The Rage Within

Here's another of those long, obnoxious story type things that I write. This is also unfinished. Go me. Anyway, check it out and see what's what. The tenative title is "The Rage Within". However, this is supposed to be from a series of novels with a group title(Think Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time), so technically this is called "Something Something: The Rage Within". Tom, if you are reading this...You know what to do. Also, small note...This was my second submission for the ill fated Writer's Challenge so it may sound familiar.


A lone hawk circled the vast wasteland of the Arunta Desert. Arunta, the largest desert in all of Schat located in the heart of Austral, was a place of searing heat and blazing sands. Frequent storms raged through the dunes and only the most capable of beings could survive the harsh climate. Desert scrub and cacti serve as the only plant life and the fierce Komas Dragons, giant carnivorous lizards, are the top of the food chain. The only signs of civilization are small tribal villages that have sprung up around the few oases that dot the desert and the city of Depansir. Arunta: A terrible region where only the strong survive.

The hawk flew on in search of prey as a lone rider crested a dune to gaze across the huge expanse of desert. The rider wore a gray outfit that served to protect his body from the fierce rays of the sun and to camouflage him from prying eyes. His shirt was sleeveless, though he wore bandages to cover his arms and hands. His pants were loose and flowing in the legs, but cinched tightly at the waste with a leather belt. A long, flowing grey cloak covered him and its hood protected his head from the sun. A mask of cloth saved his face the stinging sand and a unique set of goggles protected his piercing blue eyes. A lock of grey/brown hair fell in front of his eyes, but he brushed it aside.

He rode atop a Kumai, a large wolf creature of unusual intelligence. Kumais can adapt to most climates and they served as mounts in places unsuitable for horses. This Kumai was ten feet long and its rider sat a good five feet off the ground. It was heavily muscled and those muscles rippled under its blue and black fur. It's tongue rolled from its mouth in a lazy smile as it sniffed the air. Immediately the smile changed into a scowl and a low growl escaped from between razor teeth. It's piercing blue eyes, so similar to its master's, turned to the north.

The rider felt his mount go stiff and patted it reassuringly. He smelled the smoke as well, could see it rising from the desert sands a few miles to the north. He grimaced as he weighed his options. He would have to investigate. Despite the dangers, he had no choice.

"Easy now, Ahtreide. I know...But we have no choice." He echoed his thoughts to his mount and urged the Kumai forward.

The raging sun glared down upon him, evaporating sweat as quickly as it formed. Its light reflected off the white sands, a blinding radiance that forced him to shield his eyes despite his goggles. He dropped the reins and guided Ahtreide with his legs, his free hand dropping to the water skin tied to the saddle. He tested the weight of the skin. There was about two days left of water in the skin and he had at least three days worth of travel to reach Depansir. Life was going to get rough, but maybe the smoke on the horizon offered a solution.

"Hmm..." He spoke aloud as much to himself as to Ahtreide. It was a habit that he had picked up from wandering for so long. "If we travel faster we'll tire and use up more water, but if we slow our pace to conserve our energy, we won't be able to get there before the caravans leave." He laughed to himself and patted Ahtreide once more. "Damned if we do and damned if we don't. The story of our lives, eh friend?" The Kumai barked in seeming agreement and continued toward the smoke.

It took them over an hour to reach their destination, the loose sand and murderous heat preventing a faster pace. Before them was the half buried remains of a caravan wagon. The top half of the wagon was charred and blackened and several arrows were embedded in the wood. A forgotten spear pinned the driver of the wagon to his seat and spilled his guts onto the bloody sand. He had died a slow, painful death and the corpse was only a few hours old.

"Huh..." The wanderer dismounted and examined the body. "This couldn't have happened to long ago. The body isn't stiff and it lacks the marks of scavengers. But," He stared at the sunken state of the wagon, half covered in sand. "How could the winds have buried it in such a short time. I've seen no storms." Something about the driver's pallid face caught his eye. "He looks familiar..."

