Hârn: Genisis – Entry 24


11th of Azura in the year 720 TR (cont.)

With little chance of fleeing the forces of Conquest in the night, the Shek-Pvar and the guards worked on ushering the townspeople into the Church of Peoni, the only structure that might stand up to some limited siege and placed near the center of town. Echo made a show of taking charge, ordering the Knights and guards about, publicly declaring to the people that Larani would protect them and otherwise making himself a loud annoyance to anyone who actually knew what they were doing.

Quietly, I gathered javelins the guards had brought in from their limited armory and the blacksmith’s, taking them outside. Echo didn’t even notice my disappearance at first, too busy with his theatrical performance. I set the javelins out by a low wall a short ways from the church with a good view over the town and the only main road leading in from the east. As the sun set, the barest hints of motion could be seen over the mountains in the night, like the very rocks of the mountain had come alive and were slowly crawling through the trees towards us as the light receded.

Echo appeared a short while later, berating me for slipping away. I ignored the opportunity to antagonize him, more concerned for once with the coming battle.

My plan was guided by the Other, who whispered of his experiences in the gladiator pits. While the army approached along the main road, I would rain what javelins I had down upon them. The front line would have to funnel through the nearby gate, making an excellent choke point to thin their numbers. In the end, if forced, I could retreat to the doors of the nearby church for our last stand.

That was the plan, at any rate. As night fell and the marching army grew closer, the party gathered one last time to administer blessings. The Cleric of Siem did lay a blessing upon me that filled me with vigor and strength. Perhaps he was not as useless as I thought. Echo blessed my weapons and armor, willing Larani to protect me, though I expect to see little sympathy from her, even if she were capable of aiding anyone from the great warrior who approached. The Shek-Pvar and Cleric of Siem took up a position in the Church’s tower while Merrick crept around the town’s streets and Mai Lin stood at the door to the church with her two dogs.

We waited at our posts, but the front line of warriors never manifested. Instead, black cloaked assassins once again appeared form the shadows with dark blades glimmering in the dim light. Cries from the others indicated they too were under attack as I was caught off guard with a javelin in my hand rather than my trusty axe as two of the bastards jumped from the shadows.

I ducked and stabbed between the two of them while Echo, nearby, screamed out what he must have thought was a ferocious war cry as he battled a third with his sword and shield in hand. In the background, I was vaguely aware of the great horn blowing again, closer this time and heralding something ominous.

Echo injured one of the three assassins and moved back to back with me, seeming to think I was concerned with protecting his flank as he called out to me. I drove my javelin through one of the men, killing him as I finally spared a glance down the center road. Between the dozens of guards and Knights fighting desperate battles against the cloaked assassin’s came a terrifying sight.

A giant of a man, clad in black scale armor and riding a massive war horse rode at a gallop up the main road as the horn blared once again in the background. Strapped to his back was a massive sword and shield and in his hand he wielded a giant, two headed flail as he rode. His face could not be seen beyond the slits in his helmet, but his eyes seemed to glimmer from within. Even his war horse, clad in heavy armor, seemed to have eyes that glowed like fire. The Great One of my dreams now become my manifest nightmare.

As he rode towards us in a charge, his flail caught one of the old knights in the chest, throwing him down as the plates of his armor scattered and a trail of blood arced through the air. I drove my javelin through the leg of the assassin facing me and left it there, dashing away to Echo’s angry cries as I abandoned him. I scooped up the pearl handled battle axe gifted to me in Moab as I dodged an arrow shot by another assassin and came to a stop in the middle of the road.

The thundering of the horses hooves mirrored the pounding in my chest as the Great One bore down on me and my end became clear. I gripped my weapon tightly and waited for my end to come. Conquest bore down on me, the horse’s breath jets of hot steam in the cold night air. The horseman raised his black flail high and swing it towards me and I stepped forward to meet it, then ducked low, spun and swung my axe up.

The silver edge cut clean through the bottom of the horses’ unarmored neck in a spray of dark blood. The horse crumpled at a full gallop, but the head of the flail smashed into the side of my head and everything went black.

