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post #1 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-20-08, 03:35 AM Thread Starter
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Default The Frozen North

Hello to all! I told OXC that I would start writing before the week ended, and it it now late Saturday, so I'd best get to it! This is the sequel to Oathbreaker, my first Fantasy fic, if you want to read it I'd be happy to PM you the whole thing.

So, without gilding the lily, and with no more ado, here we go!

CONTENTS

1: Prophecies
2: Journey's End
3: Icefang
4: Lights and Clockwork
5: Sydney's Promise
6: Foreboding
7: Four Winds
8: The Storm
9: Holdout
10: Arrival
11: Drakonire
12: Shadow's Fall
13: A Psalm Every Day
14: Heretic
15: No Prisoners, No Mercy
16: Restoration
17: Through the Ashes
18: Irieus
19: His People
20: A New Beginning

-Dirge
----------------------------------------------

PROPHECIES
---------------

The old world is ending.

I have known for near an age. The young races of the world are growing, while the Old Folk wither and die, like day passing into night. The ancient keep of Icefang, once the jewel of the northern kingdom, lies abandoned, forgotten by the creatures that plague the Wastes. I wait in darkening halls, alone with only this clockwork tower as company, waiting in dying hope that one will rise to claim Icefang as their own, and return it to glory.

I am waiting for you, young one.


Althalos jerked awake.

Sydney was sitting on her haunches at the mouth of the cavern the pair were staying in for the night. The great black dragon yawned widely, showing her razor fangs. Her wings shuffled against the walls as her eyes scanned the cold wastes for signs of foul creatures or marauders. Her thoughts brushed against his.

You were speaking in your sleep, little one.

I had a dream.

Would you like to share it?

Not really a dream. I saw a frozen tower, full of cogs and wheels... a clockwork army. A single, robed figure. I believe he was attempting to speak to me.

They say many witches dwell in the Northern Waste. Perhaps he was one?

Maybe.... but he seemed perfectly benign.

The poisoned apple may look harmless.

A saying? From you? You're growing
wise in your old age.

My old age of twenty?

You're at least the size of a Steam Tank. You're old.

Not old, little one. Just bigger then you. And look at you! You need to eat more. Your armor's loose.

Yes, I know. I haven't found anything to hunt in nigh two days. I'm down to six crusts and a few dried jerkeys.

Let me loose. I'll be back in an hour with a brace of deer. Think you can keep yourself alive until then?

Until then, friend of my heart?

Until then, little one.


Althalos stood in the cave mouth for a long time, pondering the vision, as he watched Sydney fly off into the night.

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

Hat in the Ring

Last edited by Dirge Eterna; 12-24-08 at 04:28 AM.
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post #2 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-21-08, 02:57 AM Thread Starter
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JOURNEY'S END
---------------

Althalos shivered. Sydney flew low to avoid the horrific downdrafts and bone-chilling cold of the upper clouds in the Wastes. The dragon under him was as warm as the stones of a fireplace, but from waist up, he was freezing under his light travelling armor and cloak.

I told you to wear something else. sniffed Sydney.

Excuse me for not growing scales.

Justify it how you will, little one.


She banked hard, floating over a mercenary encampment. The men shouted in rough tongues and shook spears, though none dared loose an arrow. Haze, Althalos' familiar, flowed from the hilt of the sword, Vrolmgang, into Althalos' armor. Wherever the creature touched, he felt a little warmer. Chittering happily, the familiar slicked out of his armor and back into the hellish-looking Runeblade.

He adjusted one of the straps on Sydney's side, making her snort as it tickled her underbelly. The strap carried a waterskin the size of Althalos' leg, and was essential for survival in the North.

After four more hours of grueling, frozen flight, Sydney squinted as she saw something in the mists.

Little one, she thought. I do not think that is natural.

Althalos looked up from a parchment map he was reading.

By Sigmar...

A towering, iron-clad fortress rose from the Wastes like an iceberg at sea, covered in engraved plates and snow-encrusted battlements. It was fully two miles wide and long, and a good four hundred feet high. A single, rune-covered gate stood against the Wastes. The entire fortress was completely covered in thick iron, with brass scrollwork decorating the outer reaches. A dockyard for dozens of skyships rose above the main tower, and lights glowed from fully six forges. The tower was crusted with icicles and snowbanks, giving it a chilled, ancient feel. A banner showed a black sword against a white backround, surrounded by black cogs and gears. A single yellow star shone at the sword's point, representing the North Star, Althalos guessed.

A glint of light warned him, and Sydney dove hard as a dozen bullets flew over the pair. A second volley fired from the fort, catching Sydney in three places and making her level out beneath the men's line of sight. She swept up the edge of the fort, landing on the parapet. A man with thick goggles and a long rifle stared in stupefied astonishment a second before he was consumed in ravening fire. Althalos leapt to the parapet, swinging. A half-dozen strokes saw three more men dead. A second sqaud of riflemen lined up shots over the barricaded tower to Sydney's left, and Althalos pulled the gold-chased pistol Kyyl had given him from his belt. A single seventy-caliber brass slug blew the majority of a guard's head from his shoulders. Two more shots rang out, and Althalos jumped back as the sharpshooters' fire spanked off the metal around him. Sydney swung around and more fire burst from her jaws, immolating the remaining men.

