Billbo's face became a blurred vision. All colors slowly faded from Wildboy's eyes, only to be replaced with the only two colors of death. A tingling sensation trickled though the last of his living nerve endings, then absolute numbness. Wildboy's vision seemed as if from a dream that he couldn't wake from. Billbo's face was distorted as if look at it from behind a glass of water, but Wildboy still recognized the image of shock and despair. Wildboy followed his frantic friend into the castle, only to have the doors slam through his body. Small sparks danced before his mind's eye as the solid oak door passed through him. Movement itself was more an act of will then of tangible action. Wildboy followed Billbo into the dining area and took in the gasps and twisted emotional expressions of his fellow knights.
Samantha let out a gasp and covered her mouth with her hands. "What happened", she managed to breath out.
Billbo explained his run in with the Warrior, Mage, and Cragan. During Billbo's accounts of what had happened Xeep rushed to Wildboy's side to examine the wounds.
"Is there anything you can do Xeep?" Sam asked, already knowing the answer.
"I can heal the wounds, that is the easy part Milady. But, alas I cannot heal the soul which has left brother Wildboy's body" Xeep replied with an emotional tone.
"So this is what it is like to be dead. Well my brothers farewell, I fought the good fight."
Ar-Kane's head shot up as if trying to hear a whisper. Sounds of anger and emotion trickled from the knights as they gathered around dining table discussing how to find and avenge the loss of their brother. "Quiet!" Ar-Kane yelled. The crowd of knights turned in astonishment at the mage. Never before has the mage raised his voice, especially with a touch of anger in it.
"Xeep, I need you to repair the wounds"
Without question Xeep did as Ar-Kane asked and began his treatment of Wildboy's body. Using bandages and some healing magic, the body was returned to normal state.
"What's wro..." Sam began only to have a finger placed on her lips to Quiet her. Sam raised a brow at the mage but did as requested. The group watched as the mage walked around the room. His eyes half shut as if looking through all the physical obstacles in the room. He pushed past knights as if not even seeing them.
"That's it, he's finally lost it. Time to start padding his wall with linen." Undomiel whispered to Arogorn. Arogorn gave a quick chuckle and then quickly muffled it feeling guilty for laughing at such an emotional event. Finally the mage stopped by the entrance to the dining area. Ar-Kane stared blankly at the doorway as if looking at something. The rest of the knights tried to see what it was the old mage was looking for but could only see into the throne room.
Through Wildboy's mind's eye he noticed Ar-Kane's reaction to his words. 'Could he have heard me?' As Wildboy watched Ar-Kane move about the room, he noticed Undomiel and Arogorn give a quick snicker at the old mage. 'Good, at least my death has not depleted the knights of their sense of humor and enjoyment for life. I wish to only be remembered in jest and joke.' With that thought, Wildboy turned to leave.
"Ye must become visible friend if ye wish my help." Ar-Kane said simply. With that simple phrase he suddenly had the attention of everyone in the room. Wildboy's spirit turned to face the old mage.
"Can you hear me old friend?"
"Aye, I can indeed. Do you wish to be healed knight, or would you prefer to walk the neither world and be left alone?"
"I would...like to rejoin the Sunset Knights Ar-Kane. But do I deserve such an honor after failing so miserable."
"There is no failure in dying, friend. Only failure in not living; now I shall ask thee one more time, do ye wish to be healed knight?"
"Yes I wish to be healed"
Before the knight's eyes the spirit of Wildboy appeared. A gasp of relief escaped from the crowd. And the look of hope and joy began to fill their being. It was dressed in a gray death shroud with a hood covering its head. Its face was completely covered in darkness. Nothing but two lifeless eyes peered back at the Knights.
Ar-Kane closed his eyes and began to chant a spell. It was a spell he has not used in quite some time. With each verse he chanting became louder. Soon the knights realized what he was attempting. They all clasped hands and joined in the chant. Mystical power filled the room. A faint green glow encircled the mage as he repeated his spell. A static charge danced across the ceiling between the mage and the spirit.
