Okay, I have made changes to the other scenes currently posted in the thread, which is scene II and III. I have re-written some parts and made some necessary cuts that dragged the story down!
Tell me what you think!
And the final scene of the Chapter is coming soon, I promise!
EDIT: Looks like it is here now! And actually, Scene IV is the final scene of the chapter
, this is a continuation of Scene III. Changes are still inbound for this scene, just wanted to go ahead and get it up here.
Just a heads up for anyone who is interested, but scene IV will be the last scene I'll be posting of this (I think... we shall see).
The rogues flitted across the shadows of the alley as if night-melded ghosts. Their hazed outlines darted in-and-out of vision even as they closed in around Azat from a two-pronged path. Azat strode forward for two steps and made to equip the scutum shield slung over his shoulder. Such a defense would do him no good against daggers and poisoned needles once he was flanked, but could give him an advantage in a direct frontal assault.
The rogues blitzed forward in a sudden charge and coiled in around either flank. Azat lifted his shield and slid out of reach of the first flurry of blows to rain down upon where he stood moments before. He retreated and whirled toward his left flank in one fluid movement. Convinced of a gained advantage, the rogue which faced him skittered forward to press the assault. Ebon Cobra
cut through rain and stormy air toward the rogue and planted a serpentine kiss neatly on the left cheek. Azat drew the wicked sword back behind his shoulder and hefted his shield around in an arced swing. The rogue on his right was caught in the chest by the blow and thrown backward several steps. A quicksilver dagger bit deep into the mail around his arm, quickly followed with a successive strike that caught Azat beneath the chin.
The rogue cut upward in an attempt to murder Azat outright, but the attack destined for the spot where Azat’s skull remained perched upon his neck was nothing more than a graze. The wicked knife left a nasty cut where it sliced across the flesh beneath Azat’s chin and severed the strap which kept his plumed helmet in place. A sharp uppercut of an elbow rammed into the cut and pried his helmet straight off of his shoulders.
Azat slunk out of reach to recover himself and charged back into the fray. He flicked Obsidian Cobra in a woven pattern of serpentine strikes that sliced into cloak and armor with a dozen crimson marks left upon his foes. He weaved around several thrust and shoulder-charged the nearest rouge from his feet and into the crumbled wall of a decrepit hovel. The sheer force of the abrupt assault crunched moldering lumber like dried and brittle clay beneath a hammer stroke. The assassin grunted in surprise and was cast away into the darkness, buried in a foot of shattered lumber that collapsed on top of him.
A sharp pain flared behind Azat’s flank before he could turn to guard himself. Another quicksilver dagger glimmered in the storm light and hurtled over his shoulder for his exposed throat. In the same moment, the knife embedded between his ribs was pried loose and chiseled a ragged cut across his shield arm.
Stung by the viper’s kiss of the rogue’s dagger, Azat felt his grip upon the shield slacken until it clattered uselessly into a muddied crimson puddle. Haggard from the assault, he weaved away from the dagger hurtled toward his throat. He smashed back behind him with a forceful elbow and stole the momentum garnered from the rogue’s advance. His foe quivered from the counter-attack and missed his mark by a mere breath’s graze.
The rogue cut his daggers back in a flurry of reversed strikes and masterful thrust. Ebon Cobra
struck back much like a serpent reared against a kindred spirit. For every six strikes, Azat parried four with single-minded concentration, but could never avoid the other pair that carved into him each time. Raw pain burst from neat wounds punched into his armor. Crimson droplets dribbled from the cuts left upon his shoulders, chest, and thighs. Ebon Cobra
lashed out with the speed of a serpent reared up with her fangs bared. The distinct crack of cold steel forced upon thin and fragile metal resonated from one end of the alley to the next. Azat tore away his sword and followed upon the strike with the edge of the shield into the rogue’s fractured mask.
A scream tore itself loose from the foe’s throat as the mask that hid his features splintered into a mass of tiny, razor-sharp shards. Crimson-liquid streamed from the broken foe and pooled over the rim of Azat’s shield. The rogue staggered and collapsed onto one knee, a gesture of immediate surrender and defeat. Ebon Cobra
sung through rain and air in a blur of motion. In one momentous sweep, the rogue’s head arced and soared backwards through the air at an angle. A bloody trail streamed into the alley and mingled with the puddles of collected rainwater scattered across the alley. The corpse toppled backward and sprawled itself upon the blood-streaked cobblestones of the alley.
Azat stood triumphant—haggard, but victorious—over the site of the coup-de-grace he had delivered. A sudden disturbance, the noise of lumber clattered over each other and being scattered made him pause. He spared a hurried glance over his shoulder in time to see the other assassin emerge back into the alley with daggers poised.
Perfect pearl fangs glimmered in the torchlight as a feral grin split the Zarquin’s scarred lips. Azat did not hesitate, but split the rogue’s metallic mask neatly in twain with a hard flick of his wrist. The rogue staggered backward from the blow, but did not even think to retaliate. The corpse remained on its feet for a lengthened moment until crimson beads began to stream from the vertical wound etched into the mask.
