THE PRICE OF TERROR


PART THREE: THE EDGE OF THE BLADE


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


     "Stand ready! Take your aim! Let loose!" shouted Gav, bringing his left arm down in a chopping motion as he gave the command. Lieutenants all across the battlefield repeated the words, and Vorti's archers launched their flaming arrows simultaneously. The steel-tipped missiles shot upwards, crested, then sped toward the quatics, a whistling hail of death.
     Grundig had expected arrows, but not fire, and it quickly became apparent which was more dangerous. Not many quatics were killed, or even seriously injured, by direct contact, since their hides were tough enough to ward off all but incidental damage. But the arrows which landed in the dry brush flared immediately, and suddenly the advancing edge of the army was caught in the midst of a conflagration, and quatics, swamp-dwellers by nature, possessed little immunity to fire. As the flames spread, all forward movement ceased. Blackened corpses fell by scores.
     A second volley of arrows followed the first, and Grundig was forced to move away from the front ranks to avoid being caught in the flames. His force was now in retreat, backing away from the human attack. Fury seethed within the Prophet, and much of the anger was directed at himself for not anticipating this action.
     I told you not to underestimate them, whispered Vas from the recesses of Grundig's mind. The quatic could almost sense satisfaction in that statement, as if the dead wizard retained vestiges of his personality.
     "Stifle your satisfaction!" barked Grundig, speaking aloud. "If things go ill for me, they do so for you as well."
     It isn't satisfaction. Maybe next time you'll listen when I warn you. These humans are not as weak and foolish as they seemed at Tsab. Now you no longer have the advantage of surprise, you will find them a different sort of foe.
     Grundig's forces had backed up far enough to escape the wall of fire, but the flames were spreading. There were already one hundred dead, and at least twice that number injured, and he had to stop things before they could become more serious. It hadn't been his intention to use magic this early in the battle, but he had no choice.
     

* * *

     Gav watched in silent satisfaction as the three volleys of flaming arrows did their work on the quatics' front lines. Before flames and smoke hid the enemy from his view, he was sure close to one hundred had gone down. And the fire was still very much alive. He had his archers launch one more strike to bolster the fire, then ordered a cautious advance. If the quatics managed to break through the conflagration, his forces would be waiting for them on the other side. Only the archers held back, ready to loose another attack if it became practical or necessary. At this point, however, their effectiveness was limited by a lack of material. Even with fletchers working nonstop for the past week, there was not an endless supply of arrows.
     Gav motioned one of his lieutenants forward. "Inform the queen what has happened. Make sure the evacuation is under way. What we have achieved here is just a small victory. Once the quatics break through, we'll be hard-pressed to delay them."
     Indeed, even as the battle commander issued this statement, the fire was abating. Gav was surprised how quickly it faded, considering how much fuel remained for it to feed upon. He decided against another immediate strike by the archers. Now was not the best opportunity. They would come into play again when the army was in retreat. At this point, it was time to see how Vorti's forces could fare in hand-to-hand combat.
     As soon as there was a breach in the inferno, quatics came pouring through, heedless of the still-smoking ground's heat. Vorti's foot soldiers moved forward to meet them, swords and battle axes drawn. The first meeting of armies was like a crash of thunder, and far more humans fell than quatics. Suddenly, in the front ranks, blood and chaos reigned.
     
* * *

     From atop the palace ramparts, Lea watched the distant battle begin. Even with the aid of a magnifying scope, she could make out scant details. She was surrounded by functionaries and guards, but none could see the engagement better than her. Distance handicapped them all. The queen wished Eya was here to use her magic to bring a view of the struggle closer, but the Apath had other duties. Lea would not see her guardian again until this battle was over, if then. Taking anyone's survival for granted was a grave error.
     A muted shout went up from the watchers as the fire began, a distant beacon that signaled the start of the human offensive. For a while, the flames grew, spreading rapidly in all directions. Then, in defiance of natural laws, they began to shrink until there was little more left than a few sporadic flare-ups.
     "Battle has been joined," said General Dus. He couldn't see any better than the rest of them, but he knew the plan. "Now, all we can do is wait."
     Lea nodded, but didn't take her eyes from the distant battlefield. Tiny figures were swarming around out there, but it was too far away to make out which side had the upper hand at this point. Based on what she remembered of Gav's final strategy briefing, however, it was a good sign that the archers hadn't immediately launched a follow-up attack.
     
