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World of Magi > Fremde in der Dunkelheit > 1. Fire on the Horizon

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1. Fire on the Horizon

By Mr. Tex

It had been a long two day's march to get to the port town of Cyrune. Alric de Zama was on the back of his chocobo. The man's grey eyes were scanning the horizon, and his greying dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He had his crossbow slung over his back. There was something wrong; he had traveled amidst the outriders as long as he had waged war, and he knew when there was an ill feeling in the air that he shouldn't ignore. One hand ran along the close-trimmed beard he wore, and his concern went unhidden on his face.

One of the younger outriders galloped up next to him, looking at him. "Ser Alric," he said, "you seem ill at ease. What troubles you?"

"Something." Alric scowled. He wished, at times like this, that Eadric's father hadn't been so quick to reject the Jidoran offer of magitech infusions. It might have bought him stronger eyes and better ears, to let him see ahead. Instead, all he had was his instincts. It was still something, though. "We ride forward," he said, "and hard. I mean to find out what that something is."

The boy nodded. When Alric spurred his chocobo on, the younger man man followed. The two birds galloped forward, running quickly over the plain. They moved up over the hill ahead of them. That was when Alric saw the clouds - no, he realized. The smell caught him then. He sniffed hard and scowled.

"Smoke," he told the younger man.

"What?" he asked.

"Smoke. And-" Alric's eyes narrowed. On the distant horizon, he saw an orange glow, and underneath that smoke was the sea. His teeth ground together for a moment. "Fire. Cyrune is burning, boy." He looked at him, nodding fiercely. "We must go back to Lord Commander Eadric. We must tell him that Cyrune is aflame." He turned his chocobo about, kicking up water and mud underneath the creature's talons, and then spurred the bird onward. "And we must hurry!"

-----

Anflaug had found this settlement disappointing. When he had decided to set out for the coast, he had hoped for cities rich in gold and gems, with unimaginable wonders. Instead, he had found a quiet little town that reminded him of an Ingrish settlement; the architecture and the like was different, and they had those strange poles that could light up at the top. Their goods, though, were all fish and basic trade supplies - of strange makes and different kinds, but not truly otherworldly.

He scowled and glanced at the captain of one of the other longboats that had come with him. The man was bound to him - or to his father, but Anflaug stood to inherit that allegiance and he was not like to let the man forget it. "This town offers us nothing more," he said. "Its defenders are dead and its goods taken."

"What of the people remaining?" the captain grunted.

"Gather them," Anflaug commanded. "We will bring them to our world and let our people see them and hear their strange tongue for them-" He was interrupted as a great war horn blew, calling out from the northern side of town. Anflaug's eyes narrowed and he looked at the captain. "Some trouble, we should move."

The captain nodded. They heard another call from the war horn; the two men looked at one another, knowing it meant that it was serious. Then, the call was silenced before the man finished blowing on the horn, suddenly. "Taznikanze!" Anflaug shouted, turning his head and looking at the north side of town. "We have fallen under attack! Forward!"

The raiders ceased the last of their plunder and turned, beginning to move forward. Anflaug and the captain ran with them. Their enemy found them first. The ground rumbled, and then they turned around the corner of a home and started down the main avenue of the town. Anflaug slowed as he saw them. They were men in chainmail, with plate mail covering their chests and arms. All of them wore helmets, and they all sat on the backs of immense birds - tall as a horse, with wickedly sharp beaks and talons, and all with a striking golden yellow plumage.

At their head was the tallest man that Anflaug had ever seen. Even on the back of the bird, he stood a head again as high as his fellows. His eyes were visible behind his iron helmet, a clear blue piercing out from the darkness made by his helm. A tattered red cape flew behind him and, in one hand, he held a blade not unlike an Ingrish claymore.

Anflaug took a step backward, as the giant swung his great sword. The blade caught the first of his raiders in the face, and it shattered the man's head more than it cut it. Blood, brain, and bone exploded outward, while the rest of the man's corpse fell.

It was only then that Anflaug forced his courage to the fore and called out an order. "Steady! Cut them down as we did the rest!"

His raiders pulled their axes free of their belts, if they had not already. They began to shout and cry out, snarling challenges at the charging horde. The ground thundered under their feet. He saw the men on the back of their birds lift their swords as their giant leader did. A few leveled long crossbows at them, grasping them tightly in their hands. A man at the side of the giant, wearing a close-trimmed beard of grey and brown hair, leveled his crossbow at them.

Then, all at once, the horde shouted their battlecry. "In aionm aon Figaroa!"

The crossbows fired after that. The bearded men loosed a bolt from his crossbow right into the stomach of the man standing beside Anflaug. He saw the bolt take him; the captain lurched forward, groaned softly, and fell to the ground. Behind Anflaug, other men were dropping. Then, the charging men were on them. Anflaug ducked underneath the swing of a man's sword and chopped out with his axe. The blade cut to his femur, and the man lurched in his saddle. He saw another rider have its bird's head split.

But more of his men were falling. He saw one have half his body shorn off with a sword blow. Another had a crossbow bolt shot into his groin, where he stumbled forward and had a bird's talon crush his head into the earth. He saw a man he drank mead with the night before stumble forward into the opened beak of a riding bird. The beak clamped down, biting into part of his face, and pulled back. Half the man's face ripped free of his skull, muscles sliding like jellies from underneath his torn skin.

Another rider screamed in his strange language and Anflaug spun to face him. He grinned maniacally, giving in to the smell of blood and the feeling of rage burning in his heart. "Come!" he shouted, "Come and face the best of what the Taznikanze have!"

He leapt as the rider came. His axe slashed outward as he jumped into the air and the blade caught the rider in the neck. It cut his head from his body in one stroke, and Anflaug landed just before the man's head hit the ground and rolled a few times. He turned, then, the dead rider's blood running down his body, as he heard another bird charging for him.

He saw the giant who commanded these men, riding hard for him. His sword was held out to the side. Anflaug smiled and lifted his axe.



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