He circled the wagon, searching for clues and examining the remains of the wagon that were still intact. A logo painted on the side of the wagon caught his eye and brought up a memory from the week before that confirmed his suspicions.

"The merchant that I met heading into the desert. So this was their fate? Dead and rotting in this cursed desert with not even a friend to bury them. Poor bastards." He looked around some more, but didn't see anything of interest. "Damn, I should have bought that water when I had the chance."

The wanderer's hand moved unconsciously to the sapphire pendant he wore around his neck. It was the only thing he had left from his mother, a memento that he would never sell no matter how much he needed the money. The merchant was a fool to even ask for the necklace in exchange for the water.

"Well, there is little of value here, but maybe the bandits who slaughtered these merchants are not far off."

Seeming to understand his words, Ahtreide lifted his nose to the air to try and catch the bandit's scent. The wanderer followed suit by casting about the scene of the battle. He searched about and soon found a set of five footprints leading away from the wagon. They were deep and smeared. The bandits were obviously heavily laden and having a hard time trudging through the sand. They couldn't be far off and they made little attempt to hide their trail. They either felt that no one would find the wagon or that no one would care enough to follow.

"Wrong on both accounts." The wanderer stated grimly.

He mounted and rode swiftly, Ahtreide moving in a sloping run that ate up the distance between the hunter and his prey. An hour passed and the wanderer urged Ahtreide to stop. They were close and he didn't want to alert the bandits to his approach. The Kumai was eager to catch their prey, but he understood his master's wishes. He panted softly and followed slowly up a large dune. The sun was setting before them, casting their shadows back the way they came, but the wanderer fell to his belly just in case. Before him, two hundred feet away, were the bandits.

There were five in all, sitting in a circle around a small fire. Three seemed to be busy preparing a meal while the other two were sifting through a large sack. Two other sacks lay near the edge of the small camp. The wanderer smiled at how easy this would be.

"Those sacks must be the goods they stole from the merchant...I hope there is some water." He whispered to Ahtreide. He was about to rise when a low moan sounded from one of the two sacks near the edge of camp. "What the hell? Are some of the merchants still alive?" The next moan was decidedly feminine. "A woman?"

"Shut up ye whores!" Snarled one of the bandits. "Or we might just forget what that mage said about Endiro and have a bit a fun right now!"

"Endiro?" The wanderer had heard the name. It was a thieves den located at the edge of the desert. It also served as a compound for slavers. "So...These bandits have a second profession? That makes this all the sweeter."

"I say we do 'em no matter what the damn mage says." Another bandit shouted. "Them be real sweet and right pretty,"

A chorus of agreement told the wanderer that his time was now. It would be better to stop this before it could really start. He didn't want any needless bloodshed after all. He stood up and removed his goggles and mask. Placing them in his pack, he removed the saddle from Ahtriede's back, the Kumai fought better unhampered, and removed a long, cloth wrapped sword from the side of the saddle. Strapping the sword across his back, he stalked purposely toward the slavers while Ahtreide shifted through the growing shadows to flank the camp.

The slavers saw the wanderer long before he arrived, as intended, and had swords drawn. They moved into a semi-circle around him while he simply smiled. Off his mount and around other people, the wanderer's sheer size became very obvious. He stood at a good seven feet tall and he had to weight close to three hundred pounds. Years of training and surviving in the harsh desert had caused him to become incredibly muscular with a impressive, toned physique. He stared down at the bandits, piercing blue eyes promising death, and let a cocky smirk play across his face.

If the bandits were unnerved, they didn't show it. They had numbers on their side after all. The man directly in front of the wanderer spoke up.

"Who the hell are ye? What's a giant lout like yerslef doin' here? State yer business or pray to yer gods cause you'll be meetin' 'em soon."

"Heh..." The wanderer smiled at the man's show of bravado. "The name is Gawayn and I believe that you have something that I want."

"Eh?" A second bandit spoke up. "Ye mean them whores? Ye weren't with the wagon..."

"Hush!" Yelled the first thief.

