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9/10/2008 15:07:38   
Yagno2000
Queen of Blades



Darkthorn

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< Message edited by Yagno2000 -- 9/10/2008 15:29:59 >
Post #: 1
9/10/2008 15:08:41   
Yagno2000
Queen of Blades


Chapter I

“Darkthorn, hm? It seems your name has spared your life at the moment,” said the queen with a chillingly cruel grin.

Obscured by the shadows, she stared down at her subjects with distaste, sitting atop her pulpit at the center of the seemingly endless chamber. Colossal columns of brilliantly white marble shot upwards towards the arched ceiling clashing angrily with the pitch black of the wide emptiness behind them. It had been a less than middling night for the queen, and she was in no hurry to hide from her attendants her displeasure in the whole situation.

She had been disturbed in her sleep by reports of an assassin having snuck into the castle, most likely after her head. Her vexation from being so suddenly awoken was only compounded when she was informed that the assassin was nowhere to be found. Cursing her incompetent soldiers, she took it upon herself to find the interloper and deal with him. And find him she did, with such speed and potency to remind her children just why she was their queen.

And so the intruder stood before her now, caught, bound, beaten and interrogated, seemingly an insignificant speck on the floor of the queen’s titanic throne room. A human rogue from Granemor had managed to sneak his way past her guards into the inner chambers of the castle. It was an embarrassment, a scandal. She might have found the situation almost reasonable had the intruder been a lycanthrope, being the masterfully cunning creatures they were, but this man here standing before her was nothing more than a human. He was an average flesh and blood human who had no business still being alive this deep in Darkovia.

But he had an interesting name. It seemed like a dangerous name, one spotted with a touch of wickedness. This man who had managed to pass by all the guards to her chambers unnoticed and unscathed, what an appropriate name he had, mused the queen. And the queen took a keen pleasure in this, so she chose to let him live for the time being.

“Take him to the dungeons. He shall suffice to entertain me later,” she said in the same frightfully cold tone.

“But, Milady!” objected one of the queen’s court in disbelief, stepping forward in disapproval.

“Good Lady Mirren, I don’t hear a tone of defiance in your voice,” replied the queen quietly.

With a momentary look of terror, Lady Mirren stepped back and lowered her eyes to the floor, avoiding the icy gaze of her queen.

“No,” stuttered Lady Mirren. “Of course not, Milady.”

“That wasn’t a question, Lady Mirren. It was decided for you when you came to join my children living in this castle. Now I shan’t repeat myself lest you should wish to vanish,” said the queen with drab disinterest as though to recite the recipe for a particularly prosaic potion.

“Yes, Milady. It will be done,” said Lady Mirren with a curtsey as she curtly signaled the guards to take hold of the prisoner.

They firmly grasped him around the arms, violently dragging him out of the chamber.

Seemingly more interested in her delicately livid fingers than the proceedings, the queen looked down suddenly at her prisoner with a brilliantly bewitching smile, her eyes flaring furiously. “Oh do be careful and don’t break him, won’t you?” crooned the queen with an airy laugh hollow enough to strike dread into the hearts of even the steeliest soldiers. “I wouldn’t want my new pet damaged too much-”

The queen’s jeers were cut short as the two guards dragging the prisoner away fell limply to the ground. The prisoner slowly stood, rising to meet the queen’s glacial gaze. Tossing aside the ropes that bound him, he countered, “You needn’t worry. I won’t be hurt by the likes of your simpleton guards. No, you won’t have me so easily, dearest Queen.” Unflinching, he continued in spite of the queen’s escalating ire. “I’ve come here for…” He paused momentarily, closing his eyes as he scoured his brain for a fitting word to continue. Unsettled, the queen searched the prisoner’s face; he was a completely different person than he had been just a minute before. He was sinister, wicked just like his name. Opening his eyes, with an ironic bow the villain standing before the queen continued.

“I’ve come here for an audience with you, oh noble Safiria, Queen of the Vampires.”
Post #: 2
9/10/2008 15:09:56   
Yagno2000
Queen of Blades


Chapter II.A

“Assemble the generals. Churail, find Chou-Hsin and Sigmund and bring them to me. I want to know exactly what’s happening. Mossfoot, send out a reconnaissance squad and tell them to report directly to me. Avoid all direct contact with the invaders.”

“S-sigmund, my liege?” stuttered the diminutive Churail, questioning his king. He was nervous being in the presence of his king, and feared he had misunderstood. Sigmund was a young and inexperienced scout in the Lycan army; surely the king had no need for the likes of Sigmund at a time like this, reasoned Churail. Alas, the king rounded on Churail angrily.

“Yes. Sigmund. Now! Don’t argue; just do. Where are those damn generals?” growled the Werewolf King in frustration.

