Liope's warning is doubted by the Magistrate
Scene 1 of 2 Morgolic prepares to face the Snagar
Morgolic watched as Liope headed off down the trail. He was exhausted. The Scarab had been sucking at his vitality ever since the Snagar had taken up the chase. He had been surprised on removing it, to see the thing swollen with blood and bulging from its setting. Normally it hung loose barely adhering to his skin.
He was drained, like something had sucked the vitality from his body. Now, these damned mists made him feel drugged, yet at the same time, full of inexplicable energy. With an effort, he struggled once more to his feet. An oppressive fog swept low, a malevolent mist filled with foreboding. A scream pierced his awareness calling out from somewhere. A storm was coming; dark clouds with white bottoms. Lightning etched the sky and thunder boomed, getting closer.
Morgolic turned his head as a voice shrieked into his awareness. He forced his legs to move and saw afar the high cliffs overlooking the river. From the foggy mists, a dark energy began to soak into him. It warmed his body and his blood became hot and his mind tasted the potency. At first he could but shuffle, but gradually he drew strength from the powerful effect and started to jog along.
Scene 2 of 2: Cateyln races to the rescue.
A figure was running down the sand flat next to the river. Her name was Catelyn, and she came from a lineage of Dark Witches, who still clung to the memory of forefathers, long ago fallen in battle. She carried a staff and for a middle aged woman, flew like a sprinter. Down along the river she raced, struggling up the steep bank, clawing desperately with her fingers and digging with her staff.
That morning, she had been shocked to discover that the elf, upon who so much depended, was in mortal danger. He carried two venerated relics of the Coven, a Blood Scarab and the Sword of Orwald. In addition, flowing in his veins was a genealogical legacy that was priceless beyond measure.
Then, Morgolic had soared into the air and the line of sight was such that Cate could clearly read his thoughts. His intention to "reconcile" sent a chill down her spine. In desperation she tried to reach her daughter Liope, but the distance was so great, the best she could do was plant a compulsion. With her Mother, they left their cabin at the double-time, determined to rescue the Elf. Gabriel set about raising the mists hoping they would confuse and disorient the Snagar. Cate sprinted ahead maintaining telepathic communications. She was hoping desperately to reach the Morgolic before the Snagar did. Behind, at some distance, trailed her mother, struggling to keep up. She had filled a dispensing orb with the concocting powders, and twirled the glass on a chain. It steamed… as she recited a steady stream of incantations, working feverishly to induce the effects of the vapors. She called out telepathically to her daughter.
Hurry! Hurry! We must reach Morgolic before they do.
"I'm going as fast as I can," Cate answered, His thinking is cloudy and I can't break through.
How about Liope? the old Witch replied.
She was never taught to channel.” answered her daughter. The best I could do was trying and get her in position to help.
Help or get killed.... She's not ready for this...in no way prepared... what have we done to her? called Gabby.
When have I had time to train Liope?" Cate shot back.
You said she was on her way to the High Pasture. Can you see her yet?
I caught a glimpse earlier. She was walking down the trail picking mushrooms. She was close to where the Galreath landed.
'We're running out of time!" cried Gabriel, If we don't get to him, they'll rip him to shreds.
I see him now, mother! I see him..., he's staggering along. Can't you push the mists closer?
I thought I was, I really did. It takes time and the weight crushes down. Woe is me! I'm trying, by the gods I'm trying....Call out to him.
Run! Run for your life, called Cate, Look to the cliffs, over the river!
Scene 3 of 2: Morgolic and Cateyln confront Snagar.
The Snagar were unsettled by the change in weather and coming storm, but they took heart when they reacquired the scent at the pasture. It was somehow different and diminished but still discernable. At the same time a raising fog was making it hard to see. They were disconcerted, confused, and uncharacteristically fearful. But the smell was distinct and growing stronger. As the line of their advance came close, the first of them blundered into Morgolic. He was ready and swung his sword low, neatly severing the beast's leg. It snarled in pain and fell writhing to the ground. The Elf continued to run, heart pounding, as an inexplicipable draught of fire and ice coursed through his veins. Another Snagar reared up and Morgolic drove the point of his blade deep into the feline's chest. He spun to the side, pulling it free and continued to stagger towards the cliffs. Two more blocked his advance. A bolt of lightning and a crash of thunder split the sky over head.
Then he saw the apparition. A Witch running towards him, angry and hostile. Her look bespoke a cold fury and his blood curdled with intense and unbridled fear. He shuddered in terror as he saw her visage and the intensity of her glowing red eyes. The Snagar, focused on their prey, were turned about and never saw her coming. Cate's hair was blowing wild and her eyes gleamed like coals. She carried in her hands a burning staff and came upon them, swinging the fiery brand. She screamed hoarsely, an unbridled curse, summoned from the bowls of darkest hell.
