Tales of Adelpha

The Hunted

To anyone this may concern who may not know of what Adelpha is. It is a world that is very much connected to Earth but lays on the otherside of reality. It is populated with an almost infinite amount of wonderful and exotic lifeforms ranging from elves and giants, to orcs and vampires. The world is split into two societies ruled differently by good and evil. The Empire lays to the west, while the east is made up of the Three Kingdoms of Adelpha.

"Excuse me kind sir, I am looking for a room for the night. Would you be willing to help me?" the tall man wrapped in a black hooded cloak asked. He was soaking wet, as the heavens had opened up on this dark night and the rain had not stopped for several hours. The stranger was standing in the entrance way of an inn, the man in front of him was old Wessel Burnlip the innkeeper.

"Aye, we have several rooms available here…we've hadn't had much business here since many weeks ago. Come in and get yourself dry against the fire before you catch your death of cold!" Wessel pushed the stranger inwards and beckoned him to sit on a chair near the large fireplace which was burning brightly, giving a soft glow to the room. In the background sat several figures sitting at tables and sipping on large mugs of ale. The stranger took off his cloak, which Wessel took straight off him and hung it in front of the fire.

"It is a harsh night out stranger, what brings you to our small village? Actually don't answer that just yet…have you eaten?" The stranger looked up at the innkeeper with his dark green eyes, his face was rugged with some stubble around the chin, a large scar bore across his left cheek and another at his right temple, "I have not eaten for several days, my rations had run out and I feared starvation only I had stumbled across this village."

Wessel jumped up and shook his head, "No, no we can't be having that! I will fix you up some broth and whatever I have left in my stores…I'm afraid it might not be much but this war has brought hardship to everyone including Wessel Burnlip!"

The stranger looked confused until Wessel laughed obscenely, "Excuse my bad manners sir, my name is Wessel Burnlip and I am the owner of this establishment." Wessel grabbed the strangers hand and shook it. A smile slowly appeared on the stranger's grim face, "My name is Rath, Erod Rath and it's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

"Well Mr. Rath, what brings you to the humble village of Blue Moon?" Wessel walked towards the nearby counter and produced two large tankards full of ale and set them down on a small table, he then sat down beside Erod.

"I am on a journey around the world, I want to see everything this world has to offer before I settle down and start a family."

Wessel wondered something in his head and said it without thinking, "Then why do you look like you are dressed for war…haven't seen many travellers as well armed as yourself."

"Journeys through this world is harsh and dangerous, I bring these weapons only for my own protection." Erod was dressed in an old black leather jacket covering a steel mesh undergarment, his black leather trousers were covered in small knives, across his chest was a dozen or so pouches containing any number of things and a sword hung from his waist in a black scabbard.

"To tell you the truth, from what I encountered…I'm not armed enough."

Wessel drank down the remnants of his tankard and shot out of his seat like an energetic bunny, "Ah well sir you'll find no trouble around these parts, now for your supper! I won't be too long so just relax and rest your weary bones."

"You don't have to tell me twice," grumbled Erod to himself, "I just hope I can stay long enough." He closed his eyes, taking in a slow drawn out breath and relaxed as the heat from the fire took effect. Several eyes in the background were fixed on Erod, wondering who he was and where he came from. It was often they got strangers wandering in nowadays, just soldiers looking for young men to join the army. There was no one older than forty left in Blue Moon, the Imperial soldiers had recently moved in forcefully claiming the village was theirs as it laid on their territory, so they dragged the men away from the village and drafted them for the war. A small garrison was left on the outskirts of the village to show that the Sorceress was always watching.

Erod's body ached all over, he nearly forgot what is was like to have some peace and quiet. He hoped to himself that no unexpected company was to turn up just as he was getting used to a chair again.

The rain never stopped pouring down throughout the night, the ground turning to a slush of dirt and water. A black silhouette moved slowly inwards from the plains which led to Blue Moon, his legs moving awkwardly through the mud. Trotting behind was a black stallion, its head hanging downwards as the rein was pulling on its mouth. The man was tall with a muscular build, he was covered in a black cloak which had no hood. He walked under the nearest street light to look at the sign post, his face was rugged and his eyes had an intense fire burning brightly inside them. His long black hair was soaking wet and was spread everywhere across his head. He looked towards the inn, his eyes narrowing, his mind calculating. His name was Rax Zenith and he was in town on business.

