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  #51  
Old 07-08-2008, 02:25 AM
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Nice chapter Ashen. Horse combat is always a pain to describe, since most people wanna make it like the horse is immortal/unkillable, and smart enough to ride on its own while they fight.

Still, excellent writing Ashen. I enjoy this story of yours.
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  #52  
Old 07-08-2008, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ashen View Post
I forgot to ask. What stuff would that be? And also, is that a compliment or a criticism?
Neither. Just a comment. It's a really good story, though.

My sis reads a lot of Tamora Pierce books.
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  #53  
Old 07-08-2008, 08:23 PM
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Inhumans Requiem, Part 2 of 30

Skyclaw Ridge

"What's this?" Grigor asked as Ashen entered into their camp, escorted by Vera, the Elven ranger who'd ambushed him after his fight with the goblins. Her clothes were light and her hair raven dark; she looked like the stereotypical Elven seductress Ashen had heard of in stories. And now he'd been dragged here into this cave, full of other Inhumans. Mostly Dwarves, he noted, but there was also a witch of the young and beautiful variety and what might be a Human.

Ashen examined the Human. He was dressed as a warlock or a sorceror might dress, in a blue robe laced with magical runes. He didn't look to be held here against his will. He was likely collaborating with the Inhumans. Judging by the large amount of good runesteel equipment he saw on the Dwarves, these weren't rogues. They worked for the Skyclaw Alliance. The Alliance hadn't been a major presence in the Ridge as far as Ashen could tell, though he'd only been here a few months.

"This," Vera started, "Is something I found fighting goblins outside of Muckmol's Cave. Ordinarily I would've let him go about his business, but if I am not mistaken he is a Cavalier of the Steel Empire. The Empire hasn't had any adventurers out this way in well over a decade, let alone a fully armed Cavalier."

"Obviously not their best armed Cavalier," Grigor said, examining Ashen's armor. He didn't like being examined by an Inhuman, but the Dwarf at least seemed less threatening than the Elf. Perhaps just because he was short. "This equipment is all old, battered...I don't think he's been sent here as any kind of vanguard."

"Nonetheless," Vera said, "I do not believe he should be allowed to report back to his commanders. Knowledge of our operations could prove interesting to the Imperials, in a bad way."

"I agree," Grigor said, "And speaking of reports, Noah should be in soon enough..."

As if on cue, a winged gryphon landed outside the cave. It had gotten rather foggy and started raining off and on while Ashen had been escorted back to the cave, so Ashen could barely make out the outline of the beast and its rider. They became more clear as they entered the cave. Noah, riding the gryphon, removed his helmet as he left the rain. He appeared to be in his late twenties, or early thirties, and had a beard an inch or two long growing from his chin. He must be one of the Sky Guards of the Skyclaw Mountains. They were an order to be feared and respected, certainly, but also barbarians who consorted with Inhumans, as was apparent by the motley collection in the cave. If the mount hadn't given it away, the beard would've. The civilized people of the Empire kept themselves clean shaven.

"I've finished scouting the area," Noah said, "And the goblins are out in full force fighting the Shiverwood Fae. If we're going to make a move, now is the time." At least his enemy was divided, Ashen thought. At least the Skyclaw Humans didn't consort with monsters.

"I'd prefer it if we had more forces," Grigor said.

"Sir," one of the other Dwarves said, standing up, "We are more than capable of handling the goblins in Muckmol's Cave."

"If not for their heavy advantage in numbers, I wouldn't doubt you for a second," Grigor said, "As it is, while the odds are in our favor, they're not much in our favor, and it's our lives we're gambling with." The other Dwarf just nodded and sat back down with the others.

"You," Noah said, turning to Ashen for the first time, "You have no love for goblins, have you?"

"...No, and no love for Inhumans, either." Ashen said.

"Well," Noah said, "Given a choice between being a our prisoner or killing a lot of goblins, which would you prefer."

Ashen was being offered a job. They wanted his help in attacking Muckmol's Cave. He'd certainly be glad to be rid of the goblins, who had been probably the most constant nuisance to him in the entire time he'd been in the Ridge. Twice he'd had to change camp because the goblins had stumbled across it. On the other hand, the Skyclaw Alliance were no friends of the Empire. Still, he was in no condition to escape if they left even a minimal guard behind at their camp.

