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"We need to get to Silmaria, now!" Garriott grunted frustratedly. "This machine is just too slow."


"Suggestions?" Erana's mind raced through possibilities, but with her all-too-recent trauma, she found difficulty coming across any good ideas.


"You can teleport," Garriott said slowly, and then added with more confidence; "and I still have that mystic magnet that'll take me to Ann's Inn."


Erana nodded. "I will materialize outside the gnome's inn, and you can meet me outside."


"Yes, that will work." He replied, and retrieved the mystic magnet from his pack.


"Now, we must try to stay together." Garriott said, "Whatever is endangering the city is too much for just one of us. Trying to fight it alone and dying will not save any lives, so let's get there together." Garriott honestly wished she would allow him to face the threat alone, though he knew she never would. The most he could do was to make sure she didn't try to face it alone.


Erana cast her teleportation spell, by now being far beyond and immune to the nauseating effects of traveling along magical threads. She still remembered, however, how she had become nauseous to the point of vomiting the first time she had cast a teleportation spell upon herself.


Garriott activated his magnet; he found himself enveloped by a soft blue glow, for an instant where time had no meaning, and then found himself suddenly in his old room in the Gnome Ann's Land Inn. He shook off the dizziness, confusion, and nausea that came with teleportation. He then ran out of his room, almost stumbling as he ran down the stairs, and rushed out the front door before Ann could question him.


"Can you locate it?" Erana asked, slightly startled as Garriott burst from the doorway. "I can only get as specific as the fact that it's in this city."


"That way." Garriott said, pointing to the northeast, "Where the arena is. It is split into three points."


"Two of them are undead." And the one that isn't is just as dangerous.


"Yes." Garriott nodded. "They enjoy causing suffering, whoever they are." If they enjoy causing suffering so much, maybe they should get a dose of it themselves.


The two hurried; Garriott running as Erana activated her flight spell. They entered the bazaar, noticing several guards walking around without armor. Garriott stopped, and seeing this, so did Erana. The paladin noticed several semi-liquefied breastplates lying on the ground. The female katta who sold jewelry sat on a step of a nearby building, looking shocked- several guards attempting to question her but getting nothing. Garriott walked to Marak's food stand, noticing it full of foods, but with no Marak around to sell them.


"Oh, no!" His eyes found the circular patch of scorched ground.


"What happened here?" Erana asked, approaching one of the armor-less guards.


"Well..." The guard obviously felt uncomfortable talking about the event. "A man, a large metal beast, and a little monster were here. They..."


"They killed Marak, didn't they?" Garriott asked, easily putting two and two together. The guard nodded, and Garriott began walking away before the man could make a verbal reply.


"Yes, they killed the fruit merchant, and almost killed several of us as well." Garriott didn't answer, instead continuing towards the arena. "They...they kept asking him who the strongest fighters in the city were."


Garriott froze in his tracks. What kind of sick bastards are these people? He nearly began to tremble. They're treating us like big game on a hunt. They're playing games with people's lives. They're worse than mere murderers! "Thank you, soldier." Garriott said formally, looking back at the guard over his shoulder. Erana looked at her husband, and flew as fast as she could to join his side as he began running towards the arena again.


The sickeningly sweet stench of burning human flesh pounded into the two of them as they made their way through the already open arena gates. Garriott halted for a moment, gagging. Erana glanced around, somewhat remorseful of being adept to horrors such as the scent of burning flesh, and took a great notice of the messiness of the waiting chamber- as if dozens of people had tried to force into the arena at once.


Erana shuddered, a magical sensation sweeping over her. She felt a pinpointable source of great magical power approaching. "My love." Erana said as he walked towards the tunnels that lead to the enclosed battleground of the arena.


"Yes, dear?" Garriott asked, rushed. "We have to hurry, come."


"I feel a magical presence." Garriott looked visibly disturbed. He felt nothing, but knew Erana's magical senses to be much more acute than his own. He said nothing, waiting somewhat impatiently for her to continue. "It's not like a wizard- it's not complex. It may be a specialist, but I doubt it- the power I feel is far too great to be an inexperienced wizard, and even a specialist of such power would have a far more complex presence than this."