Wessel Burnlip was running around the store room picking up bits and pieces for a small meal, he already held a lump of cheese and a loaf of bread in his arms. He walked over to the chest where he kept the vats of ready made broth to see if any had been left after the little birthday celebration they had in the inn a week ago for Hegrid Lonsdale, a local man who was nearly always in the inn with an ale in his hand. Upon the chest lay several posters he was meaning to stick up on the wall, mostly about local events and wanted posters issued by the army. He brushed them aside and opened the chest, there was a jug of broth left, enough for the guest he thought. He juggled the cheese and bread around in his arms until he was barely able to lift the jug, he moved slightly backwards but felt the jug slipping from his arm. The jug fell and smashes open on the ground spreading the thick red broth all over the ground, and the posters!

"Ah for the love of Orion, Sergeant Thunget is going to kill me! No broth either, you always get yourself into these predicaments Wessel!" He lay the bread and cheese on the chest and reached for the posters, he tried cleaning them off but it was no use the ink had run. One poster didn't have much on it…but Wessel's eyes opened wide. The wanted poster had a picture of Erod Rath on it, under the name of the Black Devil, one of the most wanted outlaws on this continent. He had only heard stories of how the outlaw had slaughtered whole villages and stolen many famous jewels and magical items from the Ozymandias Library itself and not even the Sorceress could get in there! The poster said Rath was wanted dead and that he was at large and extremely dangerous, the reward was worth a million in gold…that was enough to take care of your family for three generations! Grand General Maldakar had even authorised the hunt himself!

"Oh my…if I could catch this criminal I would be rich beyond all imagination! But then again I could end up dead, ah Wessel you and your predicaments…why those everything always have to occur in this inn?" He dropped the poster and picked up the cheese and bread, running up the stairs and into the kitchen. He cut the bread and cheese, slapped it on the plate, grabbed a jug of milk and brought it into the lounge area. Wessel had an anxious smile on his face and put the food down beside Rath.

"W-would you l-like m-me to bring you a-anything else?" Wessel was mentally kicking himself for being so obvious, but Rath didn't seem to show any signs of noticing.

"No that'll be grand, I just want to fill my belly before moving on." Rath smirked but he knew well what Wessel knows, he started thinking about the ways out of the place in case the Imperials turned up looking for a reward. He ate the bread and cheese quickly as he watched Wessel move around the bar serving the three customers that were left in the pub.

"Excuse me sir?" Rath jumped slightly as an old man came up behind him, "Are you a celebrity, I think I have seen you around before…were you not working with that theatre company in Rothberg?"

Rath smiled, "No I'm afraid you have mistaken me for someone else, although many people have asked me that before…I might be his twin or something, I'll ask my father when I see him again."

The old man laughed, "Sorry just had to ask, have a nice evening." He shuffled away back to his seat and drank his ale. Rath was feeling awkward, people seemed to recognise him wherever he went because of those damned posters. Not only had he everything come out of the woodwork looking for him but also one of the most notorious bounty hunters in the business on his tail.

Wessel never kept his eyes off his guest, he constantly kept one hand on his trusty shot rifle that he kept under the counter, just in case trouble ever came his way and now was definitely one of those times. He was suddenly distracted as a clap of thunder rang out from outside, he could hear a horse neighing too…there were no stables out front nor were there any horses in the village, he seen a figure move past the window and suddenly all hell broke loose in the quiet town of Blue Moon.

The window shattered as a man burst through it and landed on the floor, shards of glass flying everywhere. Rath dived to the side and turned his chair and used it as cover just as three small knives hit the side of the old chair. The man got up off the floor and walked towards the chair, pulling it aside and unsheathing a large blade. Rath moved fast and kicked the blade from the man's hand. The man was unfazed as another blade sprang from the sleeve of his tunic. A loud blast from the back stopped the action as both the attacker and Rath stopped to see what it was. Wessel stood on top of the bar with his shot rifle held firmly in one hand, pointing it at the man who had broken his window and was now trashing the place.

