  *  * ]
With katars dripping with goblin blood, a frustrated Edgar roared out from the tunnels across the sands to kill his enemy. He normally would revel in all of the blood spilling if not for the fact that he was currently failing a mission. He was losing to a weakling and a prized pigeon. His embarrassment came down his shoulders and into his arms as he split a raider's head. Gore was flying rough the air accompanied by the cries of battle and the laments of dying men.

Edgar stood alone at the centre of several corpses screaming his rage at the skies demanding more to kill. His cloak had fallen away, soaked by blood and guts, smearing his already wounded face giving him a lich-like appearance.
******
Boil was mute while the granny offered the morsel. His first reaction was to smell it then he tried to ignore it by turning his back. Then after only a few blinks he was snaking the meat out of her hand and squirrelling it away in one of his many pouches held from belts around his waist and across his chest. Humans always used spices like salt, the treat he would save for a better day. Perhaps she had more, he could try to steal but it seemed safer just to go along with what she said. She felt too gentle to be capable of hurting Boil and so, that would work for him for now.

His feet slapped the stone as he padded through the dark. The noise was a way for those without dark vision to follow him. He took them up, into the rocky hills where the pursuing humans would find it near impossible to follow.

The night was cold but smelled clear and when he heard the proper signals from the animals above he went back down to tell granny it was clear.

Boil: Come. Come.

He was careful not to tug to hard. The shadow was watching him.
******
Walker's gaze was never off Boil's back for more than a few seconds at a time. The goblin's demeanour felt different with Mid'gha around but goblins were a nuisance in Dei Lunath. It was a tough fact to accept that he was relying on one for his safety, and the safety of the girl who kept him from stalking through the shadows. He remained solid and at her side. Wanting to take her hand, to let her know the danger was behind them.

No, he couldn't do that. She needed a guardian now more than ever, it would endanger her to give in to his flights of fancy. He had to be steel. Images of his word breaking over Edgar's knee flashed in his mind. No, he had to be stronger than steel.

The guardian sigil is unbreakable.

And yet, he was never more than the length of her arm away from her. Should she need someone to touch.

When the goblin reported the exit to Mid'gha, WLker strode forward, tapped Raka on the shoulder to stand ready as he passed then jumped through the hole into the open sky.

The feeling of envelopment and then total freedom was always strange. Up one Walker was accustomed too. The coast was clear danger but he could hear the whinnies of horses and see the glow of distant fires. Threats were still looming. He threw a quick hiss down the tunnel to Raka.

Walker: Come out quietly.
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Oru
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Sol
[ *  *  * ]
Shara and Raka managed to steer the horse and mules clear with minimal bellowing, mostly because of Shara's gentle coaxing. Upon their exit however, Raka had to abandon the animals entirely to Jade, Mid'gha and Shara because he knew they could sense his tension.

He mounted the sands with Walker and scoured over the darkening night landscape. He too could hear the distant buzz of life, a whinny over the dunes carried by a dry breeze. He took a deep breath of the open air and rolled his shoulders. His breath came out in a short hiss. Too close. Edgar must be furious.

He chuckled to himself.

Shortly after the women coaxed the mules and the black steed out of the treacherous passage, they headed out over the sands again, under cover of darkness away from their near-miss. Jade remained close to Walker - and decided to play a game with herself. She fidgeted and changed her position in the line of travel so that if she couldn't brush his arm every once and a while, at least her shadow could. The thought made her smile.

Mid'gha noticed. As did Shara. But thankfully, neither said a word. SHara was busy with Raka, and Mid'gha was busy with Boil.

And the Desert toiled on.
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