Uriel sharply glanced at her surroundings. Rays of sunlight shined through the rooftop of leaves. Birds made themselves hidden, but allowed their voices to be heard. Everything looked the same, but something felt quite different.
Uriel could not quite point out the difference, but it was there. She felt as if a hundred arrows targeted her from a short distance. Each one ready to fly from any direction. Anxiety didn’t feel good, but it kept her on her toes.
Four days had passed since she departed from the Ovoo village. Only four days, yet it felt much longer. Horses would have made travel much easier and more comfortable, but the privilege wasn’t exactly an option at the moment. For now, all she could do was suck it in and continue on by foot.
Mycelia, Ragosh and Jotun accompanied Uriel, while the metal golem and the rest of the Blood Crows remained to protect the village. An Ovoo runner navigated through the forest, and led the group towards their next destination.
“Is the village still far off?” Uriel asked. Her impatience started getting the best of her.
“No, my lady,” the runner replied, as he continued to lead. “We will be reaching their territory soon.”
“Excellent,” Uriel grunted, before turning her attention to the chieftain’s son. “Ragosh, do you know anything of the Chamael Clan?” she asked.
“Very little, Overlord,” Ragosh answered. “The Ovoo have never actually spoken with the Chamael clan, thus we personally do not know much about them. We don’t even know who their clan leader is.”
“Then what DO you know?” Uriel asked.
“The Chamael has always been a clan shrouded in mystery,” Ragosh replied. “Few speak with them and even fewer have seen them. We don’t understand why, but they prefer to remain hidden.”
A small grimace appeared on Uriel’s face. She expected to learn something a little more useful than this meagre description.
“Your father mentioned that they are strong enough to be a greater clan,” Uriel remarked, remembering Enoch’s words a few nights ago. “Where did this knowledge come from?”
Ragosh snorted and then took a moment to gather his thoughts. “According to the elders, the Chamael once fought and defeated three clans at once, by themselves,” he answered. “Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Chamael ended up as the victors.”
“Well, that sounds quite promising,” Uriel remarked, her expression softening to a smirk. “But I am curious to know. Why aren’t they a greater clan?”
“A greater clan must have three things,” Ragosh explained, as he held up three fingers. “The first is that a clan must own a large territory. Second, is that they must be strong enough to guard their territory and show off dominance over other clans. Lastly, the members of their clan must be many.”
“I presume that the Chamael are lacking one of these things?” Uriel asked.
“They only have ONE of these traits,” Ragosh replied. “The Chamael are strong, but they neither have the land nor the numbers to call themselves a greater clan.”
“Well that one trait is satisfying enough,” Uriel chuckled. “If I can convince them to join us, we will have a better chance of defeating the Allosaur Clan.”
“Let us hope that this one threat is enough to unify our clans for a while,” Ragosh growled, as his tongue flickered out of his mouth. “They have never asked for aid from other clans, nor have they ever answered their calls.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Uriel said, as she twitched her head. “However, our chances would be better if we knew more about them.”
Uriel sighed, as she tried estimating their chances. Some of the most difficult battles were not found on the field, but on the table. From experience, Uriel knew that a single goal or enemy did not always guarantee cooperation. Such things usually happen during desperate times.
Partners often require incentive. Only the generous would do anything for free. Based on Enoch and Ragosh’s description, the Chamael didn’t seem like the later. To earn some degree of trust, Uriel would need to bend a knee. Fortunately, she had some humility to spare.
Before long, the group came upon an interesting sight. A long row of spears stood before them. Each standing no less than five feet apart. These spears spread as far as the eye could see, acting almost like a dividing line or border.
“I assume that this is how the Chamael mark their territory?” Uriel asked the runner, her eyes remaining focused on the spears.
“It is, Overlord,” the runner answered with a nod.
“What about the skulls?” Uriel continued, her attention slowly shifting to the spearheads. “Work of the Chamael as well?”
Reptilian skulls rested on top of each spear. All of them had a few small cracks on the socket and nostril holes. Dirt and dried blood stained the surface. Not a single trace of flesh remained. Small chills ran down Uriel’s spine. It was not the sight of these skulls that shook her, but rather the number found. No less than twenty heads rested on a spear.
