Skaine crept through the bushes. He was careful not to stir a single branch. In the distance he could see the glimmer of the enemyīs campfires. None of the others had come this far. Eight scouts had been sent to find out about the Devoutsī position and he was the last one alive.
Brark was the first to die: he had stumbled upon a bearīs resting place in the woods. His screams had attracted a Devout patrol and the three others who had tried to rescue the unfortunate Brark hadnīt a chance against them.
Skaine had watched it all from his hiding place in the undergrowth. He hadnīt tried to help his fellow. He knew that during wartime everybody was on his own. So he had remained still, afraid to even move a muscle. And he had beheld what the Devout had done to the last of the three. He had seen how they had skinned him alive and how they had made him swallow his own organs after they had cut them from his body all the time laughing with hideous delight.
During the next days the others had died too. He hadnīt witnessed their deaths but he had heard their screams echo through the woods or he had stumbled upon their mutilated bodies. He had found Dīhaneīs cold, naked corpse too. They had known each other since their childhood and only then , standing above her lifeless hull had he realised what he had been feeling for her.
He forced these thoughts out of his mind. They were of no importance. Chronomancer Gomez himself had given him a task and this was the only thing that mattered. Skaine was to spy out the exact composition of the force and report it back to the Chronomancer.
Carefully he removed all the small twigs that might snap when he crept over them out of his way and silently moved on.
Suddenly the leaves on his right side started to rustle. The noise was too close, there was no sense in trying to hide or to run. In one fluent motion he spun around and drew his sword. Itīs blade was blackened so that itīs reflections wouldnīt give him away. He brought it down on the figure that stood behind him but in the last moment he stopped the blow.
He was looking at Dīhane. It took only a wink of an eye before he realised his terrible mistake, before he saw that the face was the only part of her body that hadnīt been stripped of all flesh, but this was enough time for the Risen to sever his swordhand at the wrist.
Once again screams filled with untold pain echoed through the wood.
* * *
"What do you want, Thaîg?"
"Weīve caught the last of the scouts. He is dead."
"Are you sure he was the last one?"
"Yes, my Lord. They were eight. Two women and six men. Just like the Traitor had said."
"Excellent. In three days our demons shall feast on Firstborn and Dwarven flesh again. - You may go now."
"Thank you, my Lord."
"And Thaîg ..."
"See to it that the "Traitor" gets his proper "reward". I have no more use for the whining cur."
"As you command, Lord Timmicus."
Within the poorly lit tent Lord Timmicus let loose a manical laugh that sent shivers to any who heard. Guards suddenly found things of minor importence to do, yet others quickly moved past the Warped Lordīs tent to keep as far away as possiable.
Dressed in a dark robe with an overlarge hood he sat upon the creaking wooden chair adjusting his ornate breastplate. As the fits of laughter died down he again turned his attentions to the drawn out maps before him as, unknownst to him, a small hole appeared behind him on the tentīs hide.
"There now that should do it," whispered the silent voice behind the fur clad dwarf. Deftly Carīlok the Wolf Scout Pack leader placed the small hunting knife back into its hidden sheath. Turning around Carīlok faced the four other fur clad figures behind him.
Though not as tall as the other races the dwarves were twice the width of a human and as hard as stone. At a quick glance this group of dwarves almost appeared as their name-sake, all covered in gray fur and with the wolf clans markings upon their faces. Using the silent hand langauge to communicate, the rest of the Wolven Scout Pack scattered in an instant at Carīloks signals. One could walk right through this area in the light of day and not notice anything, but Carīlok knew different. As the rest of the group lay hidden bristling with various weapons ready to deal death at a momentīs notice to the unwary, the Wolf Pack leader turned to peer through the hole.
Soon the traitor would be brought in thought Carīlok as he placed his axe on the ground by his right hand and strung his hand crossbow. "I wonder why the Chronomancer asked us to take such an indirect route to this camp," the Wolf Pack leader thought to himself, "Strange Firstborn wizards."
Minutes passed as the Wolven Scout Pack silently waited, hidden in thier surroundings with the well trained skill born of years in training, waiting for the glimpse of the traitor...
The Dwarven scouts waited... and waited... and waited. Carīlok kept watch through the peephole. He watched, unmoving, for hours. He did not move when the Warped Lord began scribing something onto a large length of dwarven skin. He did not move when the Warped Lord ate his meal and drank. He did not move when a captured barbarian, one of the Sons of Kronos, was brought in, tortured, and killed in a most grisly manner. He was a rock, a statue, for hours.
His companions, hidden behind him, were the same.
Finally, near sunset, the time had come... the Traitor had arrived.