Wildboy watched in amazement as lightning danced across the ceiling. For the first time since his death he could feel. A tinkling sensation ran across his whole being, as if being pricked rapidly by thousands of needles. A violent tug suddenly grabbed at his soul. Wildboy's first instinct was to fight the tug. Then in realization, he let the spell do its bidding. As Wildboy's body was pulled to the lightning, pain encircled him. His soul felt as if he was in the fiery pits of the netherworld itself. A scream, not of this earth, filled the dining chamber of the castle as Wildboy's spirit disappeared into the lightning. The static energy coiled in on it self and formed a large ball of electricity. With a loud explosion, that put all the knights present on their feet, the ball of energy thrust itself into Wildboy's body. After a moment of complete silence, Wildboy's chest began to raise and lower. His eyelids fluttered then flicked open. He was relieved that color has returned to him. And, to Wildboy, the blue and gold tapestries that hung from the walls were the most beautiful vision that could have been bestowed upon him. Each of the knights slowly picked themselves up off the floor and stared at Wildboy. Wildboy's throat felt as if it was on fire.
"Water, I...would...like a...glass of water." Wildboy managed to gasp. Without hesitation the knights practically tripped over themselves to fetch a picture of water for their returned comrade. Wildboy managed a faint smile, for the site of his friends was quite amusing. Xeep walked over to Wildboy and began examining him.
"Other then a few more scars and a splitting headache ye shall be well dear friend." Xeep lifted Wildboy's arm and checked the beating of his heart. "Ye heart is like and ox, even after this ordeal. Ye will need much rest. At least three weeks worth." Hearing this news Wildboy yanked his arm from Xeep and tried to sit up. Instantly he became light headed and his muscles shook from the strain of such a simple maneuver.
"You will make your way to bed and that will be all" Xeep said in a firm tone. By this time Rythorn returned with a pitcher of water for the weak night. He filled a glass and with one hand lifted the back of Wildboy's head and with the other helped the hurt knight take a drink. With in moments the glass was empty. "Roland, Billbo, and Iron help Wildboy to his room. Gryffon and Undomiel please keep watch over him this eve. We will all need to take a watch for the first week. Call me if any there is any change in his status." With a nod the five knights lead Wildboy to his room.
When the knights made their exit Samantha spoke. "I need volunteers to find this Cragan. Billbo, Roland and Iron already approached me on this expressing their need to find this man. I am sure you all want to help, but at this moment we cannot send everyone out on this quest. Wildboy needs protecting till his strength returns and the castle needs to be manned at all times. We are approaching a dark hour and must be on our guard. What I need is two small groups to go out and search for clues to Cragan's Hiding place. If we find this, we find him and his two henchmen."
With out wasting a minute every knight raised his or her hand. All were eager to help find Wildboy's would be assailant. "I knew you all wouldn't make this easy," Sam said with a faint smile. At this time Iron, Roland and Billbo returned to the meeting. "Okay, here is what will be done" Sam began. "There will be two groups of four knights. At no time will any knight be left alone no matter the reason. If these groups wish to split up, they will do so two knights each. Roland, Iron, Kevlar, and Rythorn you will constitute the first group. Arogorn, Billbo, Xena, and Ethindall will make up the second group. Azreal you will head to Britain and search the libraries to see what you can find on this Cragan person. Birth records, place of birth, next of kin, no matter how small the detail I want you to find it. Sargon, the remaining knights, and myself will remain at the castle and organize our efforts and keep each other posted. Each group will head out in the morning after Xeep and myself has spoken with Wild. Get some sleep knights, 'tis going to be a long week."
Undomiel and Gryffon sat at Wildboy's bedside. Both of them were trying not to move for fear of waking him. Wildboy tossed and turned through out the night. Once, in the middle of the night his eyes flutter and snapped open. The expression his face held was that of utter terror. Every muscle in his body went tight all at once. Gryffon and Undomiel soothed Wildboy the best they could while Undomiel patted a damp cloth on his forehead. After a brief period Wildboy slipped into a haunted sleep.
The sun rose early the next day and all the night arose with it. Each knight anxious to begin the tasks they were assigned. Samantha, Sargon, and Xeep knocked lightly upon Wildboy's chamber door. Gryffon answered looking like a man who hasn't slept all night, or at least gained very little. Undomiel sat slumped over in a chair next to Wildboy's bed, fast asleep. Xeep slowly approached Wildboy's bed and felt his forehead. As soon as his hand touched Wildboy's skin his eyes snapped open. Xeep instantly jumped back instinctively rubbing his jaws. He remembered the pain and the bruise left on his skin from when Huma talked him into waking up Wildboy from a sound sleep.