A dozen men with shorter, stubbier weapons exited a tower down the wall, accompanied by two men heaving a huge, multi-barreled weapon. The gun chattered as one man turned a crank. Sydney gasped as a half-dozen of the slugs chewed through her scaly hide and wounded her. Althalos roared in rage and shared pain, firing back with a burst of Death magic, the black bolt flying from his glove to strike the man turning the crank. Within seconds, the man was a blackened skeleton, to the horror of his partner, who dropped the gatling weapon and ran. The leader of the shotgunners shot the man point-blank, then glared at the body before resuming the charge. Althalos' pistol barked, downing the burly commander, but his fellows came on. Three more fell to accurate shots before Althalos drew Vrolmgang with a flourish, and leapt into the midst of the men. He swung left, then right, cleaving a man's body into three pieces. Sydney clawed her way back upright and snaked her head down, clamping her jaws onto a soldier and biting down. Blood fountained as the shorn legs fell to the ground. Two men leapt onto Althalos, pinning his sword arm. A shotgun entered his field of vision, and he closed his eyes.

"Stop!" roared a voice. The sound of Sydney chewing through a second team of men instantly ceased, and the men pinning Althalos looked up.

"Did ANYONE bother to find out who this traveller is BEFORE they opened fire?" bellowed the voice. The men stammered denials and stepped back, helping Althalos up. A man in a deep red cloak stood on the wall, in front of a dozen metal-clad soldiers. As Althalos looked closer, he realized the "men" were in fact machines, clockwork soldiers. Small steam pipes rose from their backs, and they clicked and whirred as their weapons whipped from target to target. Their leader, obvious by the gold paint on his head and shoulders, had a small mortar attached to his arm. The clockwork man held a torch over the fuse of the weapon.

Althalos' savior turned to the leader of the shotgunners. "You! Where is Delanus? He's supposed to be in charge of the garrison!"

The man looked at his feet. "I...I don't know, sir."

"Damned right you don't! Go get him! He's probably in one of the taverns below, wasting my goddamned time as usual!"

The man dropped his weapon and sprinted for the tower.

The red-robed warrior moved toward Althalos, looking at the shabby half-elven. Althalos' clothes were ragged by the week of travel, and he had scrapes and bruises from a dozen scuffles with the Northern Wastes' natives. Sydney was a little better, her scales had turned a light grey from the dust, and her eyes were red-rimmed from the pain of the gunshots. Althalos flinched in pain as they twinged.

"We don't get the likes of you here." said the man.

Althalos brushed off the comment. "She's hurt. She needs medicine."

The man looked behind Althalos, no doubt trying to spy a woman with a crucial ailment.

"Who?" asked the man, cocking an eyebrow.

"Her!" thundered Althalos, pointing Vrolmgang at Sydney.

A man wearing white robes hurried over to the mage, and he pointed at the dragon. The apothecary nodded and pulled a set of heavy forceps from his pocket. Althalos gritted his teeth in pain as the medicae pulled the heavy slugs out of Sydney's hide. Bandages were placed over the wounds, and a few near-misses were stitched with thick twine. Sydney licked the wounds with her long tongue, fussing over the medic's work.

"Now then," said the red-robed man. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Zacharias, of Icefang Keep and leader of the Clockwork Temple."

"Althalos Half-Elven, the Drakonire, and this is Sydney Darkscales." said Althalos, indicating himself, then Sydney. She growled at the man as her name was mentioned.

"I apologize for the guards. The Icefang Sharpshooters are trained to fire on anything out in the Wastes. Most of it isn't friendly, and none of it has any business in Icefang. So, my friend, what bringa you to the Wastes?"

"I was told by a dying man that I belonged out here."

"A dying man? Hmpf! Everyone's a seer nowadays. That's why I became a master of Clockwork. No changes, no mystic rites, just you, your tools, and a pile of metal."

"As fascinating as that is, can we go inside? May we stay here for the night?"

"You can stay here forever, should you choose, lad! I've never seen better aim with a revolver in my life! Long rifles, sure, but Icefang is famous for those. Handguns are something of a rarity here. Come, the keep is below. It will come with, no?"

Sydney started at the mention of it.

"She will come with, yes." growled Althalos. Zacharias nodded and led them through a huge, winding starcase down into the keep's depths. Althalos expected the warren of stone tunnels that populated most keeps, but Icefang was evidently just a facade. Inside the walls and the massive ceiling, a sprawling, multi-tiered city was built. Stone and iron huts hung over each other, while cables spanned the keep's walls, suspending fat cars full of people or supplies. A single metal ziggurat emblazoned with the sword-and-cog insignia rose above everything else, soaring out of sight into the keep's ceiling and out the top.

