Servants of the Dark Lord

1. The fading of the light.

The party slowly proceeded down the road. They were walking quickly, looking for a good camping place before dark. And the golden rays of the setting sun were already upon them, washing the land in a yellow light. They traveled along the forest road toward the distant mountains.

The party consisted of twenty one members. First was Damor the wizard. He wore a black cloak about him with his hood hiding his face. He leaned over onto a crooked staff, and walked along slowly. His face was hardened by years of turmoil's, and countless battles.

Behind him walked twelve humans. Dasmer, Sires, Islata, Normir, Tals, Sundeer, Croma, Grakeck, Trist, Vince, Zas, and Denath.

Dasmer was tall and thin. He has short black hair, and wore a green cloak about him. A bright sword was tucked in his belt, and hidden by his cloak. He had on a light coat of armor on under his cloak. It was battered and scared from many battles. His hood was up, and if you could see his eyes, they would be deep in thought. Pondering the countless dangers that lay in front of them.

Sires was taller than Dasmer, by about a head. He wore a gray cloak, and also had a suit of armor underneath it. A sword hung at his belt, similarly hidden from view. As with everyone else, save Zas, Sires had his hood up, shadowing his face.

Islata, Normir, Tals, and Sundeer were all about the same height. Not that tall for a grown man, but taller than some. They all wore similar black cloaks, and all had their hoods up.

Croma Grakeck and Trist all had gray cloaks and were short. They stood about a head shorter than Islata. They all had brand new armor on under their cloaks, and shining new swords at their belts.

Vince was a shadowy figure. Wearing a jet black cloak, with a hood completely shadowing his face. His jet black hair went along with the color of the cloak, and made his face seem to be floating inside the hood of his cloak. His hood hid much of his face at that. Many members of the party had not seen much of his face, if any at all.

Zas and Denath were both towering figures. Easily the tallest of the party. Not only were they tall, but both had bulging muscles, and towering frames that were evident even in their long cloaks. Both clutched huge double edged battle axes, and wore thick coats of armor under their cloaks.

That was all for the humans. Accompanying the party were also a number of dwarves, and two elves. The elves, Miriath, and Aragath were tall and fair. Each wore cloaks of elven gray, that shimmered and seemed to change their color with the fading of the light. They had no hoods, and they're fair hair flowed out behind them. Miriath had long flowing hair of gold, and Aragath was a deep black. Both carried elven long bows, and a quiver full of arrows hung on their backs. Each had a rapier tucked in their belt. The blades light and thin, not adding too much weight, and not hindering their movements.

The last six members were dwarves. They all looked alike in most respects.
They were short, squat, but not fat. Some were incredibly muscular and all were battle hardened veterans. They all had long beards that they could have tucked into their belts. Depending on their age, some were black, others were gray, or on their way to grayness. Three clutched long-swords, and the other three had hand axes. All six had coats of dwarven mail under their cloaks. The armor was strong, it could stop arrows and blades. And the art of making cumbersome suits of armor light, and easy to move was an art long mastered by the dwarves.

Their names in order of age, starting with the oldest were, Cain, Edgar, Zraen, Aeelph, Ruzzil, and Dashi. A pack of six mules followed, brining with them the stores, cloths, and provisions of the group of warriors.

That finishes off the party, and now I must explain why they were on they're particular journey. It was a time of great evil, a dark power was sweeping over the world. All the warriors from around the five seas were gathering. The build up of a massive army of good, to invade the land of evil, and storm the impregnable fortress within.

It was a long and perilous journey. One that led them through the forest of old, where they walked now, and over the mountains of despair, which loomed ahead, like a beacon of their misfortunes.

As the last rays of sunlight disappeared behind the mountains of despair, the party made camp. In a hollow just off the trail, they built their fire, and dragged logs in for sitting. They cooked a frugal dinner, and ate mostly in silence. They were very weary from their day of traveling, and none had the energy to talk.

As full as they could be off their meager supper, most of them could only think of curling up under their blankets and sleeping. Vince however stood on the edge of the camp. He usually insisted on taking the first and last watch, but now he just stood there, staring off into the darkness.

An invisible wind, one not noticed by the fire, moved his cloak. He stood his hand on the hilt of his sword. The invisible wind tossing his cloak about behind him.

"There's something not right." He said simply.

"What nonsense are you talking now?" Grunted Cain. While he was the oldest, and most experienced of the dwarves, he was the most short sighted of them all.

"No, I feel it too." Damor said, getting to his feet. "Quickly, gather firewood now." He commanded sharply. The younger ones, Islata, Normir, and Tals jumped up and obeyed. They moved to the edge of the hollow, where the fading light flickered off the trees, and darkness began to encompass them, and started to pick up boughs. When they had about a fagot each, a scream pierced the night air.