"Ok first off, Rath sit down and don't move otherwise I'm gonna claim that reward by shooting you in the face." Rath backed away quietly and sat down, Wessel pointed to the other man, "Now who the hell are you and who gives you the right to come in here and bust up my bar?"

The man didn't answer, he just stood there with his eyes looking at Wessel. Rath cleared his throat and raised his hand, "Eh that's Zenith…he's here to kill me."

Wessel cocked the rifle, "There'll be no killing in this inn, and if there is it will be done by me. Understand?"

Zenith looked at Rath, then spun his cloak around. As the cloak spun around him, he faded out of sight and all was quiet once more. Wessel shrugged his shoulders and leaped off the bar, still pointing the rifle at Rath. The few punters left in the bar breathed a sigh of relief and carried on drinking and smoking their pipe weed. Wessel walked over to Rath and looked him in the eyes, "Alright Black Devil, grab your gear and get out…I don't want anymore trouble in this town and you are definitely trouble."

Rath nodded, "Sorry about all this, here take this." He handed Wessel a pouch of seven silver coins and walked over to his gear. Wessel looked at the silver coins, "Is this all you have? I would have thought you'd be a wealthy man with everything that you stolen."

Rath smirked but there was a hint of sadness in his eyes, "Long story…hopefully you'll hear it someday." Wessel sat down in a chair with the rifle still pointing at Rath, "Well go on, let me hear it. The Imperial soldiers haven't been called yet, so we have time."

Rath shook his head, "Really there is no point, you wouldn't believe me if you heard it." Wessel pointed the shot rifle at Rath and insisted.

"Ok, ok! Well in a nut shell, five years ago I was captain of the elite Imperial Guards. I fell in love with the Sorceress' maiden who served her every needs. We ran off and got married but the Sorceress found out and became extremely jealous of our happiness together so she tortured my wife to death. I was thrown out of the Imperial Guard and was thrown in the dungeons. I managed to escape and get back into the Imperial Palace where I stole some very powerful magical items so I could destroy the Sorceress. I decided to go on the run until I found out how to use them but now the Sorceress has made up this whole elaborate story that I'm some master evil who steals and kills at his whim. My nickname, the Black Devil, was what I was called in the Imperial Guard because of the armour that I wore. I never killed anybody, it was the Black Knight Maldakar that did it and framed me. Every scum and villain on the continent are looking for me all because the Sorceress wants her things back…so in other words I'm a dead man."

Wessel lowered his shot rifle, "My, my…what a story. And you have been eluding capture ever since? What of these magical doohickeys?"

Rath reached into the pouch underneath his cloak and pulled out a small ruby ring, a multicoloured ball and a small diamond encrusted trinket which Wessel couldn't even think of what it was used for.

"This is the Ring of Entreya, it has the power to resurrect an army of the undead to use at my whim. The Sphere of Anteloe is a seers tool, it can see far into the past, the future and can pinpoint any location on this earth. This little wonder is called a Sitar, you slip it onto your ear and you can disguise yourself as anybody. I learned all of this information from a black magician in the east, unfortunately I am not powerful enough to use the ring or the sphere, but I have limited use of the Sitar. The black magician tried to kill me for these items and he would have won if I didn't have this…" Rath unsheathed a long thin blade from back, its handle was made from bone, "It is a Elven weapon, when the blade strikes an enemy it sucks the very lifeforce away from their body. This is the weapon that was supposed to be given to Maldakar and that is why he has now a burning hatred for me."

Wessel's mouth hung open in awe, "I have never even imagined such devices existed, what devil would create such things?"

Rath shrugged, "Heaven knows! These things are thousands of years old…maybe even older! All I know is that the Sorceress had previously sent the Imperial Guard to search for these black items, long before I was born."

"So what are you going to do now Master Rath? It is too dangerous here for you now, the stormtroopers will be arriving in minutes and surely that bounty hunter fellow is outside waiting for you."

Rath stood up and put the Sitar on his ear, he then closed his eyes and his whole body changed to an image of an old farmer with a crook in his hand, "It takes all my concentration to use this but I should get out no problem…I'm going to head to the harbour in Antioch, from there I will travel across the ocean to find the Wizard Counsel and present them with these dark items so that they may destroy or use them in whichever way they can. After that I don't know…but good luck to you Wessel. One day I may wander past these parts if the gods are with me, then we shall have many drinks together shall we not?"

