The Fighters – Slayer

The Fighters – Slayer

I wrote this summary and sample as a submission to Wizards of the Coast for a series of D&D novels. After the setting competition that saw the creation of the Eberron campaign world there was a competition for ideas for a novel to be entitled “Maiden of Pain”. My submission for MoP was not accepted but it drew enough attention from the editors that I was invited to submit for the Fighters series. This was my idea for novel about a planeswalking psychic warrior.

SYNOPSIS

The town of Founder’s Reach, in the Thunder Mountains west of Cormyr, is besieged by a githyanki war company called the Weeping Bronze. The Weeping Bronze are led by D’Rhaegor Sin (PsiW/Ftr) and his battle-spouse, D’Rhaegor Sirin (Psi) It is early winter and Founder’s Reach has been under siege since spring. Food and other supplies are low. The Weeping Bronze demand the return of a stolen githyanki silver sword. The townsfolk know nothing of the sword. An empty tower in the centre of town protects it from the main of the githyanki’s powers via a large gem mounted on top that projects an anti-magic field.

The Weeping Bronze began their siege by attacking the town’s main temple, at the edge of town. The temple served many gods, including Lathandar and Tymora. The only full priest now left alive is Chailaron (Clr of Malar) who provides the main of the town’s healing and food, but only to the militiamen defending during the siege, since he believes in the survival of the fittest. Ellyara (Clr of Sune) is a beautiful girl from Founder’s Reach in her early twenties. From the age of fifteen, Ellyara was betrothed to Enroth, the mayor’s son. Enroth was content to keep Ellyara as his betrothed while he ‘sowed his wild oats’. Ellyara grew tired of waiting and was planning to travel to Suzail, to train in the priesthood of Sune. She was about to leave when the Weeping Bronze besieged the town.

Adamant is a Slayer (PsiW/Slay) who is diverted in his planar travels by Ellyara’s devout prayers to Sune. He arrives with his pseudodragon companion Phorothon, in the midst of githyanki knights hunting a farmwife from Founder’s Reach. Adamant saves the woman, but receives a mixed welcome from the besieged town and is summoned to the council. The council asks for his help. At Ellyara’s prompting, he proposes a mission to the temple to recover any magical armour, weapons or healing resources still there. The mission is vigorously opposed by Chailaron and none of the militia are willing to help. Ellyara, who is frustrated by being forced out of the defence, is the only volunteer.

The mission to the temple is successful. Ellyara has an epiphany in the temple and swears herself as a paladin in the service of Sune. When the two return, the town defenders try to take away the salvaged weapons and armour, even the ones that Ellyara has claimed for herself. The two factions almost come to blows, but the town council intervenes. In order to prevent conflict, Adamant is asked to take a letter to the nearest settlement seeking aid.

Adamant travels with Ellyara to the next village but finds that it has already been raided and all of the villagers slain. Clues in the village indicate that one of the council members in Founder’s Reach has the silver sword. On the way back to the town they are ambushed by the Weeping Bronze. They flee for the town but Adamant is forced into personal combat with D’Rhaegor Sin. Both are seriously wounded by the clash.

Using the evidence recovered from the sacked village, Ellyara unmasks the traitor in Founder’s Reach and recovers the stolen silver sword. The council decides to return the sword to the githyanki. D’Rhaegor Sirin, perceiving a weakness in her husband, secretly visits the convalescing Adamant, to offer him the command of the Weeping Bronze and her own hand as a battle-spouse. Adamant rebuffs her advances.

Resentful of Adamant and Ellyara’s successes, Enroth and Chailaron lead a group of militia to attack the Weeping Bronze camp. Ellyara learns of the attack and informs Adamant. Adamant and Ellyara pursue the militia, bringing the silver sword with them, in the hope of averting a disaster. The militia attack the Weeping Bronze, but are swiftly outclassed and captured.

Adamant and his companions reach the githyanki camp and find that the captured militia have been dominated by the githyanki psionic powers and are about to be sent as thrall soldiers to assault Founder’s Reach. They attack the camp, aided by astral constructs that Adamant creates from a power stone, his most powerful possession. During the battle, Phorothon fights the dominated Chailaron; Ellyara fights with Enroth;and Adamant battles through the githyanki knights to D’Rhaegor Sin and offers to return the sword. D’Rhaegor Sin, goaded on by Sirin who is angry at Adamant’s rebuff, refuses to accept any peace offer. The two warriors fight with silver swords and Sin is defeated.