* * *

     "I'm not the only Apath in the area," said Eya, her face troubled. In the distance, the great bell of Vorti continued to toll, urging citizens eastward then south.
     "Wil?" asked Reg. "I thought you said he was incapacitated."
     "It's not him. Something else... something I can't pinpoint."
     "There must be a hidden Apath in the population, then. You once said that not all of your kind wish to be known."
     Eya shook her head. "I don't think so. This is different."
     "How so?"
     "I don't know. In fact, I'm not sure there's anything there but, for a moment, I thought I sensed a magical cloak. Someone hiding their abilities. Maybe it's just my nerves."
     "Maybe," agreed Reg dubiously. He had always trusted his sister's instincts, perhaps even more than she had.
     They waited in relative silence for a while, the only sounds reaching them coming from the droves of humans moving away from the city. Most of the evacuees were on foot, and many were without possessions. A few pulled carts along with them, unwilling to abandon all their earthly goods to invaders, but most recognized how impractical it would be to travel encumbered. At this point, few were concerned with more than surviving. After the quatics were defeated, the squabbles over goods and property would begin. And, of course, the Crown would be expected to provide for reparations. Lea would have a difficult time ruling in the aftermath, if there was an aftermath.
     "Nervous?" asked Reg.
     "Do you want a lie or the truth?"
     "The truth."
     "I haven't been this scared since I stood with Sor and Wil against the dwarves. And our odds were better then. Three Apaths against a disorganized army of runts. Now what do we have? Me against a vast force of immense creatures with a history of bitterness to feed their attack."
     "Sounds like a fair fight to me."
     Eya allowed herself a little smile. "We'll see. Personally, I like the odds in my favor."
     "Then you'll have to cheat."
     "Oh, I intend to," said Eya. "I surely intend to."
     
* * *

     Descriptions had not prepared Sor for the monstrousness of the enemy. But, to his credit and that of his regiment, the humans barely faltered a step in their advance when they came face-to-face with the enemy. No one was smiling or shouting in exultation now, though. Ahead, people were dying, and Sor was about to enter the area of the fray where his own life would be in jeopardy.
     He considered himself competent with a sword, but he wondered if that would be enough. Admittedly, the quatics didn't rely upon skill, but their ferocity made them dangerous. They could afford mistakes - Sor couldn't. If he left himself open, or mis-timed an attack, he would be torn to pieces. Hand-to-hand combat with the quatics wasn't like an all-human skirmish, where not all injuries were mortal. When a blow from a quatic reached its target, that person rarely survived, and, if he did, he most likely would have wished otherwise. A quick dispatch to the next life was better than what awaited those not instantly killed.
     As Sor and Tui approached the front lines, they were assailed by the all-out sensory assault that accompanied the battle. There was the sight of butchered bodies and of men falling beneath the flailing, hacking arms of their ogre-like attackers. There were the sounds of struggle and death - of men grunting, groaning, and screaming; of quatics bellowing; of iron striking the natural armor of their opponents' hides; and of bones being crushed. And there was the unmistakable scent of a slaughter - the combination of freshly-shed blood and voided bladders that permeated every battlefield and made the weak of stomach retch uncontrollably.
     With bodies pressing him from behind and men falling rapidly ahead, Sor advanced quickly. Along the way, he lost sight of his friend. By the time he was ready to enter the fray, there was no sign of Tui. Sor had no idea whether he was ahead of him, to one side, behind or, unthinkably, dead.
     The guard in front of Sor was fighting valiantly, using his sword to block quatic thrusts, then looking for an opening for his attack. Despite the difference in size, the battle seemed to be relatively even, with the human's skill compensating for the quatic's strength. Still, the creature bore its wounds easily, and thrusts that looked sure to kill barely grazed the behemoth.
     Sword held at ready, Sor watched the struggle. It eventually became clear the quatic would win. Stamina was becoming a factor. When the end came, however, it happened so suddenly that Sor was momentarily unprepared to step forward. All it took was a minor misstep by the guard and the quatic found an opening. The clawed attack was so devastating that Sor was covered with splattered blood and gore. Then the quatic was advancing on him, teeth bared in an obscene grin.
     Sor raised his weapon to defend against his opponent's initial strike. The blade of the sword met the quatic's arm and bit deep into the hide, but Sor was driven to one knee by the creature's strength. The bite of steel had its effect, however, as the quatic snatched back its arm, gushing blood. Sor staggered to his feet and stood warily, awaiting his opponent's next move. The thought of taking the offensive never occurred to him. The power of the quatic was greater than he had been prepared for, and the realization that survival was unlikely made his mouth dry with fear.
     The quatic attacked again, launching itself at Sor with flailing arms and bloodstained claws. It was an all-or-nothing move, and the advantage was in the larger combatant's favor. But Sor saw the perfect opening and drove home his sword, embedding it hilt-deep into the softer flesh of the creature's loins, then dove to the side to avoid being disemboweled by one claw. He hit the ground hard, the weapon torn from his grasp but, when he rose to his haunches, he saw that his aim had been true. The quatic was dead. Unfortunately, another was moving to take its place and, with so many men pressing forward from the rear, there was nowhere to retreat. Winded and weaponless, Sor was about to meet a fresh foe amidst the carnage.
     
