That Horrible Moment Chapter 10

Was It Worth It?

By Donraj

        The hill leveled out into a plateau at the summit. The flat ground, made of bare stone, was about ten feet across, each side dropping off into a steep cliff. As Gilliam clambered up Drake was standing at the other side with his back turned, looking over the landscape below. Knowing better then to hope the alert dragoon had not noticed him, Gilliam spoke.

        “You killed my father.”

        Drake did not bother to turn.

        “That hardly makes you unique.”

        Gilliam drew his father’s sword slowly, the metal hissing against the leather sheath. He fell into a fighting stance, poised to attack.

        “You killed Hanlon, you killed Ellis’ parents.”

        Drake did turn to regard him then.

        “Killed whose parents?

        The wind picked up, blowing grit into Gilliam’s eyes.

        “Tell me,” he asked, trembling with repressed anger, “how many people have you murdered?”

Drake thought for a moment.

        “One hundred and seventeen.”

        Gilliam was stunned, both by the claim and the callous way Drake had said it. The dragoon continued.

        “Counting soldiers as well as civilians, not that there is any real difference. And your band, of course.”

        “Why? Why this, why banditry? Any army would have been happy to hire you. Why resort to raiding merchant bands?” Drake snorted.

        “Oh, they did. Your nobles had no qualms about hiring us to fight their battles during the war. That was when I met your father. He wasn’t a member of the nobility back then, at the time he was just a peddler that had been pressed into service.”

        Drake began to walk towards Gilliam as he spoke.

        “After the war, we became inconvenient. Oh, they had known all along what we did and how we fought, and they approved, all of them. Dycedarg, Larg, Goltania, they all knew, and they were happy to have us do the dirty work. How do you think they became heroes? They fought the clean battles and had us handle the real work.”

        But once the war was over they had to open their eyes and be outraged. After all, they had no idea what we “mavericks” had been up to.”

        Drake came to a halt in the middle of the field.

        “That’s when we went to work for your father. He was an ambitious man. He’d received a minor title after stopping an assassination attempt on Zalbag, but no lands or money. He had a small trading business, but he couldn’t compete with his larger rivals. So he turned to us.”

        Drake gestured towards the forest below with his left hand.

        “So we waylaid his rivals shipping. No one suspected a connection, it’s a dangerous business and people are always being lost. We even went after his merchants now and then, just to avoid suspicion. Between him and Lanal’s spying, it was child’s play.”

        Gilliam had been silent throughout Drake’s speech. Now, he spoke.

        “Even if he was not the man I thought he was, he was still my father. You will pay for his murder!”

        Gilliam charged. Drake rushed to meet him.


        Bare hands hanging at her side, Ellis met Lanal’s eyes with a glare of pure hatred. Knowing that there was no way she could reach him or escape before he cut her down, she stood still and asked a question.

        “Tell me, do you remember a small groups of traveling performers you helped massacre ten years ago?

        Lanal thought for a moment, then nodded. “Why yes. Were you connected to them somehow?”

        “I was only ten years old when I watched the Touten murder them. Now tell me, why? Why did my family have to die?”

        Lanal shrugged.

        “I suspected that a member of your troop was a spy.”


        “And what? That’s all.”

        “You butchered dozens of innocent people just because you suspected one man?!” she demanded incredulously. Lanal shrugged again.

        “I wanted to be on the safe side. Besides. We had a reputation to maintain. Now…”

        Lanal’s hand darted like a snake. The dagger was a silver blur as it flew at her. Lightning quick, Ellis’ hand shot out and caught it in midair. With the dexterity of a trained juggler she tossed it up in the air, then snatched it as it came down and hurled it at Lanal.

        Her aim was perfect. The dagger caught him square in the throat. He staggered back and looked at her, stunned by the reversal. Before her eyes, the friendly façade slipped away, and his face twisted into a mask of bestial hatred.

        He made a choking sound, then collapsed. For once, Lanal had nothing to say.

        Ellis stood over his body and looked at him, wondering what she should feel. She felt no pleasure from killing him, and it did not diminish the pain of losing her family in the slightest. But if nothing else, she had killed an evil man, and finally slain one of the figures that had haunted her nightmares for a decade. Her family might not rest any easier, but she would.

        She pulled a spare bowstring out of her belt pouch. With practiced ease, she strung it, then turned back to the cave. Lanal was not the only monster here.