Wessel nodded, "Of course, take care and may the gods be with you in your travels." He walked over to the door and looked out to see a small platoon of soldiers set up outside, "Hello? I say hello there!" Wessel shouted from behind the door. "My name is Wessel Burnlip, I am the proprietor of this establishment. I still have some customers that need to get out so they can go to their homes, will you allow it?"

The captain of the platoon stepped forward with his sword drawn, "Let them out one by one old man, and then come out yourself. Tell the Black Devil that there is no escape as we have this place surrounded." The captain's attention was drawn away from the tavern as he heard a rumbling coming from the edge of the forest outside of the village.

From the forest came two hundred soldiers marching in formation, at the front of them was twenty horseback riders and leading them on was a tall black figure dressed from head to toe in hellish black armour. His large black steed puffed and neighed as they came down the hill, Maldakar and his Hell Guard had arrived.

Every soldier wore black armour carrying a small shield, a sword hanging from their side and a rifle over their shoulder. All of the Hell Guard's armour was based on Maldakar's in one way or another. Maldakar looked back at his men, raising his arm and calling them forward. His horse galloped towards the village, the other horsemen followed and behind were the soldiers who jogged after the horses. They all stopped at the edge of the village, the soldiers breaking formation and forming small ten man platoons and moving to different sections of the village. Maldakar leaped off the horse, his heavy boots splitting the muddy ground. The rain had eased off now and the sky was a cloudless black, the sun was showing signs of rising on the far horizon.

The Captain walked towards Maldakar and dropped to one knee, "It is an honour sir, if I had known you were coming I would have…"

"Dispense with the pleasantries Captain, where is he?" Maldakar asked, his voice deep and heavy coming through the mouth piece on his helmet, the helmet's eye piece was glowing a dark red. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, the slight wind brushing his cloak sideward.

"Rath is contained within the tavern, a Wessel Burnlip was just asking us if we could let some of the locals go back to their homes."

Maldakar focused his eyes on the tavern windows, his helmet's eyepiece automatically zoomed in on the tavern and switched to x-ray vision where he could see five figures moving inside, "Do not let anyone out of the tavern…raze it to the ground."

The Captain saluted and ordered his platoon, "Burn down the tavern."

Maldakar looked to the Captain, "No Captain…the village. If they choose to harbour a known criminal then they must all suffer."

"As you wish." He turned to his men, "Private, lay the napalm bomb and move out, set for ten minutes." His men moved fast, taking a small crate with them as they moved off towards the village square. People started coming out of their houses to see what was going on, others started panicking as they seen what was going on. Two soldiers set the bomb into the ground, turning on the triggers and setting the timer.

Maldakar turned to his right hand man, Commander Bennix, "Commander send your men to each house and board the doors up and contain the people in their homes, move quickly as their isn't much time." He then turned to the tavern and adjusted the volume control on his helmet, "Rath, surrender now or die." His voice boomed out to the tavern.

Rath had taken off the Sitar as there was no use for it now, he paced up and down the tavern thinking of a way out of this situation he had landed everyone in. Wessel leaned against the door, his trusty shot rifle held tightly in his hands, "Whatever happens I'm going to take out some soldiers before I go…I now know the true nature of the beast that is the Empire. Do not blame yourself Erod, this was not your fault, it would have happened sooner or later."

The screams of death could be heard from outside as soldiers started shooting people if they strayed from their homes. Rath shook his head and rammed his fist into the table beside him with rage, he couldn't let another village or town get wiped out and blamed on him, it was getting too much now. He would rather die than see this village be destroyed.

Rath opened the tavern door and looked outside to see lots of soldiers pointing rifles at him, he raised his arms.

"I surrender…this village had nothing to do with me, nor did the people inside this tavern. I had held them hostage until now. Just take me and end it now, the village of Blue Moon are loyal to the Sorceress and loyal to the Empire."