“Quite the charming décor,” Jotun grunted. “I don’t really know much about any of these lizards, but something tells me that they don’t want any company.”
“That or they enjoy an intimidating image of themselves,” Mycelia said, as she covered her mouth to chortle. “How shall we proceed, my lady?”
“With caution,” Uriel responded. She scanned the forest, looking for any prying eyes in the shadows. “Be on guard. Just as Jotun said, they most likely don’t want company. Expect an attack.”
“Yes, my lady,” Mycelia nodded.
Nobody questioned the decision or advice. With no other words to spare, they walked past the spears, and continued to venture through the forest.
Uriel continued to shift her eyes left and right. The feeling of being watched intensified, as soon as they stepped further into the other side. Her skin crawled, while her fingers fidgeted on the pommel of her sword. She could have drawn her weapon out any moment. Fortunately, she still had enough control to prevent her from jumping at the slightest movement around.
Before long, it finally happened. Just as the runner took a step forward, something snagged his foot and threw him on the ground. It rose from the leaves and pinned the runner down with a spear. Several shades and shapes of brown colored its body, perfectly matching the ground itself.
“Do not move, or I kill him,” it spoke, pressing the point of its spear close to the runner’s throat.
Uriel frowned, but obeyed. The others did so as well.
Other hidden warriors soon appeared. They stepped from the trees, boulders, the ground and the bushes. Each one of them had different colors on their scales that allowed them to blend perfectly in the area they hid. Only when they walked from their hiding place did they stand out.
“The Chamael, I assume?” Uriel asked.
“We are,” the first warrior responded.
The colors of his body then changed to lime green tint. One by one, the others did as well, changing from their camouflaging colors and into their natural shade. At last, the group finally got a chance to see this warriors for what they were.
The Chamael looked radically different from Ovoo, Kompos or even the Allosaur. They had five fingers, but two thumbs. Small spikes grew from their backs, all the way to its coiled tails. However, what truly distinguished it from the others were the eyes. The Chamael had large eyes bulging out of its socket, a lime green color, similar to their own scales.
“Why are you here?” the Chamael warrior asked, as he stepped on the runner’s chest. “Did you not see our warnings, or are you just ignorant of their meaning?”
“We saw them,” Uriel nodded. “I am Uriel, Overlord of-.”
“I asked why you are here, not who you are,” the Chamael sneered.
Uriel sucked in her lips and swallowed her irritation. “We are here in hopes to forge an alliance between the Chamael and Ovoo, so that we may fight against a common enemy, the Allosaur,” she replied.
“An alliance between Chamael and Ovoo?” the warrior repeated. He soon burst into laughter. “Your enemy may be our enemy, but your concerns are not ours. Go back to the Ovoo and tell them that the Chamael have no interest in joining hands.”
Uriel held her breath for a moment. “Your clan is trying to protect something from the Allosaur, is it not?” She then asked. “What if we can offer assistance?”
The Chamael softened his stance. It seems Uriel had piqued his interest. “And what sort of assistance can you provide that we need?” he asked. “We have enough warriors to fight, and we know our territory well enough to keep it safe.”
“Mycelia, perhaps you could demonstrate with one spell?” Uriel suggested, as she stepped aside.
“As you wish, my lady,” Mycelia said, as she stepped forward and pressed her knuckles. “Steel your nerves and clench your heart.”
She took one deep breath, before locking her palms together with a slam. Mycelia then chanted in her indistinguishable language. The Dark-Elf began first spoke with low whispers, eventually raising her volume. Her voice echoed, as if speaking from a large cavern.
Light gleamed from under her visor. Static sparked and zapped around her body, while nearby pebbles danced and floated an inch off the ground. A strange force, invisible to the eye but felt by the skin, started to expand and grow around her.
Clouds gathered across the sky, blotting out the sun. The entire forest went dim, as the birds and other animals fell silent. Lightning flashed behind the clouds, while thunder cackled. A gust developed around the forest, while the wind howled violently. It felt as if nature itself were trying to speak.
Suddenly, bolts of lightning descended from the sky. It crashed all around them, tearing trees apart and scorching patches of earth.