* * *

     Grundig watched carefully, assessing his army's chances. After the initial disaster of the fire, things had settled down to acceptable levels: one quatic death for every four or five humans. Admittedly, these men were better fighters than those at Tsab, but the quatics no longer held the advantage of surprise and preparation bolstered an army. Thus far, the quatic front lines had been torn apart, but fully one-quarter of the human force was dead. It was a bloody battle, but the Prophet didn't think it would last much longer. The men of Vorti would soon bolt, or stand fast and die.
     You're underestimating them again, warned Vas. Grundig found it irritating how that element of his personality had developed a separate identity.
     "Do you have any ideas about what they might try next, then?" he demanded, growling the words aloud as was his custom when answering his alternative self. It didn't matter if anyone heard him - no member of his army would dare question him, no matter how irrational his actions seemed.
     I'm no more a mind-reader than you are, but I know the race. They have something else prepared. Perhaps more than one thing.
     Grundig studied the battle again, watching humans fall at satisfying rates while quatic numbers diminished more slowly. "Well," he added in a more subdued tone, "If they don't reveal their next move soon, there won't be enough of them left for it to make any difference."
     
* * *

     The call to retreat saved Sor's life, with an assist from the sword of one of his fallen compatriots. With the trumpet sounding for the men of Vorti to fall back to the city, Sor was able to snatch a weapon from the grip of a nearby dead human, and lift it in time to parry the first attack of his second opponent. This quatic was smaller than the first, which lessened the power of its strike. Sor managed to keep his feet, and the clash left the quatic with a badly lacerated left arm.
     Quick as lightning, the next assault came. Instead of attacking Sor directly, the quatic attempted to wrest his weapon away in the most straightforward manner possible. Heedless of the cutting edge of the blade, the creature reached out with both hands to grasp the sword. Recognizing his opponent's intent, Sor jerked the weapon away, slicing off two of the creature's fingers in the process. It let out a bellow of rage and pain, and Sor saw hatred in its eyes.
     Impatient, the quatic attacked again, and received another gash to the arm. One of its claws nicked Sor's shoulder and he felt a flash of white-hot pain and padded armor, flesh, and muscle were sliced through. It was not a crippling wound, but the momentary burst of agony distracted him. He was barely able to parry another attack, and this time he was nearly knocked off his feet.
     Panting and with sweat running down his face, Sor tried to take a step backward, only to stumble over a dead body. He went down, and the quatic took advantage of the situation. As the creature bore down on him, Sor blindly thrust the sword upwards. It was jerked from his grip as the massive bulk of the quatic crashed down upon him.
     Luckily, he was able to shield his head, otherwise the deadweight would have crushed him. Even as it was, his chest felt like it had been kicked in. Breathing was nearly impossible, and the quatic's bulk was too heavy for him to shift from his prone, pinned position. It was dead, the sword having apparently struck some vital point, but it appeared it would take Sor with it.
     Fortunately for the young soldier, some of the surviving humans around him had seen his fall, and they dragged the quatic body aside on the chance he had survived. His first breath of fresh air was like drinking in life. Someone helped him to his feet, and Sor was amazed to discover that nothing seemed to be broken. His body would be one gigantic bruise, but he could stand and, when one was offered to him, hold a sword in a steady grip.
     "That's two for you, friend," said one of the men helping him away from the front. A glance at the older soldier's face revealed a grin. Sor didn't return the smile, however. Despite his double kill, he didn't feel even a twinge of exultation.
     