"Die! you fecal spawn.... incest of obscenity!"
The first of the cat-creatures half turned as she struck, before exploding in a rain of hot vapor and body parts. The other was knocked to the ground. She fell upon the second without hesitation and he too, suffered the same. Stepping over the remains she reached out and grabbed Morgolic by the collar.
"Run! Run! to the cliffs.... to the cliffs."
He stumbled past in a stupor, his feet moving slowly, in an agony of motion. As he passed, she took his sword and stepped behind. His feet found the path leading to the smooth rocks at the edge of the cliff. He stopped abruptly looking down into the angry rapids below. A panic came over him and the fear of high places and deep waters stopped him cold. What his mind ordered, his body refused to obey. He turned about with pleading eyes; as one betrayed and full of shame.
Four more Snagar were bounding towards them.
Cateyln snarled at him over her shoulder "Jump! Jump!...your fears ruin everything.."
Morgolic stood frozen. He again willed his body to jump and once more it refused.
Scene 4 of 2: Liope runs to the Palisade only to have her warning doubted.
Liope ran faster than she ever imagined possible. As she broke free from the foggy mists her heart pounded and her legs surged, pushing her to the limits of control. At any moment she felt she might lose her balance and fall careening onto the trail. Her mind blazed with an awareness never thought possible. She tried to concentrate on the path but kept seeing flashes through the Elf's eyes as he struggled up towards the cliffs. When the lead Snagar burst upon him she almost lost her footing, but a part of her, never before experienced, took control and guided her like a well trained athlete.
The storm's intensity was at its peak when Liope reached the palisade. Lightning cracked and thunder followed close behind. Then came the driving rain. Her thoughts were on Morgolic and if she concentrated, she could still see flashes of vision through his eyes. She heard a distant voice calling out to him.
Run!, Run! it cried.
The men at arms on the Palisade saw her approach and noted in amazement the speed.
"Something must be chasing her," said one of the Militiamen, fitting a bolt into his crossbow.
As she entered the gate, the thread of her insight, snapped abruptly.
The Sheriff and several men at arms awaited. She ran breathless into the arms of one of the soldiers, nearly bowling him to the ground.
“What is it….? What have you seen?” demanded the Sheriff.
Liope’s eyes were wide and her breath short as she strained to answer. Finally, her quaking voice took hold, “Snagar! the Snagar are coming!”
Fear and muttering ran through the crowd.
“Where are they?” the Magistrate demanded.
“The High Pasture, West of town, where the trail climbs up from the river.”
“Couldn’t tell for sure,” she rasped, “They were still back in the tree line.”
“Amazing,” he uttered, “ And when you noted them… is that when you sounded the alarm?”
“Yes,“ she blurted. She could see the doubt in his mind, confirmed by the skepticism in his voice.
“Hmmmm, the Sheriff reflected, “You see Snagar, blow your horn and run to the village.”
"Such fleetness of foot." His mockery was not subtle.
"Don’t you believe me?" she snapped.
"If you saw a Snagar and blew the horn, you'd be dead in fifty paces." said the Magistrate, dismissively.
"I know what I’m saying."
"Then tell me what they look like... it's been awhile since I've seen one.."
Liope hesitated... True she had never actually seen one, but the Elf had, and the image was vivid in her mind.
"They’re twice your size with the look of a cat…running erect, noses sniffing, whiskers searching the air, twitching...Mouths full of curved fangs and paws with long claws."
The Magistrate took note. His skepticism changed from disbelief to a half doubt.
He turned, shouting to the men at arms...
"Heads up on the wall, this could be real... Stand stalwart, 'lest we be taken by surprise." Seeing their actions as they scurried to their posts was reassuring. "At least we're ready for the worst" the sheriff muttered. To Liope he said, quietly,
"I'm wary, but not convinced."
"Then next time I’ll keep silent,” she bristled.
"Not, if you saw as you say... I only question that you're alive to recount of it."
“If you don't believe me, go see for yourself.”
A mixture of anxiety and irritation went through the Magistrate. On one hand it made him mad to have a young girl impugn his bravery. On the other was the nagging doubt that she might be telling the truth.
“I don’t question that you saw something," he answered indignantly.
Turning to the gathering crowd, the Magistrate spoke,
“You can all rest assured. I'll go now, to personally investigate this matter.”
Calling the names of several stout lads, he assembled a party and led them out through the gate.
