Fan Fiction

10 May 2004, 3:25 PM

Part One: The Wound Which Festers by Chris Walker-Bush (Ravenlord)

Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree thrust his blade forward, relishing in the Ghol's wails of pain as he brought his other sword down on its gangly neck. As he pushed the dying Ghol aside, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's eyes scanned the combat, in search of another foe. All around him, Heron Guard were embroiled in melee, their swords singing as they parried every blow from the Ghol they fought. This was real life, slaying these foul beasts using the fearsome skill Wyrd had blessed him with.

A low growl from behind was all the warning Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree received, but it was more than enough. He spun, his two swords like extensions of his own body. The first blade narrowly missed his foe, but the second struck hard and deep, severing the Ghol's arm at the shoulder. The savage beast wailed, and Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree brought his knee up into his opponent's chest, sending the Ghol tumbling down the dusty hill. Had anyone been watching, they would have seen the savage glint in Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's eye, the cruel smile which spread across his face as the wounded Ghol struggled to escape. Like a cat toying with a mouse, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree followed the Ghol, occasionally swinging his blade playfully at the injured beast.

The battle raged on around him, as humans and Ghol clashed in a vicious struggle for control of the plains, but Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree was completely apart from the battle. All that mattered was the kill, the warmth of blood upon his sword, and the savage glee he gained from defeating an opponent. Now tiring of the chase, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree brought his blades down, and

brought them back up trailing blood and gore. The Ghol lay in a twitching heap, its vital fluids flowing from the deep wounds in its side. The battle was won, and Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's blood lust subsided.


A foul winter wind blew through Seven Gates, whistling through the dead trees like some foul elemental spirit. Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree shuddered, and pulled his thick fur coat up around his neck. This was no life for one of the elite. Standing knee deep in snow and waiting for maniacal Dwarves to lay ambushes. Ambushes were for the weak. Before the fall of Muirthemne, his kind had been at the forefront of battle, their swords singing as they carved an encarmine trail through the enemy. Now they were reduced to slinking about behind inept warriors, occasionally pausing to anoint wounds with balms. No more were the Heron Guard feared for their skill with the blade, for now they wielded the common laborer's shovel, their majesty veiled under a woodman's cloak, their strength sapped from hauling the weighty tiles. Even the pitiful Ghol wore patronizing smiles as they loped forward on their muscular limbs, and Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree could hear their bestial laughter as he was forced to fall back and allow the warriors to protect him.

Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree spat, and pulled a mandrake root from the folds of his robe. His back ached from standing all day, but he would not let the weak fir'Bolg see him surrender to his burdens. Biting into the foul tasting root, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree allowed himself to forget about the occurrences around him and drift back to a time he no longer remember. A time when his kind protected Cath Bruig with bravery and determination, when the empire commanded respect from all who faced its armies. He had been here, in Seven Gates, when the city fell. Like most of his kind, he took the loss hard, and blamed himself for the fall of the city. Had his two blades been there, alongside the home guard, the city would still be a bastion against Balor's foul hordes. Balor. Rumors were already drifting around the camp that he had claimed Madrigal and Covenant, and that the war would soon be over.

Apparently Alric had a secret plan. That arrogant dotard saw himself as the savior of the free world, and future leader of the his people. Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree would never bow before such a cowardly fool from the west. Already Alric had been captured, and it took the efforts of several heroes, and one of his former comrades, to free him.

Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree knew that the others did not share his sentiments. On the one occasion he had brought up his opinions of Alric, he had been laughed down by a pair of drunkards from Scales.

'INCOMING!' the raucous yell of a Dwarf brought Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree from his ruminations, and he flinched as an explosion sent up a plume of dirt and snow only a few feet from where he stood. A quick glance along the pass allowed Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree to weigh up the situation. The warriors were rushing to plug gaps in their line, but already Thrall were pushing through. fir'Bolg, positioned overhead, let loose volley after volley of arrows, but for every Thrall that fell, another two would arrive to take its place. Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree spat again, this time in utter disgust. The warriors under Alric's command were pathetic. Fighting with shields and armour, they still fell like flies before an ever increasing horde of Thrall. A rain of blood and cold flesh rose from the rear of the Thrall, indicating that Baugi had scored another hit.