* * *

     Losses in the first engagement of the battle of Vorti had been severe, and there was still another skirmish to come. Gav's plan demanded the army retreat only as far as the western walls of the city, then turn and fight again. When the next retreat came, it would be through the abandoned streets, with the intent of luring the invading army into Eya's trap. Contingency plans called for a final stand at the Twin Cities, but Gav didn't want it to go that far. Having seen the fighting strength of the enemy firsthand, however, he doubted whether there was much hope of saving Vorti, with or without magic.
     It was growing dark, the sun dipping below horizon-hugging clouds in the western sky. The battle at Vorti's walls would be fought in darkness. At this point, Gav didn't know who gained the most advantage from that - perhaps both sides were equally handicapped.
     Turning to one of his lieutenants, a young man whose horse was running side-by-side with his, Gav shouted, "Pass this message to the troops. We will make our next stand at the wall. Use the hammer and sickle formation, but fight defensively. Our purpose here is delay and deception, not victory. Killing quatics is not the objective in this next engagement; staying alive is. Make sure every man in this army knows that."
     The lieutenant nodded, then spurred his horse in a different direction, disseminating Gav's words to others so they could be relayed throughout the army.
     
* * *

     At the "gates" of Vorti - little more than a checkpoint, actually - reinforcements bolstered the fractured army. In the confusion of the retreat, Sor had not located Tui. In fact, most of those around him were unfamiliar faces, but his battle victories had earned him the respect of men more than twice his age. Sor was accepted as an equal by veterans who had scoffed at his inexperience before the first engagement.
     For his part, the young man was too busy keeping up with the retreating army and considering his placement in the next phase of the battle to reflect on what he had achieved. The bottom line was that he was still alive and, while his body drew breath, he intended to fulfill his duties. Whether future bards sung of his valor mattered little.
     In fact, Sor didn't consider himself brave. The sight of the quatics had terrified him. Since coming face-to-face with the enemy, fear had been his companion. It was just that, as he saw it, there was no choice but to continue. If he deserted or turned coward, there was no place to run. And this wasn't only his war. He was fighting to preserve the lives and homes of his sister, parents, and queen.
     Once, when he was a little boy and had asked his father how his Aunt Eya could stand against the dwarves, Reg had said that, no matter how impossible the odds, people could rise to combat them. Apparently, this was one of those circumstances, and Sor's natural talents had been elevated to a level he never would have dreamed possible. Two quatics dead by his hand... it was inconceivable, yet he had done it. The depressing reality, however, was how few others had managed the same tally. Worse still, Sor had been granted a share of luck in his battles and chance was a fickle ally.
     As the remnants of Vorti's army, now bolstered by the troops Gav had held in reserve, awaited the tide of quatics, bonfires were lit to provide light to those on the front lines. Sor had not found his regiment, but another one, comprised primarily of men who had witnessed his battle prowess, had willingly "adopted" him. Based on their position, with their backs literally against the walls of the city's outermost buildings, it seemed unlikely Sor would see combat in this engagement. On this occasion, he felt relief at that thought.
     
* * *

     Grundig's army marched forward, the bonfires lit by Vorti's walls acting as beacons - not that any such signals were necessary. The quatics could have found the city in the blackest of night, with no stars or moon to light the way. Following the initial volley of flaming arrows, casualties had been light, and the Prophet's troops were looking forward to the next engagement. Bloodlust sung in their veins and the taste of victory was sweet in their mouths. This was supposedly the cream of humanity's fighting forces, and defeating this army seemed scarcely more difficult than besting the one at Tsab.
     Grundig, of course, was more wary than his men, but he found it hard to credit the validity of Vas' warning. The humans might be clever and ingenious, but they were limited by the strength of their forces. No trickery could double the number of men they put on the field. There would be more battles, of course, and a certain percentage of his army would be lost, but the outcome seemed inevitable. At this point, what concerned Grundig more than victory was revenge. Somewhere within the city walls was at least one of his mortal enemies - perhaps both of them. For, while King Guc of Tsab might be skulking elsewhere, there was little doubt Queen Lea was here. For her role in Castabal's death, she would die.
     Inexorably, the quatics moved forward, undaunted by the prospect of doing battle in the darkness. Grundig believed the lack of light would handicap the humans more - blindness would do more damage to those who relied on skill and intelligence than those driven primarily by naked ferocity.
     