Islata and Normir came running back into the firelight, their faces deathly pale, and an expression of sheer terror gripped each one. Tals crawled as fast as he could, blinded in his own fear. His cloak was torn near the bottom, and he was scared half to death.

Two dwarves, Cain and Edgar were quick to jump to his aid. The ran out, axes drawn, and grabbed the firghtened young man under the arms and hauled him back into the safety of the firelight. Dark shaped moved in the trees behind them. And more than once a pair of glowing eyes could be seen.

The three younger men were too scared to say anything other than babbling nonsense. And it was some time before the others could get out of them what happened. From reading between the lines, so to speak, it seemed that Tals reached down for wood, and gripped fur, it was him that screamed, and he tripped over his own feet. AS he was crawling away frantically, he felt something grab him, and his cloak gave way, as he scrambled away even more frantically.

Because of the darkness, the swiftness of the events, and the sheer terror it evoked, none of the three boys got a good look at the creature. Cain and Edgar had defiantly seen black shapes, moving around toward the edge of the hollow.

"Over there!" Came the frantic whisper of Dasmer. Pointing with his drawn blade. In the road from which they came a definite dark shape, and a pair of glowing eyes could be seen.

"It's a demon!" Cried Zas.

"We'll see." Said Damor, drawing his staff before him. Clutching it with his right in the middle, and near the top with his left. With that he shouted an inaudible word over the crack of his spell. Upon saying the incantation, he moved his staff to the right, and his left hand to the left. A bright ball of light formed between his staff and hand and shot quickly towards the road.

With a second crack, a large area of the road was lit in a bright white light. But all that could be seen was a flash of brown, as what looked like a large tail leaped out of the encompassing area of light.

The spell faded in seconds, and they were left again in darkness. The spell surprisingly hadn't effected the party's night vision.

"It anticipated the spell, anticipation promotes, intelligence." Said Vince, standing next to Damor.

"Indeed." Said Damor. With a suddenness that surprised even Vince, the wizard spun around and repeated the spell even faster than before. This time the ball of light hit a tree on the outskirts of the hollow. All that could be seen was the hindquarters of two dark figures. One midnight blue, the other a deep wood brown.

"What in the name of the dark lord was that?" Said Denath in disbelief.

"I don't know, but if you don't want to find out, build up the fire. They don't seem to like light." Said Damor. Everyone complied, throwing on all the wood they had gathered.

"Begging your pardon sir." Said Tals, he had recovered enough, but there was still a note of fear in his voice, add that to the fact that he was always a little afraid of the wizard, and his voice was very timid indeed.

"Well spit it out." Said Damor quickly.

"Well it's..... um.... what happens when the wood runs out?"

"We shall have to see." Replied Damor simply. Tals and the other two younger ones shivered.

"How can we fight what we cannot see?" Implored Trist.

"How can we fight what is not of this earth." Said Denath, not asking a question, but making a statement.

"We may not have to fight, I do not know what these creatures want, and I do not know how many there are. It could very well be just the two we saw. We saw how quick they are, and they appear to move quite stealthily." Damor said.

"Too true, but if it is only two moving undetected, how would we ever hope to fight a monstrosity like that?" Cain asked.

"We will see." Vince said.

They all sat in a circle, their back to the fire. All had their weapons drawn. Some clutching them tightly in their hands, and some having them lie in their laps. No one slept a wink that night. Some of the younger ones started to drift off, but they soon awakened, as desperate whispers warned of the movements of their unseen foes.

"There!"

"Another."

"Four eyes, count them." Came the whispers all night long.

The fire burned steadily lower. No one dared to leave the circle to gather more wood, and each dreaded as the light got dimmer and dimmer, and their foes seemed to creep closer and closer. With each passing minute the circle of light got smaller and smaller, and fainter and fainter.

After several hours, Islata began to nod off, leaning against the hilt of his sword. Tals's head soon fell onto his shoulder, and the pair were fast asleep. Sundeer looked at them, and prodded Islata. But he did not awake. Soon Sundeer fell to the side, fast asleep as well.

It happened so suddenly. Trist was the only one awake on that side. And with out warning he saw a midnight blue blur leaping from the darkness, and right at the sleeping boys. The pair were hit. There was the definite sound of claws on metal, and then as fast as it came the figure was gone. No one got a good look at it. They only saw blurs.

The whole party was aroused, and wide awake in seconds. They turned to see the cause of the commotion. Islata and Tals were curled up in balls, writhing on fear or pain, no one new. Trist was lying with his back on the ground, soundlessly mouthing words. A sign of his disbelief.

