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Blaylock's Folly



by Allan Maki
Turbine Entertainment Software


Hibdin Velos was a stout man. Since his arrival on Dereth his fondness for sweets had garnered him jowls and a round belly. His hair was black and unwashed for many months. His eyes, a deep brown, were set behind a low brow and weighted by countless sleepless nights. Those who knew him in his early days on Dereth would no longer recognize him.

All his friends had long moved away from Lytelthorpe, leaving him to speak with anyone kind enough to share a pint or offer up a confection. It was not often that anyone visited him as his stench drove most away. This day, however, brought a unique visitor, with an even more unique proposal.

A handful of pyreals scattered onto the table, rousing him from an ale-induced dream. His vision swam under the influence of the brew; images blurred and distorted before him.

"Whadaya want. . .?" he slurred and wiped a line of drool away with an unsteady hand. His head lolled from side to side as he tried to focus on his visitor. The tavern was silent and empty of any other forms.

"You have lost your hope. I am here to offer it anew." The voice was calming, sure and in a sense, regal.

". . . hope. . . that's a word without meaning. . . chum. . ." he gurgled.

"I will give you hope."

"Bah!" he coughed, spattering the table with phlegm. "There's nothing on this damn world but suffering."

"I know too much of that. Take my hand and I will make all well."

Weeping, he reached toward the image and fell into blackness.

__________

Six months prior he had been a mess, nothing more than a human husk wasting his life away at the bottom of a fermented bottle. Now he had purpose, and drive. His master was a good man, brutal but good. If you performed your duties you were rewarded, fail in them and you suffered so that you never forgot that failure.

Hibdin had never failed his master and he was not about to now. He looked at his companion Blaylock, a scrawny man also of Aluvian descent, and shook his head. Blaylock was a quivering mass of badly constructed bones. At the moment his eyes were wide as saucers, like those of a rabbit about to be skinned alive.

He had been found alone in the wilderness, starving and half mad. The master had freed him as well, placing him in Hibdin's charge. They were on a mission this day, important enough to entrust Hibdin to the cause.

The master wanted Mattekar specimens. He wanted variety, not only those that roamed in the northlands of Marae Lassel. He wanted the lowliest and the greatest alike. He had dispatched the two men into the wilderness to garner the specimens.

They were armed as always in light armor with their weapons of choice. Additionally they carried with them restraining fields forged from the energy of portal space, a gift from the master.

They arrived in Mayoi and made their way into the mountains beneath the cover of the twin moons. They took pains to avoid other creatures that made the mountains their home, and scoured the valley and surrounding mountains for signs of Mattekar.

Nothing.

Blaylock shivered in the brisk mountain wind. Something was dreadfully wrong and the smaller man was acutely aware of it. His teeth chattered, grating on Hibdin's nerves.

"Stop it, Blaylock," Hibdin snapped. The trail of air from his lungs floated upward like a beautiful ribbon, disappearing into a dark crevice above. His foul smell breath smelled like day-old fish stew and molded bread. "If there are any Mattekar here, you're sure to alert them. . . you simpering wad. The mast--"

A sharp expulsion of warm air flowed over him like a waterfall, breaking his concentration. Blaylock's eyes grew wider as they reflected the face of the horned beast with heavy white fur. In an instant Hibdin was tumbling away from the Mattekar, avoiding its gnashing jaws. Blaylock was not so lucky.

Its teeth sunk into his shoulder and clamped tightly, crumpling a lung and splintering a bone within his arm. His scream, cut short, was replaced by a heavy wheeze-gurgle, as blood filled his punctured lung. Red blood stained the white snow.

Blaylock pulled his mace free and dropped the flame-coated head against the creature's skull. With a growling yelp it turned to face him, and Blaylock collapsed to the snow-covered ledge. Hibdin twisted aside the great beast's gore and freed his shield. Blaylock freed an orb and sputtered a healing phrase, mending twisted bone and ruined flesh. He breathed deeply as a torrent of Hibdin's blows rained into the beast. It reeled and stumbled.

"Throw the field!" he bellowed as he slammed his shield into the Mattekar's front flank and leveled another blow against its head. Blaylock fumbled with the device and nearly triggered it on himself. "Hurry, you sod!" Another gore from the Mattekar slid along his shield.

"Got it!" Blaylock shrieked as the little box began to pulse with violet light. Hearing this, Hibdin fell flat to the ground. Blaylock launched the cube at the beast and hit his mark. A warble in space, accompanied by a hum and heartbeat, pulled the Great Mattekar within. Blaylock and Hibdin breathed heavy.