"Oh?" Garriott shrugged. "We have to get out there..."


"It's a creature of innate magic." Erana answered. "Perhaps a creature from another plane?" Garriott shrugged. "It's heading in our direction at great speed." Erana said. At this, Garriott's interest obviously magnified.


"Another one's coming?" Garriott began running down the tunnel. "We have to get out there and defeat them before their backup arrives!" He shouted back over his shoulder, Erana being swift to follow him.


Garriott gasped; words beyond him as he saw the horrors before his eyes. His eyes darted from shredded soldier to shredded soldier; some of them looking as if their armor had come alive and invaded their bodies, some of them missing limbs and appendages, and some gutted like fish. A few remained alive, gasping for life as they tried pitifully to squirm away from their attacker. Erana's hand on his shoulder calmed him only slightly; he looked back at her to see her pointing ahead. The focus of his eyes followed her arm out to her hand, his eyes catching the object of her interest as they passed her fingertip. Rakeesh, lying on the sand; above him standing a tall pale man with unhealthy-looking hair, holding a large, curved knife- preparing to strike the deathblow.


Garriott's hands moved without his thinking, weaving magical threads into shape and form instinctively. "NO YOU DON'T!" Garriott's hands finished the magical gestures, and the lightning ball flowed from his hands, streaking towards the vampire.


The ball of magically mimicked electricity struck Tulgehar in the chest, and threw him off balance. He growled an unintelligible curse, stumbling away from Rakeesh while trying to maintain his balance. Though graceful and agile, he tripped over a dead body in his backward stumble, and he fell on his back.


Garriott and Erana hurried to Rakeesh's side. Erana healed him, and as he worked his way up to all fours, Garriott handed him a stamina pill, as he looked exhausted.


"My friends," Rakeesh panted, leaning slightly on Garriott. "Elsa is dead."


"What!?" Garriott asked, in a mixture of surprise and rage. "He" Garriott gestured towards the flailed vampire with his head, "killed her!?"


"That's right, blondie!" Tulgehar said sadistically, sitting up. Looks like we're gonna get to play with hero-boy after all. "I killed your little girlfriend." He coughed a laugh as he got to his feet. "She was just a little weaker than you are...and you think you'll end up any different than she did?" Tulgehar sighed, rolling his eyes. "By the way, that was a nice trick. It actually damaged me; you must be quite proficient in that spell. You see, my kind tend to be resistant to magic." Tulgehar hunched over, and placed his hands together in front of his face. "But," He spoke now with strain behind his voice, "allow me to demonstrate a more effective attack!"


Erana immediately began casting a spell. Her hands flew in the myriad gestures she needed to perform for the spell; a spell that Garriott had never seen- it looked quite complicated. He could easily affirm she was hurrying the spell, and hoped that she wouldn't miss a single gesture or word, as fumbled magical spells could be quite dangerous. Garriott looked back to the vampire, who had begun creating a ball of energy between his hands. Taking on a greenish-yellow color, the energy ball grew in size and in the intensity of its pulsing glow.


"My spell is finished." Erana said, drawing the attention of both Rakeesh and Garriott back to her. "We will be safe from this one attack, possibly from future attacks."


"No, these attacks of his are powerful." Rakeesh corrected, nodding toward the still-self-filling crater in the sand behind them. "That used to be Elsa." Rakeesh's voice held obvious regret.


"Either way," Erana said, "we'll be safe from this one." I hope. She thought to herself. If his power could create a mark like that...but then, even if the attack has the power to destroy my barrier, we will still be protected.


"Now this is one I invented myself." Tulgehar laughed boisterously, 'lifting' the energy ball, now a yard in diameter, above his head; suspending it in the air. "I call it 'condindia', or muscle blast, as it takes its destructive power from my physical strength." He laughed, though more softly this time. "SAY GOODBYE!" He shouted, releasing the energy ball.