        Gilliam went into a spin as he came close to Drake. Falling into a crouch, he ducked under Drake’s spear by inches. Coming into a full circle, he hacked his sword into the joint at Drake’s knees, hoping his momentum would let him cut through. His sword clanged uselessly off of the heavy armor, and the sword went out wide. Undaunted, Gilliam changed tactics. Pointing the sword upwards, he leapt to his feet, hoping to drive the weapon through Drake’s chin. Drake kicked him square in the midsection, his booted foot blasting the air from Gilliam’s lungs and sending him tumbling. Gilliam came to a halt inches from the edge. As he rose unsteadily, Drake spoke.

        “And tell me, where is the rest of your group? I know there are at least three more.”

        Gilliam smiled grimly.

        “They’re below, dealing with the rest of your murderers. Tell me, how many of your men do you have left?”

        Drake chuckled.

        “All of them. Chell brought reinforcements.”

        Seeing the shocked look on Gilliam’s face, he continued.

        “Did you think there would only be a few of us? Then you are wrong. You have led your friends to their deaths. They will be overwhelmed by an army in the tunnels. They will die in the darkness, and there is nothing you can do about it.”

        Screaming in denial, Gilliam charged Drake again, slashing wildly. Drake was caught off guard by the flurry of blows and was forced to backpedal. As efficient as a machine, Drake blocked every attack. Hoping to use Gilliam’s rage against him, Drake taunted him, hoping to goad him into making a mistake.

        “You should know that I had no intention of killing your father. If you hadn’t come, he would still be alive.”

        Outraged, Gilliam speed up his attacks even further; ignoring defense and seeming to come at Drake from everywhere at once. As Drake held his spear in a horizontal block Gilliam chopped down in an overhead swing, hoping to cleave the wooden shaft in two.

        A sliver of the rock hard wood was chipped off, but nothing more. Gilliam’s sword sprang back, his arms going numb from the blow. Drake’s mailed fist caught him in an uppercut to the jaw. Grabbing Gilliam’s wrist, Drake’s armored fingers twisted cruelly. The sword fell from Gilliam’s nerveless hand.

        A blow to the side of the head sent Gilliam sprawling to the ground, the world spinning. Drake towered over him, his spear poised for the killing thrust. Gilliam lay helplessly, knowing that this time there was no one to save him.


        Rosa watched in the dim light of the torches that lined the passage as the zombies shambled towards her, eyes glowing red with an infernal light. Drool fell from their mouths as the perverse creatures sensed her still living flesh, and their hands raked the air as they reached for her.

        There were at least a dozen of them, too many to try to slip past in the narrow corridor. Slowly, Rosa raised her dust covered right hand up where they could see it.

        A crystal ring gleamed crimson in the torchlight.

        A red aura flared into existence around her. As the closest zombie shambled with a couple of feet of her she snapped her hand down and drew her sword. She slashed it upward, decapitating the undead thing in one blow. Holding her sword in both hands, she brought it down in an overhead slash, cleaving into its chest and splitting its spine.

        It took less time then a blink of Rosa’s eyes.

        It collapsed with a groan, a shadowy, smokelike mist rising up from it. A chill swept over Rosa as it brushed her, along with a feeling of absolute hatred, but then it was gone.

        The other zombies shambled towards her. Lightning-quick, she swiveled towards them and charged.

        She ducked under the swinging arms of the first one, aiming a spinning cut that slashed off its right leg at the knee. As it toppled Rosa leapt onto the prone creature, crushing its skull like a melon under her boots. She thrust forward as she did, stabbing another one right between the eyes, then fell into a roll as three more lunged at her.

        Heart beating wildly, she went at the trio in a frenzy, stabbing and slashing like a sword wielding whirlwind. They went down, blacken blood oozing out of amputated limbs and demonic mist filling the corridor. Her sword black with gore, Rosa turned to the remaining six, which had formed a semi-circle around her.

        The clumsy creatures simply could not keep up with her magically enhanced speed. As the last one returned to true death, Rosa fell against the wall and slid down it to the ground, panting with exhaustion. The combined strain of the battle and the demands of the ring’s magic left her trembling helplessly on the stone. The red aura faded and died.

        After several minutes, she managed to rise. Still breathing heavily, she staggered down the passage, hand pressed against the wall for support.


        For the first time in his insane life, Alberto felt grief.

        His mind reeled at the realization that Katoi was dead. That should not have happened, Katoi should not have died, Katoi should have eaten Chell’s heart!