Scene 5 of 2: Liope goes to guardhouse and sees through Morgolic's eyes.
Liope went to the guard house to escape the rain... She had stretched the truth to the breaking point and hated having to do it. What else could I have done? she wondered. Morgolic told me to raise the alarm but otherwise keep silent. It was the closest she had ever come in her life to telling a lie and the conflict raged as she went back over every word.
Inside a fire burned on the hearth. She took a stool and shivered, rubbing her hands briskly. Her father came up behind her. His voice was emotional.
"When I heard the call, and couldn’t find you, I feared for your life. I've never been more frightened."
He put a blanket about her shoulders.
"I'm sorry I worried you," she said.
"We'll speak more of it later..." Then lowering his head he chided.. “Take care how you talk to the Magistrate. The sheriff's a good man, deserving of respect."
"I know," she answered, 'But he did everything but call me a liar."
"I too noted his doubt." the Smith answered. He kissed her head... "Stay here and wait for me, I've duties to attend."
She pulled tight the wool about her shoulders and shivered. Closing her eyes she wondered what had happened to the Elf. She felt about her waist and noted the pouch still there, held tightly in place by the cord. Thunder clapped and lightning etched the widows. A vision rushed into her mind. Through his eyes she saw Morgolic confronted by the Snagar. Then, standing next to him, she saw an apparition. She gasped... It was her mother.
Her mind recoiled in disbelief. Stunned she saw Cateyln, filled with rage, screaming defiantly at the Snagar. As she waved the long sword, their heads followed the motion of the tip, transfixed. The blade began to glow red hot and ribbons of flame in yellow and green swirled around it. They had reached the smooth rocks atop the cliff over the river.
"Jump! Jump! " Cate screamed.
Standing now to the edge of the precipice, she backed into the elf, who was riveted in fear. He turned about, unable to jump. With a hopeless desperation he drew his dagger and faced their attackers.
Cateyln raised the ancient sword of Orwald on high. Looking to the heavens she evoked an epitaph, all but lost in the mists of time. From the heavens came a thunderous crash. Concurrent, came the crackle and buzz of a dazzling bolt of energy. Lightening entered the point and raced down the blade. Through her body it coursed, giving off an aura of intense light. Her hair caught fire. Her skin shone with radiance and her bones glowed white, inside. A tremor ran the length of her body and she shook uncontrollably. Summoning the last of her strength, the Witch brought the blade to earth, lodging the tip into the rocks at their feet. The steel shattered and the ground began to shake. The Earth trembled and a fissure opened. About them the precipice began to teeter and sway. For an instant the two were suspended in motion, and then slowly began falling backward into the cold waters below.
"Mother! Mother!" Liope screamed, as her mind went blank.
Scene 6 of 2: Sheriff goes on Recon Patrol.
Crossing the river the Sheriff''s party climbed the low bluffs to a ravine close to the clearing. Their horns blared, as a warning to lurking enemies. At the mouth of the depression, Orphious motioned for silence and directed his men to make ready an ambush.
“If I see trouble," he explained, “I'll sound the alarm and lead any pursuit back through here. Whatever they be, we'll take them by surprise, and make a quick end to it.”
Having issued his order, he took Dumar, his lieutenant, to where the trees thinned and the ground transitioned into a broad expanse of grassy plain. As they moved further into the open they came suddenly upon signs of close combat. The severed paw did not go unnoticed. In several places the ground was still red with the carnage. From the blood trails it looked as if several dead or wounded had been dragged West. This was not what the sheriff expected and the evidence of it left him shaken. His own vulnerability came to mind.
He remembered an encounter with the Snagar, ten years earlier, a confrontation that left half the section torn to pieces. He trembled, recalling his panic and the voice of Sergeant Gilliad crying. "Form up! form up..! Shoulder to shoulder lads, shoulder to shoulder!" They had barely closed ranks in time to fight off the onslaught and he remembered watching the fate of those unable to reach the perimeter. He shuddered at the recollection.
“There was a fight here," Orphious told his deputy, "Less than an hour ago."
"Perhaps we've seen enough?" Dumar offered.
In haste the two scrambled back to their waiting men and wasted little time returning to the village. Once inside they were besieged by the townspeople demanding to know the situation.
“What did you find?" came inquiry from all sides.
The Sheriff reached into his knapsack for the severed paw. An awed silence fell over those gathered about. Raising it for all to see he spoke.
“There's this and more evidence to the West, that Liope's warning was genuine. Tonight we'll be on high alert and tomorrow I'll lead the Militia to reconnoiter."