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Red Rage - Part Two


Dave Frazier

Chapter 2, Part 1: Resting at the Hearth...

[At the last, Thor's world had grown black in a rage of red...]

Thor heard the crackling of a fire, and he could feel the heat of it upon his face. He shook the cobwebs from his head, and his eyes began to focus. He saw that he was lying on a crude wooden bench, in front of a cozy fireplace. The flames danced all upon the log that was there, hungrily searching the wood it was consuming. Thor welcomed the gentle warmth it gave.

He stood, and his head immediately reeled, causing him to sit abruptly. A dull ache remained in his head, and there was a red haze over everything Thor gazed upon. The Red Warrior! Thor jumped up as quick as a dart, despite the reeling. He centered himself quickly, and as thoughts of the battle in the tavern came to him, he searched his person, taking inventory. To his surprise, all of his belongings were upon him, including his blade.

He tried to recount the battle. He remembered that he tried to intervene when the Red Warrior felled Palin. And it was then that he felt the flash! As his blade met that of the Warrior's he clearly remembered the red pain that tore at his head as things grew dim for him. He unsheathed his blade and studied it. He nearly cast the blade down in utter surprise as he saw that the blade itself was pulsing with a dull red! No longer did it shimmer with a fine silvery shine, its edges as smooth and sharp as can be.

Instead, his poor blade was suffering the cruelest of curses. Its edges were ragged and dull; pits were all about its flat surface, and it looked old and haggard. There was a huge dint that was crusted with charred metal where his blade had met that of the Red Warrior. Woe was upon Thor at that moment, and he lamented the fate that befell his worthy blade! He could do no more but re-sheath it.

And now he found himself in a small room, near a warm fire, and with everything generally intact. He once again looked about the room, and his eyes wandered immediately to the door. It was large and sturdy, with an iron handle, but no lock! Thor approached the door and tried the handle. It easily gave to Thor's insistence, and he cracked the door open slowly and carefully. He could spy a somewhat narrow and shadowed hall. He listened and heard nothing, so he opened the door fully, and cautiously peered into the hall. It was lit by torchlight, and he could somewhat make out the surroundings. There was another room to the right of his, and then the hall bent to the left. To the left of his room, there were no other rooms; the hallway went for about twenty feet, and bent to the right.

Thor quickly looked through the other room, finding it to be like his, including a warm fire on the hearth. Having no reason to pick any particular direction, he made off to the right and then left around the bend in the hall. He moved cautiously, like a cat approaching prey, keeping his senses in tune with all around himself. The true crafty Warrior! As he made his way about the hall, thoughts of his poor blade tried to interrupt his concentration. He vowed that he would seek to avenge his blade, and he would rest not until he once again faced his new foe. And at that moment, he vowed that his trusty blade would not pulse red with ill magic, rather it would run red with the blood of the Red Warrior...

Part 2: Pendrake


[With foul magic at his back, Thor was left wandering strange halls...]

Thor gnashed his teeth, biting back the acrid taste that began to build in his stomach. He could still see the face of the Red Warrior, smiling mockingly as he felled poor Palin. The words of the Fighter Woman still echoed in his head, "No, it is not how it should be!" Thor pondered these words for long moments as he made his way about the halls.

Basically, he followed his instinct and kept his wits about him so that he would not become lost within these foul catacombs. He had a good sense of direction, and he felt confident that he could find his way back to the room. But why would he go back? There was nothing there of interest to him. These thoughts, too, coursed through his mind.

Suddenly he paused; Thor could hear a low noise, almost muffled, but there it was! It sounded like a dull crushing sound, as though bone was being powdered by a grindstone. He strained to hear more, stilled his breathing. He could distinctly hear the noise ahead and to the right, perhaps some thirty paces. He approached slowly, not drawing his fouled blade for fear that it may betray him, what with ill magic upon it. Rather, he drew a longknife from his boot, one that he never polished, so that its dull glint would not flash out in the torchlight.

As he drew ten paces nearer the noise, it became prominent. He could see on the right side of the hall an open archway, eight feet high at its keystone, and perhaps six feet wide; it was hard to tell because of his angle of vision in the narrow hallway. He noticed that a fire must be within, because there was a pulsing of light, much in the way a flame would dance within the hearth. Nonetheless, he approached with the utmost caution.

He moved to the near edge of the archway opening, braced himself, and peeked an eye inward. He immediately noticed a table near a fireplace, with a large tome of some sort spread upon it, and an individual was working at something on the table; he had a small bowl and pestle. To the left and right of the table, Thor saw a number of large stone vases or urns. He noticed a smaller table on the right side of the room, nearer the wall, with a large oaken chair at its side. A few books were strewn about the tabletop. Also near the smaller table, was a large bookcase, stuffed with numerous books and tomes. Thor noticed nothing more, withdrawing, for he dared not glance for longer moments.