        An anger as strong and deep as his sorrow swept through Alberto. Beyond rage, it was as cold and dark as an unlit cavern. In the back of Alberto’s mind, a seal broke. Diabolical power began to race through his body, joining with and amplifying his hatred. He met Chell’s eyes with a glare more suited to a demon’s face then a man’s. He said nothing, not bothering with curses or shouts of anger. The look in his eyes conveyed his feelings perfectly.

        Chell started to laugh, but the sheer intensity of Alberto’s expression killed his smug amusement. He sensed power gathering around his enemy, a feeling like a thunderstorm about to break in the narrow tunnel.

        An aura formed around Alberto, dark even in the subterranean gloom. Alberto cupped his hands together, and crackling energy began to gather in his palms. Chell realized that this was the same sort of power he himself had wielded against the goblin.

        In a hollow, emotionless voice Alberto chanted a grim dirge, calling out to Lich, the connection completed at last. The black magic built to a climax.

        Chell screamed.


        As Drake stood over him, the world seemed to slow down to Gilliam. He realized then his folly in presuming to challenge the incredible warrior. The man was simply too strong, too skilled, there was no way he could ever hope to defeat him. In his heart, Gilliam knew he was going to die.

        His vision swam out of focus, taking Drake’s form away. He thought about them, Ramza, Alberto, Rosa, Ellis... Silently, he bade them farewell, apologizing that he had failed them. Maybe they would succeed where he had failed. Gilliam started to relax...

        Then a new thought shot through him. No, they would not succeed. Drake would go after them next, would hunt them down and kill them one by one. In his mind’s eye, he saw Ellis with a spear through her chest, Drake looming over her.

        He could not let that happen.

        To Hell with his own life, he would not let that happen!

        His vision cleared. Gilliam focused on Drake’s spear.

        Gathering all of his strength for one last effort, Gilliam leapt at Drake. Simultaneously, Drake ran him through. The spear went right through him, entering through his gut and exiting out of his lower back. The pain was indescribable. Their eyes met.

        “Tell me, was it worth it?” Drake whispered. “You would have lived if you had walked away, but you chose to follow me. Tell me, as you die, were your precious morals worth it?”

        For a moment, Gilliam’s resolve wavered. Then the image of Ellis dead at Drake’s hands flashed through his mind again, and his will hardened like steel. Eyes blazing, he met Drake’s challenge.


        Grabbing Drake’s spear with both hands, Gilliam wrenched it away from him. With superhuman determination, he shoved the spear all the way through his body, then snapped it over his knee with a sudden burst of strength. As Drake’s tried to come up with a response, Gilliam hurled himself at him, shoving him towards the nearby edge of the plateau. Caught off-guard, Drake stumbled back, coming to a stop inches away from a steep drop. He tried to force Gilliam back, but Gilliam held on with unbelievable tenacity.

        Extending his gauntlet blade, Drake drew his arm back for a decapitating swing at Gilliam’s head. Gilliam caught his wrist in mid-swing. Desperately, the two grappled, Gilliam actually smiling as he pressed his suicidal attack. For the first time in decades, Drake was truly afraid for his life. He shouted something, but Gilliam ignored him and concentrated on his attempts to struggle free. His lower body was numb, but he pressed on.

        Drake was forced back a step. Then two.

        As they stood on the precipice, the earth beneath them began to tremble as the tremendous magical forces battling below rocked the very foundations of the fortress. With one last surge of strength, Gilliam knocked them both over.

        They were thrown apart as they bounced off the first level surface, bones crunching as they hit. Drake scrambled desperately for a handhold against the sheer cliff, trying to slow his fall. An avalanche of rock, shaken free by the unnatural earthquake, caught him and carried him down.

        Beyond pain, Gilliam fell free. Then he hit the ground.



        Ellis was on full alert as she made her way through the dimly lit tunnels, every sense at its peak. Her bow was in her hand and at the ready, and she had an arrow prepared.

        Even so, she was still caught off-guard as she rounded a corner and nearly ran square into four zombies.

        Quick as a cat, she blasted the arrow into the chest of the closest one. It staggered slightly from the impact of the point-blank shot, but was otherwise unfazed. It grabbed her, mouth drooling as it closed in to bite off a chunk of her flesh. Ellis struggled wildly to throw it off, almost retching from the stench. But it was too strong, unnaturally strong, and she could not break its grip.