"What're you doing, Noah?" Grigor asked, "Do you really believe we can trust the likes of him?"

"No," Noah said, "But we've got six crossbowmen, an Elven Ranger, and a Storm Lord. If he tries anything, he'll be dead long before he can do any damage. Besides, this way we get an extra sword for the fight instead of losing a few to watch him. Unless you'd planned on simply slitting his throat?" It was a rhetorical question. Honor was always highly valued by the armies of the Skyclaws.

Grigor considered this for a moment before nodding at Noah. He turned back to Ashen, who had been waiting for them to stop conferring with one another so he could give his answer. Ashen sighed. "I don't like it, but fine, I accept."

"Good," Grigor said, "Give him one of our spare blades and his mount. He'll be the vanguard, where we can keep track of him." One of the Dwarves went to the back of the cave, where there was a small, natural chimney sticking out. The blacksmith wasn't currently working because of the rain, but there were several covered weapons nearby. The Dwarf uncovered a runesteel sword and tossed it towards Ashen.

Ashen picked it up and slid it in his sheathe. Fortunately, the standard measurements for a longsword established by the Talmean Empire back when they were dominant had been maintained in both Ajendra1 and the Skyclaws.

Ashen stood up, and walked over to where Vera had led his mount inside the cave. "Is there anything I should know about the attack before I go in?"

"Yes," Grigor said, "When Nilanicus, our Storm Lord, starts slinging lightning bolts in your direction, don't worry, he'll be aiming for the goblins."

"Actually, you may want to worry anyway," the witch said, "Lan's aim is terrible."

"Comforting," Ashen said, mounting his horse.

"Dwarves!" Grigor shouted, bringing the Dwarves to attention, "Phalanx formation and prepare to break and storm the cave as soon as we enter the corridors." The Dwarves complied immediately with the order. Ashen urged his horse slowly into a trot outside the cave.

Ashen was out on the ledge now. A lightning bolt from above struck the cave near the entrance. The sorcerors aim was indeed pitiable. He just hoped he didn't get struck, and pushed his mount forward, charging down the slope. If he kept this up, it would kill his horse, and he wouldn't be able to replace it easily out here.

The goblins at the entrance had noticed him charging down, and multiple lightning bolts, fired directly from the sorcerors staff, helped clear them away. They were panicked and scattered when Ashen arrived at the entrance, hacking at them with his new sword. They broke and fled further into the cave, Ashen following them.

The cavern walls were getting narrower, and Ashen was barely able to get his horse through. Best to keep using his mount as long as possible. He emerged from the tight corridors, trampling a pair of goblins, into a large, central cavern that had two other tunnels leading out of it. In the center was a large ogre, his eyes level with Ashens even though Ashen was mounted and the ogre was not. If Ashen had his lance, he could spear this thing through the head without coming within its range.

As it was, Ashen charged it, screaming warcries in Talmean. The ogre swung its club at Ashen. Ashen ducked, but the club hadn't been aimed at his head. It hit his mount and his leg, launching them both of them into a wall. Ashen slammed against the far side, his vision swimming. He fell off his mount on the way down and lay still on the ground. The Dwarves had entered the cavern now, attacking the ogre with their spears, the ogre dragging his club through them and sending them flying. Ashen rose to his feet unsteadily and found his sword, picking it up. The goblins had vacated the cavern. Evidently the ogre wasn't too discriminate with his club.

Ashen staggered towards the ogre, lifting his sword. His leg wasn't broken, but it was hurt. Ashen needed to do with his sword what he would've done with his spear. He took a running start and leaped onto the ogres back, clinging to its neck with his left arm while trying to drive his sword into its skull with his right. He pierced the skin, but the bone was too thick. The ogre flailed about, shaking Ashen like a rag doll, but he held on. Ashen was now randomly stabbing and hacking at the ogres head, trying to find something vital.

He hit an artery, the ogres thick blood squirting out of its neck. Ogres had jugulars, apparently. If the ogre was mad before, it was in a battle fury now shaking Ashen from one side to the other of itself while flailing its clubs at the Dwarves who continued to poke at it with their spears while trying, and failing, to stay out of range of the club.

The ogre finally fell to the ground dead. Ashen rose to his feet and looked behind him. Unusually large goblins were flooding the room. Ashen gripped his sword and charged towards them. He hated fighting groups. He found it difficult to keep track of multiple opponents.