“We’re here sir!” panted Baron Kreen as he bolted through the earthen threshold to the war chamber. Churail, stricken by confusion and awe, tore from the chamber looking once back over his shoulder as three more mighty wolves clambered through the entrance to the chamber and out of sight.

These three were Duke Goran, Lord Durden, and Count Einhamir; and together with Baron Kreen, they were the four mightiest lycanthropes in the kingdom, chosen as generals to command the Werewolf King’s armies. They were all breathless, having run to meet their king upon learning of the incoming threat.

“What’s the situation, my lord?” asked the baron. “I was given a rough report that there are invaders encroaching upon our woods.”

“Yes. It seems a troop of humans is making its way through Darkovia. Initial reports estimate that they will be upon us within the hour. We cannot under any circumstances let them reach the Wolfgate.” The king paused for a moment, then looked into the eyes of each one of his loyal generals. “You understand what it is I ask of you, my generals?”

“But my king!” pleaded Baron Kreen. “Surely we must have a better alternative!”

The Werewolf King closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let out a long sigh. The air down in the farthest reaches of the Den perpetually stank of death and decay. There were bones littering the floors all throughout the dirt halls of the grand subterranean structure. This mighty, vile, squirming labyrinth was the heart of the Lycan kingdom, and the Wolfgate, the very source of the Lycan power, the Lycan curse, was the valve keeping that kingdom alive.

Your life for the kingdom, so that your kingdom may live. That was the adage on which the whole of the Lycan kingdom in all of its glory was built. The Werewolf King and all of his generals knew very well that when the time came, they too would give their life for their kingdom, their people. It seemed that that day might be upon them at last, the day when the majestic Wolfgate might finally fall to the power of the encroaching world of the humans.

“My liege!” yelped a younger looking lycanthrope as he ran into the room, skidding to halt in front of the generals, his right arm to his forehead in full military salute. Unlike the generals, he chose to remain in his human form. His matted black hair reached down to his shoulders, obscuring his face and his brilliant crimson eyes. He was wearing a light leather breastplate and shredded black pants torn away just below the knees. He held a short wickedly curved sword in his left hand, and around his neck hung a small golden locket.

“Sigmund!” snarled Baron Kreen. “We haven’t time to waste with young pups! Now begone!”

“No.” the Werewolf King replied, looking into Sigmund’s eerie ruby eyes. “I specifically called on him and Chou-Hsin,” he said to Baron Kreen. “You were closely tailing the invading force. What have you learned, Sigmund?”

“Yes, my liege,” replied Sigmund. “Judging from their movement patterns and their talent for concealment, we can assume this is an invading force of Ninja.”

“Ninja? Here in Darkovia?” interrupted Count Einhamir.

“Yes, General,” continued Sigmund. “Thus far, we have avoided detection by the invaders and have attempted to gain as much information without direct contact.”

“These are Ninja, however. How much information could your team have gained just from watching?” asked Duke Goran, brows furrowed in fear and frustration.

“And what are their numbers?” continued Lord Durden.

Sigmund shifted for a moment, avoiding the question, then replied, “We are currently unsure of their motives or destination. I do know this however. They seem to be moving in our general direction, but they are still too far to determine whether or not they have their eyes set on the Wolfgate.”

At this, the four generals looked amongst themselves with confusion. Was it possible that this young pup here knew the importance of the Wolfgate? It seemed beyond all reason. Only the oldest and wisest lycanthropes were entrusted with the knowledge of its power and importance. Why was Sigmund, a mere scout, talking about the Wolfgate as though he knew how vital it was to the survival of their entire race?

“Furthermore,” interrupted Sigmund, “the force appears to be in the thousands.”

“Thousands!” exclaimed Baron Kreen, twisting to address his king. “Your majesty, this is surely the end. The humans have come to bring an end to our glorious kingdom. We have no choice but to ready for battle! Better we lose our lives than the pride of our race!”

“No. None of that is necessary,” said a new figure leaning in the archway of the entrance to the chamber, silhouetted by the torches blazing behind him. “Really. You may all calm down, Generals, Were-King.” Just barely visible was the outline of a man as he unconcernedly brushed the dust from his delicate silk robes, glittering in the darkness. His midnight black hair was pulled back, tied into a loose bundle at the base of his neck. With a quick step and a snicker, he entered the chamber revealing his face, white as death. His eyes, pale blue like the frigid winter moon, flitted back and forth briskly surveying the five mighty werewolves before him, and the young, inexperienced soldier cowering before them.

“Chou-Hsin, what’s the meaning of this?” barked Baron Kreen. “What are you saying, and with such insolence to your king?”

