Forgive my double post, but I just finished my story and was hoping to get some last minute feedback before submitting it. I've a few more kinks to work out with just the flow and some grammar, but this time I really just want your feedback on the more global issues with the story. Is it interesting? Does it seem organized? Are there any glaring incontinuities, things like that.
Here is is then. Enjoy!
“I suppose we’ve been lucky up to this point, sir. And we should arrive before nightfall anyway to make camp.” Gedik and Volkan stopped for a moment to discuss the schedule as the storm clouds rapidly engulfed the sky. They examined a section of the map indicating the next stop.
“We’ve been pushing the oxen pretty hard to stay ahead of schedule,” said Volkan. “Still though, I’d hate to slow down at this point. And yes, lucky…”
Gedik’s keen eyes were scanning all around him. He was feeling rather uneasy. “I just don’t get it. Why would they hire so much protection for these caravans if they don’t expect it to be attacked. An equal number of average mercenaries would be one thing, but they were so insistent on bringing in all this expertise.”
“There is no telling what we may encounter in these mountains, son. It is our lack of information that has them all so worried. They don’t enough know much about these colonists eithers,” said Volkan.
“But that’s just my other problem,” explained Gedik. “The colonists! Who are these people? What is so urgent about their needs that an entirely new route be created. Who is paying for all of this? I can only imagine the overhead costs for this entire…”
Volkan suddenly laughed aloud, “My dear captain! For a peerless warrior you still think much like your typical Caldeum.”
Folding up the map again, Gedik laughed with his father and said, “Well sir, I can’t be doing this mercenary thing my whole life like you. I’m not nearly as lucky.”
“Indeed, Gedik. Get out of this trade while you can. Hazard pays are nothing compared to you’ll be making one day with those brains of yours.” Gedik saluted and ran toward the head of the caravan to speak with the caravan master. Volkan, despite appearing in good spirits in front of him, was quite distressed. It was his last conversation with Sir Aras. The merchant was especially irritable about the schedule. It was not Volkan’s responsibility to see to the preparation of the caravan, but Aras was insisted anyway on taking his frustration out on the commander. Volkan’s measured calm and Aras’ status among the Consortium prevented a physical confrontation.
Coming down the trail was Saadet. Volkan studied her as she made no hurried attempt to report to him. Just the usual expressionless face and casual stride. I hope this lack of urgency isn’t common among all her kind.
“You asked to see me, sir.”
“Yes, thank you for assisting with the repairs so far on this journey. It would appear maybe the Consortium overcompensated on muscle and left us short handed on skilled labor, eh?” said Volkan.
Saadet only nodded, but Volkan was not satisfied. Appearing to finally understand this, she finally said, “It is my…pleasure, sir. How may I assist you now?”
“Hmm,” Volkan stroked his beard a moment as he became somewhat distracted by the storm clouds overhead. Saadet stood patiently.”
“It has occurred to me recently, lieutenant, that we could be expecting too much trouble in front of us.”
“To me as well, sir. Someone could have followed us into the Pass.”
Volkan raised an eyebrow at this. He was pleased and surprised that Saadet was thinking along the same lines.
“I’m glad we agree then, lieutenant. I understand some of your equipment can alert you to unnatural movements and signs of life.” Volkan was looking at her bag wrapped around her shoulder, wondering what kinds of devices she carried with her and how they all worked.
“Not to mention certain magical energies, sir. If something is following us up the Pass, the traps are sensitive enough to detect it and can even disable it if necessary.” Saadet’s commander was at least aware that her devices were part engineering, and part magical in nature. Enchantments were a more accurate way to describe the magical nature of her equipment, however. What she built with her own hands was a product of her intense mental training. The ability to build many of these devices with her eyes closed was a standard skill among her kind. Though there are so few of us left it seems.
Saadet was unsure of the status of her order. She had been operating solely for an extended period of time. Her last seal of official orders was a few years ago. The coded message simply read, “Infiltrate Caldeum ranks”. Funding was provided to her for a short time through a number of channels. After that she was mostly on her own. Few assassins had the level of autonomy she possessed. She had found her way with the Consortium mercenaries and became a respected, albeit enigmatic member of their company. The mages did not trust her. While some begrudgingly admitted to themselves it was because they did not understand her craft, Levent knew there was something else entirely about her. Something false and deadly.