Wildboy looked around the room, recognizing the faces his muscles relaxed and a faint smile crossed his blood-crusted lips. "Don't worry Xeep, I have learned a bit of self control since then." Wildboy replied in a raspy voice. With a nod from Xeep, Samantha approached Wildboy's bed and sat lightly on its edge.
"I know this is not the best time, but I must speak with you" Sam began. "Can you tell me anything, anything at all, about where you were?"
"I remember...it being cold" Wildboy began in a raspy voice. "The air smelt...funny. Like...someone was cooking some...foul garbage. I remember seeing a small hill out my window but I am afraid that is about all."
"Tis enough, my dear friend. Tis more then I was expecting. Get some sleep knight, I will keep thee posted on our status." With saying that Sam stood gracefully, leaned over and kissed Wildboy on his forehead, then spun on her heals and left the room.
Wildboy watched as Sam, Sargon, and Xeep left his chamber. With muscles still tight Wildboy turned to face Gryffon, he face showing the obvious discomfort.
"Don't even say it you poor excuse for a corpse with a face that only a mother could love." Gryffon said before Wildboy opened his mouth. Wildboy gave him best 'who me' look. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Undomiel sitting hunched over in the corner of the room.
"Has she been there all night?"
"Aye, that she has my friend. As a matter of fact she barely left that chair. So how are you feeling?
"I have been better" Wildboy replied with a grin "But considering what I have been through I guess I am doing well."
"Well you looking better then last night. Now get some sleep we can talk more when you are thoroughly rested." Gryffon smiled at his wounded comrade. It felt good to see that he hasn't lost his sense of humor, even if his humor was a bit off today.
In the dining area Sam and the rest of the knights gathered. "Okay, from what I gathered from Wildboy, the tower will be next to a swamp." Stated Sam. We can almost guarantee that it is not near the swamps next to our castle, we all our neighbors if not in person then by name. So group one I would like you to go to the swamps north and west of Trinsic. Group two I would want you to check out the cities Trinsic, Britain, and Skara Brea. Check with the locals and maybe, with a bit of luck, someone might know something. Xena and Iron I would like each of you to carry these communication crystals with you. There will be one kept in the castle so we can get your daily reports. Also you can use them should you find yourself in need of help. Ar-Kane can you please provide each group a gate closest to their destinations."
Ar-Kane nodded and then began chanting his spell. "First stop, Trinsic, we everything is for sale." Ar-Kane said with a smile. A bluish gate opened and Arogorn, Billbo, Xena, and Ethindall rushed through it vanishing instantly, as they were teleported to another location. Ar-Kane looked at the remaining group. "Unfortunately the closets I can get you is Rivendell. From there you will have to travel a short distance south before you hit the swamps." The group nodded in understanding. Quickly Ar-Kane conjured up another portal and the second group ran through it.
"Good luck friends" Sam said as the last knight disappeared through the portal. Samantha turned to face the knight's left behind. "Let us get busy with our own preparations and tasks at hand." The remaining knights headed off in their own direction knowing exactly what it was that needed to be done.
Iron, Kevlar, Rythorn and Roland appeared in the center of a bustling village. Rivendell was a small town southwest of Britain. The towns people were friendly and greeted the knights as the walked by. The four knights started out of town, heading south along the road. The sun was already at high noon and they had still had a half a days travel ahead of them.
"We will camp about a half a mile or so away from the swamps. We don't want any surprises to show up in the middle of the night." Iron said. The others quickly nodded in agreement. There are many things that roam throughout the swamps at night. Patrols of lizard-men and rat-men are the most common of these foes. And even though they are no match for any knight one on one they can become quite the threat when in large numbers.
Soon the group arrived at their destination out side the swamps. The sun was beginning to set and the sounds of the night animals could already be heard. A chill filled the air as darkness began to fill the realm. The four knights set up camp and prepared for the night.
"I will take first watch." Roland said. "Who will take next?"
"I will take next watch." Replied Kevlar.
"I shall take the following," said Iron.
"I guess that leaves me with last watch and most sleep." Rythorn replied with a smile.
Each knight pulled out their bedrolls, set up camp and prepared for the night.