"Two women?" Gawayn's mind raced. "The merchant must be dead as well, but then who is the other girl?"

"What?" sneered a thief during Gawayn's silence. "Cat got yer tongue? Scared of our numbers?"

"Nah," countered another. "The big oaf's brain prolly just shut down."

Gawayn merely chuckled as he drew the sword from the sheath across his back. The cloth wrappings fell away to reveal a blade six feet long and five inches wide. It was a single-edged straight blade that tapered to a point at the end. The length of the blade was covered in strange runes that were filled with powdered rubies. The hilt was long enough to be held with two hands and wrapped with black leather. A large ruby sat in the pommel of the hilt to serve as a counter-balance, even though the blade was enchanted to make it easier to wield.

"What the hell is that?" one thief said incredulously.

"Ha, the fool prolly can't even swing that monster."

Gawayn silenced the thief with a devastating spinning backhand that cleaved the fool in twain. Blood sprayed like a geyser as the body fell, first one half and then the other. The remaining four bandits stared in shock and Gawayn used the opportunity to dispatch another foe with a quick thrust to the neck.

They recovered soon enough after that and attacked the wanderer all at once. Gawayn dived forward to avoid their strikes and rolled to his feet, whipping around to catch a blade against his sword, the parry strong enough to rip the thief's sword from his hand. Gawayn kicked the thief in the throat and delivered a downward slash that removed another thief's sword arm. The last standing bandit rushed the wanderer, but Gawayn thrust his sword forward and impaled the bandit. Gawayn turned to face the remaining bandit who was struggling to breathe. The bandit feebly tried to raise his sword in defense, but Gawayn's strike smashed through the bandit's guard and sheared through his neck. The one-armed bandit was already dead in the sand, blood pumping from his stump.

Gawayn wiped the blood from his sword and sheathed it. Drawing a small dagger from his belt, he turned toward the bound women and began slicing their bonds. A small rock smashed into his shoulder, jarring the knife, and he turned to see a robed figure walking toward him, leaving no prints in the sand.

"You made a mistake in coming here stranger..." The robed man's voice was deep and sinister. "You compounded upon that by slaying my men and now you are freeing my slaves? You shall pay for these slights with your life. Know that I am Zarlyle, master of the very earth around you, and I shall be your executioner."

Gawayn now knew how the wagon had sunk so far into the sand. This man in robes the color of the sands was a sorcerer of some sort. Gawayn cocked his arm back and muttered through clinched teeth, "Been a while since I've killed a mage."

"Hahaha!" Zarlyle spat contemptuously. "Do you honestly believe that you stand a chance against me? Fool!"

"I don't just stand a chance...I'll kill you!" Gawayn punctuated his words by launching his dagger at Zarlyle, but the mage merely laughed. A stone rose from the sand and smashed against the flying dagger, knocking the blade out of the air. Zarlyle smirked as Gawayn drew his sword once more.

"You know not who you are dealing with..." Zarlyle raised his arm and a quick chant caused the earth to erupt around Gawayn.

The wanderer was tossed into the air as the ground beneath him heaved upward and he landed hard on his back. He struggled to stand, but the shifting sands offered no purchase.

"Prepare to drown in the endless sea of sand," Zarlyle shouted fervently. "The vengeful earth shall swallow you whole!"

"Damn! I've got to move..." Gathering his strength, Gawayn forced his legs under him and leaped forward just as a sink hole opened behind him.

His jump carried him away from the cavernous maw of sinking sand and he rolled to his feet out of range of the centralized quake. He lifted his sword and rushed Zarlyle before the mage could cast again. The nimble mage ducked under Gawayn's first strike and hurled a ball of sand at Gawayn's chest. The ball exploded on impact and the force sent the wanderer flying back ten feet. Zarlyle focused on the gigantic sword, the huge sword laying close to where the wanderer fell. The mage shook the earth once more and the earth rose up to swallow the sword until only the hilt was upon the sand.