He dove into the battle, outnumbered a dozen to one, and began swinging madly at the goblins. Were it not for his armor, he would have been dead in less than a minute. His thoughts were barely coherent, focused on only one thing; win this battle.

He felled one of the oversized goblins. Their muscles were bigger and bulkier than Ashen thought was possible. The Dwarves had joined the fray, evening the odds and doing much better than Ashen was. Ashen stepped back behind the Dwarves, dropping to one knee. He was hurt. He needed time to rest.

The mutant goblins pushed through the Dwarven line, one heading straight for Ashen. So much for that. Ashen raised his sword. He was no less tired than before, but his head had cleared a little, and he swung his sword to decapitate the goblin. The goblin ducked and swung at Ashens armored legs, doing nothing, while Ashen drove his sword into the goblins back, the runesteel blade piercing the light leather armor like a knife through warm butter. Ashen had never fought with sunsteel, but if it was anything like runesteel, he'd have to get himself a blade of it soon.

Ashen looked up and found the goblins had been pushed back into the cavern they'd come from. Ashen looked to the other cavern. It appeared to be empty, but would such a massive goblin force leave any inch of their relatively small hideout unoccupied? Ashen wasn't good at fighting in a force. He'd leave the cavern to the right to the Dwarves. He knelt down and rested a few moments while the Dwarves pushed their way farther back into the mutants cavern. He hoped Muckmol was hiding in there, behind his mutant henchmen, and not in whatever cavern Ashen was about to charge into. Muckmol would have to be the biggest, strongest goblin in the cave, and that included the mutants.

Ashen rose to his feet and walked slowly in the direction of the other cavern. Someone else was walking just behind him, Ashen noticed just before he entered. He looked back. The Sky Guard and the Elf were about to follow him in.

"What're you waiting for, Imperial?" the Sky Guard asked, "Or do you want me to take point?" Ashen didn't respond. He just turned around, brought his sword up, and walked deeper into the cavern.

1 Somehow I managed to fail to notice that Ajendra was named after Emperor Ajen, which should've been blindingly obvious. Regardless, while the capital of the Empire is still Vokai as established, it'll be known as the Ajendran Empire from now on. I'll go back and rewrite the whole thing when I finish Inhumans Requiem, smoothing out the time problem and editing out little mistakes like this.
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  #54  
Old 07-09-2008, 02:54 AM
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Inhumans Requiem, part 3 of 30

Muckmols Cave

Ashen and his new comrades cautiously stepped through the narrow corridor, barely wide enough for a single person. Ashen stopped as he approached a corner and peered around the side. Then he turned back to the Elf behind him and said "I think we found what we're looking for, it looks like some sort of throne room. Muckmol and a few advisors are inside."

Ashen looked in again. There were two such advisors. One looked like some kind of warlock1, and the other was one of the mutants2, probably a general of some kind. There were also, of course, about twenty goblin guards. Mostly normal goblins, though, only a few of those mutants, near Muckmol and his advisors.

Ashen looked back to his comrades again. "Any ideas?" he asked them.

"How many are there?" the Sky Guard asked from behind the Elf.

"About twenty, mostly regular goblins." Ashen responded.

The Sky Guard cursed. "If I had Storm Runner with me, I'd laugh at those numbers." he said. Storm Runner was his mount, Ashen guessed.

"Well?" Ashen asked. The other two were silent.

"Given our lack of room for maneuvering," the Elf said, "Our few numbers, and our superior equipment and skill, the best course of action is likely to simply attack. You go first," she said to Ashen, "As you're already in the front, while I pick off the VIPs from behind. Noah can stay back to protect me from the goblins."

Ashen was well aware that the reason he was going in first had nothing to do with his being in front and everything to do with his being an Imperial. The most horribly ironic part was that it should be the other way around, the Inhumans going in first to keep the Humans safe. Of course, this Elf being an archer, sending her into a melee fight would just be a waste of resources, but still. Nonetheless, Ashen noddded. He'd seen something else that he hadn't told the others. He'd seen a small exit near the back of the room, with the light of the sun faintly shining through. He could escape through there in the thick of the fight and let Noah and the Elf mop up.