Both Conquest and I rolled Critical Successes in a bit of epic coincidence; he on his attack roll and I on my counterattack roll against his horse. It would have been far safer to dodge or block, but I figured this was the fastest and possibly best chance at taking the rider off of his horse. It worked, though I paid for it.

In HârnMaster, every time a character takes a wound, the player rolls a number of D6 equal to the number of wounds they have taken. Minor wounds are one die while more serious wounds range from two to five for a Grievous or Killing wound. To avoid passing out or dying on the spot, again depending on the type and severity of wounds, the total dice value must be less than or equal to your Endurance value. Despite having taken a massive wound to the head, another minor wound and rolling an above average value the one time I don’t want a high dice roll, I managed to survive what likely would have been an instant death only because Falcon’s blessing had buffed my Endurance value by a number of points.

When Scaurus inevitably turns on and murders his entire party, I will allow him to be the last to die to show my thanks.

I awoke what seemed like an instant later. The dark sky stretched overhead and everywhere the sounds of combat and screams of the injured and dying. I rolled to my stomach, even as the sudden action blurred and doubled my vision from my pounding head. The crumpled body of the horse lay near by, its severed head several feet further.

A dozen feet beyond the horse, Conquest was slowly drawing to his feet from where he had been thrown. His pulled his large shield from his back and a massive, two handed war sword that he wielded in a single, mailed gauntlet as he stood snarling. I scrambled for my nearby stash of weapons, grabbing up my hand axe and broadsword in each hand as I stood, despite the protests of my wounds. Gingerly, I faced the warrior and we began to circle.

Echo charged, ignoring the remaining assassin, to strike at Conquest who was able to block the attack. I would have tried to take the offensive, but with my wounds and the horseman’s skill, I would most surely have been struck down. Instead I thrust with my sword, poking and prodding his defenses, looking for a break I could exploit. Arrows and enchanted darts from the Shek-Pvar rained down around us, aimed at Conquest from the tower. I had to push memories of the recent night to the back of my mind as the accursed shards of glass glanced off of his armor.

Finally, Echo landed a lucky blow, striking Conquest at the wrist and knocking his sword free of his hand. The horseman smashed his shield into the Cleric and I lunged at his back, hoping to make a quick kill. The warrior was too quick, though, spinning back around and bringing his shield up as I slammed into it. I stumbled as I was pushed back and both he and I fell to the ground away from one another.

I looked up in time to see Echo scoop up the horseman’s sword in both hands and swing it around in a wide arc, cutting deep into Conquest’s leg and nearly severing it despite the armor. I clamored to my feet as quickly as I could, but by the time I stood, Echo drove the tip of the sword though Conquest’s chest and the great warrior finally lay still.

The horseman’s mailed hands clasped the tip of his own blade, which I could now see was black with age and had four skulls carved into the blade, each with jeweled eyes that glowed with an inner light. His voice rasped at us from out of his helmet, “You think you’ve won… my brothers will end you…” One set of gems dimmed and then cracked, pieces falling out of the carved skull as the owner of the sword finally died.

I stood over the body of Conquest as the cries of fear around town turned into cheers. The remaining assassin’s fled into the night. Echo stood, catching his breath, one hand still on the hilt of the great sword. “Perhaps you should take it.” I suggested. “As a trophy your greatness and that of Larani.” I had to grit my teeth through that part. “If you can carry it, anyway.”

Echo’s look carried anger at first and I thought he might reach for the control rod, but instead a smug look filled his face as he pulled the blade from the body. “I’ll put it to better use than he was.” He slung the ancient blade over one soldier and turned to head back to the temple, declaring his victory over the horseman to the Knights as he passed.

As I gazed down upon him, Conquest’s body looked small and pathetic now, crumpled in the dirt in a dark pool of his own blood. This was not the Great One of my dreams. This was another. An imposter perhaps. It was at once disappointing not to meet the one who has begun to guide me and yet exhilarating that my destiny was not yet fulfilled.

There is still so much yet to do.


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