Quantum Warrior: Silence fell at the table. Even Barbar stopped his humming.
Before we Quantum warriors lie the spoils of all our kindness, of all our good sportsmanship. The centerpiece, a blown glass archer, gift from the Haroun leader himself, magically held together through Mage's "super adhesive" spell, it having been wrecked by countless visits of the DZ's children. The Dragua had granted Ogre a ceremonial spear; sadly, the head of that spear turned up missing after the last visit by the DRG. Reddman's beautiful bookcase, relic of a forgotten battle joined by Q on behalf of an ancient Slaanri mystic, two shelves broken under the weight of a drunken OW.
"All of these damages have been incurred with our more gentle self immune to the slanders of bad company," the Queen spoke, but stared briefly at an attendant with curiously Ronin-like features. "In our time, we done battle with the most worthy of opponents, and taken side with the least of allies; this, we are afraid, has brought us little but the spoils of a good conscious."
My eye, too lit my Her Majesties' aura, turned, oddly enough, at this point through the window. I was not daydreaming, no, but a searching glance I did cast on the remnants of our garden. What was once our sanctity, now grew close; once our vibrancy, somewhat withered; once our reclusion, so immediate as the mole on LadyJade's nose. We, though mostly enjoy, do not take much part in the caretake of our garden, and this is why attention is brought to the place:
"The Horse Clan, beasts as they are, have been feeding their steeds on our lawn, as we know. Wicked beasts, those men, I thought; but, given Aethendor's problems with sunburn, and we are all aware of how Max puts on a blister, I then thought it best to have those HC perform those functions in our garden not suitable for men of our incidence."
But she did not plan on their hygiene. The HC had been granted the run of the estate, from Mylyrithia to Ilonth, but, as all the people who follow herds do, chose to stay near the predictable source of water. Unfortunately, for my group of warriors and Our Queen, Timekiller had devised a mechanical solution, whereby a tiny wheel instrumented the distribution of water according to a scheduled time, across the garden.
The HC chose the location just outside the beds of our garden to camp, sleep, slumber, eat once a day, and then get on with the business of sleeping.
"We expected them to camp by the dam Oroborous had devised. They did not. They camped at the head of our lawn. In our gardens, they worked. We expected the very best of their work, coming, as they did, on the recommendation of the Mystic Warriors" (of note here, a break to the silence as laughter is disguised as a two minute coughing spree,) "... Regardless, they have failed us."
It seems, the HC are not only solitary creatures, they happen to be private ones, if the lay of the land affords the luxury.
"And they've crapped in our garden for the last time."
The many of us have no doubt of this, and join fully in the chorus:
"Off with their heads!"
Tevin-HC: Tevin approached the small tavern and smiled at the sound of laughter coming from within. Stepping inside he saw the room filled with warriors from many different clans. The Annual Armistice was in effect and spirits were high as was evident by the singing, laughing and empty mead flagons scattered on every table. Tevin spotted a few HC riders sharing a table with Reeper-MW while Dogbite-OW relaxed on the floor working on a sizeable bone of some sort.
Tevin sat down in one of the chairs and ordered a round for the house when one of the serving girls walked by. Amidst the cheers he added an order of Cannellini Pizza for his table and a fresh order of BBQ Ribs for Dogbite.
“Hey Tev, did you hear about the Quantum?” shouted a DRG from across the room.
Tevin took a quick review of the room but spotted no Quantum warriors in attendance. “Not a word but I have been…away for a bit. Dogbite and I took a holiday of sorts that didn’t quite work out as well as I had expected but,” he added looking down at massive war hound, “I am hoping there are no hard feelings. Anyway, what about the Quantum?”
“Well, rumor has it they have been telling people that your riders have been doing their farm and garden work for them. Can ya’ believe that?” the DRG laughed and was joined by most around the room except for the HC. Tevin’s face had lost all color while the other HC had come up out of their chairs with rage clearly showing on each face.
“Umm, what?” asked a BHG warrior. “What’s the big deal?”