“We will keep ongoing patrols tonight at the camp sight, but I want you to go beyond the patrol range east of us and set your traps,” said Volkan.
“Right away, commander,” nodded Saadet and went out of sight.
The rain began to fall. Volkan put on his hood and sighed. He looked around at the walls of rock all around him. Grays and browns, very little growth anywhere. It felt like death all around him. The most silent and still death. If not for the rain, he’d possess no sense of normality in the current situation. As much as he dreaded getting to the camp sight under such conditions, the rain managed to breath just a bit of life into this place. And at least he was out of the desert heat. I only hope I’m not exchanging one kind of extreme weather for another. May this rain not last.
Saadet was approaching the coordinates on her map where she had planned to lay her traps. The rain began to pour as she steadily made her way down the path. The inside of her boots were managing to stay dry while she walked on the road, but the gray robe around her body was now soaking wet. It might have clung to her slender body if not for the robe’s thick wool. It was intentional that her clothing reveal as little about her as possible while also working to conceal her weapons. Underneath it all was a tight fitting black garment. Only a few corrupt mages had seen a flash of it before falling to their prompt deaths.
She threw down several enchanted rods. As quickly as they settled on the ground, an electrical charge passed through them and they all moved in an upright position forming a small pyramid shape. Held in place by their own power, they hummed with electricity and her first sentry was in place. Just a ways down she repeated the process, only this time the rods formed a spout like structure that rotated in full circles. Both sentries began to fade out of sight yet continued to fully function. Saadet’s mind focused on her surroundings as she tried listening beyond the rain, but the thunderclaps were too loud and frequent. If something was moving around out there, it could be out of attack range for the traps, but they’d at least be able to detect it.
Saadet crossed to the other side and proceed down a ways more to lay the last one. As soon as it came to power it fired an electrical bolt at the cliff wall into a pile of rubble. With her quick reflexes, she extended the katar on her right hand and pointed the blade in the direction of the rubble blast. The trap was poised for another discharge but was stuck trying to acquire its target. All was silent again except for the rain. Saadet slowly moved toward the cliff wall where the pile of rocks lay She tightly gripped the handle of her weapon.
A streak of lighting suddenly pierced the sky and was followed by a loud thunder. Simultaneously the trap fired several more discharged toward the cliff wall. A cloud of dust emanated from the blast as a mound of mud and rocks began to rise from the debris. Saadet watched in awe as the mound grew almost twice her height and morphed into a humanoid shape. Just as it finished forming legs and arms the lightning sentry fired a final charge before exhausting its power and self-destructing. The muddy creature was thrown back by the impact and was thrown against the cliff wall.
The assassin continued moving forward. With a flick of her left wrist, she summoned her other claw and readied herself to attack. Writhing on the ground, the creature formed what appeared as a human head with a contorted face. She saw it as a tortured and ugly thing. It pushed itself back up with its arms and its mouth gaped open at her. A deep rumbling noise came from its maw while mud poured forth onto the ground.
Zeren’s golem had watched all the wagons, laborers and warriors pass by hours ago. It was merely waiting for further orders when Saadet came down the road laying her traps. It would have lied still if not for perceiving a threat from the assassin’s magic. At the moment, all Zeren could sense was that it was in pain and instinctively trying to defend itself. The damage done by the sentry was disrupting his telepathic link to it.
Saadet rushed forward and slashed at the creature’s head. The golem swiftly ducked and rolled to the side. She leaned in toward it to stab with her claw but the golem reached out and absorbed the impact into its hand. With the three smaller blades of the claw stuck in its hand, she swung her katar directly into its arm and severed it. The golem stood quickly and flung its other arm straight at her. A large mass of mud and rocks knocked her off balance long enough for it to stand up again and face her.
She quickly reassessed her opponent. It was much more agile and clever than she thought it would be. Clearly the poison of her claws was having no effect either. Her best guess identified the creature as a golem. She sensed no demonic magic about it. Nor was it a creature of the undead. But few schools of magic were capable of creating such a thing. Whoever was controlling it was likely nearby. She’d hunt this person down as soon as she dispatched of their pet.
