Here’s my fourth story for the game - Bane learns there’s more to Spirit Link than just softening the blows. Enjoy!
Scarlett sheathed her swords and brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. With a grimace she looked around her, at the siege just ended. The stone golems had finally retreated, letting her forces advance across the peninsula. It was a hard-won victory - Valen would need serious medical attention, more than a simple battlefield potion could offer. She’d sent two of her troops to secure passage for him. Bane, good old Bane, was kneeling and gasping for breath. He’d over-exerted himself again, pummeling the stones with his strange harmonic magic. And the little leathery-faced pixie, who called himself Carver, had barely survived against their barrage of boulders. Goddess, but they needed an edge they lacked. Tiburtus had mentioned working with orcs, but who could stand the smell? Rotting limes and wet leather, every time you breath in.
She heard a small voice, a little girl from a nearby village. The girl was maybe eight years old, thin blonde hair and watery eyes.
“I saw the fight from my house,” the girl said shyly, “you should talk to my uncle.”
“Little girl, I …” Scarlett was about to admonish the girl for walking across a battlefield, but something made her pause. “Is he here?” the war-weary swordsmistress asked. Maybe a conversation with a local would help her mood.
“In my house. He used to be a fighter like you, before he hurt his leg.”
“Injured veteran, okay,” Scarlett though to herself. "Lead the way? Bane, I’ll be right back, You rest, friend."
Her yellow-clad friend nodded distantly as he focused on his breathing, and Scarlett followed the little girl to her house. It was a small two-room farmhouse, mud walls and a slate roof. She ducked through the low doorway into a simple common room.
“Uncle, look,” the girl said, "this lady was fighting stone golems, her and her friends. You used to fight them every day, right Uncle?"
The older man looked up and nodded, waving them in as he stood. He had deep lines to his face and faded blond hair, and wore the casual-yet-alert expression of a warrior. Scarlett studied the intense blue of his eyes while he spoke.
“Gunnar Bjornsen. You’re from the Stronghold, yes? Only military base left on the peninsula. Michaela - that’s my niece - said she saw a fight from the window. Stone Golems, my guess. You need an edge, one besides your swords.” He glanced outside to where Bane sat on a log, meditating. “Swords no good against stone anyway, you know that. Need a hammer, lightning maybe. Split the stone. Break its spirit. But you know --” he made his way to a small table, favoring one leg, and filled a cup with wine. He gestured with the cup as he spoke. “-- fights go both ways. You hit them, they hit back. And stone golems hit back hard. What to do?” He glanced outside again at Bane and the others, who were stretching, checking weapons, surveying the area. “One good hit can break a man, mark my words. And if one man falls, he’s the weak link in a chain. So, what to do? Strengthen the chain.” He set the cup down and crossed the room to where an old suit of armor lay in a disconnected jumble, on what was once a mannequin. “After I took the knee, left the fight, I was studying local shamanism. Nature magic. You ever hear of spiritism?” He paused, eyeing Scarlett, waiting for an answer. The younger swordswoman shook her head briefly.
“There’s a magic you can learn - if you have the talent - called Spirit Linking. Useful in a fight. It’s - watch this.” He paused and opened the door again and stepped outside, crossing to the village square. “You! Boy! Bring that one.” Bane glanced up, somewhat taken aback by being called ‘boy’, but he stood and tapped Prisca on the arm. They crossed the village square to a painted wooden wagon.
“Okay. Boy. Bane, was it? Strike me. Chest.” Bane glanced at Scarlett, who merely shrugged, so he sized up the older man standing before him and struck him in the chest with metered force. Gunnar let out a gasp and staggered back, his face red.
“Ohh, very good, son. Keep that up. Now see, his hit pushed me back a few feet. But if we link arms - " he motioned for Scarlett and Prisca to join him, arms linked. The small, wizened pixie watched with amusement. " – Bane, hit me again.” The yellow-clad soldier nodded and struck again, but Gunnar, supported by the two women, only staggered back a pace. "Now, imagine a spell to share the blow. A killing blow to one is only a scrape, when shared out. Spread the damage."