Gawayn pushed himself to his feet and saw his sword trapped in the earth. He grimace and drew his second dagger. He rushed at the mage again, but he was confronted with ten glowing boulders of sand that levitated in the air. One flew toward him and Gawayn ducked under it, but the stone projectile exploded as it passed him. Rock shrapnel ripped into his shoulders and back, the force knocking him face first into the sand.

"Mines..." He muttered as he spit sand from his mouth. He had to lunge quickly to dodge another boulder.

The mines had Gawayn on the defense, but Ahtreide was still lurking around somewhere. He whistled to the hidden Kumai, signaling it to attack the mage and buy the wanderer some time. The Kumai growled menacingly and leaped over a sand dune to face the stunned mage. Ahtreide snapped at Zarlyle's legs, but the mage was the quicker and a pillar of sand blasted the Kumai into the air. The mage barked another quick chant and the pillar turned into a first that grasped the Kumai, slowly crushing it.

Gawayn, lunging away from another mine, heard Ahtreide whelp in protest and he turned to see the trapped Kumai.He growled and leapt to his feet, winding a path through the floating mines toward the mage. Shrapnel cut the air, slicing Gawayn's body so that blood poured from too many wounds to count. He feared that he would fall soon if the punishment continued. A tremor knocked him from his feet and sand covered his wounds. Pain flared and he didn't want to get back up, but Zarlyle's scornful laughter and Ahtreide's pained whelps cut deeper than any wound. He forced himself to stagger to his feet, tighten his grip on his dagger and run on.

"Give up fool...You'll never defeat me." the mage raised his arms once more and two more stones rose from the earth to hurl themselves at Gawayn.

'He must be weakening..." Gawayn's mind raced to come up with some sort of strategy. "He's cast twenty spells in less than ten minutes. There is no way he could have that much strength left...I have to strike now." Gawayn dashed forward, summoning all of his strength, and leaped over the speeding stones to stab his dagger into Zarlyle's chest.

The levitating mines crumbled to sand and Ahtreide was free from the fist that held him. The injured Kumai limped away to lick Gawayn's hand. The wanderer petted his friend's side and turned to watch the Zarlyle's demise.

The mage stumbled and fell back. Blood trickled from his mouth as he glared at Gawayn. The blood spewed forth in a mist as he started laughing. Gawayn struggled back to his feet and stared, dumbfounded, as Zarlyle stood up and pulled the dagger, its blade stained crimson with blood, from his chest and tossed it to the ground.

"How? You can't possibly still be..." Gawayn was too stunned to speak.

"I told you that you couldn't possibly defeat me. My master has fortified me with powers beyond those of mere mortals. Now die for your impudence for I am the master of the earth and all who challenge me shall die!" As the words left his mouth, Zarlyle's body began to change.

Gawayn could believe his eyes as the mage's skin began to harden and turn gray. The mage grew until he stood ten feet tall and five feet wide, with massive muscles and hammer-like fists. The mage's skin became stone and his eyes changed to ruby slits.

"Ha ha ha ha..." Rumbled a voice like an avalanche. "I may have wasted all of my mana in toying with you, but I don't need my spells when I have the gifts of my master." A huge stone hand swung down and smashed Gawayn in the chest, sending him flying backwards.

The wanderer struggled to rise, a broken rib grating in his chest. He pushed himself to his feet and went for his sword. He tried in vain to free the blade, but he was exhausted and to weak to draw it forth from the sand. He looked up to see the golem that was once Zarlyle lumbering toward him. He pulled harder, but the sword was stuck fast. He saw Zarlyle swing another massive arm toward him and grabbed the hilt with all his strength. The stone fist slammed him into the air, his sword pulling free with the strength of the blow.

Gawayn flew back another ten feet and landed hard on the sand. Pain flared all over and it was a supreme effort to rise and lift his sword. He slashed down with the last of his strength, the blade connecting with Zarlyle's stone arm and not even leaving a scratch.

"Fool! You don't know when to lie down and die. Don't worry though...I'll beat some sense into you and when I'm done...Those girls will still be slaves. You'll be dead and none of this will matter. Your whole life won't matter. I'll take that sword of your and use it to impale that damned dog and then I'll melt it down to scrap metal."