* * *

     The second engagement of the battle of Vorti was joined less than one hour after the first had concluded. This time, there were no flaming arrows or other surprises - just brutal hand-to-hand combat, with the quatics having a decisive edge. The humans fought desperately and valiantly, but they were overmatched in every way. They held for as long as they could, striving to keep the quatics from entering the unwalled city, but, in the end, Gav was forced to call a retreat, as they had known he would. And, even though this was part of the plan, it was with bitterness that many broke off the struggle to flee into the darkened streets of the city, heading for their final regrouping near the coast, beyond the magical trap laid by Eya.
     Contrary to Sor's expectations, he did see some combat in the second battle. He and two compatriots were forced to stand against one injured quatic. It was an uncoordinated opponent that, faced by three swordsmen, was dispatched with ease. Just after that skirmish, however, the retreat horn was sounded. With as heavy a heart as those around him, Sor turned his back to the battle and headed into the city, knowing that each footstep through those empty streets further sealed Vorti's doom.
     
* * *

     A terrible expression of rage mixed with triumph contorted Grundig's features. Standing not one-hundred feet from him, high atop the walls of Vorti's palace, was one of the two targets of his vengeance - Queen Lea, daughter of King Sor. Surrounded by a corps of armored and unarmored men, she was as well-protected as a human could be, but an entire legion would have been useless against Grundig's attack. She was about to learn the price for killing a quatic heir.
     The Prophet let his emotions boil to the surface. Anger and hatred seethed, igniting his passions and boiling his blood. Intentionally allowing his eyes to unfocus, Grundig let the energy suffuse his being. A single face swam across his mind's eye: that of Castabal, his firstborn, cut down in part by the woman now within his reach. His revenge was at hand.
     