"What do you mean you don't drink?!? Ye are in a tavern aren't ya?" Gantor, the bartender for the Keg and Anchor, said with a growl.
"Well, yes I am but..." Ethindall began.
"Seeing how you seem to be quite insistent," Ethindall said, "then I guess one drink wont hurt." He picked up the glass and held it to his nose. Quickly he recoiled from its pungent odor. Ethindall realized that just maybe one could hurt. Gantor watched with anticipation, as the rookie was about to take his first drink. Ethindall was quickly wondering why, of all the knights, they choose him to seek out information in this establishment. "Well no use putting it off," Ethindall said with a faint smile, "to your health." With that he downed the contents of the small glass. Quickly the mage learned that one drink could hurt as liquid fire rolled down his throat. All color drained from Ethindall's face. He felt lightheaded and tears formed in the corner of his eyes. The patrons and the bartender let out a burst of laughter. Each taking turns giving the young lad a pat on the back.
"Now that's good stuff" Ethindall finally managed to cough out. He heard out of the corner of the room "Bartender another round!" Instantly his jaw dropped and cheers and laughter filled the tavern.
"Thank ye Mayor Nova, we appreciate the help. I just wish ye new more information. I must go and gather up the knights we will be heading out in the morning." Xena said.
"I am sorry I could not be of more help Xena, but the only reports I have heard of any tower would be near the entrance of shame. Tis the only one near a swamp that I could recall hearing about." Nova replied with a frown.
"Tis alright Lady Mayor, I thank you for your time." Xena strolled out of the mayor's office and met up with Arogorn and Billbo. They exchanged information as the headed toward the Keg and Anchor Tavern. None of them had that much information to share.
The group stood at the Keg and Anchor tavern entrance. It was a rustic old place for mostly travelers and sailors. The smell of whisky and the salty sea air filled the knights nostrils.
"Do you think we should have left Eth here for so long by himself Xena?"
"I am sure Eth could handle himself in a mature and knightly manner bill."
The group entered the dimly lit tavern. Instantly their ears were assaulted by the shouting of sailors. As their eyes grew accustom to the darkness they saw a group of rowdy patrons at the bar seemingly cheering on a fellow drinker to finish their pint of ale. A flash of blue and a bit of gold flashed between the huddled masses of drunken sailors. The knights gave each other a quick look, and then moved to join the crowd. When they reached the bar they were surprised and relieved that Ethindall was not the one partaking in such activity. Xena looked around the room and saw Ethindall talking to a man who seemed for sheets to the wind and looking to go beyond. Xena tapped Billbo and Arogorn, who were still watching the activities, and motioned for them to follow her.
Ethindall noticed the group approaching the table. He placed his left hand under the table where his companion could not see and motioned them to stop. The three knights stopped quickly. Using the same hand Ethindall pointed towards the table. With his right hand he slowly wobbled his mug back and forth. Xena and Billbo knew exactly what he meant. Arogorn still looked puzzled and leaned over to ask Billbo what Ethindall was trying to say, only to notice that they were heading to the bar. He then understood what Ethindall was hinting at. Arogorn quickly rushed up to the counter and purchased two pints of ale. The knights returned to the table where Ethindall and the stranger sat talking in hushed voices.
"Mind if we have a seat?" Xena asked politely. The stranger looked up from his empty mug with an expectant look on his face. He said nothing. Xena couldn't tell if his eyes were even open.
"Here kind sir. Ye look like you could use a refill." Arogorn said holding out a pint of ale.
"Well 'hank ye me good f'iend" the stranger said, his eyes lighting up at the sight of a fresh pint. "Please, sit...yer f'iends too. Was just discussin wit dis lad here of my 'ravels near shame mountain."
Xena glanced over in Ethindall's direction. He gave a slight nod and a grin appeared on his face. "Xena I would like to introduce ye to Malikaye. He has a most interesting story. Sir Malikaye can you please retell the tale you were just discussing."
"Well ye see f'iends. I were out hearding for me flock. Twas getting a bit lates for me tastes so I thought it best if me'in set up camp. Thar I was just on the side of the mountain when I heard hellish noises from a small keep that lay down thar in the woods. I tells ya I couldn't take all the sounds. Scared the beegeebers out of me. I packed up me belongings and me animals and pounded me leather out of thar."