Maldakar beckoned his troops towards Rath, "Take him." Two soldiers rushed forward and knocked Rath off his feet, kicking him in the ribs and head before finally putting handcuffs on him. He spat blood onto the muddy ground and coughed as he tried regaining his breath, he could see Wessel inside the tavern laying down his arms and surrendering. The two soldiers dragged Rath to his feet and walked him past Maldakar. The dark lord held out an armoured hand to stop Rath being moved any further, "You were indeed a worthy foe but you have disappointed me greatly…after all the times you've escaped my forces, you give up now to save a few meager peasants? Pathetic…take him away."

"Yes sir." The soldiers answered in unison and dragged him away.

Maldakar looked at the sign hanging above the tavern door, it said 'The Sword and Anvil Inn'. He could foresee that this tavern had a future in world events, but could not perceive it anymore than the Sorceress would. A shimmering light in front of him broke his concentration as a figure appeared out of the air.

"What about my money?" Rax Zenith asked from underneath his black hood, he was angered that the Imperial Forces had gotten to Rath before he did.

Maldakar pointed at Zenith's chest, "You were under contract to capture Erod Rath and you failed. Perhaps your reputation has gotten the better of you."

Zenith spun around, his cloak pushing out to the sides as he reached into his holsters for his twin shot pistols which fired steel pellets. He fired two shots, Maldakar raised his hand and both shots ricocheted harmlessly off his armour. The dark lord raised his right hand and Zenith flew a few feet into the air and slammed against the wall of the inn, Maldakar had not even touched the bounty hunter.

"You are a fool, I am thousands of times stronger than you can possibly imagine. I wield dark magic as if it were second nature to me, you would have no chance using such futile weapons."

Zenith flipped to his feet and fixed his cloak, he was getting ready to attack with his swords when three soldiers ran from around the nearby blacksmith house shouting for help.

"The prisoner has escaped, Rath has escaped."

Maldakar looked at the three soldiers and lifted them into the air using the power of his mind, all three of their necks snapped at the same time, their bodies flopped to the muddy ground.

"That is the penalty for letting him escape…Zenith, go after him. If you capture him I will double your fee. I want him alive," He jabbed a finger into the bounty hunters chest, "No disintegration."

Zenith smiled and put the black hood over his head again, "He won't get away this time." The hunter spread his arms out wide and lifted into the air, flying high above the village to catch a better view of the surrounding area. As he floated mid air, slowly turning in all directions, he could find no sign of the escapee. Several platoons had spread out over the terrain to track him down but he was nowhere to be found.

Maldakar was seething with anger, there was nothing more he hated than someone making a fool out of him…and this Erod Rath was getting out of control. He was making a mockery of the Dark Lord and the Hell's Guard. Commander Bennix was feeling uncomfortable being around Maldakar at the moment, especially when he started receiving reports of no sightings from most of the soldiers. The only reason Bennix had become Commander so quick was because his predecessor had failed Lord Maldakar and there was no room for mistakes in the Hell Guard.

"Commander," Maldakar roared after an uneasy hour of waiting, his voice made Bennix jump, "move your men out and see to it that there is a heavy Imperial presence left in this village. I do not want any trouble from the likes of the innkeeper is that understood?"

Bennix saluted with relief, "Yes sir, I've already made preparations for a heavily armed garrison in this area to be constructed."

Maldakar turned sharply, his cloak flowing behind him as he walked towards his horse and mounted the black steed. He grabbed the reins in his hands and ordered his cavalry to move out followed by the soldiers. The hunt was on again and Maldakar knew that Rath couldn't get far but he wasn't going to underestimate him again.

The Dark Lord looked around him as he trotted through the village when everything went black. He was captured in darkness, standing inside a shaft of light. Maldakar was wearing his grey tunic and his long black hair lay loosely over his shoulders. In front of him was a slender, beautiful figure of a woman, draped in a long deep purple gown. Her silver hair was tied up using several golden hooks encrusted with diamonds, on her left hand was a skeletal silver glove, the finger tips curving out to make claws. Her eyes were dark, her face was sullen, black veins crept around the sides of her eyes. This was the Empress of the Auron continent, she was the Sorceress Amoranna Kaya of Gilgalad and the bane of all Adelpha.

Maldakar dropped to one knee, his head bowed, "Yes my Sorceress. What is your bidding?"