The ball arced through the air as if thrown rather than launched, dead-on heading for Erana and the paladins. But it suddenly exploded in thin air, as if hitting an invisible wall, ten feet from the intended targets. The massive explosion enveloped Erana's magical bubble on all sides, giving her, Rakeesh, and Garriott a safe view of the destruction; before the magical bubble and explosion canceled one another out of existence.


"What?" Tulgehar whispered to himself, gawking at the unharmed trio. That should have killed them all! And yet there they stand, without a scratch... "Wait a minute..." Tulgehar cursed. The faery-folk woman is a wizard...and a right powerful one too! She used a defensive spell... Oooh, how fun this will be. "Nice trick, faery." Tulgehar grumbled. The two paladins began approaching, the newly arrived one drawing and igniting his sword, and taking his shield from off his pack. Funny... The flames of blondie's sword look a lot dimmer than the flame of the liontaur's. Rakeesh too noticed this, but thought it better to discuss it another time.


"Erana," Garriott only dared take his eyes off Tulgehar for an instant, "the guards look like they nee-"


"Already tending to them." Erana said, healing the still-living guards with her magic from a distance, as to save them from the potentially deadly inconvenience of her having to approach each one individually. Garriott nodded.


"My friend," Garriott asked Rakeesh, "May I ask why you have not yet activated your 'holy strength' and 'honor shield'?"


"Until now, I've been busy receiving blow after blow." Garriott doesn't understand how fast this man is... I hope we can defeat him, and then his friends. Garriott nodded, and then the two paladins both activated 'holy strength' and 'honor shield' without another word.


"Rakeesh, can you 'hear' me?" Garriott used his paladin instincts in an attempt to connect with Rakeesh's mind. He had never attempted such a thing before, but thought it worth a try.


"Yes, I can." Rakeesh restrained himself from nodding, or from giving any other physical indication of their telepathic communication. "Your voice rings within my soul. Even with holy strength we don't stand a chance...unless we fight as one."


"What do you mean?"


"We must surrender our free will temporarily, and be united through honor and through instinct. I know it probably isn't the most attractive thought, but he's so fast that it's the only way we can succeed. We are the good; we will win, I am sure."


"I hope so. Then... Let's get it done with." The paladins allowed all thoughts and hesitations to seep away, concentrating on connecting mentally.


"Well now!" Tulgehar laughed, "You're both much stronger now! I must say that blondie and faerie give off a lot of power besides their ki, you both must be skilled with magic. I must also admit, blondie, that you and your woman over there exceed me in overall power, at least now with your holy strength." Tulgehar, even in his undead state, somehow worked up enough saliva to spit in the sand. "But I must tell you that half my overall power is physical. So, don't get too cocky now." He laughed again, "Your lionman friend is a pathetic weakling. I'll kill you both with the same ease I killed 'king' Elsa." He laughed at the memory. "And then I'll kill your woman, blondie."


Neither Rakeesh nor Garriott answered, they merely prepared to fight, and made sure their minds were clear of distraction, and focused. They both knew that they were individually weaker; but working together, their combined fighting skills could possibly be great enough to win. Erana continued to heal wounded guards, keeping here eyes warily on Rakeesh and Garriott, in case they needed her healing as well.


Garriott charged the vampire, Rakeesh just behind him. They used their link to coordinate their tactics. Garriott swung high as soon as he came close enough, forcing Tulgehar to duck under the attack. He rushed forward with a low swing, forcing Tulgehar to jump up and over him- landing behind him. Tulgehar tried to plant his weapon in Garriott's back, but he didn't realize he had fallen into a trap. Rakeesh tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to receive a charred-slash wound across the chest.


Tulgehar staggered a bit, but retained enough of his wits to raise his blade for a counterattack against Rakeesh. Garriott ran up from behind, the added power of his holy strength allowing him to leap up and over Tulgehar, landing in front of him. As the vampire's blade descended to nearly cleave Rakeesh in two, Garriott hacked deep into his abdomen. The vampire retaliated against Garriott- who blocked with the magical shield that had once belonged to a hesparian general- and used the momentum of his failed counterattack to slash at Rakeesh, nicking the liontaur's shoulder.