“The HC do not garden. We do not farm. We do not work the soil in any way,” Milo answered. “We are nomadic by nature and it is against the will of our gods to till the earth. The Quantum could have offered no greater insult than to call us ‘dirt farmers’. They may have just begun something they will be hard pressed to finish.”
“What else have they been saying?” asked Tevin to all gathered in the room.
“I heard they have been insulting nearly everyone and that their Queen has gone all dark and bad again!” chimed in some independent warrior from the back.
“GreenLntrn has left our clan to join the Quantum,” Big C said. “RICH and I were talking with him just yesterday about a meeting the Quantum had. He told us the Quantum are out to prove their might and are going to destroy any who get in their way. During the meeting they called the DZ clumsy, the DRG thieves and the OW drunkards. They also insulted the beauty of LadyJade-IN. Oh, and they belittled the power of the MW. But mostly…they called for HC blood.”
“And Green will stay with them? He will ride against us?” asked Elyas420?
Tevin slowly stood and looked about the room. “What the other clans do will be up to them. The Armistice ends tonight. For our part the HC will not be looking for trouble with any clan other than the Quantum. With Khaldun in the state it is now…warriors missing, hellfire, entire clans missing that should not be too hard. But the Quantum? They shall pay! HC, let’s cut this party short and head back to camp. We have some planning to do?”
“What’cha gonna do to ‘em Tevin?” asked one of the barmaids.
“Check out the Khaldun Times. It should be reported there day after tomorrow.
* * * * *
Article appearing in the Khaldun Times two days later:
“Reports began coming in yesterday of a surprising turn of events. The HC had been the guests of the Quantum during negotiations concerning the dynamic duo, Ghoti and Hugz. An alliance of HC and Q vs. the twin powers had nearly been completed when the HC withdrew from the talks over what is rumored to have been a grave insult to their clan from one of the lesser Quantum warriors.
Apparently as Tevin and his delegation were leaving the meeting hall other HC riders were carrying out a series of attacks which have left the entire Quantum clan in a state of disarray. The HC, with a thoroughness thought impossible for a group of nomads, have salted every bit of land used by the Quantum for growing crops therefore rendering the land useless for some time to come. Not only have the farmlands been salted but their gardens as well. Entire orchards have been thinned, a process where an area of bark is removed from the trunk of a tree in a pattern going all the way around so as to deny the tree any nutrients thus killing the tree in a short period of time. In a very short period of time the entire agricultural base of the Quantum Clan has been obliterated. Reports have also come in that the stored food goods have been taken by the HC and that even the gardening tools have been removed with the promise that the Quantum will get them back, and we quote, “after we have beaten these tools down and remade them into swords, spears and daggers.”
In one final insult the HC short sheeted all the beds, put saran wrap over all the toilets and loosened all the caps on every pepper shaker they could find.
At last report the HC have vacated the Quantum lands and moved back out into the open plains they call home.
When asked to comment the Queen of the Quantum could only say, “I don’t know how this happened. How could Tevin have ordered such a thing? After all, he is so cute! I am to upset to speak further.”
Tevin-HC: "What do mean that everything looked normal again?" Tevin asked as Bean took a seat at the table. "We practically turned that place into a desert before we left! How can all be green and right after that?"
"A great magic was unleashed," Bean answered folding his hands before him and looking Tevin square in the eye. "All we did has been for naught."
"I disagree!" interjected Cup. "The damage we did remains fresh in their minds. They have insulted us and we retaliated harshly. So what if they restored their lands. You didn't actually want them to starve did you?"
"Heh, no. Not starve to death anyway." Tevin chuckled.
"I am afraid there is more to tell," Bean continued once he had everyone's attention once more. "The Queen was the one who restored the land."
"Impossible! She is not that strong!" said Jammer as he leaned forward.
"She gave herself to the magic. Her 'life force' if you will was consumed but in the end that sacrifice healed her lands and...her people as well. Part of her strenght now lies within each of them."
"She's dead? Kjellon is dead?" Tevin's voice cracked as he asked the questions. "I never...I mean, how could this have happened? I wished her no harm."
