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 [09/12/09] Empire of the Skrall, chapter 9

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MessageSujet: [09/12/09] Empire of the Skrall, chapter 9   Mer 9 Déc 2009 - 22:28

Voici le tout dernier chapitre de l'Empire des Skrall (en anglais) paru à ce jour (et apparement le dernier de la saga aussi) :

Citation :
Tuma opened his eyes. With a start, he realized he must have blacked out from his wound, leaving Stronius to face two deadly baterra alone.

The worst had happened. Stronius was unconscious on the ground, not far away. His war club and Thornax launcher were nowhere to be seen. Tuma knew that he had little chance of stopping the baterra on his own, but he would have to try. He reached for his sword … but it was gone. So was his launcher.

He was defenseless.

Tuma struggled painfully to his feet. His back throbbed with pain. The baterra’s attack had pierced his armor and damaged some of the organic tissue within. He could still fight, and if he had a weapon, he was sure he could take at least one baterra with him. As it was, all he could do was face his death like a true Skrall.

“Come on, then,” he shouted at the baterra. “Finish this!”

The baterra made no move to advance. They seemed puzzled, if such a word could be applied to machines.

“Sorry, Tuma. You’re going to be disappointed.”

The Skrall leader whirled at the sound. It was Metus, unarmed, leaning against a rock as if he didn’t have a care in the world. As the Skrall watched in surprise, Metus walked up the two baterra and regarded them like they were just annoyances.

“Move along. Nothing to see here,” he said to the two mechanical warriors.

To Tuma’s amazement, the baterra did just that. They turned and walked away! His first thought was a dark one: that Metus was truly in charge of the baterra and responsible for all the Skrall deaths they had caused, not to mention all the other warriors they had slain back in the Core War.

Metus was smart enough to guess where Tuma’s thoughts would be going. He turned to the Skrall with his arms out. “Now, Tuma, if I controlled them …. If I had decimated your legions and your fortresses … why would I leave you alive to maybe put a dagger in my back? Use your brain. Remember what I told you.”

Tuma charged forward, ignoring his pain, and backhanded Metus, knocking the Agori to the ground. “I have grown tired of your insolence. I need no weapon to end your life.”

“I just saved your life, yours and Stronius’,” Metus spat. “A simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”

More than ever, Tuma wanted to shut Metus’ mouth for good. But he couldn’t escape the truth the Agori had spoken. The baterra were in a perfect position to kill him and his elite warrior, but hadn’t. Why?

“You said you had a secret … a way to stop the baterra,” Tuma said. “Is that what I saw here today?”

Metus got to his feet. “Just about. You’re not dead, are you? Yes, I know a secret, and it’s not one any Skrall would ever figure out on his own.”

The Agori smiled. For a change, he was actually telling the truth. Long ago, in the closing days of the Core War, Metus had hitched a ride on a supply caravan heading to an Ice army outpost. Normally, he would have preferred to make his way on his own, but his ice axe had broken and was in for repair. He hadn’t time to dig up a new weapon and didn’t much like the thought of traveling through a war zone unarmed.

The wagons were ambushed by a dozen baterra. The Ice warriors and other Agori put up a fight, but none of them survived the battle. Through it all, though, the baterra just ignored Metus. Even when he grabbed the reins of a wagon and made his escape, they didn’t pursue. The question of why dogged him all the way to the outpost. When he arrived, he told the warriors there that he had been knocked unconscious early in the battle and must have rolled under a wagon where the attackers couldn’t see him. They seemed to accept the explanation.

Metus knew better, of course. There had been something different about him, something that led the baterra to spare his life. Once he realized that, the answer was blindingly obvious.

I wasn’t armed, he thought. These creatures are killing warriors on every side. Their definition of “warrior” is anyone who has a weapon.

Now, here he was, years later, apparently the only being that had made this connection. The Skrall would never figure it out on their own, and even if they did, they would never want to do it – they would cut off their arms before they would lay their weapons down. When he saw Tuma and Stronius both unconscious, he had ditched his ice axe and rushed down, kicking their weapons well away from them. That brought the baterra up short, since their programming did not include attacking unarmed beings.

“You owe me,” said Metus. “I think it’s time we discussed payment.”

“Our deal stands,” Tuma growled. “Do not go too far, Agori.”

“Really? All right, then I can always bring the baterra back here. You can try negotiating with them. Or you can talk to me, like a … civilized warlord.”

Stronius was waking up. Metus decided he better wrap this conversation up fast. Stronius would snap him in half whether it was in the Skrall’s best interest or not.

“Listen, you’re a great and powerful leader,” the Agori said. “You’re going to be the ruler of Bara Magna pretty soon, and with my help, you’re going to wipe out the baterra. But just in case something should go wrong … if you were killed in battle, say … someone should be ready to step into your boots, don’t you think?”

“If a leader falls, an elite warrior takes over,” Tuma replied, already not liking where this was going.

Metus laughed. “Stronius? Please. The guy couldn’t lead a Spikit to dinner. And I won’t work with him, meaning the baterra carve your last legion to bits. No, I was thinking more of … me.”

Now it was Tuma’s turn to howl with laughter. “You?? You are no Skrall, just a miserable traitor to his own kind. Perhaps I should hand you over to the Agori and leave you to their justice, Metus. “

Metus crossed his arms over his chest. When he spoke, his voice had none of its usual bluster. It was cold and flat. “Those are my terms. If you get killed or become unfit to lead, the legion answers to me. Otherwise, just kill me now, Tuma. My death will only come a little earlier than yours and that of the rest of your warriors.”

“They will never accept it,” said Tuma. “They will never take orders from an Agori.”

Metus chuckled. “If you go down, things will be so desperate they would even take orders from a lummox like Stronius. Anyway, you let me worry about that. Do we have a deal?”

“For now,” Tuma said. “But once the baterra are defeated …”

“I’m on my own,” Metus finished for him. “I got it. Well, don’t be concerned – all of this will be over soon, and nothing’s going to happen to you, right? You’re just humoring an Agori.”

“Yes,” Tuma agreed. “Yes, it will all be over. Everything … and everyone … ends in time.”

Metus smiled. He quickly retrieved his ice axe, and then happily “discovered” where the Skrall weapons had fallen. It had been a good day. Perhaps Tuma really would conquer the villages and the baterra in time, but the Skrall leader was in a dangerous profession. There was always the potential for accidents. Of course, it might be wise to include Stronius in the “accident” as well, if at all possible. The thought was a very entertaining one, and it kept him amused all the way back to Roxtus.

As for Tuma, his thoughts were his own. He would have to make a formal announcement to his legion, one they would have a hard time believing. But he would also give a whispered order to Stronius: if anything were to happen to him in battle, even a noble death at the hands of a Glatorian, the elite warrior was to immediately slay Metus.

Yes, everything ends, Tuma said to himself. But some endings are more painful than others, my Agori friend. Pray you never learn just how painful.

Tuma smiled and resolved to put the whole matter out of his mind for now. He had, after all, a world to win.

THE END

Enjoy !

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[09/12/09] Empire of the Skrall, chapter 9
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