Tulgehar attacked Rakeesh again, who managed to parry the high slash. However, Tulgehar's ferocious attack left Rakeesh's weapon off-position, and Tulgehar lashed again, at the now-unguarded paladin. Garriott deflected the vampire's knife away from his mentor with his sword, Rakeesh using the opening to bring 'Soulforge' across Tulgehar's cheek. The actual weapon-to-flesh contact was minimal- nothing but a little scratch. But the attack left the entire right side of his face scorched beyond recognition. He flinched, covering his face with his hand.


Knowingly losing, Tulgehar began to panic. He swung wildly at Rakeesh; Garriott parried this as Rakeesh followed up- raking his claws across the vampire's upper arm. Tulgehar, with almost no control over his momentum, came around and swung his weapon at Garriott. Rakeesh deflected the blow, and Garriott jabbed his sword into the vampire's chest, just barely missing the heart. He pulled his sword free easily- it hadn't penetrated very deep. Tulgehar clutched the wound, trying desperately to sweep his weapon across both his opponents. But Rakeesh knocked the knife out of balance, and Garriott completed the parry by smacking the knife from underneath with his sword. Tulgehar- his hands slick from a mixture of red human blood and his own black blood- lost his grip on the knife, and it flew up and behind the paladins, landing at the other end of the arena.


How foolish of me! The vampire mused as he took a step back. I underestimated these two! They are weaker, but I forgot the sum of their power... Somehow it's greater than mine! Damnit...damn all paladins. He clutched at his chest wound with one hand, and placed the other over his cheek. He fell to his knees in agony, and closed his eyes and braced himself for the finishing blow. His companions laughed uproariously from above. I should have accepted their help when they offered it! Now it's all over... Tulgehar waited for an eventless moment, and then looked up at the two paladins.


"Well, my pail friend." Garriott began; "You have two choices."


Rakeesh continued; "You can either surrender, o-"


"Or die, right?" Tulgehar cut in sarcastically.


"No." Rakeesh corrected.


"You can retrieve your weapon," Garriott said, "and we can continue this battle to the end, whichever way that goes." Garriott and Rakeesh then suddenly looked up at the other two, their laughter gaining their attention.


"NO!" Garriott shouted wide-eyed, shattering the mental link between Rakeesh and himself. "I forgot about the other two! I can't believe that! How could I have...?" He stopped his outburst, realizing what it had cost him. I broke the link! How stupid of me to lose my focus! He cursed inwardly at himself in anger, as Rakeesh looked at him and shook his head from side to side in slightly irritated disappointment.


Garriott shook his head apologetically, and then the two paladins turned their eyes back to Tulgehar, who had vanished. Their instincts led their eyes to where he now stood- where his dagger had landed. His legs trembled with his growing weakness, and his own purplish-black blood, oozing from his several wounds, covered his body.


"All right you two pieces of holier-than-thou crap," He mumbled weakly, barely audibly, "now I'm going to kill you both, and then torture the woman to death!" Erana ignored the vampire's threat; she had seen how Rakeesh and her husband held their own well enough, and she could easily heal any injury of theirs before it caused death. "And then! The best part will be, slowly ripping the limbs from every single person in this city, and then torturing them until they die of the sheer pain!" Tulgehar tried to laugh, but only coughed. "You fools, you think you can win against me!?" He took a small vial of red fluid from his belt, opened it, and drank it down as fast as it left the vial and dripped into his mouth. The 'mortal' wounds covering his body closed up, mending as if he had drank a healing potion. "And now, ladies, it's my turn!"


Tulgehar charged, leaving a blurry trail the color of his clothes behind him. He halted before them, stood tall, and raised his weapon and his free hand to strike down upon both of them. Garriott braced behind his shield, and Rakeesh stepped back into a defensive stance. The undead warrior, however, vanished into thin air without attacking. A rush of wind Tulgehar had pulled behind him in his charge reached the paladins as he disappeared. They had to stand into the rush of air just to keep from being blown off their feet.


