Here we go
Tue Oct 3, 2006 07:35 (XFF:

Before Novice Adem had the chance to reply to Ardan, it was their time to be sent off. Slowly the pair made their way to the front of the room, not a word having been exchanged between them aside from the greeting that was to be expected accompanied with first introductions. They were led in silence into the Gaidin Courtyards, and Ardan began to move over towards the weapons rack, and attempt to pick something suitable for him. He eyes the weapons thoroughly, wondering whether to go with the sword, using the forms and techniques he had already learned. But he didn’t have fast enough hands for the sword, and it might slow him down. Reflexes, balance, and fast footwork were all there, and Ardan had been learning with more and more ease how to handle the sword, overcoming his impairment with regular depth perception and balance routines that had been designed specifically for him by Tyaoris Gaidin, but he would never have fast enough hands to earn a heron-marked blade, to become a true blade master. If there was a quick rolling of the wrist and a nasty riposte towards Ardan’s throat, he would never be fast enough to pull his own blade back up and back away from the cut at the same time, which would result in death one way or another.

But this training regime was supposedly harmless.

Moving on, he found a bow and quiver of arrows, but quickly dismissed them as weapons of choice. Before his arrival, before his….’incident’… he had been pretty good with a bow, but he hadn’t yet had the chance to practice with it since his arrival, and guessed that it probably would not be the wisest choice for him just now.

As he made towards the weapons rack for a closer inspection, Ardan suddenly found that he couldn’t move his legs, and that the ground was rushing up to meet him. With an audible crash, he hit the ground hard. Trying to right himself, Ardan struggled for some time before he became completely paralysed, and darkness took over him.

When he awoke, he was beside Novice Adem, who was knelt beside him as though waiting for him to come around. The paralysis had worn off from him, and he got back to his feet with a speed he did not think he possessed. Looking around himself, he could see nothing save pitch blackness. He could only just make out Novice Adem’s features, and the lad was right in front of him. There was no light to speak of, but once he had stretched out a little bit, his eye began to adjust. He could make out a little more of Novice Adem’s features now, his demeanour anxious, though determined. Ardan nodded to him, although he was not sure whether the little man could make it out.

Transferring his gaze back out to the pitch black -well, it seemed lighter than black now- he spotted movement. He focused his concentration on that one particular movement, of black against black, and a shape seemed to form before him. He couldn’t make it out, but he knew now that they were already not alone in this exercise.

“Adem, if you could, light would be handy about now.” Ardan barked, his gravely voice sounding almost eerie, foreign to himself. The small novice nodded, and after a brief moment channelling, an orb of light appeared in the space between them. Ardan had to shield his eye until it compensated for this new addition of light, not bright, but enough for them to have some indication of where they might be heading, rather than blundering on in the dark. One more look around them, and Ardan wasn’t sure he could believe his eyes. Snarling beasts, winged creatures, Human forms with gnarled, snouted faces of fur growled at the pair, at the light before their eyes. Shadowspawn surrounded them, and there was no way out. Things hardly seemed harmless any more. They began to approach the light with caution, and Ardan and Adem were frozen still, in a mixture of wonder and fear.

Coming to, Ardan began to search for a way out. He could find none, and he was unarmed against a slavering mass of the Shepherd of the Night’s creations, bearing down on them faster and faster. Ardan quickly assumed a fighting stance and prepared for the inevitable. Looking over towards Adem, he motioned for the smaller man to come towards him.
“I don’t know if the rules allow channelling against these things, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take considering the odds. Whatever you do, stay in sight of me.” There was no time for anymore talk, for in a matter of seconds they would be set against. But as the Shadowspawn came closer, they halted mere inches before the pair. They seemed….afraid…to come any closer. There was no way to explain it, and a glance over at Novice Adem showed that he was just as puzzled. Looking towards his feet, a glow began to emanate from below them, a path formed, illuminating a way through the darkness, through the gathering hordes of Shadowspawn. There were runes inscribed on the path in the Old Tongue, Ardan could barely make them out, but he bent closer for a better read.

‘Stay true to the path of light. Stray from the path, and the shadow will consume all’

When he relayed the message to Adem, the little Novice gave a small sigh of relief. At least now they didn’t have to worry about fighting the hordes of Trollocs, Myrddral and other Shadowspawn that waited for them with jowls drooling, snapping, frenzied with the smell of their blood.
“Well, that’s as far as I can translate the Old tongue anyway, but we should be safe. All we need to do is stay on the path and we’ll be safe. Let’s not waste anymore time in this matter Novice, we should be going.” He set off on the path, with glances backwards now and then to make sure that Adem was still following behind him.