“Gruesome,” Vindiaccos applauded him as the final rogue toppled in a heap upon itself. “But I shall witness their noble deaths… more than such men could dream for, I would say. I have bore witness to your valor, Azat. Prepare yourself with whatever prayer your gods approve of.”
“Honor.” Azat loomed triumphant over his foe and grimaced from the heavy burden of pain. He raised one blood-slathered metallic fist into the air and limped toward the fallen shield discarded in the murk. “Should I perish in the bleakness of night, I would know who sent you after me?”
Vindiaccos offered him a mere enigmatic smile and pointed toward Azat’s fallen shield. He nodded. “I would rather not disclose, for I could fall within the very hour myself. You can rest assured, Azat, you shall know in the final hour of your judgement.”
Vindiaccos studied Azat with a curious glint in his one eye of crystal sapphire. “The Zarquin Guard have chosen their own path, but one long ordained by your master’s hand. I gaze into your soul and can find nothing but a mastermind’s strings woven around your puppet heart. I wonder if there is even a shred of the man you should have been still locked away in the void of your mind? Or does Erasyl impose his entire conscious and will upon inner eye, Azat?”
A wolfish grin split across Azat’s scarred lips, spurred into a frenzied fury that burst from deep within the Zarquin Guard himself. Azat staggered haphazardly onto one knee and scooped up the heavy round shield by the strap. He did not flinch or waver from Vindiaccos’ eagle-eyed glare, but placed Ebon Cobra
reverently upon the slickened, blood-streaked cobblestones instead. Bloodied, but unbent, Azat fastened several leather straps that dangled from the gauntlet clasped around his off-hand until the round shield became an extension of the arm that wielded her.
Azat rumbled with a throaty peal of laughter. “You ramble at length about things which should now seem meaningless to you, Vindiaccos. You mention honor and freedom and thought. You whisper of fates destined by the forgotten decree of the gods… and you have forgotten that no man or woman—neither you or I, can escape what was promised us from birth.
“No, Vindiaccos…” Azat declared and reclaimed Ebon Cobra
even as he struggled back onto his feet. “You understand that honor is an inconceivable concept for a warrior such as myself. I would not ask for mercy and neither would you. As I would not show you mercy, you shall not deign to send me softly into the next life.”
Vindiaccos slung a silver-blue kite shield from over his shoulder and hefted a war hammer with the other hand. He offered Azat an unconcerned shrug. “Have it your way. When you meet your Old Gods, do not tell them that I did not warn you.”
Vindiaccos clashed the war hammer upon his shield and advanced beneath a hundred bolts of forked lightning hurled from the heavens. Azat studied and mirrored the stance of his foe, then likewise advanced. Adrenaline hammered in the Zarquin Guard’s chest and for a brief moment, he could feel some fraction of pain drain from his body like the waning of the tides. His exchange with the rogues had been brief and brutally so, but the combat had left Azat exhausted and struggling for every breath.
Spurred on by some undeniable force—or simply the will to keep living—Azat found no more room for hesitation or caution. Debilitated, wounded, and shallow-of-breath, Azat continued his advance. Should he show even a fraction of weakness, Azat knew he would be defeated and his fate sealed.
“You or I!” Azat bellowed and burst into a braced charge, scant distance away from his foe and pounced for the sudden kill. “To the halls of the gods!”
A fell gust slipped forth from between Vindiaccos’ lips in a momentous expulsion of breath. The Knight chanted into a storm woven from his own design and the sudden surge of wind transformed his beleaguered pace into a ground-quaking charge of his own. Like a sudden gale in a crystal mid-summer sky, an invisible force smashed into Azat as if a rolling wave that sought to take drag him screaming into the depths.
Azat cried out into the storm, his charge blunted and himself nearly cast aside much like a rag doll. The round shield locked over his arm quivered from the thrashing wind and cast off small wooden shards with each renewed gust. Ebon Cobra
continued to sing in his ear with a piercing cry as she cut through air and rain alike. But even in the face of such divine wrath made manifest, Azat pressed forward until each step planted forward was a beleaguered burden.
Out of the maelstrom, Vindiaccos closed the distance in a few bounding leaps, as if his physique was crafted from the very storm itself, at once corporeal and ethereal. Azat could listen to the distinct sound of a furious warrior closing in upon him, but could scarcely trace an outline in the deluge that crashed down upon him. A crushing force slammed into his shield, created from the thunder of Vindiaccos’ voice alone. Ebon Cobra
thrust blindly into the gale, but could not find a solidified target. In the same moment, the round shield over his arm disintegrated into a storm of shrapnel splinters. An explosion of shards caught Azat and showered over his ragged armor and into the open wounds that it could no longer protect. Azat tried to hold his ground, but found his efforts in vain and became tossed aside like a rag doll across the breadth of the alley.
Concentration scattered upon the four winds of the storm, Azat forced himself to collect his thoughts from where he laid sprawled upon the bloodied cobblestones. Bruised fingers clenched and clenched in a series of flexes, but Obsidian Cobra had been pried loose from their grasp.