"Behold, Icefang." said Zacharias with a sweeping gesture. "We don't get many travelers, this north in the Wastes, but when they do come, it's a big thing. Don't be shocked if you recieve gifts, or marriage proposals, depending on who you talk to. Now come!"

Althalos looked over the city with amazement, Sydney with something like respect. The dragon leaned down and nudged Althalos forward, following Zacharias down the long steps to the city plaza. A stone statue of a robed man holding a blacksmith's hammer stood in the center of the square, which was bustling with people of all shapes and colors. Althalos saw people from the Empire, Brettonia, Araby, and a dozen others all crammed into the far north. The mass of people and the numerous fires raised the temperature to comfortably warm, and Althalos removed his cloak. Suddenly, as Sydney stepped into the square, every pair of eyes swung to face Dragon and Rider.

An awkward silence decended on the square, Althalos, Sydney, and Zacharias on one side, and hundreds people of Icefang on the other. A small child broke the lines, walking up to Sydney. The boy's mother made a futile grab for him before she started at the sight of Sydney's teeth and stopped.

The boy looked up at the dragon, who cocked her head at the sight. Sydney reached down, and the mother gave a startled yelp. Sydney touched the boy on the head, and sniffed at his hair. She snorted as she smelled him, making the child giggle and squirm. The boy ran back to his mother with a broad smile, and the entirety of the crowd cheered. Althalos managed a sheepish wave before sprinting after Zacahrias down a sidestreet. The building the tech-mage had led them to was large, with a single spiral stair leading to a wide second floor, with a huge hole in the side, apparently for ventilation, but would serve perfectly for Sydney to get in and out of the dwelling. Althalos looked at the man.

"Thank you."

Zacharias bowed slightly. "Not at all, traveler! Tomorrow, I'll take you to visit Lord Icefang himself, and then you will be free to stay or leave!"

Sydney snorted and flapped her wings once, rising into the house and settling down on the wide, padded floor.

Get some sleep, little one. We shall put this puzzle together tomorrow.

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

Hat in the Ring
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post #3 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-21-08, 03:00 AM
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Dirge, this is excellent work as always.

One criticism, the name 'Sydney' struck me as very odd for a Dragon. I know it's a sequel, but why Sydney? And not something -ithnir like the rest of the Dragons?



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post #4 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-21-08, 03:06 AM Thread Starter
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I'm not sure. Really I just made up all the names, and I decided I would probably contract arthritis trying to write some dragonesque name over and over, so I decided on something simple and quick. Laziness is probably my excuse. But I also have a cop-out! Seeing as Althalos found her as an egg, presumably he named her. So, maybe there's something to that, or you can stick with the "Dirge does not like to write mind-pretzeling words over and over" excuse.

Thanks for the feedback!
-Dirge

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

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post #5 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-22-08, 04:46 AM Thread Starter
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ICEFANG
--------

Sydney's eyes fluttered open. She was laying on her side, her long body curved gently around the room. Althalos lay against her stomach, breathing deeply. She raised her head, careful not to move or wake Althalos, and stared out onto the city. People bustled to and fro, goods were thrown from roofs onto carts, and small cranes hoisted them back up. The very edges of the keep were farmland, crops being able to grow in the warmer interior of the fortress. As she watched, a dozen men with fat goggles and rifles walked by, looking every way for wrongdoers. Their leader looked strangely familiar to the dragon. It was the leader of the shotgunners from the previous day. She snorted as he walked beneath the house's overhanging second floor, and the man flinched. His men let out small snickers and moved on. Sydney's eyes lit up with amusement and she lay her head back down, thinking.

An hour later, she felt Althalos wake with a start, drawing a dagger and slashing the air as he leapt forward.

A little high strung?

Althalos' breathing evened and he dropped the weapon.

Uh... no. Just a new place. I have a right to be high-strung.

True. But Zacharias has placed six armed sentries around the lower floor, in case the populace proves less then admirable.

Remember how I told you Lukas and I got into the house in Nuln?

Through the roof. I understand, little one, but I must argue....


She snorted a lick of fire across the room, setting a pile of parchment aflame. Althalos smiled.

What would I do without you?

You would be dead thrice over, little one.


He smiled and got up, rubbing her neck as he passed to the pile of his gear. A knock resounded from the door, and a man wearing a monacle and carrying a long rifle stuck his head in.

"Sir...Zacharias is waiting below. He wishes to speak with you, if possible. Your dragon can come too."

Altahlos chuckled as he belted on Vrolmgang. "I severely doubt you'd be able to stop her, warrior."

"Her, sir?" asked the man, staring at Sydney.

"Her." repeated Althalos. Sydney snaked her head over to stare at the warrior.

Do you think Dragons simply spring out of holes in the ground? she growled.

"Well, no... I... uh. I have to.. go. Ma'am, sir." he stammered, before stumbling back down the steps.

Such competance. I have great faith in these men. Sydney grumbled, drawing another smile from Althalos.

And you think I have trouble trusting people.

He leapt onto her back and the pair fell to street level, Sydney rising to her full height as Zacharias and six sharpshooters looked on. Zacharias applauded, and the men joined in.