"She will not die forever," Big M spoke up as he laid his hand on Tevin's shoulder. "My fear is what she will return like."
"What she will return like?" Tevin asked. "What do you mean by that?"
"She sacrificed all she was to restore her people, all that was good and loving and merciful. Her people have that within them now but divided, weakened. When she returns it will be as a very dark queen indeed as she will be without goodness, love and mercy. We should prepare for her coming for when she does awaken...I am sure she will want to meet with you again Tevin."
Quantum Warrior:We Quantum followed as the few Horse Clan we captured pulled our Queen to the altar, chained like the slaves they were born as. Our kind does not generally resort to such barbarian tactics, so we dressed them in Tu-tu's to make the event seem more festive.
Even the pink frill could not lighten our mood, in as much as our stomachs were empty. Our orchards had been spoiled, a single bite taken from every apple; our cattle, every udder sucked dry (and every heifer, well, let's just say: they were better off than the sheep.) Worst, our store of suckers had been stomped into crumbs, then, by some mysterious means, "reconstituted" to a pasty goop.
We knew these things could be undone. Although we were hungry, we had no worries that our Queen would be able to restore all to it's untouched form, without much ceremony. Little did we know, that our parade was more of a funeral procession.
All seems fine, at first. We take our places in the round, about the Matrix hall, each warrior climbing the tower to his appointed place, so that it is possible that each may be seen by the other, even around the pillars and the 200 or so feet of height between the farthest. Our Queen, having prepared herself in the dress of the occasion (which is to say, and this is really why we're all Quantum, the very flimsy gown which will be totally consumed by the magic in the process,) is drawn into position in the center of the hall.
When all is silent, and the HC have been released, the tower is sealed. The Queen nods, Max throws the switch, and instantly the hall is filled with sounds of every magic, the birth of every magical creature can be witnessed behind the landscape of every aura running through Khaldun. Then, just as quickly, the mass becomes a single shape, as each warrior draws a portion of the stuff to him, the center of the tower clears around the single beam of light falling from the apex of the tower. The beam widens, the Matrix is drawn further to the sides of the tower as the light begins to reach the floor, the Queen rises.
My memory does not allow accurate description of the following events, if only because my eye is not yet accustomed to the tricks this event plays on the senses. Suffice to say, bad company is most bothersome when given free roam. It would seem, though our Queen had specifically warned against activity on the tower, that a certain Bearded Hobbit had somehow sneaked his way into the complicated mechanism of the roof of the tower. As the light fills the tower, our warriors act to draw the Matrix to the circumference of the tower. However, as the gears ground away towards the completion of their circuit, one was bound, and the roof, by a fraction of an inch, did not open completely.
Our Queen, alas, realized the problem, but continued the ceremony regardless. Our warriors, who, while mostly more acquainted than I to the magic, were not as perceptive and continued with her, unawares.
When my eyes cleared, the spell had been cast. It is my duty, in such events, to lead the younger members of our clan out of the chamber, and to make sure that they have their eyes covered and that they are not peeking. I was just to the door, my charges in tow, when I smelled it: Burnt Chocolate.
Through the careful investigation of Solid Snake, the culprit of the mishap associated with our Queens death was discovered. The Quantum Queen, perished as a result of a candy bar misplaced by a Bearded Hobbit amongst the mechanisms of the Matrix. Normally, we would be much less than angry, and associate the fact that our Queen is dead with the grinning face of a bearded hobbit woman (they're even cuter than the Mystic Warrior leader.)
This time, though.....
Dogbite: The proud dog looked up as the tower's roof closed with a final clunk, and the darkness swept out from behind the pillars to fill the tall cylinder. Against the echoes of the roof mechanism he heard the familiar sound of wings grabbing air. He felt the slight weight as the black bird landed on his collar.
(He had worn one of his dress collars, the gray dragonscale with mother of pearl spikes. A handle was set into the top, made from a ring of abalone, which doubled as a perch.)