For some time the pair walked on in silence, nothing to say between them for the moment, and along the way they passed more shadowspawn than they could count, but as long as the path remained, they would not dare step foot on it. He thanked the creator for such small mercies. Another glance outwards, left, then right, an-
He came to a complete stop.
Standing there, in a circle of light amidst the Shadow, was the wounded, panicked form of Shoni, large, beautiful doe-eyes glistening with the light of panic. Ardan began to make his way towards him, but he felt the stocky novice behind him keeping a tight grip on him.
“Are you out of your mind?! What are you doing?!” the novice exclaimed at length. He turned back to Novice Adem, and took his hand from himself. Shoni was out there, she was in trouble, and she needed him.
“Shoni, out there. She needs me.” was all he could say, but when he looked again, the darkness was engulfing what little light there was left, and Shoni began screaming for him, pleas of help, for rescue, anything to save her from the Trollocs cook pot.
“It’s a trick Ardan. Don’t fall for it. You step out there, you take a single injury, and we’ve failed.” came the voice of reason from the small Novice behind him. He knew then that the little man was right, but it looked so real. It felt real, and the pain was real in knowing that he couldn’t save her. He closed his remaining good eye, ignored the pleas and screams until they were gone, and when he opened them again, Shoni was gone. All traces of her having been there vanished. A tempting trick, but one he had been saved from never-the-less.

They moved on again, and soon they were at the end of the path, a gateway before them. So, this must be the first room. Stepping to the side, Ardan let Novice Adem step up towards the gateway. The mechanism seemed simple enough to deal with, and it was as he expected when Novice Adem explained that he would need to channel to destroy the lock.
“Okay, let’s get this over with. I’ll take something a little more real to deal with in the next room, instead of these mind games.” he pronounced, turning his back to Novice Adem, to make sure nothing came at them while Adem channelled. All of a sudden though, the path of the light began to flicker before them, becoming less solid by the second. The gathering masses before them seemed to sense this, and that only renewed their frenzied snarls, their wild lust for the kill afresh in them.
“When I begin to channel, the path starts to dissipate!” he heard from behind him, and then it began to make sense. The first task would hardly be worth completing if all they had to do was walk down a safe path. He snorted, and chided himself for not thinking there would be more than mind games involved in this.
“Well, let’s get on with it. You’ll come to no harm” He heard an agreement from behind him, and waited. Just as he knew it would vanish, it still took him by surprise when the path of the light vanished, and the veil of the darkness lifted from around them. They were in a cave of sorts, where massive pillars stood, engraved with ancient runes, holding the walls in place, holding the ceiling from falling on them. The runes had been defaced with scrawls and crude drawings of Trollocs, depicting disgusting scenes of slaughter and massacre. He had no more time to take in any of the scenery, for the first of the Trollocs were upon him. He ducked under a wild slash aimed at his head, and launched himself on the Trolloc, bowling over three of them, and sending more behind them to the ground. His foot whipped out and cracked against the temple of the first, which sent it crashing to the floor with an all-too-human; sickening, crack of a crushed skull. His clenched fist found its mark against the throat of a wolf-faced Trolloc, and it fell back amongst the hordes, replaced by more of its kindred. A glance behind him told him that Adem was safe for the time being. They were in a narrower space of cave than he had first assumed, and the Trollocs could only come at him four abreast and two deep, those behind having nothing to do but wait their turn and pierce air with their terrifying, ululating war cries. Ardan rolled to the side of an oncoming attack, and sent a left uppercut into the jaw of a Trollocs, sending it reeling back into the mass behind, who spent no time ripping it to pieces so they could come closer to their turn at human flesh. Unfortunately, this had opened up a pathway for two of them to make a dash for Novice Adem, who was, for the moment, unaware of them coming towards him. Ardan pivoted on his heel, his depth still spinning, but began to run towards the other Trollocs. Behind him he could hear the crashing footsteps of the Trollocs advancing on him, but he lifted a spear from the floor as he ran, and launched it at the Trolloc closest to Adem. It burst through the back of the Trolloc, and both monster and weapon exploded in a shower of dust. The gateway Adem had been standing before opened at that moment, and the Novice turned to proclaim his success to Ardan, but froze wide-eyed at the Trolloc rushing him, which was only moments away from bearing down on him. Ardan launched himself into the air, dragging the Trolloc to the ground with him. Making his hand a spearhead, he thrust his fingers into the throat of the Trolloc, and digging in, he ripped back with all the strength he could muster. The Trolloc again evaporated in a shower of dust as it died. Not pausing for a second, Ardan pushed himself to his feet; grabbed Novice Adem by the collar and the pair lunged through the gateway, which shimmered and vanished as they landed on the other side, leaving the Trollocs behind them.

They were both knelt on cold marble, struggling for breath as they stood; wondering what would be there to come at them next. Ardan only wished that he was fast enough to have picked up a weapon, and that wherever Shoni really was, she was safe.

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