A low growl erupted from Ahtreide and the Kumai launched itself at Zarlyle, latching onto the mage's stone arm. Zarlyle laughed and shook Ahtreide free with a quick jerk. The Kumai flew away and crashed into the sand.

Anger sparked in Gawayn and that anger grew from an ember to an inferno as he listened to Zarlyle's ridicule. He would not be beaten! Zarlyle would not win! Those girls wouldn't be enslaved! He would save Ahtreide! This bastard mage would not see the light of another day! Gawayn took all of the flames of his anger and made them into one all consuming inferno. He stared into the fire and became one with it. The pain was burned away, the fatigue was consumed, and all emotion was ash. There was only the flame and Gawayn, Gawayn and the flame, two sides of the same coin. A void encased him, protected him from what was outside. He could sense that the pain was still there, outside the void and so were the fatigue and the rest of the world. In the void, however, were strength and power. In the void was Gawayn...

"What? Did the fool die standing?"

Zarlyle's voice rang sharply in Gawayn's ears. He could hear it clearly, clearer than ever before. All of his senses were sharper and he could feel the increased strength surging through his body.

"Don't worry mortal...Death will come swiftly."

Gawayn could sense the huge fist swinging toward his head and instinct took over. He ducked under the granite hand and lunged upward, one hand held out to flip over the ten foot golem. He landed on his feet and spun around, swinging his sword. The blade flashed, slicing a clean line across Zarlyle's back and blood like magma flowed freely from the wound.

Zarlyle turned, pure hate marring his face, and growled. "I don't know how you did that, but I'm through playing. You die now!" He swung a backhand slap at Gawayn, but the wanderer countered with a quick parry that sliced off the fingers of Zarlyle's hand.

Gawayn heard the anguished bellow from within the void and allowed himself a grim smile. He stared deep into Zarlyle's eyes and growled as he leaped forward. The wanderer swung his massive sword with all his might, cleaving the stone giant from neck to crotch. The upper half of Zarlyle's body fell to the sand, somehow still able to speak.

"No...Damn you. I will not die! My master will save me...My mast..." A surge of thick blood gushed from his mouth. "No, I have been forsaken. Though I may die, I will take you with me!"

A thin flow of mana erupted from Zarlyle's mouth and entered Gawayn. The wanderer felt a fist constrict his heart and his body convulsed. The poison flared through his body and the void shattered. The pain and fatigue returned along with the burning of the poison as it slowly shut down his body. He was dying and he knew it. He dropped to his knees and coughed up a spray of blood. Darkness clouded his vision and he fell with his face in the sand. The last thing he saw was Zarlyle's stone form crumbling into nothing more than a pile of sand.
Get to it in a second man. And by that, I mean a day or two. You won't believe the amount of work I've got piled up right now, I'm tellin' ya...
(Okay, let's see here... I finished it, just need to write up a review on it now. Going to save what I've got up, will finish reviewing tomorrow... or some time later. In any case, it's got some strong points, but it's got more than a few weak points. A key thing I want to hit on is character development and the "Why should we care?" factor. While dramatic, the fight against the earth mage seemed over done. I think it would have made a better scene if you had had the battle be a bit more decisive. If the character's going to lose, have him lose, if he's going to win, have him win. This isn't Dragon Ball Z after all, heh. I honestly would have liked to have seen the badguy win. Since he's about to commit these atrocious acts, it gives audience a real feel for how bad the badguy is and gives the hero some motivation... but I'm bouncing all over the place. I'll write a full review soon.)

1 - Nice start up. Vague, but that's what you want at this point after all. You've mentioned a few things here, Komas Dragons and Depansir. Do you have any intention of using these in the future? Even if you don't, it could still be seen as a good move in writing. It's a nice backdrop, vague but still enough that the audience knows what's going on and feels like there's more to this 'world' than just the hero and his quest. All you're missing is history and you might have the potential for a nicely developed world.