The Chamael jumped and panicked, as they watched the bolts of lightning flash before them and strike random at random. However, the Chamael weren’t the only ones caught in awe. Uriel and the rest of her party also looked on, stunned by this display of power.
Uriel had met quite a few magic casters before, but never before had she seen anyone manipulate the weather in such a manner, not up in person, at least. A small part of her felt quite intimidated, while another part of her felt rather relieved. She found herself lucky that Mycelia sided with her, rather than against her. Caster of Mycelia’s level would cause a great amount of trouble to anyone she deemed as an enemy.
“Mycelia, that is enough,” Uriel said in a calm manner. She did an excellent job hiding both her excitement and alarm.
“As you say, my lady,” Mycelia said, as she separated her palms from one another.
In an instant, the bolts of lightning ceased. The clouds departed and the wind died down. Sunlight returned to the forest, as if nothing had happened at all. A few trees lay broken and splintered, but other than that, the forest appeared fine.
“Such power,” the Chamael warrior remarked. “Not even our shamans could do such a thing!”
“Now do you understand the power we possess?” Uriel asked. “Would this power prove to be helpful to the Chamael?”
The warrior growled and weighed his options. After a brief moment of thought, the Chamael lifted his foot off the runner and turned his spear away. “You will speak to our chieftain,” he said. “He shall ultimately decide what is best for our clan.”
“That is a start,” Uriel nodded. “Take us to him.”
The Chamael warrior grunted and gestured to the others, who in turn replied by retreating back to their hiding spots. As soon as the others had disappeared from plain sight, the warrior led the way.
As the group followed, Uriel only begun to notice a very interesting detail about the Chamael warrior. His spear had a metal blade. It wasn’t a crude weapon with a blade made of stone. Actually, it looked exactly like one of the spears that she had given to the Ovoo from Nul Hunur. Just where did the Chamael get this weapon? Uriel felt very much inclined to ask, but decided it best to ask straight from their leader.
Soon the village came into view, and Uriel got her answer regarding the spear. Rather than seeing a small and simple settlement filled with huts and walls of animal skin, she found an ancient fortress. Tall blocks of stone held up the structure. It had a small outer wall, a single keep and two small towers that watched over the surrounding terrain. Parts of it had fallen victim to the hands of time, while other parts seemed to have been demolished by other means.
“This place,” Uriel stated, as she looked around. “Could this be…?”
“I think it is,” Mycelia quickly responded. “This must have been one of the Overlord’s fortresses. Many of these can be found across the Dark Lands, abandoned but still standing.”
“Follow me,” the Chamael warrior said.
Walking into the fortress, they began seeing the more primitive features that they had come to expect. A few huts and tents stood behind the stone walls. A few simple tools and equipment did lay about, but the craftsmanship looked slightly more refined. Although the clan could not replicate some of the tools, they had at very least tried to imitate the appearance.
They then entered the keep, where the chieftain waited. He wore a coat of bear skin, and wielded a wooden scepter. He branded a string necklace that carried a few metal pieces. In reality, these metal pieces were nothing more than scrap, but to the Chamael, they must have looked valuable.
“Chieftain Sonpra, members of the Ovoo Clan have come to speak with you,” the warrior grunted, as he held out his hand towards the group.
Sonpra leaned forward from his throne of leather and wood. “Why have you brought them here?” he bellowed. “We do not entertain the requests of other clans.”
“They offer an alliance with us,” the warrior responded, his head tucked low. “They have shown great power and even control the skies.”
“Can they now?” Sonpra grunted. He rubbed his chin and then turned his attention towards the group. “You are from the Ovoo, yet I see only two clansmen. Three others are clearly of other race.”
Ragosh stepped forward and kneeled. “Great chieftain of the Chamael, I am Ragosh son of the Ovoo chieftain,” he introduced. “This here is Overlord Uriel and her two companions. The Ovoo have handed her authority of the clan.”
Sonpra looked at Uriel from head to toe and then frowned. “The Ovoo have surrendered themselves, not to another clan, but a mere outsider?” he scoffed. “Most shameful to your ancestors.”
“Our ancestors have decided it so,” Ragosh explained. “She underwent Ypnis and was granted authority over the clan.”
“We will see if that is true,” Sonpra snorted, as he tapped his staff on the ground “Solmek, approach!”