"One down." Hibdin chuckled and patted his companion on the shoulder.

Blaylock managed a meek smile.

__________

On the desert plains the two watched as a White and Snowy Mattekar collapsed due to exhaustion in the sweltering sun. Far removed from their native mountain perches, these were captured without much difficulty.

So, too, were the Dire and Dread Mattekar in the mountains south of Qalaba'r. Hibdin and Blaylock enjoyed the benefit of surprise. They prepared well and enchanted the beasts with spells of vulnerability to weaken them. Again the devices hummed to life and swallowed the creatures, trapping them inside.

They traveled north through the city of Newic and glowered briefly at the man standing near the crater. He burst into tears and the men felt compelled to issue orders to him. He whimpered and acquiesced with a simple, "I will obey."

They turned east and avoided contact with other Isparians that were about, careful not to draw attention. The master had ordered them to be silent and so they were. A small house poured warm smoke into the winter air by the portal northward. Here the men prepared for the last task set before them. Once it was complete, they would return to the master and give him what he desired.

Through the mountainous shortcut and over the top peaks of the northern range they traveled and found the solitary, shaggy beast. It stood as tall as the both of them together and was the length of two cows. The Canescent on Marae Lassel was a large caste but this one, the Hoary, was enormous. The caste had been thought extinct, hunted for their thick hides some two years before. But the master was wise and knew where this one remained.

Blaylock whimpered at the sight of the behemoth.

"Quiet, you fool! You'll make us known." Hibdin hissed through clenched teeth.

"I can't, Hibdin, I can't." Blaylock moaned and fell to his knees.

"You must and you will, I'll not be forced to face the master's wrath because of your incompetence. I am Hibdin Velos and the master trusts me above all others." He lifted the smaller man up by his shoulders. "He wishes to test these creatures and we will not fail him. They are just beasts. . . nothing more."

"They are something more, or will be should we give them over to the master. . ." Blaylock sputtered, his tears frozen on his cheeks.

"Simpering, nothing!" He struck Blaylock hard with the back of his hand. "How dare you question the master? He who brought you from the darkness."

"Hibdin, look at it. . . it's so big, so strong." A welt swelled beneath his eye, tear welled. "What will he make them?"

"We are here under orders, and will not fail the master. I will not question what he orders, nor will you or I will send you back to him. Now quiet your tears and prepare a creature for capture."

Blaylock crumbled, his will broken by Hibdin's forceful words and ominous presence. He summoned forth magic to weaken the beast as Hibdin slipped free his flaming mace and shield that pulsed with soft magic. He engaged to deter the beast's movement. Blaylock activated the cube and prepared his throw.

Hibdin slipped on the snow and screamed as his knee twisted sideways. The Hoary shredded his armor and tore a chunk of flesh from his back. Blaylock gasped and dropped the device onto his foot. The air churned with the hum of portal space and the sound of a singular heartbeat. Blaylock was gone.

The beast reared and slammed its horns into the reeling Hibdin. Horns puncture flesh and drove through him. Hibdin screamed in agony and called for aid. His bellow was met by silence. He struggled away, pulling at the snow to drag him away from the beast. The hum returned, growing more violent as the seconds passed. The beast turned toward the noise, distracted by the growing hum.

A violet glow formed where Blaylock once stood, a rift torn in fabric of portal space. Sharp sounds like the snapping of bones or pockets of water boiling out in a fire came from within the swirl. The beast remained distracted long enough for Hibdin to quaff elixirs to mend his wounds. He activated his own device and tossed it at the beast.

The device struck the beast and swallowed it whole, but the heartbeat pop was overpowered by the growing sound of the portal. Essence from another world thrusting through the gaping maw of the swirl flooded over Hibdin and washed him in an arctic chill. His eyes slammed shut and he lowered his head to keep his footing.

As quickly as it had poured through the space between worlds it was gone; Hibdin was left alone again in silence. All about him, Mattekars the size of small houses stood bewildered.

He collected the soft pulsing device and tossed it into his pack. He scampered over the edge of the mountain and watched from a distance as the newly arrived Hoary Mattekars shook off the effects of their sudden transport. In the snow in the center of the small herd a singular pulsing orb remained.

"Sorry, Blaylock," he muttered. Hibdin had never failed his master. He sheathed his weapon and secured his packs, and returned home.

__________
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