Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Albinor Chronicles Chapter 29
"Return to the Steppes"

By Marcus Pan

May 11, 007

He raced on his steed over the steppelands. Swiftly he rode, beasts of the Wilde scattering from his path. Beads of sweat rolled into his eyes, pushed by the force of the wind that whistled shrilly by. He rode fiercely, with a single, driving thought are the rumors true? Ishnar, his steadfast steed, worthy of any paladin, trampled the grasses and shuddered with fatigue at each step. But still he kept on, bearing Lobanna on his back proudly and mightily. For two weeks, no less than twelve hours per day, they headed out from Lobania, that which is in Karameikos, to the Orcanian Steppes where Johannesonne's first holding lies. On their last leg of travel now, the rumors throughout Albinor pounded inside his skull with feverish intensity. Those that listened to the whispering of the people of Albinor heard a bottom line: "Lobania of the steppes has been befallen by great ill!"

Trying to ignore the rumors, as Paladin Johannesonne Lobanna does to all unbacked statements, he prepared his holding of Lobania in Karameikos to receive those in the steppes and abandon the land. Trying to build a country so many miles from civilization was a great trial. He also missed his betrothed love, Carmelita. As he came closer and closer to the area, the rumors came alive in his head. Shouting and rueful, they sped fear to his heart which sped the same to his mount. Soon, twelve hours a day became thirteen. Then fourteen and on until this day. The sun was just setting, sixteen hours had passed since the ride began and Lobania lie just out of sight. Soon, black dots of stone rose on the horizon. But something was wrong.

Torches should be ablaze as men headed to Lobaka after a day's work. Pillars of smoke should be visible in the day's last light as mothers prepared supper. Movement and reflected flashes of light should be seen as his mail-clad knights on horseback directed the last of the day's construction. A line of black stone should be noticed where the walls stood, but only two pillars of stone were seen. Something was terribly wrong.

"Faster, Ishnar. Faster." he urged his mount. The horse, sixteen hours of unrested labor sweating from it's flanks, pushed ever onward and strained to keep pace with the paladin's panting voice. The scene slowly came into perspective. No people walked the walls. Not a single knight rode. There was no sign of life about, save the waving grasses growing where they once were cleared away.

The ride halted as they came between the two stonework pillars one painted with a great eye and saying, "He Who Watches," the other gearing a pentagram and the message, "For so long as I reign, you will not..." Bodies, the process of time and decay had torn much off of them, littered the ground. Some wore the tattered remains of worker's garments, others in snapped and no longer shining mail. A split Lobanian shield lie by his feet. Paladin Johannesonne Lobanna stood horrorstruck. He stared at one spire, then the other. Looking around he saw, scattered among the human remains, a number of slain orcs. The stench on the decaying battlefield was awful, but went unnoticed in Johannesonne's grief.

He thought of the village, Lobaka, and threw himself onto Ishnar's back. He rode to the village and was met with the same, gruesome sight. He jumped off of Ishnar, ran wildly around and searched frantically for some signs of life. He found none.

"Carmelita!" he screamed as he fell to his knees. "Answer me, my love! Carmelita! Come back to me!" His anguished voice reached into the steppes and faded into the twilight.