"What did these noises sound like?" Xena asked.
"Well, milady, they thar sounded like the gates of hell 'hemselves opening up. Screams like ye could not imagine escaping tortured souls. Wolves howling. Twas right out of a fairy tale it twas."
"Do you remember how to get there?"
"Aye milady, but there not be'in enough gold in this here world to makin me go back thar. But if'in ye allow me and for a bit of gold, I shall draw ye's a map."
Xena reached into her pouch that was strapped to her belt and pulled free a few coins of gold. She placed them on the table in front of Malikaye. His eyes went wide. "Will this be enough" Xena asked? Malikaye nodded vigorously as he shuffled the coins into his hand. After placing the coins in an unnoticed pocket he pulled out a quill, a bottle of ink, and a tattered piece of parchment. Furiously he scribbled on the paper and in a few moments he was finished. He slid the map over to Xena who examined it closely. She was amazed at how skillful it was written and was impressed with the clarity of his writing.
This has to be it. Where else could it be? Xena threw a couple more coins down on the table in front of Malikaye. "Thank you kind sir, this has been most intriguing." The four knights stood up from the table bid their farewells to Malikaye, then left the tavern.
"What do you think Xena?" Ethindall asked?
"This is it. It has to be. Lets had to the tavern and prepare for our journey to check out the validity of this map. But by the exceptional writing, I am almost positive there is a tower where Malikaye says there is."
The night was quiet. The only sound that Rythorn could here was the occasional scurrying of the forest rodents looking for food. Every so often he could hear a happy owl carrying away one of the rodents. The air contained a bit of a chill but was not to the point of being unpleasantly cold. Rythorn scanned the outer ring of light that the small campfire pasted onto the surroundings.
I forgot how dark it got at this time of night. It has been ages since I have ventured outside the city or castle walls. I forgot how enjoyable camping could be. Gryffon tried to get my go with him many times but he always had some new type of food he wanted me to try, and more times then not it tasted awful. Allowing a slight smile at the last thought Rythorn to another glance around the camp. His eyes game to rest on what seemed to be another pair of eyes looking back at him. Slowly, never taking his eyes off his unknown target, Rythorn reached behind his back and placed his hand up on the hilt of his trusted sword. Rythorn dared not move. He did not want to startle what ever was lurking in the shadows and force it to attack.
It seemed to Rythorn that he was staring down this unknown for hours. All the while Rythorn would step slowly as possible over to Kevlar, who happened to be the closest to him. When he was close enough to Kevlar he gave him a slight nudge. Kevlar mumbled something about his mother and school, and then rolled over away from Rythorn. This time Rythorn gave a bit harder kick. Kevlar jerked up into the sitting position.
That was all it took, a howl broke through the silence like a hot katana through water elemental. The hellhound burst out of the shadows and charged directly towards Rythorn. Unsheathing his sword, just as the hound leapt toward his jugular, Rythorn slashed at the hound's face. The blade cut into the hound's face removing one of its fangs. But the hound had the advantage of momentum, it's claws dug into Rythorn's chest creating small puncture wounds for each claw. Rythorn followed the beast's momentum and rolled onto his back placing his foot in the hounds abdominal. With a quick kick, Rythorn forced the beast off of him.
Kevlar rolled from his bedroll and into a kneeling position as soon as he heard the howl. Snatching up his crossbow, Kevlar took aim. When Rythorn was clear of the beast Kevlar let a bolt fly. With lightning reflexes he rearmed the crossbow and was getting ready release another bolt. The bolt struck its mark true. The deadly projectile punctured the animal's one side and erupted out the other, stinging entrails along the way. The beast let out a deafening howl of pain and set it's sights on Kevlar, suddenly the hellhound burst into flames. Smell of burnt flesh and hair filled the air. Kevlar looked around in puzzlement wondering what just happened. He noticed Roland standing behind with a look of concentration on his face.
Iron Skull, also reacting to the howls, rushed into the melee letting out a battle cry of his own wielding his huge battle-axe. He saw out of the foul beast slain by Roland's magic flame and stood at ready for more to come. Everyone's eyes were on the beast that had just fallen. Only Iron Skull saw the second beast about to come upon Kevlar and Roland's flank. Without hesitation and deadly skill and accuracy let his battle-axe fly. The axe sailed between Roland and Kevlar and onto its intended victim. With accuracy of only an experienced knight, Iron Skull's blade decapitated the unsuspecting hellhound.