"Well, well, dragon rider, It would seem that you've caused quite a stir. Lord Icefang himself wishes to speak to you."

"Is Icefang his name?"

"No. Lord Icefang is a title. His name is Uther. Now then, when you speak to him, don't mention his hobby, or his wife. Don't stare at the guns, and whatever you do, do not let your guard down. Uther is a man of honor, and he will be offended if you immediately submit to him."

"Thank you." said Althalos. Sydney repeated the acceptance, and then took off, flying low over the city's spires and roofs. The air was thick, but the tallest building was only three hundred feet high, leaving her plenty of room to fly unhindered. The Icefang Keep was a single spire, rising through the roof of the fortress to soar another two hundred feet above the walls. Sydney landed on the steps to the Keep's entrance hall, in a square in the city center.

"Welcome, traveller. Lord Icefang is waiting upstairs." said a guard, wearing a long bearskin cloak and carrying a halberd. Sydney tried to follow, but the doors were too small for her to fit.

Be careful. If he tries anything, I will tear this place apart brick by brick to find you.

I know. Take care.


The doors slammed shut, and Sydney sat down in front of the gates, glaring at each guard in turn, fire flickering between her jaws. The men edged away from her and sweat began to bead on their brows.

Althalos climbed a long stair to a platform that attached itself to the ground in front of him. The stone circle shot upwards so quickly Althalos was driven to his knees, not expecting the sudden climb. His ears popped. The magical stone stopped as suddenly as it had started, and he climbed off onto a landing, with a door at the end. Two men in silver armor opened the doors. Lord Icefang stood looking out a large window onto the city. The walls were covered with guns of all shapes and sizes. Blunderbuss, shotguns, rifles, carbines, scoped dart throwers and spike rifles.

"Wayfarer. Do you know how many guards you slaughtered yesterday?" said Uther.

"I know not, I lost count." retorted Althalos.

"How dare you- uh! Nevermind!" raged Uther. "Zacharias may have his trust, but I for one will not stand and let you murder men and get away with it!"

"They fired first!"

Uther stopped dead.

"What?"

"I responded to a volley from six weapons."

"Damnation! Delanus must have put the guard on alert before he went drinking again!"

He spoke to a guard, and the man nodded before hurrying off.

"Another issue concerns me, warrior. Word has reached my ears that you travel with a dragon. A black dragon, no less."

"And?"

"And I dislike having such an obviously feral animal in my city! You will remove it at once!"

Althalos' temper turned white-hot, fueled by Sydney's own hatred.

"I will do no. such. thing." said Althalos, slowly. His hand flexed at the pistol on his belt. Uther's face twisted in anger. Althalos moved his hand away from the gun.

"Do you know how many times that "feral animal" has saved my life? More times then you can count, although you may have to stop once you run out of fingers! I will not take a slur on her honor, or my own! Good day, sir!"

He turned to leave, and Uther snarled.

"Cretin! Turn when I speak to you!"

Althalos marshalled his powers. Black wisps of Death Magic swirled around his gauntlets. Uther started.

"You would dare! Guards! Guards! Seize him!"

The men started forward. An elderly man wearing black robes, with a silver helm, walked into the room. His beard hung to his chest, and was riddled with runes and charms.

"That's enough, Severus. This one will not be trouble."

"My lord! But...but he is a witch! He has a dragon! Of course he is trouble!"

The newcomer smiled warmly. "I think not. Severus, fetch a guard to open the Starlight. The dragon deserves to speak to me as well."

"But, my lord! I would not leave you with one such as he!"

"It will be fine, Severus. I summoned him."

"Lord?"

"Go!"

The man Althalos thought was Uther ran from the room. The old man handed Althalos a mug of spiced ale, which he sipped gratefully.

"Severus is a bit unbending in his devotion, though a better guard I could not ask for. I am Lord Uther Icefang, wayfarer, and unless I miss my guess, you are Althalos Half-Elven, and your dragon would be Sydney Darkscales?"

Althalos sputtered. "How-?"

Uther held up a hand. "I have my ways, most recently Zacharias telling me your names. Now, then."

He smiled as the roof opened, and Sydney dove through, landing with a crack on the stone floor. She nuzzled Althalos, then turned to give a withering glare to Severus, who looked at the floor.

"He meant no disrespect, great Dragon. Severus is to ensure no assassin may reach me unhindered. He is only doing his job. Right, Severus?"

A stammered "yes" reached Sydney's ears, and she turned back to Uther.

"So then, you have come. Aurum was very sure of your abilities."

Althalos was taken aback by the mention of Aurum. The ancient creature had guided him to free six dragons held in the Empire, and then lay seige to the city of Telthis, in order to kill his arch-rival, Jakob Vernier. Vernier had killed himself in the battle, and Althalos had left.

"You know Aurum?"

"I would be surprised to find someone I did not know, Althalos. For a seer such as I, it's something of a shock to find a person whose name I am not aware of. However, Aurum and I have a past. He was once my dragon as Sydney is yours. During the time of Sigmar, we parted ways."