Scarred amber eyes searched through the furious storm for any trace of the foe who would end his life. Several lengthy moments lingered and faded before Azat could hazily trace an outline emerge out of the impenetrable rains that concealed his advance.
“Yield, Azat!” Vindiaccos marched forward and threw his arms wide in a challenge. “Yield and I shall bestow upon you the mercy you would deny me! Or stand and fight, Son of Qarth, should you seek an end worthy of your name!”
Azat somehow shoved himself off of the ground in spite of the ferocious gale that threatened to sweep him into the heavens itself. He shielded himself from the primal wind, but the chill carried upon her currents cut through his armor and penetrated his flesh as if it never existed. How he had managed to reclaim Ebon Cobra
in the midst of the storm, he had not the slightest clue.
Azat roared into the maelstrom, a soundless noise drowned beneath the storm’s keen wails. “I would choose a hundred deaths rather than face defeat!” Ebon Cobra
impacted harmlessly across the width of a sapphire-and-silver kite shield as Azat charged blindly into the ceaseless rain. The Zarquin Guard coiled backwards in a half-lean, half-spin, the curved blade cutting back with him to block a fatal blow of an unadorned war hammer upon his chest. Azat wove a strange pattern around the war hammer as it searched for him through the storm, each practiced sweep of the mighty weapon made without effort, but each parry cost Azat a fraction of his own inner strength.
Azat buckled beneath the weight of the kite shield that crashed down upon the nasal guard of his helmet. The sheer force staggered and almost toppled him back onto the ground. He slid one foot backward, grounded himself, and counter-attacked with a pommel strike placed square in the center of Vindiaccos’ blurred throat. The Knight flinched from the blow and the war hammer hesitated for the slightest sliver in time. Ebon Cobra
slashed through the fabric of the storm even as Vindiaccos surged back into life to defend himself. Azat flicked his wrist, but caught the edge of his sword upon the ridge above his foe’s dead-white eye. He cut downward in a precise cut and left a neat trickle of blood that streamed down the Halish warrior’s left cheek.
Azat followed his strike with a two-staged attack. Ebon Cobra
struck away the war hammer before it could fall upon him from on-high. The second cut struck downward with the cobra’s kiss and stabbed into the armor joint where the pauldron met the gauntlet. A strike executed with preternatural speed, but Vindiaccos had anticipated the blow and smashed the curved sword out from under him with an arced swing of the kite shield.
Azat grunted once again as the steel edge of the kite shield caught him across the chest and ripped open a small knife wound taken in the previous fight even further. He almost bit his tongue free from the sudden cut of agony, but channeled the sensation into a flurry of strikes that caught his opponent off balance. Ebon Cobra
stung again and again, each attack poised to bite in and around the war hammer and shield which fought to stave him off. Azat pinned Vindiaccos’ shield with a shoulder-charge, but found himself pushed backward with a broad sweep of a vicious pommel strike. Obsidian Cobra snapped around Vindiaccos’ vulnerable sword-arm and slightly exposed thigh in several strikes that culminated in precise strikes around his helmeted skull.
“Sleep well in hell’s embrace!” Azat blocked a sweep of Vindiaccos’ shield with a lumbering kick that hurled the defense aside. Ebon Cobra
flashed toward an exposed throat, poised to cut through chain mail and flesh in one venomous and fell strike. In the fraction of a moment, Azat was rewarded with the spark of sharpened steel upon the metallic rings forged into armor. The thin layer of mail wrapped around Vindiaccos’ neck snapped like a bracelet torn from one’s wrist. The quilted armor divided from the blade’s caress and Azat imagined blood fountain from the fatal cut a mere breath before it could be etched.
Vindiaccos bellowed. An expulsion of force so unnatural and forceful that the frozen wind it birthed into life tore into Azat and thrust into the heart of every ragged wound it could scour. A life-sapping chill like the great deserts of the Desolation of Qarth in the dim of the starry night surged through the inner fabric which forged Azat in mind, body, and spirit. Where droplets of blood coagulated or dribbled from their wounds, now his life essence streamed freely from every open crevice as if the inner dam which held it at bay had collapsed amidst the currents.
Vindiaccos visited vengeance upon a stricken Azat before he could even find time to reel. The war hammer fell him upon with unrelenting and incessant aggression, each blow cracked upon his wounds a test to find where Azat was weakest. The Zarquin could not fend off the assault, armor broken open in a dozen spots and his bones shattered in his left shoulder and rib cage.
Azat parried one final stroke, for he could muster no more of his strength. The breath of winter had seeped him of all strength and stolen far too much of his own intellect. As he crumbled onto his knees, he could feel driven by no preservation to remain alive or desire for the glory of the kill. For a brief and tortured moment, he was nothing more than a husk flayed bare of skin, flesh, and bone, and even spirit.
Before the final death knell sounded, he managed one last and troubled thought.
Had Azat been nothing but a husk since the beginning?
“Your Old Gods go beslubber themselves!” Vindiaccos racked his hammer across Azat’s temple with all of his strength. The bone cracked and crumbled to give way to sweet and sudden death. The corpse of Azat crumbled without a word and silence descended upon the Hand of the Titan once again, save for a wrathful storm.