Thor pondered his position, when suddenly he heard, presumably from the individual in the room, "Be not shy, my come in and warm by the hearth..." Thor remained frozen, not quite knowing how to interpret what had just happened. For a brief moment, he considered to unleash his blade, foul magic and all, and charge the individual in a rage. As his hand reached for the hilt, the individual quickly appeared from the archway, further startling Thor.

Before him stood a very old man, seventy or eighty human years, at the least. He looked quite frail, as though to move would cause his bones to creak and tremble, yet he moved with ease. He was a smallish man, five feet two inches, and maybe eighty pounds. His garb was rather unassuming, but the brown cape he wore draped over his right shoulder left him looking rather scholarly.

"I have been waiting for you, and I felt your coming some moments ago. I am called Pendrake."

"How did you know of my coming? I made barely a noise!" Thor felt rather insulted that anyone could not be fooled by his stealth.

"I felt the red that you carry at your back..."

Thor, in shock, surprise, and disgust, instantly cast his sling and blade to the ground, stepping back from it. He knew nothing good could possibly have come from the ill bane that had been cast upon his poor blade. And now, he was sure of it.

"Palin, my friend, why do you cast away your blade? Do you not wish to fulfill your role?"

Palin? Thor's head reeled from the words of Pendrake. He thinks I'm Palin! And how does he know of Palin? Thor had the gnawing feeling that he had stepped into a trap that was becoming all the more difficult to escape...

Part 3: Pendrake's Red Warrior

[At the last, Pendrake was seeming to mistake Thor for Palin, and Thor's head reeled at the fact...]

The quizzical look upon Thor's face was apparent, for Pendrake pursed his lips and furrowed his brow, as though to ponder Thor's strange behaviors.

"What troubles you, my Warrior friend?"

Thor truly did not know how to answer Pendrake's quiz. He did not trust this strange Mage-like character before him. Thor cautiously said, "How did I come to this place?"

"Why, you were borne here upon my wings, of course!" Pendrake seemed amused. "On this morn you were left in my garden by my loyal minions, those who ride upon the winds of the sky, and are loyal to Sintaire..." He tailed off, playing along with Thor's question. "Actually, Palin, you are more wise than I gave you credit! It is quite wise of you to check my credentials, to ensure that you have come to the correct Wizard!"

Aha! A Wizard. Thor seemed proud that he had made the correct assessment as to who this character was. Pendrake was indeed a Wizard, now confirmed by Pendrake himself. Thor changed his bent somewhat, and now approached the tone of his conversation in a slightly different manner. One should be very careful in what one says to a Wizard! This Thor knew, and he would be wary to any mind trick this Mage would try upon him.

For a short moment, Thor pondered what Pendrake said. He told him he was borne here by agents of Sintaire. Thor had heard of Sintaire, that ruler of the Northern skies. He knew him to be an Eagle Extraordinaire, much larger than any normal eagle. Standing four feet tall from talon to head feathers, he carried a wingspan of nine or ten feet; there was no other like him. A formidable sight he was to behold as he swooped upon the wind currents of his Northern Woods territories! But how does Sintaire's winged folk have anything to do with this Mage that stands before him at this moment? The puzzle was growing more complicated to Thor.

"And now, Palin, it is time for you to complete what you have started." Pendrake motioned to the archway entrance. Thor turned his attention to it, not fully looking away from Pendrake. At that moment, Thor swooned, and thought for sure his mind would grow dim, for standing menacingly within the archway towered the Red Warrior! What trick was this? Thor steeled his resolve, and by instinct he pounced for his weapon, drawing his blade from its sheath. As he brought his fouled blade forward, the red that was upon it glowed even brighter, as though it became excited in the presence of the Red Warrior.

Thor truly knew not what to do. How could he trust his poor blade with such a bane upon it? And with an untrustworthy Wizard he knew nothing of lurking at his side, and with the foul Warrior who put a curse upon his prized blade set before him, as an opportunity to wreak his revenge, yet himself with no blade he could trust, he felt at an end.

But as his Warrior blood began to boil, he soon realized that a true Warrior worries not about such things. A true Warrior trusts nothing and no one but his own skill to survive a foe's advance! And Thor knew that he would not go down with nary a fight. He grit his teeth hard and spat a curse upon the floor. As he steeled his will, he charged forward at the Red Warrior, seeking to drive his cursed blade deep into the throat of this foul adversary, to stop his mocking laugh once and for all...


Part 4: Swordplay With the Red One

[At the last, a menacing Red Warrior returns, as Pendrake urged Thor to the attack...]

Thor's blood boiled as he charged at his foe. Steel met steel, the clash ringing through the air. Again, he arced his cursed blade up and around, only to be met with that of the fiend that mocked him. Blow after blow was met with all the skill of a great Warrior, and despite that Thor's blood was ablaze with a fury as red as the bane upon his weapon, he could gain no edge. The Red Warrior countered everything that Thor presented with a skill that spoke of a great Fighter.