"How?" asked Althalos, aghast. He remembered the pain he had felt leaving Sydney to fight in Nuln.

"We were not bonded as you are, child. We simply fought together for a time. This was before he was confined to that statue, of course."

Althalos nodded. "Did you call me to talk?"

Uther adjusted his helm. "Ah. Of course not. Come."

He led Althalos and Sydney to a larger room leading off the central chamber. A massive orrey was in the center of the room, immobile. The room was darkened, and it was clear the source of energy for the orrey was not working.

"This is the central hub of the Icefang Keep. Aurum's engineers built it during the Errantry Wars' first years. It fell silent when the Storm of Chaos built up in the east. I have been gathering magic users for that time to try and get it working again."

"Your orrey?"

"Not just an orrey, lad! This focuses the magic that naturally occurs in Icefang's lower depths, turns it to good! Crops grow, fresh water falls in great drops, and children are born free of disease! Without it, we have been suffering a slow decline. We need a power source, but without you, I wasn't sure the few magicians we had could pull it off. Once you get it started, the orrey's spin should provide enough power to keep it lit forever. We just need the initial kick-start, if you will."

Althalos pondered this.

"What do we get?" he asked.

Uther seemed taken aback. "Well, you would get lodging and food for that house Zacharias provided you, and free passage to and from Icefang, although I could throw in an Icefang rifle."

"Deal." said Althalos, shaking Uther's hand. The old man smiled warmly and Althalos drank the last of the ale in his mug. A guard turned the crank to open the Starlight again, and the pair exited into the Keep's air again.

As the pair left, Severus walked back into the room.

"Lord?"

Uther turned.

"What do you think?"

The old man smiled. "Oh, I think they'll do fine, Severus. They're quite the pair. Reminds me of myself and Aurum, when I was young."

Uther turned back to the window, and Severus yanked a knife from his belt, stabbing Uther in the back.

"Why?" gasped Uther, wounded.

"Filthy dragon lover." snarled Severus. The guards nodded.

"Take him to the dungeon."

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

Hat in the Ring
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LIGHTS AND CLOCKWORK
------------------------

Zacharias closed the doors to the Clockwork Temple, locking the thick portal. A clockwork soldier nodded to him as he passed, walking down the steps to the tech-mage's quarters.

A double line of Icefang's soldiery stomped into the Temple grounds. Their leader approached Zacharias brandishing a scroll.

"By order of Lord Severus all tech-adepts are to disband immediately. The clockwork armies will be deactivated, and tech-mage Zacharias, you, are to accompany us to the Icefang Dungeons for conspiracy to commit murder."

"Murder?!" shouted Zacharias, horrified.

"Did you not allow the dragon rider and his charge into Icefang Keep? Lord Uther was murdered just before they left. The assassin is being tracked down now."

"Impossible! Severus has killed Lord Icefang! Betrayal!"

"Seize him!" howled the guard. Men jumped onto Zacharias, chaining his limbs and dragging him out of the Grounds.

"Alpha!" yelled Zacharias. "Contingency 066! Contact Wayfarer!"

The nearest clockwork man nodded imperceptably, unknown to the guards. One tied a rag around Zacharias' mouth, and the tech-mage was dragged from the Temple.

A half-hour later, a platoon of guards broke the door of Althalos' house down, storming in with halberds and pistols. Sydney leaned out of the second floor and immolated more then half. The remaining men cowered against the wall, close to the stairs. Their leader stared in terror at the long sword blade that suddenly protruded from his chest. A shot rang out, and a second guard fell, clutching the gaping wound in his chest. The last five turned and ran at Althalos, who shot another before leaping into their midst. Vrolmgang flashed, beheading the third man. Althalos turned swiftly, dodging a halberd, before slaying the man with Death magic. His comrades recoiled in horror, and he fired two more shots, killing them both.

Treachery!

We do not yet know.

I know! We have to escape!


A resounding crash echoed through the house as one of the clockwork men smashed through the rear door. Althalos whipped around. A grating, mechanical voice spoke through the unit mounted in the man's chest.

"Contigency zero-six-six Activated. Wayfarer, located. Message playing."

Zacharias' voice echoed through the speaker.

"Hello. If you have recieved this message, there has been a coup at Icefang Keep, likely Severus. Use my men at the Clockwork Temple. The code is "Ferrus". Zacharias out."

Althalos looked at Sydney.

Get my armor, little one. It would appear we have a target.

Agreed.


Sydney's armor match Althalos' own, also having been made at Aeyri Peak. It was deep black, the same color as her scales, edged with silver. Armor was laid on her legs, belly, back, and neck. Finally Althalos laid a single curved piece of metal on her head. The helm was also black, with a single rune representing "Storm" on the brow. Two fangs of black steel extended from the helmet, ending below her jaws, helping her to bite armored opponents. Althalos strapped on his own armor, and reloaded the pistol. He climbed into the saddle, and Sydney took off. They flew very low, skirting rooftops. Sydney landing in the grounds of the Clockwork Temple. A dozen guards instantly surrounded him, clicking and whirring. A few showed signs of struggle, and Althalos realized the machines must have been defending the Temple since Zacharias and his acolytes were arrested. Their leader, a monstrous clockwork man with a gatling gun on each arm, approached.