The Sorceress walked towards Maldakar and laid a thin pale hand on his shoulder, "What is the situation with Erod Rath? Has he been apprehended?"

"Not yet, but he will soon be in my grasp." Maldakar felt disappointed that he had no good news for his Empress yet.

The Empress moved her way slowly around the bowed Dark Lord, "My ever faithful knight, Dark Lord of the Empire listen and be mindful. You will return to the Castle and let Erod Rath run. He will run out of luck sooner than he thinks, I have sent an attachment of orcs to hunt for him. They are more skilled for hunting than a human. But I have foreseen that the hunter Zenith will catch his prey."

"But Sorceress, I must…"

"Maldakar, you are required here. Matters have changed greatly and I must act upon what destiny holds for this world. The time has come."

Maldakar's eyes widened in disbelief, "Now? This is grave news indeed…I will arrive as soon as my steed can take me Sorceress."

The darkness faded and Maldakar opened his eyes, his horse was heading towards the vast open curragh which led to one of the main roads. He was feeling a change about him now, little had he known that time had passed so quickly and a war was about to…he would think about that later, for now he would concentrate on getting back to the Empress as quickly as possible. The Hell's Guard marched on northwards.

Erod Rath opened his eyes to check and see if the guards had moved away, he was laying on his back disguised as a soldier by the Sitar that he had kept hidden in his mouth. The rest of his equipment had been taken away by the guards and placed in the guardroom inside the soldier's garrison. No one was nearby so he got up from the ground and the Sitar changed his bloodied uniform into a cleaned up version, the body he was now wearing was that of a middle aged, battle hardened man…Rath always wondered where the Sitar came up with these wonderful creations. He walked briskly in the direction of the garrison where three soldiers stood at its entrance. They were talking about today's excitement and the arrival of the Dark Lord himself.

"I couldn't believe it either," one said, "Lord Maldakar sure is taller than I expected…heads up, who's this?" The soldier spotted Rath walking towards them, "I've never seen him around before." The three soldiers turned to watch Rath.

"Hey guys is this where I get to shower and change?" Rath asked with a smirk on his face.

The taller of the soldiers shook his head, "We need to see some identification papers first buddy, did you just come in today?"

"Eh yeah, I was dropped off in a troop transport earlier and before I knew it I was being attacked by that guy everyone was looking for. He sure knocked me for six, wish I could get my own back for that."

The soldier agreed, "Yeah, we all do. He killed two of our buddies but when he's captured he'll wish he hadn't messed with the Imperial Army. So do you have your papers? We just need to check them once, standard operational procedure in these parts."

Rath started patting the pockets of his uniform looking for some, all he knew he could do was try bluff his way through, "Damn, they must have gotten knocked out of my pocket, I'll go look for them…back in a second."

The soldier smiled, "Its alright, go on through…I'll write you up later. Showers and changing rooms are down the hall and second on your right, the duty roster is inside. You might have guardroom duty so the keys are inside the glass case inside the canteen ok? There are several local prisoners inside the detention area you have to look after as part of guard duty and also there are several items in the guardroom that are in a storage box ready to be taken to the Empress. Protect them with your life…that's about it, enjoy."

Rath nodded and walked on inside the garrison, running past the shower room and spotting the canteen he grabbed the keys from the glass case. "This was way easier than I thought…in fact it was a little too easy." He walked on towards the guardroom and opened the door with the keys. Inside was a table, chair and several screens which showed the garrison and the surrounding village. Rath stared in wonder at the screens, he had never seen anything like it…it was like there was a small world inside the glowing boxes, he wondered if it was some sort of black magic. He ignored the screens for the minute and moved to the wooden box which was beside the table, he pulled the top open with his hands. Inside was his equipment but the sword was missing…Maldakar must have taken it, he thought. He took his other weapons out and equipped them once more. Rath moved out of the guardroom and burst into the detention area, there were more than twenty cells and all were occupied by men and women who had caused some trouble when the Hell's Guard had arrived. They looked out from the bars of their cell when they heard the Imperial soldier burst in, they each thought they were going to be executed.

"Hey, we were only fighting for our rights as individuals. You Imperials treat your own people like scum…why should we even think of the Sorceress as our leader?" a woman shouted out.