The remaining warriors of the Weeping Bronze renew their attack, but they are interrupted by the appearance of a herald of the githyanki Lich Queen. He offers peace in return for the sword. D’Rhaegor Sirin and the Weeping Bronze protest, but the Lich Queen’s herald is insistent. Adamant relinquishes the sword and the Weeping Bronze are forced to withdraw to the astral plane.

The survivors return to Founder’s Reach with the good news. Ellyara invites Adamant and Phorothon to accompany her as she journeys to Suzail to continue her new life.

THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT IS FROM PART WAY INTO THE FIRST CHAPTER

Opening his eyes slowly, Adamant could see the autumnal grass beneath him, trampled to the frostbitten earth. He could feel an icy, morning breeze blowing around his half prostrate form. The cool of it chilled his armour as it whispered in between the seams of the metal. Adamant stood at last to survey his surroundings. Flexing his shoulders underneath his breastplate and the straps of his travelling pack, he stretched to his full six-foot height. He rubbed his beard with the leather palm of his gauntleted hand and blinked his grey eyes, like a man awakening from a long sleep. His hair was a sandy blonde colour, cut short upon his bare head. Though tall and muscular, there was a sense of control to his movements, a precise grace that suggested life-long training and discipline. Over his shoulder, no more than two hundred paces away, he could see a series of hastily dug trenches and ramparts cringing against the edges of a town. Slate roofs and walls with peeling whitewash were visible above the improvised, earthwork defences. Nearby to his left was a large temple with an ornate portico, facing the town. A fallen portion of the roof and black soot stains climbing around the temple’s shattered windows indicated that it had recently been sacked.

“Not a good sign.” Adamant said quietly. From beneath the midnight blue folds of his cloak, a lizard-like head poked out, no larger than a cat’s, with a pair of iridescent, crystalline eyes. A serpentine neck, a winged body and a long, stingered tail rapidly followed the head. As the little creature emerged, it clambered up Adamant’s breastplate to perch upon his shoulder. Its scales flashed, multi-coloured in the morning light, as it swung its head back and forth.

“This is not where we are supposed to be,” said the creature in a quiet, piping voice.

“No, Phorothon, it isn’t,” agreed Adamant.

“Ramparts and sacked temples,” observed Phorothon from his perch. “Speaks of battle, or even war.”

“Yes.”

A sudden scream rent the quiet air and a woman in a torn, homespun dress and carrying a cloth bundle clutched to her chest, emerged from around the far corner of the temple, running at full pelt. She covered the space to Adamant and his psuedodragon companion in less than a minute. As the distance closed, the recently arrived warrior realised that the bundle she carried was in fact a baby. The woman was frantic, constantly looking behind her and she did not see Adamant’s armoured figure standing in her path before she ran right into him. Adamant barely felt the impact, as if the woman weighed almost nothing. She rebounded from him and fell to the ground, cowering at his feet. With her prostrate form, she covered the swaddled baby, apparently hoping to spare it some unspeakable horror.

Adamant crouched down to her, reaching out a gauntleted hand to touch her shoulder softly. She cringed back from him, as though his touch was poisonous. He reached out again, more firmly, and drew her chin up to meet her eyes. The terror in her dirt streaked face melted into puzzlement as she looked at him and his winged companion. Adamant knew that she could see the sapphire tear, embedded in the flesh of his cheek beneath his left eye, and was trying to decipher its meaning. He smiled, hoping to assuage her fear.

“Please sir…” she began hesitantly, but stopped as from beyond the edge of the temple came the soft dull thuds of horses’ hooves stepping on the muddy ground. The woman looked in terror behind her and then fell over her child again, shaking in fear. Adamant looked to the temple and for a moment he caught a whiff of a strange, scorched scent, like the smell of a hot smithy’s forge. Phorothon sniffed quizzically at the air.

“Brimstone?” said the little draconic creature, puzzled by the scent.