The golem’s arms and hands grew back while the rest of its body reduced in size. More mud poured from its mouth as it readied itself to go on the offensive. It leapt at Saadet but just barely missed. She went for another blow to the head, but the golem yet again managed to absorb the blow. This time its mud was thicker and her blade was stuck even further in. Before she could attack with her other hand, the golem struck her hard in the chest and sent her flailing backwards. She coughed up blood and struggled to stand back up. Maybe I can bleed, but this thing cannot…
With her enchanted items depleted, she resumed sparring with the monster while gradually working her way back up the path. Her robe completely covered in mud, she undid the clasp around her neck and it fall to the ground. The golem picked up a nearby boulder and hurled it at her. It appeared that it too was weakening. That’s right, you’re angry, aren’t you? Come finish me off…She then shouted, “Tell your master I’m coming for him next!” Strangely, the golem seemed to take offense at this and began running toward her with all the speed it could muster. Its muddy legs were falling apart underneath it. It stopped long enough for nearby rocks to stick themselves to its legs. "Come on!" she yelled. It ran even even faster as she turned around and let it give chase.
Just further up the path the fire sentry pointed its spout in the direction of the oncoming figures. Mere steps away from the trap, Saadet lept over it and the device suddenly spewed forth a gust of flame at the golem. The fire was so thick and hot, the creature managed to catch fire. The assassin looked up from the ground as and watched the furious blaze in front of her. Increasingly immobile the golem trudged slowly toward her and reach out with its arm. Its magical energies rapidly diminishing, it attempted to cry out to its master for help. Upon its next step the first sentry was activated and a heavy arc of lighting pierced the walking flame. The golem fell back and shattered on impact like a clay pot. The last pieces of it burning out, and the rain washing it away.
With a sigh of relief, Saadet picked herself back up and stood over her beaten opponent. As everything washed away, just a few stones in the middle remained. She kicked them onto the side of the path and went back down to fetch her robe. “Now I have to set these all over again.” Happy enough that no one from the caravan witnessed her using her claws, she tended to her wounds and picked up several metal rods from her bag to enchant. “Ah well, such is the work of the machinist. Only now I’ve got a puppet master to contend with as well.”
The three stones on the side of the path huddled together and burrowed themselves in the mud and rain. After a rest, they would gather some more mud and rocks.
An assassin! Zeren sat in disbelief. But what he could not believe was that he failed to anticipate her. I suppose it makes sense. I cannot be the only one who knows of the artifact. But why would she want…No! Zeren realized it was not the artifact she was probably interested in, but its recipient. The Viz’Jaqtaar had no interest in demonic magics-only those who would employ them. Granted, Zeren did want the artifact for himself, but it was to be an object of study, not active use.
The necromancer had wondered at times who was paying such a grand sum for the package. But the Balance had been so in favor of the Light recently that his people saw no urgent need to investigate the happenings near the Dreadlands. Knowledge of the growing colonies was widespread. They were seemingly just a lot unhappy people trying to shake the yoke of the western kingdoms. Zeren had also heard rumors about the cultists, but nothing they were engaging in seemed to be effecting the Balance as far as the Priests could sense.
At any rate, here was this assassin, likely on a mission to identify and slay whomever wanted the artifact. Zeren looked down at his feet, “And here I stand, now with the prospect of her slaying me too.” After brooding awhile over his lost golem and wondering how his mission parameters had changed, it suddenly occurred to Zeren that perhaps both he and that deadly women out there could have the same thing. She could have her dead recipient and he would be allowed to take the artifact back with him. No Rathman Priest had ever fallen to the demonic magics. Their acceptance of death as an inevitability raised them above such temptations of power. It made perfect sense to Zeren, but would the assassin understand his reasoning as well? The fact that she had just engaged in combat with his golem did not help his chances.
Whether for his own research or not, what happened with the artifact mattered. At painstaking effort and risk was it smuggled out of Kurast. A fully intact undead stygian doll would provide a tremendous insight into how demons reanimate their dead. And with such knowledge, an entirely new method of defense against demonic forces could be developed. So long as the doll remains dormant and I get my hands on it. Zeren was unsure how to proceed next. All he knew for certain was that his mission just got a lot more complicated.