        Suddenly its head went flying off. Ellis shoved it off of her and stumbled back. A red blur was tearing the goblins apart. Even as she watched the last one was hacked apart. The ruby light vanished, and Rosa fell to her knees in exhaustion, chest heaving. She held a hand to her chest as her heart beat for hard she thought it would burst through her ribs.

        Ellis approached her tentatively.


        The stone beneath their feet began to shake, throwing Ellis to the ground beside Rosa. She rolled like a tumbler to absorb the impact, coming to a stop in a crouch. She shielded her head as stones fell from the ceiling. The earthquake continued; she turned to Rosa.

        “We have to go!”

        Ellis stood, but Rosa still knelt there, gasping for breath. Ellis grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet.


        Dragging Rosa behind her, Ellis ran blindly through the twisting passageways. Finally she saw light ahead. She had managed to backtrack to the entrance. They made it out just in time, the passage caved in behind them.

        They looked up to see a beam of black energy shooting up into the sky from within the mound. Something exploded, and the rocks began to fall as the entire cave complex collapsed in on itself.

        After it was over, the women looked at each other. They both spoke at once.


        Ellis saw a body on the ground several feet away. Recognizing it, she gasped and ran to Gilliam, kneeling beside him. As soon as she saw the horrific injuries he had sustained, she knew there was nothing she could do. The spear wound was only the beginning, his limbs where broken and his head was at an odd angle, as though his spine had been snapped.

        Hot tears welled in her eyes as she looked at him. Impossibly, Gilliam’s eyes flew open. He saw her and smiled.

        “Your… safe. I got him Ellis, I got him.”


        Gilliam’s eyes closed. He was dead.

        Ellis stared at him, broken.

        “I love you,” she whispered.



        Recovered enough to stand, Rosa watched on wobbly legs as Ellis wept. She also grieved for her friend, but she knew that Ellis’s pain was far deeper. The bond between the two had grown quietly, but its depth was obvious to anyone who knew them. She started towards her, meaning to try to comfort her, but froze in horror.

        A pile of rubble from the rock slide shifted. Rocks fell away as a batter gauntlet with a bent blade forced its way out. Like a true juggernaut, Drake rose again.

        He had taken a terrific beating. His armor was heavily damaged, with deep dents covering it. He moved with a limp, and his left hand hung uselessly at his side. But somehow, he was alive.

        He began to walk towards them, slowly, inevitable. His eyes were black fire behind his helmet, and his anger seemed to radiate out from him. To Rosa he appeared like nothing less then the Devil itself.

        Clenching her fist, Rosa activated the ring once again. Whipping out her sword, she charged, screaming. She feinted a thrust at his lightly armored face, then sidestepped and slashed at his neck. Predicting the move, Drake turned and blocked with his own blade, then riposted viciously. Countering her enhanced speed with pure skill, Drake matched her move for move.

        The fight dragged on for a minute, then two. Finally, Rosa came to a stop, the red aura flickering and dying. Her eyes rolling back into her head, Rosa fell to the ground, unconscious. Drake drew his arm back for the deathblow.

        A voice from behind stopped him.

        “This is for every person you’ve murdered.”

        Drake heard the creak of a drawn bow. Lowering his arm, he dismissed Ellis’ words.

        “No one shaft could carry them all.”

        Lightning-quick, he spun. Ellis released the arrow as he did. It went through his eye slit and into his skull, destroying the evil mind that had brought suffering to so many people. Drake stood for a moment, then toppled back.

        Ellis looked at the corpse for a long time. She thought about removing the helmet to see the face of the man that had killed so many of her loved ones, but she shook her head.

        “I know what you look like.”

        She dropped her bow and went to Rosa.


        As the sun fell, Ellis packed the last of the dirt onto Gilliam’s grave. They had buried him well away from the rubble that served as the tomb of Chell and his zombies. Alberto had rejoined them, neither woman dared to ask how he had survived. Carefully, she placed the small, flat stone they had found atop it. Her heart almost broke again as she read the inscription Rosa had carved into it. Standing, she turned to the others.

        “Let’s go. Ramza will want to know what happened here.”

        As the sun sank beneath the horizon, its last rays illuminated the epitaph Xavier’s spirit had inspired.


        No greater love hath any man then this, then that he should lay down his life for his friends.

        The End

(Its been a long road making this, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read it and especially those who took the time to review, I might have given up if it weren't for the feedback. My first story is now complete)

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