“We haven’t time for formalities now, Baron Kreen,” interrupted the king. “Chou-Hsin, what new developments do you have for us?” he asked.

“Well,” drawled Chou-Hsin, “it seems the human filth isn’t heading toward us after all. We don’t have much of a reason for all this tension so let’s calm down, why don’t we?” he ended with a sardonic flourish of his hands.

“Enough!” cried Baron Kreen, clutching Chou-Hsin at the throat and lifting him struggling from ground. “You will end your games now or I will tear you apart. Now tell us what you have learned!” Baron Kreen demanded as he angrily tossed Chou-Hsin aside like a paper doll.

Chou Hsin struggled to his feet, clutching to the wall. “What a temper you’ve got there, Baron,” wheezed Chou-Hsin through his unyielding smile. The baron growled and stepped forward once more.

“Yes, yes. We’ve managed to get some information,” Chou-Hsin assured the Baron as he righted himself. “The sordid humans are commanded by Elizabeth. You all should have heard of her. She’s plenty of trouble by herself. And judging by how many of the human filth are with her, they’d have to have come from the Ninjutsu Temple.”

“The Ninjutsu Temple, you say?” asked the king.

“Oh yes, King,” Chou-Hsin said with a mocking bow. “That’s far East past the Dwarfhold Mountains, just so you know.” Baron Kreen gave a discontented growl and narrowed his eyes at the overconfident, untrustworthy squad commander he saw before him.

“What on Lore could bring a force of humans thousands strong from Mount Daijin here?” asked the Werewolf King.

“Ah, that’s simple,” replied Chou-Hsin coolly. “The Eye of Naab.”



Chapter II.B

The Werewolf King sat alone in the corner of his chamber replaying the events that had unfolded the night Safiria’s Castle was infiltrated. It had been a year since then, yet the sense of imminent doom that had hung over the Lycan world that night still plagued the king’s thoughts. He could hardly believe it was possible that a human had managed to make his way into Safiria’s dungeons, claim his trophy, and make it out alive. The Werewolf King himself was previously the only being on Lore to accomplish such a feat. While he held a unique hatred in his heart reserved only for the Queen of the Vampires, he acknowledged her absolute power; once the Demon Queen had her prey within her grasp, its prospects grew quite grim. So why, then? Why had Safiria’s defenses been outmaneuvered so easily? Was the power balance shifting? Was the Vampire Kingdom growing weaker?

“I know what you’re thinking.”

“Ah, Kreen. I didn’t see you come in,” replied the Werewolf King, relieved for an excuse out of his brooding thoughts.

“You’re thinking `That night, the humans could have just as easily attacked the Den.` I know you too well, King. You can’t hide your anxiety from me. It bleeds forth from your eyes like a river; I can smell your fear.” said Kreen, sitting down next to the king. Kreen looked like a small doll beside to the gargantuan wolf.

As Kreen looked up into the eyes of the beast towering over him, the King said to him, “Kreen, you are my brother. You are the last of my family here on Lore. What am I to do should something happen to you?”

“Foolish little brother,” snapped Kreen. “You are the king of our people, the leader of our race. You are he who was gifted with the full magnitude of our curse. It is you who have lost your human form so that the rest of your people may find blessing in our curse. It is you who have lost your name to the sands of time in the many moons you have serviced us. You know our way of life. My life for the kingdom. As my king, no, as my brother, you cannot afford to flinch in the face of death.”

“Hrmph,” grunted the king. “You certainly have a big mouth for such a small man. The next time you decide to lecture me, make sure you bring me a human or two to crunch on while I ignore you, brother. Your heart is true, but you talk far too much.”

“What kind of way is that to talk to your older brother, you ingrate?” Kreen retorted, his smirk widening as his canines began to extend. “You best miff me not, little brother. As I remember it, you’ve not once beaten me in battle,” Kreen said with a snicker, his transformation completed. He looked his younger brother in the eye, now level with him, and gave a satisfied, toothy grin.

The king smiled and put his paw on Kreen’s broad shoulder. “I thank you brother. You have always been my courage.” Exchanging a meaningful look of mutual appreciation with his brother, the King turned and left the room to check on Chou-Hsin. His mind was again drawn to the night Chou-Hsin was imprisoned for his offenses; the night Safiria’s Castle was infiltrated.

Chou-Hsin had broken the King’s direct order and captured several of the Ninjas that night. His troop tortured the prisoners to retrieve the information on their objectives, and without good reason, Chou-Hsin personally murdered them all save one, whom he released with a cryptic message. He gave the Ninja a declaration to deliver to Elizabeth warning of more casualties at the hands of the Werewolves should the humans decide to return to Darkovia.