Ashen turned around, took a deep breath, and charged into the room, shouting a warcry and heading for the nearest goblin. The goblin was still stunned by Ashen's sudden appearance, and Ashen was able to decapitate him easily. His kin fell upon Ashen in massive numbers, and Ashen struggled to fend them all off, landing a few kills in between blows.

A ball of fire shot towards Ashen, who ducked just in time to avoid going up in flame. The fire lit up one of the goblins instead. "Kill the caster!" Ashen shouted back, hoping that his two comrades weren't hiding in the corridor waiting for him to die before joining the fray.

They weren't. An arrow whistled toward the warlock, bouncing off of his magical wards as if deflected by an invisible shield. Ashen knew his armor wouldn't be much good against spells, but he was pinned down. Goblin arrows were richocheting off his armor, now. The crude goblin shortbows couldn't penetrate the plates. Ashen had killed at least four or five goblins by now.

He was joined by the Sky Guard, Noah. The two of them were seperated by a few goblins, but the force was distracted, taking some of the heat off Ashen. Ashen hacked into the goblin swarms with renewed vigor, finding it much easier to kill them now there were only a few fighting him. Ashen was suddenly flung back into a wall but a blast of arcane energy. He got back to his feet quickly, noticing as he did that the general had been shot, and Muckmol had two or three arrows stuck in him and was still going, fighting Noah. The caster, of course, was unaffected by the Elf's arrows.

Something occured to Ashen as he thought about the Elf. If Noah had joined him in the battle, who was protecting her? He looked back to the entrance of the corridor to find goblins rushing into it to try and get to her. The Elf was fighting back with a dagger, but wasn't used to melee combat. She wasn't going to last long. Ashen looked up to the caster. Maybe his runesteel sword would have more luck piercing the wards than the steel arrowheads. Let the Elf die. Inhumans didn't much matter to Ashen, the mission was far more important.

Ashen rushed through the goblins, knocking his short, frail opponents aside. He charged up the slope of the cave that led up to Muckmols throne, beside which the caster slung his spells. Ashen rushed at the caster, ducking to avoid another blast of energy, and hacked apart the mutant protecting his target without stopping, ramming his sword towards the caster as he reached the top.

Ashen could feel his sword slow down as it broke the ward, as if he were cutting through wood, but the sword made it through the ward and into the casters heart. The caster went limp almost immediately. Ashen withdrew his sword and surveyed the battle. Noah was rushing to the aid of the Elf, only seven or eight goblins were still standing, and none of them were paying attention to Ashen except two archers, near the corridor that led outside, who continued to fire their useless but annoying arrows at Ashen. Ashen was beginning to fear one of them might eventually find a chink in his armor.

Ashen rushed to the two goblins, who fled as he approached. He was able to dive and slice up the legs of one of them. The other didn't even flinch at the screams of his fallen friend as Ashen finished him off. Ashen had done what he'd come here to do. Muckmol and his goblins wouldn't be plaguing the Ridge anymore, at least not using this as their base. Noah had mostly cleaned out the rest of the goblins, and the Elf had, to Ashen's disappointment, survived. Ashen turned and left the cave.

-----------

"Vera, are you alright?" Noah asked, clearing the last of the goblins between him and his Ranger friend. Vera's response was to pick up her longbow and shoot one of the goblins behind Noah. Noah turned to finish the fight in the throne room. The hard part was over, Noah had decapitated Muckmol just before he'd turned back to help Vera.

"Noah, the Imperial has escaped through the back entrance!" Vera said, pointing to the exit. Noah had barely noticed it until now. "You stay and finish with these," she said, gesturing to the four goblins remaining in the room, "I'll take care of him!" Noah nodded as he brought his sword down on one of the goblins.

Vera's path to the exit was clear, and she was fast, certainly faster than that Imperial would be in his heavy armor. She ducked under an arrow from the one remaining goblin archer, firing off one of her own back to him without slowing down. The goblins reflexes weren't as good.

Vera was out of the cave now, and could see the Imperial trying to escape into the rocky crags of the Ridge. It was almost nightfall now, and if he hadn't been caught or killed before it was dark, he would be able to escape easily into the night. Vera notched an arrow to her longbow, drew back the string, took careful aim at the Imperials right leg, and fired.