From the corner, a withered old Chamael approached. His scales looked pale, but still had a tint of green like the rest of his clan. He required a walking stick to carry himself around. He looked like a corpse filled with only scales and bones.
“Solmek, what do you see?” Sonpra asked, as he pointed towards the group, or more specifically Uriel. “Has this outsider been blessed by the Ovoo spirits?”
Solmek took a few steps closer and closely inspected Uriel up close, causing her to jerk back a little. Both of his eyes shifted different directions, while scanning her from top to bottom. After a few moments, the old Chamael gasped with his mouth wide opened. It looked as if he were about to eat her.
“Yes, she is indeed blessed by the Ovoo spirit,” he nodded with excitement. “However, it is not just the Ovoo. I see the touch of Chamael, Allosaur, Kompos and every other clan from this one blessing! She has been accepted by the very FIRST ancestor!”
Every Chamael in the hall looked at one another and began to whisper. However, they soon found themselves hushed by their chieftain, who stomped the bottom of his staff on the floor.
“Why is an outsider helping the Ovoo fight the Allosaur?” Sonpra asked, as he leaned closer. He had no eyelids, but from the way he spoke, he looked as if he were trying to squint. “What is your reason? What are you after?”
“The Ovoo sought for my help, and I answered them,” Uriel answered. “However, I did not believe that simply protecting the village was enough, so I encouraged them fight back.”
“You told me how you met them,” Sonpra hissed, his tongue flickering out of his mouth. “But you did not tell me WHY you are helping them. You’re not even a member of any clan. You have absolutely no reason to lend your power. So why do you do this?”
Uriel thought before speaking. “I follow a code of conduct, a set of rules,” she replied, remembering her days as a knight. “One of those rules is to protect others from those who terrorize.”
“That is it?” Sonpra asked with an incredulous look on his face. “You simply help the Ovoo because of these so-called rules?”
Uriel frowned. “Am I to believe that your warriors don’t such rules?” she snapped back, as she held her hand out towards the chieftain.
Sonpra’s eyes gaped open. His tongue twisted in his mouth. He shifted his gaze to both sides, trying to think of some response or retort, but could not do so. Then with a low growl, he swallowed his frustration and accepted the answer.
“You seek an alliance with us, correct?” Sonpra asked. His tone changing to a more calm and humbled one. “Do you even know why the Allosaur are attacking us?”
“No, but I would very much like to know the reason,” Uriel replied.
“There is a monster beneath this place,” Sonpra sighed. “Its strength is beyond anything ever conceived. It has killed countless of our own. Nothing we do could stop it. All we have managed to do is keep it locked beneath this cursed place.”
“Is that what the Allosaur are after?” Uriel asked. “Is that monster why they are attacking you?”
The Chamael chief nodded with dismay. “That monster is unstoppable and they want it released,” he explained, with his head hanging low. “They offered us everything: food, territory, mates and more. However, we declined it all. We the Chamael will NEVER let that thing go, as long as we have a single breath left in us.”
“Perhaps it could be one of your golems, my lady,” Mycelia whispered to Uriel’s ear.
Uriel raised her brows in agreement. “What if we can stop that monster?” she said to the chieftain.
Sonpra raised his head, but did not smile. If anything, he appeared slightly flustered. “What nonsense do you speak of?” he sneered.
“We have fought and stopped several monsters before,” Uriel replied, quickly recalling a few of the beasts that she had killed during her expeditions through the Dark Lands. “This one may be no different.”
“You speak of foolishness,” Sonpra spat. “Nothing can stop it!”
“Let us try,” Uriel replied, as she pounded her fists together. “If we die, you will have nothing to lose.”
The chieftain sat back and pondered for a moment. After a brief stare and hum, he gave a defeated sigh and flapped his hand. “Very well,” he groaned. “It is as you say. We have nothing to lose.”
“If we do succeed, can we expect your cooperation against the Allosaur?” Uriel then added.
Sonpra snorted out a puff of air from his nostrils. “Fine,” he snarled, not even sparing the time to think. “If you do succeed, the Chamael shall assist the Ovoo. I swear this to the ancestors.”
“I look forward to working with you soon,” Uriel smirked.