The Werewolf King couldn’t understand what had driven Chou-Hsin to do such an impetuous thing. He cared little about the humans who were killed, but he knew that Chou-Hsin’s actions would only serve to bolster the humans’ vendetta against the Lycans. Fueled by selfish bloodlust, Chou-Hsin’s transgressions had guaranteed the humans would soon be returning to Darkovia in even greater numbers than before.

Despite his brother’s ever-wise advice, there was only one person to whom the Werewolf King could turn at a time like this. And he knew just where to meet her.



Chapter II.C

“That idiot! That moronic, mulish, mindless troll of a fool! Once he gets an idea in that thick skull of his, not a force in Lore can stop him! When I find him, I’ll tear-”

“Oren, relax. We don’t even know for sure if he went there. For all we know, he could be out hunting.”

It was a cool, peaceful day on the outskirts of Willow Creek, during that time of autumn just after the crickets finally quiet down for the year. A gap among the thousands of orange and green trees made a small clearing over the peaks of which the afternoon sun bled crimson across the sky, as though at any moment the deep violet reds and brilliant oranges of the defeated sun would come irresistibly crashing down into the clearing, washing away all the sins and worries of the petty human world.

At the center of the clearing were two small tents and a wooden table situated around the ashes of what was once a great campfire. Scattered around the burnt ash were dozens of scintillating metal blades and contraptions, clashing dramatically with the drab gray tarp beneath them like stars in the night sky. Two figures sat across from each other at the table, one nervously playing with a small knife as he avoided his companion’s gaze, the other holding a flagon of ale in one hand and a short sword in the other, unsure of which she needed more at the moment.

The looks of discomfort on their faces revealed a strong yearning to be apart from one another, far removed from this awkward situation. Messy tracks littered the campsite, clear indicators of the recent bedlam. It was far out of the ordinary for these two to leave behind tracks, but the past day had been no ordinary day. One of the tents stood serenely unfazed, seemingly untouched by the chaos. The other tent sagged under its weight, its stakes slipping crookedly out of their holes, the aftermath of a minor scuffle. It hung, impotent, from its frame, testament to the world of the past night’s discreet abandon, a silent storm that had left disaster in its wake. And the third tent was conspicuously missing entirely, any signs that it had once existed mysteriously erased. In fact, to anyone not a witness of the night before, the third tent had never stood in this clearing at all.

“Hunting? No, he’s not hunting!” exclaimed Oren with fury in her eyes, slamming her flagon down against the scrubbed wooden table. “His weapons, his equipment, all of it, it’s gone. That naïve fool actually thought he could accomplish something by recklessly running off on his ill-conceived quest alone. At least if he had let us come along, he might have stood a chance. But he’s probably dead now! Do you understand? Dead!” Oren sat silently for a moment glaring daggers at the man sitting across from her.

“How can you be so calm right now, Kale?” she barked, gripping her sword more tightly. Her hair fell miserably down across her face, a departure from the tight bun in which she usually wore her it so as to not disturb her in her particular mode of work. “Why won’t you say something?” she demanded angrily, looking on as her companion sat, eyes closed, pondering their lost comrade’s predicament.

“Well,” said Kale as he rose from his seat, driving his knife into the tabletop, “I suppose we’ll just have to go looking for him, now won’t we? A sheep must never be separated from the herd, you know,” Kale concluded with an air of false wisdom.

“You’re just as much a fool as he is,” sniffed Oren as she too rose from the table clutching her sword. “How did I ever fall in with two flippant halfwits like you?” she lamented. With a deep breath to steady her mind, she sheathed her sword and walked towards her tent. Ducking through the threshold, she turned about and looked at Kale.

“Kale, pack only what you need. We leave at nightfall.”

< Message edited by Yagno2000 -- 9/10/2008 15:14:12 >
Post #: 3
9/10/2008 15:11:09   
Yagno2000
Queen of Blades


Chapter III.A

The full moon shone down between the dense canopies of dark leaves above. The trees looked as though they were dead and rotten, only held up by the most evil of magic that flowed so profusely through these cursed woods. Impenetrably dark, the cool night air screamed its absolute silence all around, between the stalks of the trees out into the vast expanses of Darkovia Forest.

As he trudged away from the Wolfgate into the thick of the living woods around him, the Werewolf King couldn’t help but be amused at just how frightening Darkovia really was. It was almost as though if he willingly entered the uninviting pitch black of the trees, then the monster of the woods would find him and take him away. At this the king gave an audible laugh as he realized that he in fact was the monster of the woods. He was the king of the fiercest creatures in Darkovia, the monstrosities who had so definitively solidified Darkovia’s evil reputation as fact. It was he who made these woods the frightening place they were.