Then came the blow from behind; Tulgehar, between and back-to-back with them, rammed into their lower backs with his elbows, putting all his strength and weight into the attack. They both flew forwards for a couple feet and then slammed into the ground, tumbling for several yards. Rakeesh bounced over the body of a dead guard, and landed, still, on his side. Garriott tumbled unhindered by foreign obstacles, and had to regain control of his body manually.


The vampire appeared beside Rakeesh, and cut into and through him along the entirety of his centaurian body. Rakeesh yelped in pain, sounding rather strange. Erana arrived, seemingly within the blink of an eye, to heal him. Garriott, still spitting sand out of his mouth, got to his feet swiftly and rushed Tulgehar. Tulgehar sidestepped, twisting around with a high attack that Garriott barely met with his shield. Before Tulgehar could rebalance to make a decent attack, he felt a sting, as Rakeesh hit him from the side. He cursed, his foot flying up and contacting with Garriott's face, heel-to-cheekbone; sending the paladin tumbling backwards. Then he turned and smashed his fist into Rakeesh's humanoid chest, sending him flying in the opposite direction from Garriott. Erana healed them both from afar as they landed. Tulgehar's smile had returned; he looked extremely amused with the direction the battle had taken.


He turned and cocked his head up towards his two comrades. "Well, I guess I didn't need your help after all, guys!" He yelled to them gleefully.


"Yeah, yeah. We'll remember that when we bury you!" Y'ell Caminth laughed.


Tulgehar cursed, shrugged, and turned his attention back to the battle. Shifting his eyes between the two paladins, who stood opposite at his flanks, he began laughing. "Fools!" He screamed, while still laughing; "I CANNOT DIE!" Then suddenly, he stopped laughing, seemingly forgot about the paladins entirely, and looked up at the sky; though not at his comrades. That...that enormous ki! Tulgehar's eyes met with nothing but direct sunlight as he searched for the source of the sensation. "WHAT THE HELL!?" He said aloud. "That ki, it is absolutely huge! But, it's nowhere near large enough to be Zaduriosama, or even Shaedhala!" The vampire snarled as he growled an obscenity. "Who the hell is it, then!?"


"Even if that's true, which it isn't," Called a voice from the sky- a harshly deep voice with a distinctive, regal growl. Everyone present looked up, and saw nothing but the sun. "By the time I finish with you three cowards, you'll beg me to kill you!" A loud thud, accompanied by sand flying through the air, signified the huge man's rough landing.


A brutally hate-filled scowl contorted the features of his tan-yellow skinned face. His piercing eyes, strange black eyes with yellow, slit-shaped pupils, punctured through what little real courage the vampire had ever owned. The wind tossed the newcomer's deep blue cape around, revealing an almost unrealistically lean body covered by a green, robe-like, sleeveless combat suit, as he began to walk forward. "Because when I finish with you," He brushed rich, deep-blond hair from his shoulder, tilting his head to the side to work the kinks out of his neck; letting his words hang dramatically, "you'll be nothing." He finished the sentence, achieving the added intimidation he had desired from the pause. His arms, tan as his face, glittered in the sunlight, almost as if sprinkled with specks of gold, and were covered with stretch marks.


The golden giant began walking towards the vampire again, his hate-filled expression driving the recently fearless monster backwards- shivering in his own terror. Every step of the massive warrior's shark-leather boots in the sand sent chills running through the Tulgehar's blood, in spite of his undead condition. "Imagine, living forever, with no way whatsoever to do anything with any of that power you possess." The man's voice dripped with malice, and he reveled in the fear he inspired in the vampire. "Imagine being nothing but a crippled freak, a freak incapable of even relieving himself." A sarcastic smirk marked the man's sharply detailed face for only an instant. "If you're lucky, though, I'll just decide to kill you instead." Tulgehar nearly stumbled in his withdrawal, as the new arrival snorted in disdain. "I know you can die, or else you wouldn't be so afraid of me!"