"I have it -- I have Her!" He felt Raven's words slide into his consciousness. "It was floating there, just as Everyone said, just below where the roof would close. It started to wobble, and I took it. Let's away!"
Dogbite, for indeed it was the canny canine, turned into the darkness, padding softly down a dusty corridor. Two left turns, a right, and they were out into the afternoon sun. The street was deserted. "Go now" he thought to Raven.
The black bird spread his wings, then cracked them down as he leapt into the air. Dogbite watched as he circled up, then headed across the city towards Dragonloft, the ancient tower which served as the OW quarters in Jacaranda. As Dogbite watched, the sun glinted off the gold ring in Raven's beak: the ring, which held the essence, the soul, of Queen Kjellon.
Tevin-HC: "Any word?" Tevin asked Basileus as they stood on a bluff overlooking the HC camped below.
"Not since Tazz and Evil(Eye) got back," B replied then started to chuckle. "Can you believe the Quantum put those two in pink tutu's and made them drag the queen around?"
"B, it's really not funny," responded Tevin although the thought of Tazz in a tutu was enough to make anyone from any clan smile. "Kjellon may have been the Quantum Queen and the gods know we do not get along well with that band of cutthroats but I was quite fond of her."
"Quite fond? Head over heels is more like it," said Basileus though his tone was soft.
"Whatever. Still...can't believe she is gone. And now, according to Bean, we have her return to worry about."
"Actually something Tazz said may interest you. According to him, at the end of the ceremony which claimed the queen's life there was a...disturbance."
"Disturbance? What do you mean?"
"Tazz saw something but he is not sure what it means. As the Queen 'gave up the ghost' so to speak he saw a large black bird swoop above us then descend to land atop a certain canine we all know."
"Raven and Dogbite! Now what the he-ll are they up to?"
Ghoti:So is Dogbite an actual furry or some kind of twisted virtual furry?
Tevin-HC Dogbite: Although not originally born as a canine this warrior of the OW clan has taken on the form of a great war dog. Well versed in the use of magic he is both sharp witted and sharp tongued. Be warned he is able to alter his form at will.
For further details regarding the one known as Dogbite search into past threads in this very room for a post titled, "Darkwars...Who is in?" first posted by myself.
Kjellon: A brief second of reality can last years in a dream. While the events of the last week were coming into play a greater understanding was pounding on Tevin's brain like a drunk arriving at the pub early.
When he had time to sleep images flooded his mind of a lady's body. Elegant and petite. She floated above the ground a few feet. She wore a thin white sash that rippled in the soft breeze encircling her. Her face was shrouded by a faint cloud.
Tevin felt her in his blood. He knew it was the Queen. Even though his temperment was rational and calm for his men's observance he was beaten inside like an egg. His heart weeped and his mind cried out. All this time thinking he was in control and he slipped. His slip up cost the Queen her life. His regrets were many and he kept them private.
These dreams. What did they mean? Why was he seeing her there like a ghost in his mind everytime he closed his eyes.
Suddenly he remembered what he was told about her return. Rumors had been sweeping the countryside of the Queen's return. No evidence that such tales were true had surfaced but this feeling in Tevin's gut told him that it was.
He wanted to feel better inside that she would return, but something wasn't right. He couldn't put his finger on it directly but he knew that it wouldn't be good.
Two days had passed since he saw the Queen in his dreams. No sign of his scout he sent to spy on the Quantum.
He traveled that night alone to observe for himself their actions. He rode over countless fields and hills. He approached the gateway to the Quantum Matrix. It was gone. Only a scarred patch of grass remained.
He stood shocked.
"I knew you would come," a voice said from behind. "I thought much sooner."
He recognized the voice. It was the Queen. But something seemed different. He spoke without turning around. "I was just looking for you."
Tevin turned around. Before him stood the image of his dreams. The Queen floating a few feet from the ground wearing a sash. Her eyes were closed.
"What is wrong, my love, you don't like what I have become?"
"Oh, no it's not that. I just....."