Of course, there were the Vampires as well. The meddling Vampires; there wasn’t a race more troublesome than the Vampires in all of lore, and their queen, the worst of them. She had powers to rival the Werewolf King’s own, and a cold and impatient temperament that made the Werewolf King seem like a docile house pet. In the world of the humans, it was said that werewolves lead through sheer power, whereas vampires lead through wisdom and respect, but the king knew that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The Vampires were a particularly heartless breed, ruling through fear and ruthless displays of power. In the Vampires’ culture, the word of one’s superior was absolute. Any disobedience was met with immediate brutal punishment to quell any desires for protest. But no matter how despicable the Vampires were, Darkovia needed them equally as much as the Lycans.

The balance of power between the two ruling races of Darkovia was essential to the survival of both species as well as the dear forest they called their home. Unpleasant as it might be to admit, the two kingdoms only flourished because of the other’s existence. The constant Lycan threat kept the Vampires vigilant to all danger, as did the Vampires to the Lycans. It was this tension, this ever-present chance for war and bloodshed, that kept each race proud and strong, yet cautious and passive as well. Had the Lycans and Vampires not been ready for war at all times, they would surely have been swept away by the irresistible current of the growing human kingdoms all around them. Their military societies kept them alive in this age unfriendly to all the creatures feared by the humans.

And it fell upon the shoulders of the Werewolf King to ensure that his proud race would continue to survive in the only way it could—alongside the Vampires. It was his responsibility to maintain the honor of an entire race, all the while balancing the hatred for and the necessity to live beside the avowed enemies of that race. No ordinary being is capable of shouldering such a burden; the Werewolf King truly was deserving of his title, as over the long years, he had not once faltered in his duties. Of course, there was one other being in the world who lived the same life as he, one other being that shared the enormity of this onus.

The king marched on bathed in the crystalline glow of the full Darkovian moon towards their usual meeting place. He couldn’t count the number of years that had passed since he had made the pact to meet at those ruins every night the moon shines full. It was within those ruins that he had met for the first time his most odious foe and his closest confidant. It was within those ruins that the bond that kept Darkovia Forest was forged.

So the Werewolf King trudged forward, deeper into the forest to meet the empress of blood.



Chapter III.B

The darkness of the forest was so thick it couldn’t have been pierced with a knife. Blade at the ready, Kale appeared to be trying in spite of the flagrant futility as he crept forward through the underbrush. The entire forest was putrid with decay so pungent it would leave the heartiest of men gasping desperately for their breath and their wits, yet Oren and Kale remained absolutely silent as they made their way forward. Had they been on an assassination mission, their pitiable victim would have been dead before knowing two of the most deadly rogues in Lore were after him.

Alas, this was no simple assassination, and they weren’t dealing with any poor victim. Oren and Kale had ventured into the bowels of Darkovia Forest in search of their lost companion.

Aces. He went by the name Aces. In the distrustful world of the Rogues, only a fool would share his full name. To know another rogue’s full name was considered both a token of great honor and a great burden. Trusting another to always be friend or to always be foe was rarely a commodity afforded to a rogue, and so these relationships were treated with an unrivaled reciprocated respect.

Oren tightly gripped the handle of blade sheathed behind her back. Kale inhaled sharply, his eyelids fluttering as though he had momentarily lost his concentration.

They had met Aces just over two years before. The two of them quickly grew close to Aces, who now accompanied them on all their travels whether for business or otherwise. Aces was a lowly bureaucrat in the Krovesport government with a spirited and defiant attitude that had attracted Kale’s attention. His seemingly mindless love for drunken brawling and rogues’ duels set him apart from the rest of Krovesport’s governing body—the throngs of priggish men and women who fancied the arena of politics over the arena of battle, relying on their weapons of pretense and propaganda rather than the blade. Yet for all his eccentricities, Aces was a nobody. He held no political clout, owned no vast property, and was unskilled as a rogue. He was perhaps at an advantage over much of Krovesport’s denizens, but his skill was nothing to size up to the Krovesport military, the Ninjas to the east, or those shifty Assassins of the Guild. He was a rogue by name and by trade, yet next to the greats of the Rogue world Aces was a different, inferior breed altogether. And in a place like the cursed forest, Aces was nothing more than fresh blood for the beasts of the Shadow.

Between Oren and Kale, Aces had both his only ally and his only enemy. The three were inseparable, but not for close camaraderie or devotion. No, their bond was a sound pact of solidarity borne by antipathy and abhorrence. One among his associates would not bear the shame of Aces’ death at the hands of another. And so Kale and Oren continued deeper into the forest of blood.

