news\ Sep 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Tales of Conan - When Words Fail

August 5, 2008

Age of Conan - Fictional Story Series - #9
by Michael Lafferty presents another in a series of original fictional stories by Michael Lafferty stemming from the massively multiplayer online world of Age of Conan - Hyborian Adventures. The following story was written with the permission and cooperation of Funcom, the developer of the game. This tale continues a series of stories that deal with the world, the characters and the lore involved in Hyboria. Some of these stories may contain spoilers for quests, so by Crom, be forewarned!

When Words Fail

The glade is wet with blood …

… staining the grass …

…  tainting the air with an almost metallic smell …

The battle is long past, but the remnants draw black clouds of flies, an angry buzzing that will not let the memory of the battle fade. It should not fade. It should be remembered.

The Vanir, with their bloodless white skin, the color of frost against the stark white of winter, had come to this valley, had come in numbers too great for the settlement of Clan Moragh to handle. The Cimmerians were besieged, but more so than the forces without, the clan leadership was divided in the wake of the attacks. On the hill above the settlement sat the hut of Torin, the chieftain of the clan. Secured within its walls, a coward masquerades as a chieftain and hides from the light of day, the light of truth.

In the valley below, men, women and children have died defending their homes, hoping for the word that no longer would the fight visit the doorways of their huts, but rather that they would take the fight to the enemy outside the walls of their settlement.

Only silence answers their hope.  

Kyrran sat on the hillock overlooking the village. The effort of her latest foray into the valley was stuck on a pole along the path leading to the chieftain’s hut for all to see. There was no gratitude from Torin for her flirtation with death, only rebuke. The coward’s eyes would not even look in the direction of the ‘trophy,’ would not see the possibilities of this one act.

It had been said that blades will follow the harbinger of war, looking for opportunity to earn coin. It had begun that way, but changed when the Aquilonian assassin had entered the valley in the Cimmerian mountains. The eyes of the people in the settlement personalized the war. They were haunted, filled with the same dread she had seen, of late, in her own eyes when looking in the mirror. What she had dismissed in herself she could not dismiss in others.

And there were those who did not agree with Torin. Words were raised in doubt, raised in anger – she heard both sides … Concern for the clan was evident and strong, but the cost, in either case, would be dear. The chieftain’s sister sent her to speak with another, an outsider, blood mixed with northern clans, claiming kinship to Cimmerians.

His was a voice in the north, calling for war, not content to await what fate would have in store. That was how he was viewed. But Kern Wolfeye was not a bloodthirsty mercenary. He had a hatred for the Vanir, and claimed – despite his looks – a kinship with Cimmeria. He, too, had followed the war, shedding the blood of the invaders, but his band of warriors was now small, hardly enough to meet the Vanir head-on in a massive battle. His war relegated to infiltration, bleeding the Vanir a little at a time, hoping that something would spark Torin to action.

All effort had failed, but Kern was undaunted. Something, surely, must work.

He had eyed the assassin, looking for weakness, judging her strength, her self-assuredness. He saw no chink in that armor. She was strong, resolute, and deadly. What he had in mind would test her, would test a small company, but where many might fail, one might succeed. There was a nearby Vanir camp where Battlemaster Torgvall sat, mulling over plans for attacking the settlement. Maybe an assassin, at one in the shadows, could get in close to the Battlemaster, could do what others had tried and failed to achieve.

Kyrran heard the plan. It was dangerous, it smacked of foolhardiness … it was her kind of challenge.

The mists of the early morn did not mark her passage, so still and silent was she as she melded into the landscape. The camp of the Battlemaster was ringed with sentries and mages. Her blades danced and where living beings had stood, only corpses remained. She worked in a circle, killing the outer ring of guards, the path to the center clearing with each stop. Finally, all that remained was the Battlemaster and one sentry.

Another Cimmerian appeared, a surprise visitor, making a rush at the camp. He got their attention, but he would be no match for the Battlemaster, the half-giant kin of the Frost Giants. She dashed in. The sentry was cut down even before he had really joined the Battlemaster in attacking the Cimmerian.

Torgvall roared, his voice like thunder in the glade. His axe flashed, deadly. The Cimmerian’s armor was cut and falling away. Kyrran unleashed a bevy of attacks, her blades dancing a staccato of life-draining blows. But Torgvall’s lineage proved itself. He took what both the Cimmerian and Aquilonian could offer and retaliated with fury. The Cimmerian, armor smashed, grimaced as the axe of Torgvall cut through ribs. The Battlemaster landed a finishing blow and the Cimmerian staggered back and then fell.

Torgvall turned to face the assassin for the first time. He was bleeding from multiple wounds, but did not show any effects from it all.

He laughed, a sneering chortle. “This is what they sent to kill me? An Aquilonian assassin? Girl, I will trample you beneath my heel, just as I will Cimmeria and then your homeland. The masters have foreseen my victory, and my gods have ensured it.”

“You can have a chat with your gods about their false prophecy when you see them,” Kyrran replied, her lips curling with a snarl, “which will be soon.”

The axe whirled, slicing the air. The dance began. The dark-haired woman rolled forward, under the axe, untucking, daggers going from the inside out, cutting tendons on the inner parts of the knees, then she rolled away. Torgvall, undaunted by wounds in his side, his lower back, his chest, could not withstand this new approach; he howled and dropped to the ground, knees incapable of supporting his mass. Even from his knees, the Battlemaster was eye to eye with the assassin, but for the first time he was truly vulnerable. The right-hand dagger of the assassin was a blur as the backhanded stab buried it in the Battlemaster’s throat. With strength belying her size, the assassin ripped the knife free, taking the throat of the Vanir with it.

The half-giant figure toppled into the heart of the camp.

Kyrran had one more duty, before she could leave to see Torin.

The horns of the Vanir helm catch the rays of the morning sun, reflecting back. Torgvall’s unseeing eyes look over the camp he tried to conquer. The head, stuck on the pole near Torin’s hut, was a message …

… one Torin would not hear.

… but one that gave hope to any who would look.


Other stories in the Age of Conan fictional series can be found here: Tales of Conan - Fictional Stories index.

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