She screamed opening her eyes and moving toward him. The wind picked up under her feet. Her dress was whipping around madly as she approached.
She stopped only a foot from Tevin and leaned forward staring into his eyes.
"Don't try to flatter me with your honeyed words. I am nothing like the lady you once knew. My eyes have been closed to that reality. I lured you here only to tell you one thing."
Tevin dropped to one knee. Mostly due to his disbelief of what was happening but also to fight of the tears he felt growing.
"Because I once loved you I will give you the chance to move on. I will bring no harm to you or your men. They are of no interest to me. I have no mercy in my bones anymore. I do this only out of honor for what you are. I can sense your feelings inside and by coming here I am given proof of it. You will live forever with the knowledge that you destroyed me and are responsible for what I am becoming."
"Becoming?" Tevin asked looking up.
"Yes, I am not even back in this world yet. My power is only beginning to shape. I will return to this world when a suitable body is found. Then I will destroy all those who deny me my place in this world."
She grabbed Tevin's hand and pulled him to his feet.
"The torture of living with this is more than painful than anything I can do to you. I don't want to kill you. I don't want to fight you. Just stay out of my way and I will not pursue you. For all that we once had know this is truth.
"But what is to come in the next few rises of the sun is beyond your ability to understand. By the time you figure it out, it will be too late. Go now to your men and make your decisions. I will order your safety. But as the days unfold you must keep to your affairs. I will destroy you if you interfere. I will not hesitate."
Tevin was in shock. He wanted to say so much but he couldn't muster a word. He mounted his horse and rode a few yards out then stopped and turned back to her.
She just watched him. No emotion came from her face.
Tevin rode away with the moon on his back and the world in his mind. What had he done? What was going to happen now? Could he face the Queen and actually order her death if needed?
Only the morning would know. And morning was not very far way.
Barbar: Barbar fell to his knees nearly in tears. It had been a week since the Queen’s “death” but the few images he had still lay vividly within his mind.
“How could I have let this happen! I am such a fool.”
“It is not your fault,” said a familiar female voice.
“And your certainly not a fool more of an ingrate.” Another familiar voice remarked.
“Who’s there!? Show yourselves!” cried Barbar unsheathing his blade while carefully analyzing the room.
A hand fell upon his shoulders and instantly he recognized her soft touch.
“Valkyr is that you?” he asked turning around swiftly.
She smiled “No it’s an ox cart run!”
“It is you!!” Barbar overwhelmed with joy gave Val a friendly hug. “Um you look different...”
Valkyr appearance had changed. Once one of the most feared monsters in Khaldun she seemed to have shed her demonic features and grown beautiful over the years. He coughed for the stench was still potent.
“You don’t take baths do you?”
“Hmm you look different yourself. What happened to the whole undead dreadlord look?”
“You bought a friend didn’t you?”
“Obviously.” he said as he revealed himself from the shadows.
“ELFLORD!” he screamed nearly having a heart attack at age 14.
“Unlike the village people I’m coming back!” said the younger elf.
“Ahem. We came as soon as we heard the news.”
“I know it is all my fault.”
“Bah! Stop beating yourself up and let us go do something about it”
A picture of the Queen flashed in his mind. But it was different this time. Something was missing but he was not exactly sure. An evil grin creeped across his face. “Revenge” he muttered.
“Eh whatever suits you.”
“Gather all our forces notify every general and tell them to assemble on the outskirts of the HC homelands by morning!”
The sun rose over the grassy hills the HC called home. The call to battle was quick and all 16 generals each with a separate army of his or her own stood upon the hills opposite of the primitive but effective forts the enemy had set up on HC borders. The living the undead, wizards, foot soldiers, archers and Calvary all stood poised ready for the call. Barbar sat silently contemplating his decision of a full scale invasion of the HC homelands.
“Sir all armies have assembled!” shouted one of Barbar’s captains. Turning to him he calmly gave the order and nodded. “Leave no soldier standing!” A horn was blown then another and then another till all 16 legions were in full motion. A massive wave of destruction approached the HC.