A passer-by wouldn’t have realized how much gear the two rogues were carrying as they flitted about through the shadows. That passer-by likely wouldn’t have noticed them flitting about; their technique was flawless. They were indiscernible, indivisible with the trees, fluid like the wind as it shrilled between the rotted boughs. Aside from the minor assortment of knives hung from their belts, Oren and Kale had expertly concealed their equipment, their rations, their tents and blankets all on their persons. They had rightly come prepared for the worst, and wrongly assumed they were the best chance Aces had to survive his own stupidity.

He had abruptly disappeared from Krovesport some time ago, as he so often did, without a word of his intention or destination. Oren and Kale had often forcibly accompanied him in the past when he claimed to be visiting his relatives in the West, yet he somehow always managed to elude them on their journey. If Aces had one greatest talent, it would have to be his unrivaled ability to seemingly vanish without a trace. It was either that or the superhuman vigor with which he could complain for hours about nearly anything, thought Oren with relish, a grin snaking its way across her face.

“Ho ho, what improper thoughts might her majesty, Oren Rosefire, be thinking right now?” teased Kale, an impish mischief burning in his eyes. “Could it be the young princess has fallen in…?”

In an instant, Oren had vanished from Kale’s side. A knife pressed to his throat commanding that he stop speaking. A second hand pulled his head back by the hair, exposing his neck to the hollow Darkovian sky. Oren leaned into his back, her arm wrapped around him, and whispered into his ear, “Call me by my name once more and your head will never stand so tall again.”

When Aces finally dragged himself back to Krovesport three weeks before, he had been blabbering on about some conspiracy. He had stumbled, drunk, into the town square, and headed directly to the library. In spite of the rumors circulated about Krovesport, it had a very solid legal body, and excellent public services. The Krovesport Library was in reality one of the best repositories of knowledge on the continent; it was meticulously maintained and stocked with all the vast information harvested over centuries by the cunning Rogue culture.

There, Aces had stayed for the next week, reading and drinking his way to some resolution. When at last Aces skulked out of the great subterranean halls of the library into the sunlight, Oren and Kale stubbornly followed him. He immediately left Krovesport heading east for Darkovia, and together, the three of them had trekked their way as far East as Willow Creek before Aces vanished yet again. Yet based on his drunken ramblings of the past two weeks, Oren and Kale had pieced together his general destination; Aces intended to travel to Darkovia forest to assassinate a sorcerer who was somehow at the center of a plot of subterfuge. However, Oren and Kale didn’t understand what significance this plot might have, who this sorcerer might be, or why Aces was even involving himself with such absurd business.

The facts were these. Darkovia Forest was home to two of the most frightening kingdoms on the continent, Safiria’s kingdom of Vampires, and the Brotherhood of the Wolves. Any sorcerer who made his residence in the cursed forest was either vampire, werewolf, or already dead. And in the former two cases, if a rogue of Aces’ caliber intended to go against the might of the vampire or werewolf kingdoms, he would surely soon be dead as well. Even discounting this fact, Aces was not capable of battling an accomplished sorcerer on even footing. Regardless of how one looked at Aces’ quest, it was a suicide mission with nothing to offer in return.

Kale could feel the heat violently radiating from Oren’s body, bombarding him with the cool fury he had come to associate so well with her. She was a magnificent creature, strong, impersonal, inexorable; she wasn’t made for the lowly world of mortals. A thrill passed through Kale as his courage failed him in the face of a fate worse than death. He yielded to Oren’s will, relaxing his tensed body and leaning backward into her. Kale had outmaneuvered her, her chance to slash him down spent. Defeated, she released him, letting him fall off-balance to the ground. Oren swore she would have Kale the next time they crossed blades.

< Message edited by Yagno2000 -- 9/10/2008 15:13:41 >
Post #: 4
9/10/2008 15:13:14   
Yagno2000
Queen of Blades


Chapter IV

“Speak, witch.”

Waylaid by the voice from the clearing up ahead, Oren motioned to Kale to stop moving. It was a furious, feral voice; the kind that stands hairs erect. And the being to which it belonged must have been equally monstrous. How could neither Oren nor Kale have noticed such a thing approaching?

“Hm,” sounded the bemused voice of a woman. Then without warning came a shrill, grinding sound that filled up the surrounding woods. The very trees vibrated under its influence, and Kale found himself slipping out of consciousness. He strained with all his will to remain in control, wondering wildly with the recesses of his brain how he had come to chance across this monster so far away from its lair. The sound was a hiss, the screech a cornered cat will give in warning to all those who dare approach as if to say, “Leave now with your lives or never leave again.”

“A warning. Ridiculous. And of my kind, witch?” growled the beast in glee.

“Silence, dog! How dare you speak with such irreverence?”