After the fray attention turned to Rythorn who still lay on the ground rolling in pain. The knights gathered around him examining his wounds.
"Why does this still burn?" Rythorn asked through clenched teeth.
"It is the sulfuric ash that coats the hellhounds claws my friend." Iron Skull replied matter-of-factly. Roland mumbled a few words of healing. The pain subsided and the wounds repaired themselves at an accelerated rate.
"Well, since we are all up." Roland began. "I received a communiqué from Xena via comm. Crystal. She says a herder from Trinsic has seen a tower that matches the description of what Wildboy described. She wants us to meet them at the pass through Shame Mountains."
"Then let us be on our way." Iron Skull Said "Rythorn can ye travel or would ye like passage to the gate location so ye can get to the castle for further treatment?"
"Nay, tis but a flesh wound, I can manage. Roland healed most of it, all that remains it the pain of this infernal itch."
"Very well, lets move out"
The knights gathered up the meager belonging that they brought with them and began heading for the Shame Mountain Pass.
The two groups of knights arrived at the Shame Pass almost at the exact same time. They all said their hellos and recounted events that led them to this point in time. After a quick lunch and a brief catch up on current events the knights started the journey through the pass. They passed small huts and a few plaster homes of the brave miners who took up living in this dangerous for their profits. Some of the best veins of ore could be found off these mountains. But with great profit comes great risk. There is and orc outpost north of the pass and the village was frequently raided. As the knights passed by the locals they said hello giving a nod of recognition. The Sunset Knights have come to the aid of this small village once or twice in the past. Each knight was known and respected by the community.
After clearing the pass the knights headed south along the mountain range. After traveling a few miles the come to a small path that leads up a winding hill.
"According to the map the tower should be on the other side of this small herding trail." Xena said.
The knights followed the path till they hit the summit of the hill. The trail was a bit more strenuous then it appeared to be. The group was a bit winded after the walk. Upon reaching the top of the top of the hill they could see the tower. It was about a half a mile away from their position.
"It looks deserted. You sure this is the tower we are looking for?" asked Billbo. Arogorn pulled out his spyglass and scanned the tower and surrounding areas.
"It's not deserted. I see two guards walking the parameter of the roof. Someone owns it, and by the looks of it, I would say they don't want to be bothered. I am not sure, but I think I saw that mage you were talking about bill." Arogorn handed Billbo the spyglass. Bill searched the roof and saw the man Arogorn was talking about.
"Yea the is him alright. He is the one that was with Cragan. Aristinoth I believe was his name." As Billbo watched Aristinoth seemed to stop. Suddenly his head jerked up and peered right at Billbo. Instinctively Billbo ducked behind cover. Scanning the roof again Billbo could see no sign of the mage.
"Well we know this is the place." Xena began. "Now we just need to figure out how to get to Cragan."
"Oh I think it will be easier then you think."
Quickly the knights turned around arming themselves with their weapon of choice. In turn, Gargranon's guards did the same. Ethindall and Roland paired off against Aristinoth as Gargranon's guards paired off against the remaining knights. The Sunset Knights were slightly out matched. Iron Skull and Billbo faced off against four guards among them was Gargranon.
The battle was quick and ferocious. The air became charged as the duel of magic between Ethindall and Roland began. Quickly Aristinoth cast a Flamestrike spell at Roland. Flames engulfed the mage and the smell of burnt hair filled the air. Due to a magic reflection spell and very good resistance to magic, Roland suffered only minor burns. Roland mumbled a few power words and bolts of energy flashed from his fingertips. Aristinoth absorbed the energy drawing from it.
Watching the exchange of blows between Roland and Aristinoth Ethindall prepared a spell. Eyes half closed he pointed at Aristinoth. Aristinoth was just about to unleash a spell on Roland when the explosion hit him. The explosion ripped out of Aristinoth's robe with a brilliant flash. The shock from the blast sent Aristinoth slamming against a tree. Shacking off the cobwebs in his mind, Aristinoth quickly realized that the odds were not in his favor. Quickly he pulled out some Mandrake root, Blood Moss and Black Pearl. Mumbling a few words under his breath Aristinoth quickly vanished.