Prisca unhooked her arms from the old soldier and stepped forward to face him. "We - all - take the blow? You’re serious?_
“Absolutely. Shared damage. You’re connected, even if you’re not touching. Spirit Link.”
“I’m --” the severe looking woman paused, glancing at Scarlett.
“I say we try it,” Scarlett said. “What’s to lose?”
“There’s a saying in the Verde,” the pixie volunteered, “shared pain is lessened, shared joy in increased. As so?”
“Yes, similar,” Gunnar nodded. “What you’ll need, now, is these.” He opened a pouch and fished out five translucent blue stones, each the size of a small egg. "Keep it with you. Pouch, around your neck, I don’t care. Boy, go annoy the stone golems. I’ll start the spell. When you - we - fight, you’ll see the difference."
Bane gave the old man an odd look, unused to being called ‘Boy’. But he relented and headed for the large outcropping of stony crags. Seconds later a sound of grinding granite alerted everyone to prepare, as Bane dashed back to the group. Three large stone figures lumbered after him, each 12 feet tall and six wide. Bane rejoined the group and turned to face the oncoming golems.
“When I feel us connected…” Gunnar said, "… you’ll know."
Bane swung his sword and howled his harmonic attack, sending a golem staggering briefly to one side. Scarlett’s swords whirled and flew, but seemed to do little damage - this was the weakness in the previous fight. Carver slipped to one knee, missing a shot, and a stone golem swung its massive hand, crushing the diminutive attacker. When the stone hand lifted, Carver looked damaged and broken, but still capable.
Gunnar paused in the melee and raised his hands. He muttered something, and the other four combatants blinked as they felt physically - somehow - connected. Scarlett suddenly felt an urge to limp, and Bane paused to quizzically pat his stomach. But a second later, each of them returned their attention to the fight.
Prisca swung and struck a golem, and in return it slammed a large hand into the side of her head. But what would have crushed her skull only gave her a brief second of dizziness, which the others felt as well. She struck forward, severing a stone limb. The magic broken, the large stones of its arm fell apart harmlessly.
A minute later the battle was over - the surviving stone golems retreated, leaving a jumble of slabs where their ally had been.
“They’ll come back for that one, use it’s parts to build another,” Gunnar said as the group gathered their weapons. “The same magic I use in spirit linking, they use to hold their bodies together. Sort of.”
“Impressive,” Scarlett nodded, “this may be the edge we needed. The stone golems own magic is our trick to outlast them in battle, interesting.”
“But…” Prisca said, “now I’m not one to complain, but when you did that, old man, my knee suddenly hurt. And my arm tingled a little. How’s that?”
“Heh, side effect of the spell, I’m afraid. We linked to share damage, but it so means we feel each other’s pain. You felt my knee. It’s a constant ache, never really goes away.”
“And what …” Bane looked up, running a hand over his body, just below his belly, "…was that?"
Prisca and Scarlett glanced at each other, and Prisca nodded. Scarlett smiled one of her rare smiles. “You know about 'womanly monthly troubles, Bane?” she asked.
“Shared pain , friend. Spirit Link means if one of us is on our period, cramping and bloating, we all get to enjoy it.”
“Oh that’s just st—” Bane tried to complain , but Scarlett cut him off.
"Gunnar, there are mages at the Stronghold who would certainly want to know your magic. If you and your little girl will join us, we’ll take you back there. Make it worth your while."
Gunnar stood and briefly considered her offer.
“Been a few years - more than - since I joined the ranks,” the old man mused, "but I can see the advantage. Lead the way."
As the group headed down the hill, Bane turned to the tiny, wizened pixie. “Shared pain, my ■■■. Next fight we do this, I’m gonna be sure to get kicked in the nuts. See how Scarlett likes that.”