Doubt began to tug at his thoughts, tried to disturb his Warrior's concentration. Was there no way to fell this demon? Thor raged on further still, and suddenly doubt ran from his resolve, screaming at its defeat. A new level of skill seemed to come from nowhere, causing him to advance upon his foe at a fearsome pace. Their swordplay began to resemble a large whirring set of blades, cutting through the air in a deadly way. The clash of steel on steel had become almost deafening, yet Thor could plainly hear Pendrake's mad laughter. Like some strange jester, Pendrake was dancing about in the din, just on the outskirts of the battle. He pranced like some puppet whose strings had tangled, limbs flapping wildly about.

Thor could stand no more of this insanity. Why did this Red Warrior torture him so? His Warrior blood ran through him like an acid, burning at his temples, driving him to the edge of reality. He spat a curse upon the floor and charged with everything that he could muster. His intended target, the throat of the Mad Warrior who mocked him. Blade point forward, his rush was met by that of the Red Warrior. The ensuing clash was like an explosion of red fire; like thunder from storm clouds, a resounding din.

Red light flashed as the two crashed, almost blinding Thor. He felt a tearing of his flesh, and a burning heat in his chest as he fell back. The ringing in his ears began to die, and he staggered, falling to his knees. His blade dropped noisily to the floor, as he began to falter. He gazed to his chest, and the searing fire that burned within. The reddened blade of his opponent made its way straight through him. Thor thought it strange for a moment, that he was looking at his own chest and seeing such a sight as this, as though he should already be dead. His mind began to reel, was this some mind trick of Pendrake, or was this how it was to die?

He gazed upward in those short moments; the Red Warrior was no longer within his sight. Has the demon retreated to some dark corner to gloat in his victory? Thor regretted that he would not get his revenge upon him.

As darkness crept into the corners of his eyes, at the last Thor noticed that Pendrake had fallen to his knees, his face held in his hands, and was sobbing uncontrollably. He continually shook his head, crying out, "No, no, how is it that I am betrayed so? I shall never see him now..."

Pendrake's lament utterly surprised Thor; should the Wizard not be joyful to see him fallen? Thor's mind dimmed and his thoughts now muddied, darkness was all around him as he fell...

Part 5: At the Hearth, Once Again


[At the last, Thorlibue had received a death-blow through the chest...]

The fire on the hearth warmed him deeply, and he blinked from its brightness. As his eyes settled, he saw the flames dancing merrily all along the log. Reds and oranges glowed softly, yet their brightness lit the small room.

Thor sat up from the bedcloth with a start. Slowly his mind remembered the past events. His confusion was total; had not the fierce Red Warrior felled him to his knees, and brought the shadow of Death down upon him? He distinctly remembered the fiend's cursed red blade running through his chest, and he had felt its burning as his life drained out.

Pendrake! His last thoughts were that it had been a mind trick put forth from that mad Wizard.

Thor got up, slowly, testing his gait. It was steady; he felt himself, and not as some creature of the walking dead. He looked about the room; it was small, and much like the one in which he had started. There upon a small cot away from the fire laid Pendrake. Thor approached and reached for him. He would demand an explanation of all this madness from the man! He stayed his hand, though, thinking that perhaps it was not wise to engage Pendrake once again, considering what the Wizard had already done to him. He would have to thank his luck that he lived through this ordeal and be on with things. He disliked that this episode would remain a mystery, but he felt he should just leave Pendrake to his slumber.

He opened the wooden door slowly, so as to be quiet, like a peep-mouse, and after making his way into the narrow hall, closed the door behind him. He peered to his right and saw a left hand jog about thirty paces away. Peering left, he jumped back with a start, for there was Pendrake at his side. He heard nothing, and was amazed at how silently the Wizard approached.

"Why do you sneak up to me, Mad Wizard?" Thor queried, feeling rather irate.

"I should ask who be you, Warrior. It is plain that you are not Palin!" the disappointment was plain in Pendrake's comment.

"I am called Thorlibue, of the Northern Tribe of Calmut, son to the Tribe Elder Terrian!"

"Thorlibue...and now I must ask as to the whereabouts of Palin! To what foul end have you subjected him?" Pendrake's accusation jabbed at Thor like an animal prod, as though to rile him.

"Ah, Wizard, it is not I who has subjected Palin to a foul ending. Rather, it is you, or should I say your cursed Red Warrior, that has been his demise. At the last, Palin was falling to your minion's evil swordplay, and I, to do honor to my Warrior Code, intervened on his behalf. But before I could deliver my telling blow, your fiendish demon put evil Magic upon me, so as to put me to sleep in a Red haze! As to Palin, I can only imagine that your evil Warrior returned upon him to finish his work!"

"This has become a mystery to challenge the scholars!" Pendrake's astonishment was not expected from Thor. "The Red One was meant for Palin alone! Your intervention has corrupted the task, perhaps beyond repair. You have brought much woe to my heart; I fear I shall never again see my son, for you have stolen his soul..."

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