Gargranon and his three guards charged Iron Skull and Billbo head on. Both Iron Skull and Billbo knew they did not want to be surrounded. Instinctively the two split up. Gargranon and one of the guards changed directions to sight in on Iron Skull while the other two guards targeted Billbo.
Iron Skull waited till Gargranon was almost on top of him. Ducking quickly Gargranon missed Iron Skull by mere inches with his Viking sword. In one quick motion Iron Skull smacked Gargranon in the back with the hilt of his battle-axe, then thrust his forward catching the second guard in the throat with the spear like point that was between the blades of the Battle-Axe. The guard fell to his knees holding his neck as his life's blood slowly drained from him. Gargranon, realizing his mistake recovered quickly. He turned to charge Iron Skull for a second round. It was too late, as he turned around a giant blade split his skull. His lifeless body fell to the ground with a heavy thud. Iron Skull walked over to the fallen warrior and pulled the battle-axe from Gargranon's corpse.
Billbo watched as the two guards foolishly rushed at him. He could see their inexperience and would use that too his advantage. Billbo charged the oncoming guards. Plunging his well-crafted katana into the first guard's chest, Billbo then dropped kicking the feet out from under the second guard. The guard went tumbling down the side of the hill. Billbo quickly chased after but when he reached the side of the hill the guard was up and sprinting away.
Xena, Arogorn, Kevlar and Rythorn also dispatched their foes with similar finesse. Each making quick work of the guards soon all that was left was the knights and Cragan. The only wounds suffered by the knights was a small nick in Xena's left shoulder from a lucky blow, and cut in the side of Arogorn's tunic which stabbed more clothe then flesh.
Cragan tried to run. Seeing this Roland and Ethindall paralyzed him with a spell. Cragan screamed as he tried to struggle against the invisible barrier that surrounded him.
"Quiet you!" Xena shouted. "You will be taken to Yew Prison for the attempted murder of Wildboy, Warrior Mage of the Sunset Knights. Any thing you say can and will piss me off. So remain silent."
"Don't you mean murder milady?" Cragan said with a bit of a grin. Xena quickly gave him a roundhouse kick to the chin.
"You don't listen very well bind him in iron and lets get moving. I will send a pigeon to Lady Samantha informing her to meet us at the crossroads just out side of Yew."
The knight's traveled for three days. Stopping to camp only when they had too. Each took a turn and guarding Cragan. With each step towards Yew Cragan's nervousness became all that more apparent. They finally reached the crossroads just out side of Yew. There, waiting was Lady Samantha and the ranger Gryffon. Both seemed pleased to see Cragan in irons.
"Hail milady, as you can see, this vile scum will be doing no harm for quite sometime." Iron Skull said as he escorted Cragan to the guild mistress.
"You have done a lot that needs to be accounted for my friend." Samantha said in disgust.
"Don't worry milady. I will be out in a week. I have friends in high places they will not let me rot in jail like your friends did you." Samantha raised her hand as if to back slap Cragan.
"You are not even worth the effort you ignorant piss ant." She said lowering her hand. "Let's get this slime to the prison as fast as possible. His sight is starting to make me nauseous."
Heading down the road Samantha got a tingling sensation in the back of her neck. The only time she seemed to get this feeling was when Wildboy would try to sneak up on her. She never knew if Wildboy was sent her this feeling with a touch of magic or if it was just the kin ship they have formed over years of joking at each others expense. Samantha scanned the surroundings. She knew if Wildboy was here that it was for only one reason. She also knew if he was here she would never spot him. Wildboy was an expert in camouflage. The group was approaching a huge yew tree that hung over road.
That is where he is. Samantha could sense him more then see him. As if right on cue, Wildboy dropped from the tree, his knees bending to absorb the shock. Wildboy stayed in the crouched position for second just staring at Cragan, his one hand holding his katana while the other one kept his balance with the ground.
Everyone except for Samantha was caught by surprise. Each jumped back and drew their weapon, and in turn quickly lowered them when they say who it was. Cragan's face went as white as a spirit. His jaw hung open as the look of horror took over his expressions.