* * *

     Vorti was lost. Lea could see that before the real battle for the city began. But that had been Gav's plan. Lose the city to win the war - if victory was possible with such overwhelming odds. Although the situation wasn't hopeless, it was close. Everywhere Lea looked, there were quatics. Against that force, her troops, reduced already to half-strength, seemed inadequate. True, many of them were already in retreat, intending to regroup along the coast, to the east, but that realization did little for the sinking feeling in the pit of the queen's stomach. She hoped Eya was ready. At this point, magic was their only hope. Curiously, Lea found herself wishing her father was here to guide not only her, but the entire army. Somehow, she thought, he would have found a way to save the city.
     "Your Majesty, we should retreat," said a voice to Lea's left. It was Caa, who had apparently been ordered by Guc to stick close to her. Absently, she wondered where the King of Tsab was. It didn't really matter - one man could hardly make a difference - but she doubted Guc was putting his life on the line for Vorti. Ambitious men like him always had plans, and she doubted dying here was among them.
     "He's right, Your Majesty," agreed Dus. "There's nothing more we can do here, and the battle is getting close. We don't want to be trapped. We need to clear the city as quickly as possible to put General Gav's plan into action."
     "Casualties thus far?" asked Lea without looking away from the carnage below. The quatics were systematically butchering her troops. It seemed that ten men died for every monster. How could they possibly win sustaining those sorts of losses?
     "Fifty percent," said Dus. "The men down there are taking the brunt of the attack, but that was expected. Their job is to hold off the quatics until everything in the city is ready. We only expected ten to fifteen percent of them to live. Now, we must fall back. Every moment we stay here increases..." Dus never finished what he was saying.
     The air above the quatic army erupted with magical fire. All eyes - human and quatic - turned skyward, and for a moment the battle came to a halt. Red and orange flames blotted out the leaden clouds, lending the battlefield a crimson cast. From horizon to horizon, tongues of fire licked the heavens, yet there was no heat. The inferno was cold. Like a bolt of lightning, panic struck both opposing forces.
     "Magic!" hissed Caa.
     Confused, Lea turned to Dus. "This wasn't something Eya mentioned, was it?"
     Then, from the battlefield, a magically-amplified voice sounded, "Let this be the last image you see, Queen of Vorti!" The accent was thick, and Lea's heart quailed within her at the implications. The quatics were using magic.
     A bolt of blue lightning arced up from one of the quatics, its aim for Lea deadly and true. Yet at the last moment, a counterattack came from directly to the queen's left. The concussion of the two bolts clashing ripped apart the walls and everyone atop them collapsed groundward with the rubble.
     Caa, who had blunted Grundig's strike, was the only one not to fall with the wall. Standing in mid-air, enveloped by a magical halo, he faced his rival across the battlefield. The quatic apath's hideous laughter echoed for miles in all directions.
     "Is that the best you can do, human? I offered your queen a quick death! You have pinned her under tons of rubble - a far less pleasant ending! And now you seek to challenge me, one-on-one?"
     Caa said nothing, but stood his ground. This was not what Guc would have wanted, but things had gone too far and the king hadn't anticipated a quatic apath. At this point, a magical showdown was unavoidable.
     The human apath spared a glance at the wreckage below him. There was no sign of Lea. Jav, his head crushed by a jagged hunk of rock bigger than a horse, was in plain sight. Everyone else was either dead or unmoving. Occasional weak moans testified that at least a few of Lea's bodyguards had survived, but there was little hope for the queen. At this point, Caa doubted there was much for himself, either. The force behind the attack he had turned away had been prodigious - more so than anything he could muster.
     "Try another attack, human. I'm waiting!" mocked the quatic. His army had parted for him like a wave, allowing him move to its absolute head. Death was so close that Caa could smell it. Yet he did not yield to his enemy's taunts. Instead, he waited silently, hoping the quatic couldn't see how his body trembled.
     "You think yourself so haughty that I am not worthy of another attack?" continued the quatic, his words laced with sarcasm. "Perhaps you need to be brought down to earth!"
     Caa braced for an attack, expecting another like the one that had toppled the walls, and wondering if he could counter it. It was dangerous even to try, for a failed attempt could leave him maimed and at his enemy's mercy.
     The quatic's tactic was different from what Caa expected, but no less devastating. The wizard didn't realize what was happening until it was too late. Suddenly, the magical halo which kept him aloft evaporated and, like those who had preceded him groundwards, he was plummeting toward the rubble. Only a hastily-erected shield spared his life from the impact.
     Bruised and bleeding, Caa struggled to his feet, looking wildly about him. His enemy was strolling casually toward him. "Not very impressive, human," he chided, his tone almost conversational. "Still, you are alive. For how much longer, I wonder?"
     Two brilliant bolts of blue seared the air around Caa, one to his left and one to his right. Either, had they struck him, would have been fatal, and he wondered if the quatic's intention had been to miss. The wizard felt like a cat's plaything, but he refused to be toyed with any longer. If he was going to die, it was going to be on his terms, in the manner of his choosing.
     Caa put all of himself into one desperate attack, forcing all of his emotion, all of his energy, into a cataclysmic strike - a wave of energy that swept across the battlefield - a devastating explosion even the most powerful of Apaths would be hard-pressed to deflect. But not only was Grundig strong; he was crafty as well.
     Instead of facing the attack head-on, he transported himself two-hundred feet forward, moving beyond the wave's scope of harm. It slammed into his army with predictable results - dead bodies filled its wake. But it dissipated quickly, and the final toll numbered less than one-hundred. The quatic was irritated as much by the unexpected loss as by the insistent voice in his head, always warning, "Do not underestimate them!"
     Caa was dead, of course, but Grundig checked the body to be sure. The Apath had burned himself out, using every last vestige of emotion he possessed. Grundig conceded that perhaps taunting him had been the wrong approach. In the future, he would be certain to dispose of wizards quickly and cleanly. The taste of their suffering, delicious as it was, was not worth the potential price for such a dessert - not when parts of Devforth remained unsubdued.
     Grundig surveyed the rubble - there was life here, but not in any great quantity. Most of those who had been on the walls were dead or dying, buried under a mound of broken stone. There was no sign of Lea, but that didn't surprise the quatic - she had been near enough the epicenter of the collapse that her lifeless remains would not be discovered until the debris was cleared away - if it ever was cleared away. Grundig admitted it would have offered a measure of satisfaction to gaze upon the dead face of his enemy, but he had seen her fall, and that was enough. Now, there were more pressing tasks to attend to. Somewhere out there, Guc of Tsab still lived. And, with the battle of Vorti won, it was time to move on and subdue the rest of the continent. The era of the quatics was at hand.


© 2006 James Berardinelli

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