Excerpt from "Tales Of The Barbarian" by John T. M. Herres
Able VS Chosen Ones
Able snuck through the darkness, his small incantation allowing his eyes to see. The rocky ridge covered with snow and ice proved challenging as he navigated toward the base camp of The Chosen Ones.
He could see the harder patches of ice and avoided the loud crunching from his weight smashing them. Being wrapped in thick hides and furs also slowed progression, but in order for his attack to be successful, none of the smaller considerations could be overlooked.
He sighted a glow over some boulders half a mile ahead. Climbing to a higher vantage point, he traced a route to follow.
Creeping up to the final rock, he pressed his back into a depression to catch his breath and gather his thoughts. The spells he would use depended on how many people he needed to battle.
He drew his sword, turned his chest to the stone, and leaned cautiously around. Five forms stood close to a small fire. They needed the warmth, and tried hard to cover the reflections of the flames.
"Glad that wind eased off." The one who spoke raised his head and glanced around the walls of the cliff surrounding them. "Would have been a lot harder to get this little bit of warmth." He bent back a bit, raising his garments enough for some of the scant heat to filter up.
"Aye, that it would," said the one directly across from him.
Able had eased back behind the boulder. The voices grew indistinct and a bare whisper of an echo accompanied.
He sheathed his sword and closed his eyes, removing the dense outer cloak which would slow his movements. Breathing in through his nose, he formed the words, mouthing an ancient tongue the modern world would consider gibberish.
The cold air helped raise a slight tingling along his arms and into his hands created by wielding the Power. The wind ceased, the slight snowfall disappeared.
Able stepped from behind the stone, arms raised and hands glowing the same color as the flames. The tongues of the campfire grew much bigger than the fuel beneath it, lapping at the air for more sustenance.
As the two fires linked the empty space between, Able separated his hands, moving his arms straight out to the sides. The blaze on the ground copied, expanded, engulfing all who stood by, as their layers of wrapping incinerated.
The victims had no time to yell. The entire attack took less than five seconds, from Able coming out of hiding to the group's demise.
One of them, however, had stepped away from the rest, having been searching for a spot to relieve himself instead of looking for intruders. His back to all, the sudden flare of light caused his head to jerk upwards. He turned and saw the final collapse of the men he had just been talking to. His gaze drifted over the scene, then to Able.
The sorcerer made a broad expanse with his arms, again muttering in that ancient tongue, and a cold blue charge trailed his movement. When his hands neared joining in front of him, the static air brightened. The Chosen One turned and dashed out of the small quarry before the bolt left its epicenter.
As the lone survivor sped around the nearest turn, Able took in a sharp breath. He tensed every muscle in his body to withdraw the energy he had conjured. When he relaxed, he had to take long, deep breaths, calming the power he felt welling into him for his efforts.
He concentrated on packing the feelings down into the darkest regions of his being.
The power of the Æther could overwhelm a person, to a point, and allow the abyss to take hold. Several wizards through the long expanse of time had given in to the desire for more. The only one who could not be dissuaded and brought back into the council had renamed himself "The Red Griffin" and near annihilated all other wizards, starting with the ones sent to subdue him.
Able saved just enough energy so the tingling in his hands remained, the surface being an indication of the more powerful charge awaiting another eruption.
As the interference diminished, snow began drifting back down. Able knew that following the prints left by the enemy would get more difficult if too much fell, so eased out just enough power to keep it at bay.
Just as he rounded another turn, the glint of steel made him bend backwards, drawing his blade as he spun around to his right. He kept turning until he faced his attacker, and on one knee pulled his arms back, a double handed hold on the hilt, pushing the tip of the weapon toward the enemy.
He aimed true, but the steel point barely entered the flesh. The northerner doubled over a bit, backing from the offending object. Seeing his own blood on the tip of Able's sword, he folded his bloody hands down.
He straightened, eyes wide and holding his hands in front of him. Wailing like a banshee, he again bolted. "Intruder! Sorcerer!"
A cacophony of metal banging together echoed off the surrounding walls, bouncing one off the other, and the curving passages as well, making direction and distance harder to guess. The noise also hid the approximate numbers.
Able snatched his short blade from the back sheath of his belt, flipped and caught it by the tip. Hurling with his right hand, he thrust his left straight at the fleeing form, speeding the course of the knife and penetrating the upper middle of his back. The added force sunk the projectile to the hilt. The carcass slid a full length of itself as it crashed to the ground.
The clattering of more Chosen Ones approached quickly. Able reached back down into himself, to the darkness in all men, and coaxed just enough power to aid him. He summoned the flames to return, aiming them towards the gully from where the dancing shadows announced guests. The path burst with orange and red fires, lighting the clouds high above with their brightness, and eliminating the five scouts sent to initiate the counter attack.
The Sorcerer used a few moments to gather his wits for more battle. He pushed the unneeded magics aside and surveyed the rocky landscape.
Reclaiming his discarded sword and plucking the short sword from its resting place, he wiped some of the blood onto the corpse and readied himself for the finale.
Two men jumped over as the flames diminished, rushing toward their quarry with war cries sounding. They reached attack distance and moved away from each other, trying to turn him while their comrades caught up.
Able spun his blade above his head, the tip drawing blue fire from the air. He blocked a swing from his left and slashed at the other. His sword crashed through his target, shattering armor and cleaving into the shoulder of the wielder. The man dropped to the ground, howling in pain even as Able turned away to match with the remaining attacker.
More Chosen Ones emerged from the crevasse in time to see the head of the second one falling to the dirt in advance of the body which had used it.
Able stood to his full height, facing them, and slung his blade down and backward to open a fatal wound in the neck of the man with the severed shoulder.
The group of remaining men separated, spreading themselves around the Wizard. Able smiled. He held his hands extended up to the night sky and clouds began roiling, small bolts of lightening evidenced behind the irregular edges and layers.
An enormous flash of lightening blinded all in the ring around Able as it shot from the sky. They could not see that the strike rebounded as it hit his fingers, sending an individual tendril into the breast of all.