"What is your name?" Rakeesh asked the newcomer, hiding his disturbance with the giant's attitude.


"Me?" The gold man turned to Rakeesh, almost surprised that the liontaur had addressed him. "My name, is Tulwar." He turned back to Tulgehar, as the vampire's two comrades landed on either side of him. "And, I am the instrument of your destruction." He pointed a finger tipped with half-inch-long, razor-sharp claw in the general direction of the three invaders. "You two," he said, looking at Garriott and then Rakeesh, "can either help me, or just stand back and enjoy the show." With his arm, Tulwar threw back his cape- which hung down more like a surcoat; both behind and in front of him; from a large set of seemingly decorative gear which stood out from his shoulders at least two feet on either side- so as not to hinder his walking. He walked up beside Garriott, as Rakeesh joined his younger friend. "Either way, I don't really give a damn as long as those three die here, today." He turned to look at Erana. "You'd best stay clear of even thinking about fighting, faery-witch. I don't want you tickling me with your magic if your aim gets to be a little off." He smirked again, but as before, only for an instant. "Then there's the fact that you just might get hurt, playing with the big boys on the block."


"Do not insult my wife, Tulwar." Tulwar's spine shivered in irritation at how his name sounded upon Garriott's accent. He tried to shake off the annoyance, however. He swore at Garriott, before the paladin continued. "She's not a witch, and she doesn't need to take orders from you."


"I am an enchantress," Erana added, "and a wizardess, not a witch. My powers do not come fro-"


"FINE!" Tulwar cut in with a shout, "SHUT UP with the useless details!" He turned his head, his large, pointed ears twitching with his annoyance as he cursed at Erana. Just before Garriott lost his temper, Tulwar spoke up again. "So the two of you are married? Interesting. I apologize for my concerns, then, faery-enchantress. So, paladin, perhaps you should tell your wife to stay clear of combat?" He looked back over his shoulder at the 'short' blond-haired paladin. "For her own sake, of course."


"Erana..." Garriott stated to Erana what he already knew she planned to do; "please heal any of us who need healing, but try to stay out of the fighting."


"Yes dear." She verbally agreed to the statement for the sake of calming Tulwar's nerves. He only snarled hostily.


"Your own funeral, your own loss." He turned back to his three targets, relishing the fact that he would finally achieve that which he had sought ferally for his entire life. "And to the soldier boys standing around like gawking idiots; you'd best just stand clear. You're all so damn weak you'd only get in the way. And I wouldn't hold back for your sakes." Tulwar smiled again, this time, his smile lasting a few seconds. A fanged smile telling the three monster-warriors how much he'd enjoy ripping their limbs off and beating them to death with their own body parts. "Now, I'm going to make you pay for what you did to them." He nearly yelled; his tone different from before. His voice, while still obviously angry, now held a certain coldness to it, not the highly emotional malice it had contained before. He hissed through his clenched teeth. Tulgehar and Y'ell Caminth both appeared to be very, very frightened of Tulwar. The metal-clad Yarimarg, however, seemed cold and emotionless- unafraid of the gold-colored warrior.


"But, we didn't mean it! We're sorry!" If Tulgehar were still alive, he surely would have soiled himself.


"Sorry for what?" Tulwar asked coldly. The three only looked at him, dumbfounded, at least Y'ell and Tulgehar. Tulwar couldn't see Yarimarg's face. "Liars. You don't even remember, do you?"


"Relax, you two." Yarimarg said to his frightened companions, almost laughing. "Just because he has a huge ki, doesn't mean he knows how to use it well. And it doesn't necessarily mean he's a strong fighter, either."


"Hey, you're right!" Tulgehar brightened. "Why, I remember killing one guy who had a huge ki, without him even putting up a sporting struggle!" Y'ell Caminth also appeared to brighten and become more confident, but he said nothing.


Tulwar, the two paladins, and the three monsters took combat ready poise, and the battle began.


"GLORIANNA, THE CHOSEN WORLD" introduction/summary page


Previous Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5


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