Disgusting. The Heron Guard had never relied upon archers or explosives to fend off invasions, it had all been done with a pair of swords in the hands of skilled heroes.

The warrior closest to Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree fell, his head split by a Thrall's axe. Thirteen Skull stepped forward, his shovel swinging low and hard to sweep out the Thrall's legs. The shambling apparition stumbled, and attempted a clumsy swing at Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree. A deft step to the side was all he needed to avoid the blow, and with another swing from his shovel, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree reduced the Thrall's head to pulp and bone shards. Despite the obvious incompetence of his foe, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree still got a strange thrill from victory in single combat. He chuckled as another Thrall made its way towards him, its rusty axe already being hefted for a swing. Glorious battle...


All along the line warriors were screaming for Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's assistance, begging for some of the Mandrake Roots to ease their pain. But Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree was not listening. He stood in deep crimson snow, surrounded by the corpses of slain Thrall. The ground was slick with blood and pus, and his shovel was coated in blood up to the handle. The Thrall assault continued, and more warriors screamed for help as their limbs were severed or their partners were disemboweled. Their pathetic struggles sickened Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree, and the very thought of saving one of them made him sick. The last thing this world needed were more veterans who couldn't fight. More warriors who had been defeated in battle, survived, and now made a living by sitting by fires and telling young soldiers about their exploits. Every telling of the story made the Thrall horde bigger, the weapons sharper and the snow deeper.

Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree turned and walked away, ignoring the pained cries from his allies. They would all die, but he would survive, and he would persevere. He would survive this hellish war, and when the Heron Guard finally redeemed themselves, he would cast aside these robes, this shovel and the tiles, and he would return once more to the field of battle. The glory of the Cath Bruig empire may be long gone, but one day he would take to the field of battle again, and Balor himself would shiver with doubt as he saw him scything through rank after rank of Thrall.

The sounds of battle gradually faded, until the only sound that Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree could here was his own laughter. A deep, throaty laughter that did not contain the slightest hint of mirth. And had anyone been there to see, they would have witnessed Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's sanity ebb from his body as he pressed on through the blinding snow.


'No ... No!' Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree gasped, his face contorted in rage. Alric sat before him, pompous and lordly in his throne, the Ibis Crown perched upon his unworthy head. Alric's face did not alter, did not show any signs of emotion as he stared blankly at Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree.

'Leave my presence' Alric said, the monotone voice worse than a thousand taunting imps in Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree's head.

'I cannot be denied!' Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree hissed, but Alric was unmoved by his rage.

'You are unfit to rejoin the ranks of the Heron Guard,' began the newly crowned king of the Cath Bruig empire. 'You deserted your comrades in battle, you let innocent men die'.

How did he know? Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree shook with rage, a cold sweat running down his brow. Had someone seen? Had some unseen watcher rushed off to tell Alric?

'You will regret this Alric', with these words Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree spun on his heel, and hefted his shovel up onto his shoulder. As he left, Alric's brow creased with concern. Twelve Serpent Falling Eagle noticed his master's concern.

'You did the right thing your majesty,' he began, 'You have cut off the diseased flesh before it could spread'.

Alric stood. 'You are mistaken,' he said. 'The wound which festers longest is often the hardest to cut out'. With these words Alric left the great chamber, leaving Twelve Serpent Falling Eagle to ponder those words. And outside, in the parched wasteland surrounding Muirthemne, Thirteen Skull Bloody Tree was already planning his revenge.

A lone raven followed behind, its eyes gleaming with malicious intent...

~ You have reached your journey's end ~