The tent flap pulled back, and a short, stocky figure entered.
The Warped Lord looked up from his work and smiled openly. "Ah, Logan! Tis good to see you again! How was your journey?"
The dwarf snarled at the Warped Lord, and spat on the ground directly at his boots.
"You set me up to be killed, so as to avoid paying me, didnīt you?" The statement was more an accusation than a question.
The Warped Lord smiled and looked genuinely hurt. It was then that he noticed that the dwarf in front of him was carrying a blade, and was doing a very poor job of concealing it.
"Logan, Logan, Logan... would I, your friend, ever do such a thing?"
Outside the tent, Carīlok tensed. The moment would come soon. A slight movement from his left hand signaled the others: they prepared themselves for action.
Loganīs eyes opened wider, his anger over the Warped Lordīs condascending tone rising to the surface. He let out a howl and lunged towards the Warped Lord. Half way across the room, he stopped, as if tied to an invisible rope limiting his movement. There he stood, in the middle of the room, his blade raised above his head.
Carīlok, outside, was about to give the signal to attack. Two birds with one stone, and one a Warped Lord no doubt! He and his pack would have free ale back in the Ringhold for many days! But just before he gave the command to attack, the tent flaps flew back yet again, the guards outside alerted by Loganīs yell.
Inside, Timmicus simply waved his hand, and the two Dark Eyes stopped their advance and came to a position of attention by the tentīs opening. Then, Timmicus turned his gaze back to Logan.
"Logan... you disappoint me. Though your information proved valuable, you neglected to tell me about the OTHER scouts...."
Carīlok tensed. It was impossible! He COULDNīT know about he and his group!
Loganīs face contorted into a look of confusion as sweat poured down his face. Every muscle flexed and quivered, but still he could not move. So complete was the power of Possession.
Timmicus sighed heavily, feigning mock fatigue. "Well, I do not think that I will allow my guards to stain their blades with your thin dwarven blood... no, I think Iīll let.... YOU do it..."
Timmicus smiled. Logan screamed. "No!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"
Slowly, his hand with the blade rose shakingly to his own neck. "NO, PLEASE!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO... ggrrrrggglllllgrrrrrrrrrrrgllllllll......."
The blade slid easily across his neck, and as is typical with well-kept dwarven weapons, the cut was long, clean, and deep.
Carīlok, outside, began to shake. Seeing one of his own killed in such a way was overwhelming, traitor or not. To his surprise, Timmicus then turned suddenly to face the side of the tent from which he was spying.
"Well, dwarf, wasnīt this what you wanted?"
Carīlok instantly flew into action. His hand made two swift gestures: the sign for retreat. Instantly, and quietly, his men leapt from their positions without question and made their way into the woods directly away from the Devout encampment. They raced as quickly as their feet could carry them. Oddly, they met no resistance as they made good their escape. Carīlok felt a pang of guilt, of cowardice: but he had long ago learned that fleeing to fight another day, especially in front of such odds, would always prove more beneficial.
As they ran, they could again hear the maniacal laughter of the Warped Lord, and Carīlok could only guess as to why they were spared....
"Lord Timmicus, they have escaped. Why were we not allowed to feast on their bodies like the others?" one of the Dark Eyes asked in a deep, hollow-sounding voice.
Timmicus finished his laughter, and smiling, turned to the Dark Eye who had addressed him. "My friend, they were here not only to see to the death of Logan," Timmicus began, delivering a quick kick to the body laying on the ground, "but they were also here to get a count of our troops."
The Dark Eyeīs head tilted to the side, "Then, Lord Timmicus, we should stop them before they escape," the Dark Eye stated respectfully.
Timmicus chuckled, "That is where the fun is, my friend! That was the INTENT! HAHAHAH!" The Warped Lord laughed hysterically as he spun himself around and around, his boots covered now with the blood of the dead dwarf.
The Dark Eye was unimpressed, awaiting further explanation. Finally, Timmicus came to a halt and shook his head unbelieveably. "Donīt you see???? Oh... you donīt," Timmicus continued, remembering that the Dark Eyes donīt "see" like normal people at all.
Timmicusī tone became quiet, the words said slowly as if talking to a child. "They saw our troops gathered here NOW... but by dawn, our numbers will be THRICE what they are now! So when we MEET them and their pitiful army, we will actually be THREE times the size of what they EXPECT, hence able to overrun the stunties where they stand."
The Dark Eyeīs head returned to a normal position, understanding now filling its demonic mind.
Timmicus continued to smile. "Isnīt war GREAT!?!?!?!?!? BWHAHAHAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!"