---------

Ashen stumbled and fell to the ground when the arrow hit his right leg. He wasn't sure if it had gotten caught in his armor or if he just had a lot of adrenaline pumping through him right now, but he couldn't feel any pain. He didn't have time to find out which. He pulled out the arrow, got back up, and started running again. Another arrow sailed hit the rocks just a foot to his right. And the legends said Elves never miss.

Ashen jumped about five feet down off the rock he was on into a small, narrow path that was cut into the mountain. This would give him cover. He picked a direction at random and began running down the path. He had to put distance between himself and that Elf. If she got into this trench, he'd be no harder to hit then a target at the shooting range.

Ashen turned a corner in the trench. There was another corner up ahead. Just as it occured to him that if he hit a dead end, he'd have to double back and almost certainly run into that Elf, his worst fears were realized. The walls of the trench were now at least ten feet tall in every direction, and the only way out was back. Ashen sheathed his sword and tried to climb the walls, but it was no use, there weren't any good handholds.

Ashen pulled out his sword again and turned around and found the Elf was just drawing back an arrow. She didn't fire. Ashen raised his sword toward her, but he knew it was useless. She was ten feet away and Ashen knew that the odds of deflecting an arrow with a sword were pathetically small. She had him. He was going to be a prisoner of these Mountaineers again, and they weren't likely to give him a chance to escape this time.

"Drop your weapon." the Elf said calmly.

Then another voice came from the top of the trench wall twenty feet back from Ashen. "You drop yours." It was a womans voice. Ashen squinted to see the figure. She was cloaked and holding a crossbow, pointing at the Elf.

The Elf glanced back and saw the figure. Ashen started walking towards the Elf. The Elf turned back toward him, still pointing her bow at him, and said "Stop!" Ashen obeyed, still holding his sword up. "I can't kill you both, but if I'm going to die, I can take at least one of you Imperials with me!" the Elf said.

"Just drop your bow," the girl on the top of the trench said, "And I'll drop mine, and then no one dies."

"I won't drop my bow until you drop yours," the Elf said, keeping her eyes fixed on Ashen.

"Well, how do I know if I can trust you?" the girl asked.

"How do I know I can trust you?" the Elf asked. The girl stared back.

"Because...Because...You can, alright?" the girl said.

"Oddly, I find myself less than reassured," the Elf said. The girl sighed, and then put her crossbow down. "Alright, look, I went first." The Elf glanced back, and saw that it was true. She lowered her own bow, but kept the arrow notched as she backed out of the trench. Ashen didn't like that. She could shoot either of them from there.

She didn't, however. Evidently the Elves valued honor as well, or at least this one did. The girl walked over to the part of the wall directly above Ashen and dropped a rope down to him. Tying one end to a rock. "Alright, it's secure." she said, and Ashen grabbed the rope and climbed out of the trench.

"What's your name?" Ashen asked when he got to the top.

"Kitsune," the girl replied.

"Alright, Kitsune, while I'm grateful you came to help me, that wasn't terribly well handled." Ashen said.

"What do you mean?" Kitsune asked, "It worked, didn't it?"

"Not really," Ashen said, "You could've killed her before she even knew what was coming and then we'd have one less Elf to worry about."

"But then wouldn't she have let go of the string and shot you?" Kitsune asked.

"Not likely," Ashen said, "She would've crumpled over, so she probably would've hit the wall or the floor."

"Well, it did work," Kitsune said, "You're alive."

"You didn't even try to shoot her when she turned and ran." Ashen said.

Kitsune looked at him as if the idea was ludicrous. "She dropped her bow! I couldn't shoot her right after I made a deal with her not too!"

"Yes, you could've," Ashen said, "I don't know where you're from, but this is a warzone. Save your honesty for Ajendrans."

There was a long silence as they walked on, Ashen leading them back towards his camp. Finally, Kitsune said "Bedua."

"What?" Ashen said.

"You asked where I was from. Well, sort of. I'm from Bedua." she said.

"Oh," Ashen said, paused for a moment, then added "Me too." They walked the rest of the way to Ashen's camp without talking.