From around the corner of the temple wall emerged the horror that drove the woman. Three slender figures, mounted on horses of jet-black, walked their mounts casually out from behind the ruined building. Their hair was tied up in intricate topknots and they wore fluted splint mail, gilded in gold and bronze. The mounts, though they looked like horses, snorted puffs of smoke from their nostrils and their eyes glowed with inner red fire. The dead grass beneath their feet smouldered and the dew wet earth sizzled. These were nightmares, infernal creatures from the very pits of hell. The three knights walked their mounts unhurriedly, with the air of noblemen at leisure, perhaps on a hunt or similar outing. When the three ‘hunters’ saw that their quarry had found a new companion, they paused and conferred among themselves. They apparently found the new development interesting and engaging. Nodding their helmeted heads as they conversed, the three calmly assessed the situation.

“Githyanki,” whispered Adamant, almost spitting out the word, as though it was a curse.

“Somebody up there hates us,” said Phorothon morbidly. “Well, hates you at any rate.”

Adamant ignored his pseudodragon companion, instead looking down to the woman on the ground before him, drawing her eyes to meet his once more. “Run,” he told her in a gentle voice that nonetheless carried the strength of a command. “Take your child and run for the town. Do not stop and do not look back.”

The woman nodded her head and wiped tears from her eyes with the edge of her sleeve. Something in Adamant’s voice, a powerful vehemence, flowed through her mind and heart, steeling her will to live. She forced her legs beneath herself, clutched her child close to her chest again and began to run, throwing herself step after step at the defended town. In her mind there was now only one purpose, one will; to run and live. As she began her flight, one of the three mounted knights spurred his steed forward. From a holster on his saddle, the armoured githyanki warrior drew up a long lance of black metal with a glittering, red crystal at the tip. The nightmare steed rapidly reached a gallop and in a space of only breaths, the charging mount and rider were bearing down on Adamant, lance couched for the charge.

For his part, Adamant raised himself to his feet and fixed his gaze on the charging figure. By discipline of will and clarity of thought, he mobilised the psionic powers of his mind, gathering energies of the psyche to serve him in ways which most mortals never learnt. The pupils of his eyes became slitted like a cats and his chest deepened with each in-breath, as his body responded to his psychic control. From its sheath at his hip, he drew out his long hand-and-a-half sword, the cold forged blade flashing in the morning son. Set in the blade, close to the hilt, a star sapphire, kin to the tiny gem on his cheek, glowed with azure radiance. It was clear that the knight meant to run him down and then ride on to take the woman as well, before she could reach the ramparts. A half smile turned his lips as he awaited the thundering beast and rider.

“Today is not a good day for the sons of Gith,” he said quietly.

The nightmare and rider bore down on Adamant, the knight’s red woollen cloak streaming behind him. The lance tip was poised at the height of Adamant’s chest, ready to spit him. Phorothon took wing, flying up into the air on a steep climb, seemingly fleeing the coming blow. There was no blow however, no wounding strike, as at the last moment, Adamant moved. In an instant he was displaced without taking any step or motion, suddenly standing beside the nightmare, level with the rider’s saddle. Before the githyanki knight could respond, Adamant’s sword crashed into the nightmare’s rear legs, knocking them out from under the mount and bringing it down in a violent heap. A skilled rider, the knight was not thrown from the saddle, but rode his mount downwards in a controlled fall. At the last moment, he rolled out of the stirrups and onto the ground, coming up on one knee. He scanned quickly about for his foe, but too late, as Adamant charged forward and took the knight’s head from his shoulders in a single stroke.

The dead knight’s two companions, though astonished at their comrade’s easy destruction, did not stand confused for long. Nodding to one another, they spurred their mounts to action. They separated from each other as they charged, sweeping out to attack Adamant from two different directions. Near by, the now riderless nightmare whickered and stamped its way back to its feet, in spite of its badly wounded rear legs. Then, with an angry champ in Adamant’s direction, it galloped away. Having been released from its servitude by its master’s death, the hell-spawned beast faded from the material plane, making its way back to its infernal home.