"Unknown contact. Input Code, five seconds." It hummed.

"Code...Ferrus"

The machines stiffened.

"Orders?"

Althalos grinned.

"Take the Icefang Keep."

"Order received. Implementing Orders."

The clockwork men turned as one, and stomped toward the Keep. Althalos jumped onto Sydney's back, and she took off, following the flood of machine men out of the Clockwork Temple. A block away, a similar army of Severus' private guards exited the palace gates, carrying heavy rifles and halberds. The men lined up and fired, the first rank of clockwork men being scythed down. The machines returned fire, shredding guards. Sydney swept down, a plume of flames engulfing twenty guards. Althalos leapt from her back to cleave a man's head in half. The clockwork men's leader stomped over him, weapons chattering. The Icefang guards panicked and broke, the last few being cut to pieces by clockworks with razor blade attachments.

The gates burst open, and sixty-seven clockwork men smashed their way into the keep. Althalos and Sydney swept onto the platform leading up, while the clockworks fought bitterly for control of the main levels. The magical elevator halted at Uther's chambers, and the pair stepped off to face Severus and six of his personal guards.

"Drakonire." said Severus, holding a massive broadsword.

"How did you know that name?" growled Althalos.

"It's common knowledge, Drakonire. You're the last pair of Bonded between dragons and the other species of the world. Now, the dragon is the real reason I'm here. Been a while since I hunted a Black, but I'm sure I'm up to the challenge."

Sydney shouldered her way through the door.

Hunted?! she thundered.

"Ah, yes." said Severus, pulling a necklace laced with a dozen scales from his chest. "Dragon hunter. Blacks are the most expensive for sale at market."

Foul, inbred swine! raged Sydney, fire licking around her jaws.

Althalos stepped between Severus and Sydney.

"You will not touch her." whispered Althalos. Severus laughed.

"And I suppose you'll be the one to stop me?"

"No." said Althalos. Severus started.

"This will." Althalos pulled Vrolmgang from his belt. Haze licked up the blade, giving the sword's black aura a horrific, shadowy glare.

Severus made a hand gesture, and the guards stepped to the edge of the room.

"Then it is to the death."

Althalos bared his teeth. "Of course."

Severus threw himself at Althalos, swinging the sword. Vrolmgang came up and deflected it. Althalos blocked another swing, and then nicked Severus on the leg. The man roared in rage and pain. Severus stomped on Althalos' foot, sending the half-elven stumbling toward the massive window in the side of the keep. Vrolmgang flashed into black fire, and sliced cleanly through the broadsword. Severus swung the broken haft in a wide arc, and Althalos leapt back. The haft stabbed forward, and Althalos grabbed Severus' arm, swinging the big man around, his back facing the window. He drew back his fist and punched Severus, then pulled the revolver from his belt, holding it an inch from Severus' face.

"You cheated." said Severus, dropping the hilt of his weapon.

"You started it." retorted Althalos, fuelled by Sydney's rage. The pistol barked, and Severus' face imploded. The window shattered as the bullet, then the body, fell to the steps three hundred feet below. Severus' guards fell to one knee.

"Have mercy." said their leader, a white crest on his helm.

There will be none. growled Sydney.

"Please!" begged the guard.

"Go downstairs." said Althalos. "Turn over your weapons to the clockwork guards, and then follow any instructions they have."

"Thank you, lord!" the guard said. The men stomped toward the elevator, and Sydney allowed Althalos to climb onto her back before she fell to the floor of the keep. Two Clockwork guards stood at the door to the dungeons, led by Zacharias.

"Good to see you, wayfarer. Lord Icefang wishes to speak to you. He lives, but not for long! Come!"

Althalos followed the mage down the steps to a cell. Uther lay on the cot, blood dripping from the bandage hastily applied by a medicae.

"Althalos, lad. I see you." he said.

"Uther." said Althalos.

"You must not allow the Keep to fall into infighting! The lords will squabble over my successor, and the lords will take their time. You must put an end to it as soon as possible!"

"Of course, of course."

Uther pulled a ring from his finger.

"Use this at dawn on the third day. At dusk, look south."

Althalos took the ring. "I-I don't understand."

"You will, laddie. Goodbye."

Althalos cradled the old man's body as his eyes closed, and his breathing stopped. Zacharias stood at the door to the cell, tears brimming in his eyes.

"And so passes Lord Uther Icefang, sixty-fifth Lord of the Keep." he said.

Sydney brushed Althalos' thoughts.

There will be vengeance. she whispered.

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

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post #7 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-23-08, 11:15 PM
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As good as the last one!