---------

1 That'll be Hurginugi, Vile Staff Shaman.

2 And this is One Toof, Prize Mutant. The ogre out front was Rumblepants, of course, so that's all four known bosses of Muckmol's Cave.
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  #55  
Old 07-09-2008, 09:53 PM
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I'd like to point out, yet again, that if you don't post a response to this, I have no way of knowing whether or not you're reading it. If you want this to continue, you'll have to continuously show me that I haven't lost my audience to the competition (competition which, ironically, I encouraged).
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This is a sworded bunny. For every sworded bunny in the world, one regular bunny is defeated. If we get enough sworded bunnies on the internet, we can stop bunnies insidious plot for world domination.

- (\__/)
- (='.'=)==l--
- (")_(")

SWORDED!
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  #56  
Old 07-09-2008, 10:06 PM
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Ironically enough, your competition, at least one of them, enjoys your story Ashen.

Keep up ze good work, the plot in your story is bloody engrossing, in a very good way.

Kudos to you and your work of art.
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'We're the regulators that deregulate
We're the animators that deanimate
We're the propagators of all genocide
Burning through the world's resources, then we turn and hide'


- (\__/)
- (='.'=)==l--
- (")_(")

SWORDED!

Helping Ashen's plot to destroy those damned bunnies and their plot to take the world over.
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  #57  
Old 07-09-2008, 10:19 PM
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Man, Ashen owned them! (In the story...well, you owned me at writing, but that's not what I'm talking about.) Pwn!

Yes, I like that word too much... ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM <-- yes that's actually a word.

Anywho: as always, well-written, perfect grammar, and pwnsome plotline. You never did tell us whether the arrow penetrated his armor or not, and if it did, would he be able to climb a ten-odd foot wall, and walk like that? Or run like that? (Or jump like that?)

I don't think you need to edit, if you were going to; we'll assume it didn't penetrate. I decided to point that out to help avoid stuff like that, though most people probably wouldn't notice it.
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"This is a sworded bunny. For every sworded bunny in the world, one regular bunny is defeated. If we get enough sworded bunnies on the internet, we can stop bunnies insidious plot for world domination."

- (\__/)
- (='.'=)==l--
- (")_(")

SWORDED!

Helping Ashen's plot to destroy those damned bunnies and their plot to take the world over.
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  #58  
Old 07-09-2008, 10:24 PM
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What's terrilbe, Ryuu, that you're probably right. Most people don't notice little things like that anymore. I thought it was odd he didn't mention it, but then again, maybe Ashen wanted us to feel the adrenline that was going through the sequence. Who knows, eh? I don't claim to read minds.
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'We're the regulators that deregulate
We're the animators that deanimate
We're the propagators of all genocide
Burning through the world's resources, then we turn and hide'


- (\__/)
- (='.'=)==l--
- (")_(")

SWORDED!

Helping Ashen's plot to destroy those damned bunnies and their plot to take the world over.
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  #59  
Old 07-09-2008, 10:25 PM
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It's rather obvious the arrow didn't penetrate if you know enough about arrows; if it had he would've been crippled. There's a common misconception, propogated by Hollywood, that taking an arrow to the leg or shoulder is little more than an inconvenience to a trained warrior. The fact is that arrows twist when they enter, and both the leg and the shoulder containe lots and lots of blood vessels, making the odds of surviving a hit to either of those areas slim (though with enough raw willpower you may be able to go on fighting for ten or fifteen minutes before you collapse from blood loss).

On a vaguely related note, the Ajendrans developed a method of stopping the arrows from being quite so lethal; they wear multiple layers of cloth beneath their armor (or, in the case of lightly armored combatants, they wear layers of cloth as their armor), which prevents the arrow from twisting on its way in, effectively cutting the amount of damage done in half and allowing the arrow to be pulled out instead of surgically removed. This tactic was developed in reality by the Mongolians. Ghengis Khan's hordes were famous for being able to take three or four arrows before dying.
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Last edited by Ashen; 07-09-2008 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 07-09-2008, 10:28 PM
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Hell, the only reasons Yeomen, in terms of British, PWN'd the French Knights in full field plate was because of two things.

1- Sheer bloody numbers of arrows. They could fire enough arrows, 500 to 1000 Yeomen, to do something most French called the Cloud or Fog of death.

2- I don't care what they say, there's always a chink in armor that a trained archer or alot of guys firing arrows can find. Either by skill or luck. Even if the arrow doesn't cut and make you bleed out, its bloody painful, and inconvient as hell to have a 2-4 foot long piece of wood sticking out of your body.
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