In spite of her calculating will and her frigid soul, Oren found it difficult to cope with this woman’s voice. A dread was slowly welling up inside of her, a reaction to the pure malice with which the woman spoke. Oren had never experienced anything quite so terrifying, and she reached desperately to grip to her wits. Kale, recovering from his lapse of strength found a refreshing irony in Oren’s predicament.

“Enough of your nonsense pride, witch. What is the state of affairs?”

“The state of affairs? You’ve noticed by now, have you not? There are more forces at play than we know.”

“The Necromancers?”

“I had my seers examine the magic disparity I found…”

We found it, witch! My scouts discovered it after securing the embarrassment your soldiers left behind. Never forget, witch; your borders are safe thanks to the lives of my soldiers.”

“Whose pride has surfaced now? What feral, fatuous beasts.”

The beast growled, his eyes narrowing at the small frame of the woman above him. Oren and Kale were now flat against the ground, hiding beneath the thick underbrush of the forest looking into the clearing. From their vantage point they could clearly see the ruins of an ancient cathedral bathed in the translucent glow of the full moon above. An enormous beast, what could only be one of the mighty werewolves of the forest, stood in the courtyard facing the gargantuan structure’s ornate façade. The cathedral looked as though it had once been a beacon of hope for humanity in this evil corner of the world, a stronghold for the light in the heart of the darkness. But its grandeur and beauty had been worn away by age, the once brilliant marble stones blackened by the very magic in the air. The glorious carvings of angels and deities adorning its walls had been corrupted by the passage of time; they were demons now, glaring depraved and taunting the proud memories of the strength on which the cathedral was once built. It was an omen of the times; the strength of humanity was slowly being sullied by the evil influences of the Shadow.

High atop the northern tower, a woman stood silhouetted on the shoulders of one of the marble gargoyles. Its wings had weakened and crumbled away with the wear of age shackling it forever to the confines of the tower top surveying the winsome freedom it was denied. The woman seemed to favor this spot; even in this world removed from the margins of her own she claimed dominion over those poor unfortunates beneath her.

“My seers examined the magic surrounding the summoning circle you found,” continued the woman. “It was without a doubt the effects of necromancy, but it’s not any sort of necromancy Darkovia has ever experienced. I have no knowledge of the magicks employed there.”

“You, the most powerful necromantress on this continent, have no knowledge of how this could have happened?”

“Question my powers and I shall slay you, beast,” snapped the woman, her auburn eyes blazing forth with the hatred of centuries of conflict. “This was something different altogether. Whoever did this, he commanded the power of souls not in his possession.”

“Don’t lie to me, witch!” barked the werewolf. “Not even you or I am capable of that! And it certainly wasn’t a human! What did you do? What have your damned sorcerers done to-”

“It was a human.” The woman stared gravely down at her companion with an immeasurable distaste. “It was a human unless you wish me to believe you are foolish enough to attempt to unweave the foundations of our magic. I will say this once, dog. If ever I suspect your intention is to sacrifice your kingdom to topple mine, I will personally wipe you from this world like the sickly blemish you are.”

“I welcome the opportunity to rend you to pieces, demon.” The werewolf paused, looking up at the woman on the tower. “So what do you intend to do?”

The woman laughed, taking the werewolf aback.

“I’ve recently acquired a new toy,” she responded. “A human named Darkthorn.”

“I don’t care about your sick pleasures, witch! What will you do about the Necromancers?” demanded the werewolf.

“He’s just like you, really. A cunning tactician,” prodded the woman.

“Don’t compare me to human trash. You test my patience, vampire!”

“And his temper is second to none,” continued the woman, laughing. The werewolf reared back and roared in rage. “He’s an absolute beast. Why, it’s almost as though I have my very own you as a pet, dog.”

“Enough games!” The werewolf, overcome by his fury, clutched a stone from the ground and hurled it at the woman. It flew screeching through the air and struck her with such force it blew away a piece of her abdomen. Blood spewed forth staining the cathedral’s façade, as the woman fell limp and tumbled from the heights of the tower in a hail of red. The stone courtyard cracked beneath her as she impacted the ground, a pool of red billowing forth from her body. There seemed to be no end to the blood, as it continued to spew forth seeping into the ground between the stones of the courtyard.

“Disgusting,” growled the werewolf as he stepped back to avoid the encroaching tide of red. Her body was no longer visible, a fountain of blood having taken its place. Then, as though nourished and empowered by the woman’s vibrant display of death, green shoots of flowers began creeping forth from between the cracks in the courtyard. They continued growing, blossoming into brilliant black and purple flowers, until they had covered the pool of blood entirely. The werewolf found their scent repulsive, and took another step backward.