Again, it happened so suddenly no one caught a glimpse, accept blurred fur. As soon as everyone turned to see what was wrong, a deep wood brown blur leapt out of the shadows, and struck Dasmer in the back. Dasmer was thrown to the ground violently, with a second sound of claws on metal, as the blow hit home on his armor.

Everyone spun around, and looked wildly about. Some whispering frantically, others looking into the gloom, desperately.

"Quit all of you!" Barked Damor. "Check out the little ones, see if they are hurt, or merely scared. The rest of you, keep your eyes open, and be ready for a further attack. That may have just been trying to confuse us."

With much effort, Cain and Dashi pried the boys out of their balled up position, and opened their cloaks. There they saw gashes, gong deep into the metal, in the shape, and formation of bears claws. But no one had ever heard of bears claws being so sharp, or keen.

There was no blood, and the boys were unhurt, just scared out of their wits.

"What was that all about?" Asked Croma.

"Who knows, they may have been trying to kill us. But they seem smarter than that. They most likely know their blows aren't killing us, they must be trying to disorientate us." Damor said.

"And it seems to be working, I'm sure not one of us will get a wink of sleep, even if he wanted to. And if he does fall asleep, they will strike again. And we all know that tired, and scared warriors are a lot easier to kill than fully rested, brave ones." Denath said. "We best be wary."

And so they did. No one slept that night. The two boys remained curled up in balls, their eyes wide open, and shocked looking.

The fire slowly died. In one short hour, the blaze was down to a few embers. The party crowded around the dying fire. The warm glow only encompassed an area of a few feet around them. And the dark shapes moved unchecked around them. All the wood, save two large sticks that Vince insisted remain unburned, and wrapped with oil cloths lay next to the fire. The rest of the wood was all gone.

Dawn was several hours away, when the terror struck. Several, not a few, but several shapes materialized out of the gloom, and rushed into the tiny circle of light so fast they were merle blurs of midnight blue, ebony, and deep wood brown. There was the swish of a paw, and the clash of claws on armor. Several men fell. All that saved them was Vince. He leapt into the fray, holding his two burning sticks. He had thrust the oil cloth end into the dying embers, and lit them ablaze. He ran around, wildly waving his flame, sending sparks, and flame all over. The mysterious creatures retreated, some with yelps of pain.

"Fire not the light, but the burning!" Roared Denath. He took his huge double edged battle ax, and laid it's edge flat. He then scooped the coals onto it, and flung them, along with a lot of dirt at the creatures.

With yelps of pain, and roars that could make a brave man tremble, the creatures retreated even further away.

"Now the light is gone, we're finished!" Shouted Zas.

"Not quite, be ready to fight it out." Said Damor. He strode up to the now empty fire pit, and stabbed his staff a foot deep into the ground. He stood next to it and began chanting loudly.

"Da ma mas ma, Da ma mas ma, Da ma mas ma!" He chanted, louder and louder. A white light, like the white of his previous spell began to form in the circle of stones they had made into a fire pit. With one last word, inaudible over the roar suddenly coming from the ground itself, he raised his hands over his head, spread eagle style.

A bright column of light erupted from the fire pit. It went high into the air, and then came down in, like a cage of crisscrossing fibers. This white light made a square all around them, for one hundred feet.

"Charge!" Yelled Denath, his huge battle ax above his head.

With that all the warriors rushed out in their circle. Vince and Dasmer charged, their bright swords out in front of them. Denath and Zas both ran in the opposite direction, their axes ready.

The three dwarves holding hand axes ran in one direction, and the three wielding long swords, ran in another. The two elves stood near the glowing fire pit, and shot arrows into the dark woods where the creatures had retreated.

A spear was hurled at Vince. He beat it to the ground with the flat of his blade. Only pausing his charge for a second as he got his foot under it and tossed it up to where he could catch it with his hand. Wielding it with his left hand, point out, He continued his charge into the darkness.

All the warriors reached the darkness at the same time. The glow from the spell expanded into the woods, and gave them some light to fight bye. But it was pandemonium. As soon as they entered the darkness. Several were struck down by unseen, but incredibly powerful blows. And not all the blows were from paws. Some were swords and maces.

And all the figures sighted earlier were crawling around on all fours, like wolves, but some dark shapes could be seen walking erect, towering over even Denath.

Vince's bright sword slashed again and again. The blows failed to find their mark however. His aim was true, even in the dark, but the creatures proved to be as nimble as they were fast. Countless times he swung his sword at the pair of glowing eyes mocking him. But each time they were lost. Only to reappear just out of his range.