Still I don't actually remember much, if any magic in the last. Is that because there is more in this or have I just forgotten it all?
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post #8 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-23-08, 11:27 PM Thread Starter
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There's some in the last, mostly as filler when I decided "and he swung the sword again" was getting old. I purposely gave Althalos a pistol in Oathbreaker because the all the melee was getting on my nerves. I suppose the level is about the same, but it's more pronounced now. If you read through Oathbreaker carefully, he uses magic about every other chapter.

Thanks for feedback!
-Dirge

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

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SYDNEY'S PROMISE
------------------

The next day, Althalos woke early, leaving for the Keep in the city center. He followed Zacharias down the steps of the Icefang Keep, Sydney behind him. The tech-mage was hiccuping sobs, trying to keep his face shrouded under the red robes of his order. Sixteen Icefang Guards, those loyal to Uther, carried the man's body on two tower shields, their armor wrapped in black cloths. Uther was laid out in full battle armor, silver and gold scrollwork decorated his bronze-colored armor. A beautifully inscribed blade rested on his chest, his hands clasped around the hilt. A golden helm with ice-colored gems in it rested on his head.

The procession passed a dozen houses, all packed with mourners. Black-robed priests, merchants, farmers, and warriors all stood on the road's edge, some crying, all saddened. Rose petals were thrown from balconies as they passed. They reached a coutyard of stone, dozens of monoliths edged the yard. A single crypt was open, a black hole in the light grey stone.

A tech-adept in white robes instead of the usual red stepped in front of Uther's body, cradling a book in one hand and a vial of blessed oil in the other. He twisted the vial's lid, exposing a mesh of wire. Shaking the oil over Uther's body, he read aloud.

"Under the Stars, we are gathered to remember Lord Uther Icefang, the Sixty-Fifth Lord of Icefang Keep. He fell to a vile trick by the thrice-accursed Severus, who was in turn slain by the Wayfarers Althalos Half-Elven and Sydney Darkscales. Lord Uther was a good lord, and for many years the city of Icefang prospered under his just rule. We can only hope that his successor will be as fair and generous as Lord Uther was, both to the people and the travelers that found their way to Icefang over the years. Many years he lived in Icefang Citadel, but only recently had he ascended to the throne, to his credit humbly remaining Master of the Aeries until only twelve years ago, when Lord Francis Icefang was killed in battle with a troll."

The people around Althalos bowed their heads, and he followed suit. He felt Sydney's discomfort as she unbent her pride far enough to lower her stare.

"This was requested to be spoken at Lord Uther's burial." said the adept.

"It is a dangerous business, stepping out your door. Because if you don't watch your feet, there can be no telling where you might be swept off to. Signed, Adept Pelanus, scribe to Aurum Goldscales."

The people who knew Uther walked up to the litter of shields to pay their respects. Althalos and Sydney were second to last, just behind Zacharias. The tech-mage laid a golden cog down on Uther's chest, and spoke two words. Althalos and Sydney stood for a time, staring at the dead leader of Icefang. Sydney blinked slowly.

I'm going to fix it. she thought, a touch of reverence in her tone.

How? Even all the magic-users here could not.

I will fix the orrey. For him.


Althalos put his hand on her shoulder, and the two departed as Uther was lowered into the crypt, and the stone placed on top, sealing the king of Icefang forever under the ground.

-------------------------------------------------

Sydney sat alone in the house's second floor, Althalos having gone to the first meeting between the Lords of the Keep, a gathering to determine the next ruler. From his thoughts, fleeting as they were, she gathered support was behind Zacharias to take over, temporarily. She sniffed at the air, smelling the printer's ink a store to the left, and the herbalist on the right. A blacksmith on the corner sent out a bitter, burned smell that tickled her nostrils and she snorted ash over the wood floor. Her thoughts strayed to the fighting at Aeyri Peak, over four months before, and the battle of Telthis, little more then three months past. She thought of her brothers and sisters in the Whispering Caves beneath the mountain, and of Corvus, the black dragon who she had given her affection while they were together, short a time as it was.

She twisted her neck, staring at her belly. Althalos had dismissed the fact that the straps of her saddle were growing shorter as Sydney gaining scales, insulation from the Northern Wastes' climate. Her eyes glinted. This was only partially true.

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

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post #10 of 62 (permalink) Old 12-26-08, 04:07 AM Thread Starter
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Come on folks, It seems 90% of the time, when I post in the middle of my stories, it's to tell people to POST FEEDBACK! It isn't difficult! Just type in "I like it!" or "Why did _____ happen?!"

So, POST!!! It's what keeps these stories on-track and free of WTF.
-Dirge
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FOREBODING
------------

Althalos leaned over the railing overlooking the Chamber of Lords. A dozen men and women sat in armchairs around a circle-shaped opening, populated by three Royal Guard, Zacharias, and the Speaker of the House.

"I say!" huffed the nearest one. "House Redic has provided over ninety percent of the foodstuffs and dairy products for generations! Where would you be without us!?"

"Not nearly as dead as if the Orelians were not here to provide masons and building materials!"

"Gentlemen! You are both wrong! It is the Jade Temple that provides for all!"