Oren didn’t know what was happening. She had never experienced anything quite so frightening as the woman who had been standing atop the cathedral, and yet this werewolf had slain her so easily. He must be an even more terrible creature than she, thought Oren. She looked over at Kale who had meticulously arranged an assortment of colorful glass bottles the size of acorns in a circle in front of him. He was placing the last one, a black one, directly in the middle. Damn Kale and his bottles, Oren thought to herself. He was always playing with them when he was nervous or in danger. At a time like this, he should be plotting an escape route, not distracting himself with colors. Oren’s thoughts were interrupted by a mind-numbing voice. It was the woman’s voice, seeming to come from the very earth around the cathedral.

“I am the Wolfsbane, the Helm of the Devil. Do you presume to claim dominion over me?”

Oren clutched at her head, the woman’s voice echoing inside her skull. The kris fastened behind her back began to glow red hot, searing into her flesh. She winced in pain and reached back to grab its handle.

“No, not now!” she whispered angrily, drawing the blade and driving it into the cold earth to cool it off. She gripped the handle tightly, grinding the blade into the dirt, and looked over at Kale. The incalculable voice seemed to have been too much for him to handle; he was unconscious, a glazed look covering his face. Oren’s attention was quickly drawn away by the werewolf’s response.

“Enough games, necromantress.”

Then slowly from within the mound of flowers rose the figure of the woman, unscathed. Now out of the moon’s silhouette, Oren could see her more clearly. She was no ordinary woman. She wore a dress of brilliant red and gold silks that highlighted her skin, pale like death. She stood with an unrivalled poise commanding respect and deference even from the lifeless statues gazing upon her. Her empty, bottomless eyes shone golden red, bewitching all they overlooked. She looked more like royalty than she did a necromantress. But regardless of her appearance, Oren, a master mage hunter, had never encountered magic of her sort or potency.

“Darkthorn infiltrated my castle without detection and defeated my royal guard. He has entered my service willingly,” spoke the empress, the amusement gone from her voice. The werewolf narrowed his eyes and spoke.

“A human infiltrated your castle? Why should I believe you, witch?”

“I said he was just like you: an animal, a beast. He too possesses a brand of magic beyond my reckoning.”

“The Necromancer? Why are you sheltering the Necromancer? I will storm your gates and slaughter your armies if I must!” raged the werewolf.

“Silence, fool!” interrupted the woman. “He is no necromancer. His pathetic human mind couldn’t begin to fathom the arts of necromancy. He came to me with the intention of investigating the power imbalances to the south.”

“And you trust such a human to solve a mystery that eludes even us?”

“Indeed I do.”

“Why?” demanded the werewolf, his rage escalating again.

“Because he is interesting.” The woman leered, her eyes flaring brilliantly with excitement like stars in the night. “Watching him perform will bring color to this stale conflict. You asked what of the state of affairs. I answer you now; our affairs have been set in motion as they should be.”

“Your foolishness tires me, enchantress,” replied the great beast slowly, his wrath visibly defeated by the woman’s persistence. “I’ve no more patience for your games of wit. Should you ignore this threat, I shall deal with it myself. A lone human will be devoured by the forest itself. You waste my time; take your games and leave this place, witch.”

“Games?” lilted the woman with a laugh. “I assure you my pet won’t be thwarted by any necromancer.” Her grin widened revealing wickedly pointed canines glimmering in the moonlight. “I said before: he is a beast among mortals, an absolute testament to the repugnance of men. Not even I claim influence over his soul lest he be willing.” She narrowed her eyes at the beast and raised her brow. “And is it not you who is playing games?”

“What games would you presume I play?” asked the wolf, disinterested and impatient.

“Why, just now you attempted to bind my power with a charm. Truly of exceptional power. It would have been enough to defeat my most powerful servants.” Her eyes darkened, her gaze piercing the werewolf. “But you should know better than to attempt your tricks with me.

The werewolf stared silently at the woman for a moment, considering what she had said. “It seems you have yet to notice our guests,” he concluded with a rapturous growl.

“Guests?” repeated the woman, perplexed. She wheeled about suddenly staring into the forest directly at Oren. Wrenching her entire body, she let loose a terrifying hiss that pierced the night. “Sheep for the slaughter!” she shrieked. “I shall deliver you the only fate deserved of mortals within these woods!” In a moment, she had vanished from where she was standing.”

Oren leapt to her feet drawing forth her blade to dispense the impinging vampire. Oren knew this was a vampire of phenomenal power, that to slay this vampire would require every ounce of skill she possessed.

But before Oren could react, the werewolf reared back on his legs and bellowed a bone-shattering howl. Faced with the enormity of his inhuman magic, Oren collapsed drifting away to a place of blackness.

< Message edited by Yagno2000 -- 9/10/2008 15:46:26 >
Post #: 5
Page:   [1]
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