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Monday, June 30, 2008 The Animorpher - Part 4

The group walks on, this time with their feet feeling lighter and lighter. The wind is much less violent here, meaning that they’re reaching the mountain shade, territory of the Edellan Halflings.
Alexis is carrying the injured Hernan on his shoulders. Carolyn and Andreas are trotting behind, slowed by fatigue and injury. Dejan, naturally the most energetic of them all walks quickly ahead, scouting with his enhanced natural abilities: Eagle Eye, Wolf Senses and Dolphin Sonar. So far no monster intercepts them, or rather, they manage to avoid monsters except if the monsters attack them first.
‘Well, guys, as we are nearing my village, let me tell you the last piece of information. As guardians of the Greaves of Diligence, we always put the contestants to the test. We usually uses this test on the halflings that is coming of age to determine what problem he suits for and whether he is fit and proper to be a soldier. Sage the Fireheart once failed in this test although he got the Arsenal of Light in the end. Now you better take this test seriously. Because of Avariel’s “arrangements”, and hope you can do better than your ancestors. The fit and proper test is usually one week long, but we’ve crammed it into three days for time is short.’
‘Three days? It’s still too long. Why don’t you cut on the details and make it one day instead?’ Carolyn protests.
‘We’ve tried that, but the Archangel didn’t approve to it. Actually, he revised the whole thing and made it three days instead, for use in the First Crusade.’
‘Oh, I see,’ Carolyn shrugs.
‘Any more questions?’ Dejan inquires the champions.
‘I would like you to explain the details of the test,’ says Andreas. ‘But we are too tired to remember all of that. So, we will save the questions until we reach the village.’
‘Good thinking, Padre,’ says Dejan.
‘They walk on for about fifteen minutes when suddenly Dejan stops. His face turns pale.
‘What’s wrong, Dejan?’ Alexis asks.
‘My... My village.... My village is under attack!’ Dejan sounds panicked.
‘WHAT? But who are the attackers?’
‘I... I’m not sure. I only sense heavy footsteps and... and something not human... Something HUGE!’
Alexis turns to the other champions, ‘Come on! We must hurry and save that village! The enemy must’ve known about our mission and attacked from the north! Don’t let them get the greaves!’
Without further ado, the group runs. Hernan even disregards his injuries and readies his Albatross Rapier. Andreas renews the protection field on the champions, sensing a fierce battle ahead.
Finally, they reach a steep hill, part of a cluster of such hills surrounding the halfling village as natural wind barriers. On top of that hill, the group witnesses a dismal sight. The Ekinmor village is on fire! Sounds of battle are echoing in the air. From afar, they can see a band of people is charging into the fields and houses, destroying and killing everything and everyone in sight.
The champions and Dejan charge downhills as fast as they can. Orcs! A band of about a hundred orcs is on rampage, and suddenly one small, green-skinned orc turns his head aside and sees the champions! He stops abruptly, points his falchion at Dejan’s group and bellows, ‘Khajr Ghr’oak!’ Several of his comrades immediately respond to ‘attack the gorged guts!’ command by turning to intercept.
In this kind of situation, Dejan Pavlovic runs on his hands and feet. His face, body, shirt and all gradually transfigure into... a wolf. The wolf Dejan runs even faster. Before the small orc knows it, the wolf bites and rips his throat to death. Utilizing the foothill, Alexis leaps very high and dives, slashing with his twin swords like talons of an Eagle Fishing in the Lake. The talons catch two fishes, namely two attacking orcs. He somersaults and lands standing, leaving the orcs falling lifeless: One with his head split in two, and the other with shoulders severed to the belly.
Hernan comes to confront a large, fat orc attacking with a mighty overhead swing of his pole-axe. But the swing only hits empty air. Hernan quickly jumps to the left, pivots and lands quick thrusts, puncturing several holes on the fat orc’s belly. The orc panickly swings his poleaxe to the right but Hernan already leaps to the right and makes more puncture holes on the orc’s left belly. At last, the orc falls dead like a punctured water balloon – a victim of Hernan’s skill: Riverstream Rhapsody.
Carolyn casts Lightning Blast on the group of orcs on the back, killing three and injuring five. As she pauses to reload her aura, an orc charges towards her! Knowing that wizards can be their greatest threat, the orc swings his falchion to kill Carol with one blow, but he forgets one thing: Carol brings up a partner, Father Andreas who helps by slashing through the orc’s throat with his pole-axe.
The group rushes to the village, annihilating any orc they come across. So much destruction inside the village: Burrows burning, things broken and destroyed, and dead halflings scatter everywhere. From the barricades, arrows and weapons on their hands, we can assume that the halflings are ready for battle because of Avariel’s warning. But a hundred or so orcs are still too strong for them. All they can do is to hold on until Dejan returns with help, and now help has arrived – and a big help it is.
In fifteen minutes, the champions and halflings kill twenty orcs, and six of them are victims of Carolyn’s Chain Lightning. Knowing that they’re losing, the orcs pull back and regroup. An orc raider (wolf rider) blows his war-horn.
‘Careful! They’re calling reinforcements!’ Dejan shouts.
Carolyn protests, ‘How come? We’ve seen their entire force!’
Dejan shakes his head. ‘No, they’re calling the HUGE one!’
As though confirming Dejan’s hunch, the ground begins to shake. On and on, in a slow rhythm like a tremor. BAMM! BAMM! BAMM! BA-ROOM!! The tremor gets harder and the sounds get louder, meaning that the thing gets closer.
The champions valiantly go to the source of the tremors, hoping to intercept it before it flattens the village. And yes, when they reach the outer gates of Ekinmor Village, they are shocked to see the gigantic creature in front of them.
‘Great Vadis... It’s... It’s a behemoth...,’ Andreas mutters in terror.
The monster, ‘behemoth’ is larger than the ancient dragon Algaban or Omegron. It looks like a crossover between a dragon and a turtle, plus its rock-solid hide and gigantic proportions make it look more like a walking island. Every step of its foot makes a cavity on the ground, booming sound and tremor all around.
Three orcs stand on top of the behemoth’s back, holding chains as reins as though they’re controlling it. The orc in the center near the behemoth’s head looks very familiar for the champions. Yes, he’s the gallant, rough-tough, mohawk-haired orc with the giant axe Il Khatl J’nadh hanging on his back. Champion of the Orcs, Bragl Dar’gum.
Dar’gum pulls the rein. The behemoth stops at once. He raises his other hand, telling all to halt. Then, with a thundering voice he speaks.
‘Behold the might of Barudan, Guardian of the Land. I, Bragl Dar’gum, came all the way here with my tribesmen to claim the Greaves of Diligence. Now face the truth: You are all no match against us. Barudan will flatten and trample you all. Give us the Greaves of Diligence and we will leave in peace.’
Alexis, as valiant as ever, comes forward and shouts his challenge.
‘Dar’gum, old friend, I can’t help but wonder where the gallant and honorable warrior I knew went away to. Instead comes a monster riding another monster, threatens around and expects us to tremble in fear. However, you got two things wrong here, my friend.’
‘Oh yeah? And what’s that, Red Prince?’
‘Firstly, you’re claiming the Greaves of Diligence, one of Vadis’ Arsenal that will respond only to those from the Light Side. You want something that has no use for you, so you probably do this for the Dark Side to prevent anyone from the Light Side to get it. And you even come with your finest grunts and raiders, even the mighty Barudan just to flatten a halfling village.’

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