Wildboy slowly stood and walked to Cragan. Wildboy's eyes never leaving his intended victim he snatched up his throat and slowly squeezed. Every knight watched with understand but hoped he would not carry out his intended act. Samantha slowly moved forward, she was going to try to calm down Wildboy. When she got a look at him, she quickly took a step back. Never before has she seen Wildboy with a look like he had now, the look of utter hatred and disgust.
Wildboy caught the movement out of the corner of his eye. He risked giving it a glance and stared right at Samantha. The look of horror filled her eyes, not for her own safety but for the act she knew he was about to commit. Wildboy's heart sank. Quickly he released Cragan's throat and turned away. Wildboy couldn't even look at the Lady Samantha. Cragan let out a sigh of relief. Walking slowly away, Wildboy quickly lifted his katana and let it fly. It struck the Yew tree that over hung the road.
"This was the toughest decision I have ever had to make. To choose between personal honor or what is best for the guild. I hope there is no doubt to any of you...what I value more." Wildboy said with out turning around. Mumbling a few words Wildboy vanished.
The group stood there in shock then for moment. Then without a word, escorted Cragan the rest of the way to the prison.
Late in the night a lone wolf howls off in the distance. Cragan paces back and forth within his cell. He knows he will get out but just not when. Cragan heard the sound of boots clicking across the stone floor.
"Yes milady, the prisioner is still here, I will let you see him this instant." Cragan heard one of the guards say. The sound of someone approaching was getting closer then stopping in front of his cell was a women. She had greenish colored hair braided on both sides. The most distinctive features were the blue sash and gold cape clasped together with the seal of the Sunset Knights. She stood there staring at Cragan mumbling a few words.
"What do ye wish milady, a tale on how I took down Wildboy?"
The women remained silent except for the slight mumblings that berely made any noise.
"Speak milady, what do ye wish?" Cragan said with a bit more nervousness in his voice. Again the women did not reply.
"Damn it lady, Speak to me!"
"Very well...CORP POR!" Energy bolts shot from the women's fingertips. Cragan screamed as his life force was drained from his body. Quickly the lady cast a recall spell and vanished.
Hearing the sounds of magic and Cragan's death scream the guards came running. They arrived just in time to see the women preparing her recall spell.
They were on the way back to the dorm when Penelope finished the story.
"I don't see where the compassion part comes in," said Penelope. "To me, Undomiel killing that guy was justice."
"Undomiel's actions were not the focus of the story," answered Gryffon. "And murder is never justice."
Penelope pulled him to a stop. "The creep tortured and killed your friend. He didn't deserve to die?"
"That's a different question. What he deserved and what was just are not the same." He started walking again. Penelope hurried to catch up.
"That's alot of crap," she said. "Nobody can walk that fine a line. Even you knights are not perfect."
Gryffon laughed. "We are the least perfect of all. But we do not stop trying. That's what makes us Knights."
"So what's justice," asked Penelope.
"Read the story and decide for yourself."
"Okay, at least tell me what happened after Undomiel killed Cragen."
"That's a different story entirely."
"Anyone ever tell you you're a fountain of information?"
They reached her door.
"Thanks for the movie," said Penelope, fishing the keys out of her pocketbook. "I had a great time."
"Tomorrow morning for training then?" he asked.
Penelope nodded. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Do you miss her?"
"Who?" asked the ranger. "Samantha. Do you miss her?"
"I miss all of the Knights, including the Lady."
"But I know she was special to you. Right?"
"The Lady? Of all of us, she most closely followed the virtues."
Penelope huffed in exasperation. "Yea, the virtues. That's great. But what about her personally, as a woman."
"Uh, well...as a woman? Um...why do I feel there's no right answer to this question."
Penelope poked a key at his chest. "How about the truth, Mr. Virtueman."
"The truth?" Gryffon looked up at the stucco ceiling. "The truth then. Lady Samantha was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."
"I thought you said...You know what?" She jammed the key into the lock. When the lock did not turn immediately, she kicked the door.
"You know what?" she said over her shoulder as she fought with the lock. "You know what you are?"
The lock clicked and she shoved open the door. She stepped into the room and turned to face him.
"You're a real freaking caveman, that's what."
She slammed the door in his face.
Gryffon stood there for a moment, just staring at the door. When it did not open again he turned and walked down the hallway.
"Wildboy was right," he said. "Women are crazy."