"Nay! The Priesthood of Sigmar is the spiritual center of the city! The Church must lead in this time of need!"

Althalos sighed and vaulted over the rail, snatching the Speaker's staff from his hand and holding it up. The Sword-on-cog insignia glowed in the light.

"People of Icefang. I've only been here a few days, and I have already participated in a civil war, fought a traitorous Lord, and been invited to deliberate the next Lord Icefang. You will have a vote. I nominate Zacharias of the Clockwork Temple."

The fat man who had spoken first sat up. "I nominate myself, Lord Valin Redic of House Redic!"

A woman with a devotional icon around her neck stood up. "I nominate Confessor Julius Killan, of the Sigmar Priesthood."

The Speaker nodded his thanks and took the staff back. Guards passed out three cards to each Lord or Mistress, one with each contestant's name on it. Redic smiled and tore two of the cards in half. Zacharias smiled as he handed the guard on his right a card. The cards were passed back down, in order of the favored contestant first, the second contestant second, and the least favorite last. Zacharias explained the rules as the Guards sorted the cards.

"A First vote is a point for the contestant. A Second does not count for or against that contestant. A Third is detrimental, and removes a point."

The Speaker began to chalk up the numbers. Three votes for Julius the Priest were quickly established, then one was erased. The woman who had nominated the Priest started. Redic came up with four points, and Zacharias had four, when the final vote was cast.

"And the final vote stands at Julius, Zacharias, Redic. We have a winner!" said the Speaker.

"This is an outrage!" roared Redic. "As a member of the House of Lords, I will not bow to some gear-turning....heretic!"

The Speaker lifted his staff. "Take a seat, Lord Redic."

"As a Lord, I gain one vote by the Rites Icefang!"

The Speaker rolled his eyes. The Rites Icefang decreed Lords started at one vote, to keep the Lesser Houses from getting too much power.

"So we have a tie. Zacharias of the Clockwork and Lord Redic both stand at five votes."

The skinny woman stood up again. "Let the Wayfarer vote. He, after all, slew the Betrayer. He should have a say in our next Lord Icefang."

Vrolmgang shivered in it's scabbard as Haze flinched at the sudden burst of rage from Redic. The fat man was shaking with rage, his face reddening.

"I vote for Zacharias, Julius, Redic." said Althalos, looking Redic straight in the eye. The big man howled in fury and stormed from the Chamber, taking down two chairs and shoving the Guards out of his way.

Zacharias deflated, as though a weight were lifted from his shoulders.

"Thank you. Redic has long hungered for the Icefang Throne, and we would do well to not let him have it."

The Speaker stepped between them, holding Uther's silver helm. Zacharias took it from his hands, and with a shaking grip, placed it on his head.

"We now enter the days of Lord Zacharias Icefang, Sixty-Sixth Lord of the Keep."

Althalos smiled. "May they be blessed."

------------------------------

He walked down the steps to the cobblestone road that ran through the city to the great Gates that led out into the Wastes. Redic stood by the door to the Council Chamber.

"Damn you, boy. I didn't lobby for months to become the premier choice for Lordship only to have you ruin it! I'm going to call for a recount, and bar you from the proceedings!"

A triumphant smirk etched itself across his portly features.

"The lordship has been decreed," said the Speaker, stepping down after Althalos. "There will be no recounts, or misvotes."

Redic's mouth dropped open as he saw Zacharias walk down the street to the Icefang Keep's gate, surrounded by the Royal Guard. Sydney dove from the upper reaches of the keep's ceiling to land beside Althalos, folding her wings neatly against her back. She bent to lick Althalos' face.

Little one. How was the men-meet-lord-choice?

It went well. Zacharias will be the next Lord Icefang.

That is good news indeed. I have some for you as well.

Really?

Yes. Word came by another wayfarer that the Shield over Aeyri Peaks was lowered.


Althalos remembered the magical barrier protected Aeyri Peaks from all attackers, but also prevented the people from leaving. Aurum had raised it just after Althalos had left, to protect his fiefdom from the Empire's retribution.

Why?

He did not know. But he did say the people of Mourngard and the Thronhold are leaving soon. Aurum has decreed they abandon the Peak.

I wonder why.

As do I, little one. But we can do nothing now.

Why? We have to go help them!

The man also brought word of a vast host of Chaos approaching. They will be here by nightfall tomorrow.

Tomorrow! We must warn-

He has already been notified. If you listen, you will hear.


Althalos raised his head, listening. A drum beat far off in the city. Men hurried to and fro. Women took up hammers and forceps, banging metal into shape and stitching bandages. Rock was being dragged from a pit dug into the ground in the far north of the Keep to the walls. A troop of Clockwork men stomped past dragon and rider, their weapons spooling up and stopping as the machines ran their tests.

It seems trouble has found us again.

Trouble follows you, little one. Doubtless without me you would be dead thrice over!

You may be onto something.

You'll forgive me, but you must be mistaken. I've met your makers, and they don't even know your name...

GIVING CHASE- ORDO HERETICUS FIC
(Updated Mar. 19)

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