The remaining githyanki charged together from opposite sides, wielding long silver swords. The argent blades seemed to flex and warp, as though the metal itself were a living thing. The nightmares snorted violently, sooty, grey smoke puffing from their nostrils as they worked quickly up to a gallop. The brassed tack of the saddles and bridles jingled as the smouldering hooves drummed over the dead ground. Adamant shifted back and forth in fighting stance, seeking any advantage as the two knights came on. The riders aimed to pass on either side of the lone warrior, striking simultaneously with their swords. Adamant watched closely and waited until both riders were irrevocably committed to the charge. When both riders were at such a speed that neither could stop or easily turn, Adamant threw himself sideways, rolling across the ground just in front of the hooves of the mount to his left; so close that the dirt kicked up by the beast’s hoofs sprayed his face as he dodged past. The githyanki rider leant down low in the saddle, the straps of his stirrups creaking with the added strain and his silver-bladed sword flashed in a fluid arc. The tip of the blade caught Adamant on the shoulder, even though his power of displacement made it appear as though his body jumped and danced in mad dislocations. The sword scored the plates of Adamant’s armour, but did not penetrate to his flesh. Recoiling in pain, Adamant spun away from the knight’s blade. He managed to keep to one side of the pair of riders so that he wouldn’t immediately be forced to face both riders at once. The knight who had just struck him wheeled his mount in a tight turn, the nightmare almost dancing up onto it hind legs like a fine cavalry mount before plunging forward once more. The second knight turned his mount in a wider arc, maintaining his mount’s momentum as he came around for a second charge.

Crouched low upon the ground, Adamant assessed his chances. The longer the fight continued, the better the odds that the two knights would manage to trap him between their blades. Their mounts gave them the twin advantages of mobility and height. If he was going to win this battle, he needed to do it soon. Seizing the fallen knight’s lance, Adamant drove himself forward, quickly reaching a run as he charged to meet the oncoming knight. He closed the gap between them swiftly and surprised the githyanki horseman by jamming the point of the lance into the ground at the mount’s feet, vaulting high into the air. The knight tried to defend himself, but was knocked from the saddle, as Adamant slammed bodily into him. He fell heavily to the ground, momentarily winded, while Adamant landed lightly upon his feet, deft as a cat. Before the fallen knight could recover, Adamant was upon him, ramming the point of his bastard sword through the seams of the prone warrior’s splint mail. The githyanki died with a sickening wrench, as Adamant twisted his blade in the wound. The corpse lay flat, black eyes staring at the empty sky.

Adamant turned as the sound of hoofs heralded the approaching charge of the final knight. Before the last githyanki could reach Adamant however, he was forced to baulk, as an iridescent creature suddenly flew straight at his face. The knight recoiled in his saddle, bringing his mount to a rapid halt, as he tried to deal with Phorothon’s sudden, distracting assault. The pseudodragon’s form rippled and shifted, as his own illusionary powers blurred his appearance. From a distance it seemed as if the small, draconic creature was made from the stuff of rainbows, a refracted image, like sunlight glittering through spraying mists. The githyanki knight’s confusion did not last long however, and he soon brought his blade about in a close sweep, striking at his annoying opponent. The silver sword failed to strike, as Phorothon darted back and upward with a chirruping giggle.

“Too slow,” Phorothon mocked, flapping just out of sword range. The githyanki knight watched the pseudodragon fly out of range, angrily tracking its progress and hoping for another chance to strike. Too late, the alien warrior realised his mistake, for as he looked to Phorothon, Adamant had closed the intervening ground. The knight looked down in time to see Adamant extend his left arm. A beam of glittering, ruby coloured light lanced from Adamant’s left hand, straight at the knight. It struck with a force like a battering ram, driving the knight up into the air and out of his saddle. The nightmare reared in fury, its smoking hoofs striking down like falling hammers. Adamant dodged backwards as the hoofs fell, then surged inwards and struck swiftly. His blade slashed across the nightmare’s neck, felling the evil creature. No blood flowed from the wound, only an oily, foul-smelling smoke. It lay upon the ground a short while, before dissolving into a noisome, black liquid that quickly evaporated into the same dark smoke, leaving only the creature’s outline burnt into the grass and mud.

The last githyanki knight recovered his feet, holding his sword at the ready. He and Adamant regarded each other momentarily. After a moment of apparent indecision, the githyanki reached out with his left hand. From the ground where it had fallen, his dead comrade’s sword lifted into the air and flew to his outstretched hand. Then the lone surviving knight vanished in a silent flash of blinding light, leaving Adamant alone in front of the town.

“That went well,” said Phorothon happily, landing back upon Adamant’s shoulder.

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