Rath took the Sitar from his ear and the guise shimmered out of sight and was replaced by his real self, "I don't think you should either…wanna get out of here?" He threw the nearest prisoner the keys just as the door across the way shattered into a million pieces followed by a terrifying blast of heat. Rath was knocked against the wall and hit the floor, he was dazed.

As the smoke cleared, a dark figure walked in through the door, his heavy boots crushing the debris as he stepped in. It was Rax Zenith. The bounty hunter raised his right arm fast and shot out a line of high tensile fibre which wrapped around Rath's arm, and pulled him forward. Rath tried to get up on his feet but was kicked down again by the bounty hunter. In the background, the prisoners were opening the cells one by one, trying not to get the attention of Zenith.

Rath reached for the blade on his thigh and slashed upward, the wire snapped backward. He got up on his feet and flipped backward to make sure there was enough room between him and the bounty hunter. Zenith fired a projectile which looked like three spheres but split open into a net, it hit Rath and wrapped around his upper torso pushing him backwards to the wall behind him. The net constricted every time Rath tried to struggle out of it, he wasn't going anywhere this time.

Zenith moved closer to Rath and pulled the hood from off of his head, "Easy prey."

"Rush him!" shouted one of the prisoners as all of the cells opened simultaneously and the prisoners shot out towards the bounty hunter. Zenith spun around firing small darts, then launching into the nearest prisoner with a long reaching kick which broke the prisoner's neck.

Rath used the time he had to try and get free of the net while the prisoners kept the bounty hunter busy. He flicked out a small wrist blade and raised it as much as he could upwards until it rubbed against the ever tightening string on the net, it started cutting and he felt it give way as the blade cut through. He swiftly cut the rest and broke free.

The prisoners were being thrown across the room one by one, all injured or unconscious. Zenith immediately turned to see Rath pinned against the wall but he was gone. The bounty hunter stared at the netting on the ground and hissed under his breath, this assignment was costing him more money than he was making and his reputation as the worlds greatest hunter was waning. He wanted to kill Rath more than ever. He slipped the hood back over his head and walked out of the room. He needed to go about this hunt differently, he needed time to think of a strategy…this time all of his resources would be used. Zenith disappeared from the garrison and teleported himself out of the village.

Rath tried to struggle but a hand was held over his mouth which strangely gave him the urge not to move and to stay quiet. When Zenith left the hand over his mouth moved and Rath was free from his bind. He turned around fast to see who it was, blade at the ready. To his surprise, standing in front of him was a six foot, slender elf with long blonde hair. His eyes were a shade of purple, his features were that of perfection. Rath stepped backward and smiled.

"I guess my message got through then?" he asked the elf.

"Of course, it was a matter of great urgency that I would track you here. When you sent the message for asylum to the Council, I was appointed to help you. My name is Calan. When I found out more about your plight and who was after you, I made haste and luckily came here in time."

Rath shrugged, "I had it all under control…luckily you used some of your elf magic to hide us eh?"

Calan pushed Rath towards the door, "No time for idle conversation, we must be on our way before any unexpected visitors arrive. I do not want the Empire knowing that Bethemel has interests in powerful magical items. So if you would be so kind as to getting ready, we shall depart."

Outside the compound, the bodies of several Imperial soldiers lay lifeless on the ground, a crowd of locals had gathered around to see what was happening. Rath and Calan rushed out from the compound to see the people gather. Calan put two fingers to his lips and whistled a high pitch sound that was barely audible to human ears. A galloping sound was soon heard as a graceful white horse thundered towards the compound. The elf leaped onto its back and grabbed Rath by the hand, yanking him upwards.

"Hold on tight Erod Rath, Neim'del is the fastest horse in the three kingdoms and is a favourite of the King himself. Let us be gone."

Rath looked around to see Wessel waving, "Good luck Mr. Rath, make sure you come back and see us again."

Rath smiled and nodded, "Sure will, though next time I'll try not to bring so much trouble with me."

Calan whispered into the horse's ear and soon it was galloping off into the horizon as fast as lightning. It wasn't the last time the people of Blue Moon had seen of Erod Rath, fate crossed his path with this sleepy little village once more but that is another story…