Suddenly, Vince struck with his sword, saw the creature dodge, and then turned and slashed behind him. Dasmer saw a black shape that he hadn't even seen retreat from the slashing blow. Then with out spinning, Vince brought the spear around so the tip was pointing behind him, and thrust it backwards.

A howl of pain pierced the woods. He spun, trusting Dasmer to cover his rear from the creature that was creeping up on him, and slashed to finish off the wounded monstrosity. He thought his blade once again miss entirely, but he will learn later that he actually hit one of the beasts long claws, and cut it clean off. His elven steel cutting through the pure evil entity easily, as it was designed to do.

Dasmer charged down the creature, but like Vince, his strikes were easily dodged. He was driving it backwards toward the fading, but still bright, glowing square. He thought he would achieve a victory if he drove it into the light. There if he couldn't kill it he could at least see it.

But the mysterious creature thwarted him once again. With a flash of movement that he could barely see, the beast leapt into the branches, and disappeared. Dasmer ran back toward Vince, and shouted.

"Watch out, one from above!" As he neared, Dasmer saw a form leap from the tree, and land on Vince. He was thrown to the ground from the force. And the creature let out a blood curdling cry as it reared back, and prepared to sink it's fangs into the soft flesh of Vince's exposed neck.

In a flash, Dasmer was at Vince's side. He brought his sword in an upwards slash that caught the beast in the flank. It howled, and leapt back. Vince, rolling over, shouted.

"Look out!" He hurled his spear, and the weapon hit the beast jumping silently toward Dasmer's neck, in the throat. Soundlessly it fell to the ground, dead.

The one Dasmer had wounded jumped back to a tree. And began to scale it.

"Oh no you don't" Came a shout. Dasmer recognized it as Dashi's voice. And a hand ax came spinning to strike the beast in the side, throwing it off of the tree, and violently to the ground. It writhed, and howled in pain for a few seconds, but it too died.

The figure of Dashi jogged toward the fallen creature.

"Lets take a look at these beasts shall....." He was cut off, as a dark figure dropped from the trees and landed on his back. Sinking it's fangs into his exposed neck. Both dropped to the ground silently.

With speed surprising both Dasmer, Vince, and especially the creature, the pair rushed at the beast. They were upon it in seconds, and all it had time to do was rear up on it's hind legs. With cry's of rage, the two men plunged their swords strait through the creatures flesh. Both went right up to the hilt, and their hands and cloaks were soaked in warm blood.

But the pair did not stop there. The used their momentum from their charge to lift the creature off the ground, and slam it's dying form into a nearby tree. Their swords stabbing deep into the wood, holding the still writhing form to the tree.

With an unearthly roar, Vince grabbed both swords and pulled them out of the tree, and the creature. Before the creature's feet even hit the ground, he swung his own sword, and it connected with the creatures neck, severing it completely, dropping the head to the ground, and spraying blood all around.

He turned, tossed Dasmer's sword back to him, and moved on, careening away into the dark. Dasmer tried to follow, but was soon lost in the woods.

* * * * * *

Denath and Zas ran into the woods at the beginning of the fray. They swung their axes wildly, and powerfully. A small tree caught in the way of Denath's giant blade was severed, and went sailing on.

Always his opponent danced out of his reach. One came around behind him, and tried to sink it's fangs into his neck. He used the back end of his ax pole to slam the beast in the chest. It yelped in pain, and he swung around quickly. His mighty swing caught the beast under the arm, and lifted it clear up into the air. It slammed into the upper branches, and came crashing down. Zas finished the dying beast with a blow starting over his head.

A beast leapt at Denath, hoping to knock him down. Denath swung around, and hit the monstrosity in the face with his ax in a backwards arch. It's face was smashed in, and blood sprayed out across the ground. A second creature was coming at him at the same time.

He dropped the ax blade onto the ground, and used the pole as a brace. The creatures stomach hit the pole, and he used his great strength to hurl the monstrosity away. Two white shafted arrows struck it, one in the flank, the other in the throat. It fell to the ground soundlessly.

The fight raged on. Even after Damor was too tired to continue his spell, and the light faded. Damor collapsed into a heap next to the empty fire pit. The roaring of the beasts, the shouts of the men, the occasional yelps of pain from the beats and roars of defeat and death from the men and dwarves.

Dasmer fought on, with each blow his arm got heavier and heavier. After a long day of traveling, a sleepless night, and this battle, his body was empty. The adrenaline pumping gave him energy to fight at first, but that can only go so far.

Darkness began to cloud his vision. Dark shapes loomed in on him, and he suddenly fell to his knees, his sword stabbed into the ground, he used that to stay up. But soon he was overcome, and he passed out.