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Sarathka stood upon a rocky outcrop on the edge of the woods surveying the scene of today's battle, the freezing bite of midwinter forcing her to wrap a cloak around herself for warmth.
In the distance she heard the cracking of twigs, her keen hearing could tell this was no woodland animal but remained ever calm in the face of any threat the edges of Naggaroth had to offer.
The sounds got increasingly closer, Sarathka could now tell from how they were spaced that whatever was coming towards her walked on two legs. It wasn't one of the barbarians… no they lacked the intellect to sneak up on a Dark Elf Noble like that.
When the sounds were almost upon her she spun on the spot, the edge of her sword stopping at the intruder's throat, at this moment Sarathka and her potential assailant made eye contact for the first time gazing with shock into eyes that were blood red, there was a faint twinge of wonderment for a moment before she broke the stare.
It was an Elf – that much was certain, female, with skin that seemed almost as white as the snow around her, silky black hair to an impractical length that suggested the woman was a non-combatant and those eyes that she would never forget.
She smiled at Sarathka as though they were old friends and part of Sarathka’s mind wanted to believe that, while the other warned her of some unseen danger. Eventually, however, she found the words and whispered, “Who are you?"
The other elf responded in a soothing voice as though talking to a child, "There will be time for names later, I am here to help you." Sarathka lowered the sword and raised her voice in protest, "But the barbarians! They know nothing of tactics! I can earn the respect of my House…"
The strange woman stopped dead in her tracks surprised by Sarathka's response, this time her tone was suitably harsh as she spoke: "You were sent here to die, they believe you to be weak, a lost cause- but I see strength"
Sarathka's hateful glare fell upon the stranger as she readied her sword, "You shall tell me your name! If you were armed I would have already slain you for the insult to my family." Her guest merely laughed at this threat to her life but lowered her hands as though expecting an attack.
"I have had many names, but as we are to become closely acquainted, you
may call me Liadriel". The name did little to defuse the intensity of this situation; Liadriel, as she called herself, no doubt had some method of defending herself.
Presumably she was a sorceress who was preying upon the doubts in the back of her mind. A test by her father perhaps? Perhaps that was what she meant by closely acquainted?
"No objections then?" inquired Liadriel with a sinister smile before ominously adding, "you will love me before this is over". Sarathka pointed her sword forwards and replied with a hint of anger, "I chose my lovers carefully you witch".
Liadriel raised her hands once again, her fingers extending into cruel black
talons, "I already have a true love, and ‘witch’? I would think again if I were you". The horrified noble was now unsure of what she faced but regained her composure to whimper a single word, "Daemon".
"Oh so close" replied the Anointed as she effortlessly slammed Sarathka to the ground before resuming her rhetoric, "Why do you defend them?” she questioned, raising her voice for maximum impact “Your mother who has not looked at you since you refused to become a Sorceress? "
Sarathka rolled on the ground and put some safe distance between her and the daemonic elf that had tired of her games and now seemed intent on ending her life. Though Liadriel's barrage of words continued, "Your father who resented your objections to being married, how could you turn your back on this House your so intent on defending?"
The words were starting to hit nerves as Sarathka got to her feet, responding to her attacker, "How dare you doubt my conviction? If only one of us shall leave this place, it shall be me!"
Liadriel waved her hand dismissively replying with borrowed words, "You
lack the killer instinct little sister, do the whole house a favour and don't come back". Though as these words left her lips something snapped in Sarathka's mind as she hurtled towards the Anointed.
Blade clashed with blade as Liadriel desperately tried to defend against the unprecedented fury of these attacks. Though in private, the Anointed smiled to herself, she admired Sarathka's form and studied every attack before eventually grasping the noblewoman by the shoulder and puncturing armour and flesh alike with one of her dagger like fingers.
Sarathka desperately tried to move her sword arm as blood pumped from her shoulder and trickled down her arm. Her assailant had known exactly where to strike and their battle was over; she gave Liadriel a hateful look but would not give this daemon the satisfaction of begging for her life. "Finish it" Sarathka cried out as she clutched her wounded shoulder knowing that like a true Druchii she was defiant to the last breath.
The Anointed sat down next to the wounded noble retracting her talons back into hands, "Remember four things from this moment, the sadness, the pain, the rage…" she stopped abruptly to observe the shoulder wound.
"What's the fourth" questioned Sarathka, her words were now faint barely a whisper. Liadriel smiled knowing that Sarathka would survive this wound, "That we shall meet again".
It was a nice read. I know nothing about Warhammer Fantasy. Will this beginning lead to a full story or be a short story?
Why use science and education when ignorance and superstition will work just as well.
I don't know how long this will go for, I enjoy writing it so who's to say? Anyway part two focuses more on Sarathka and what she’s all about.
Part 2: War Wounds
Sarathka bolted upright in bed, her heart was racing and her forehead beaded with sweat. She instinctively checked nobody else was in the room with her before she wandered over to the window and peered out over Hag Graef. Though this was her home, a place more hospitable than the garrison of the watchtower her mind was very troubled.
Glancing over at her scarred shoulder she questioned what would become of her if she would be unable to raise arms in defence of the Hag? She envisioned herself waiting outside on Death Night to be culled by the Witch Elves.
Liadriel had known her every suspicion and doubt at a glance, was the daemon in her head? Or were they interconnected in some other way? All Sarathka knew for certain at this point was that she wasn’t about to let a war wound be the end of her.
In the morning Sarathka visited Thaluien a cleric who had tended to her various wounds in the past while in service to her house, the prospect of meeting with him again left her apprehensive due to their somewhat colourful interpersonal history. Nevertheless desperate times called for desperate measures and reluctantly she knocked upon his door.
There was a scraping behind the door, as its many locks were unbolted one by one and the door creaked open and she was once again face to face with Thaluien. He looked into her eyes and she looked into his, both Dark Elves paused as though sharing thoughts and feelings without words until Sarathka broke the silence “It is good to see you, I fear I have need of your services again.”
Uncomfortable silence prevailed as Thaluien examined Sarathka’s arm and shoulder, he pressed down on various points on her arm to judge the sensitivity of the limb. With a frustrated sigh he turned to the reluctant noble “You’re supposed to tell me when it hurts, or I can’t help you.” [/LEFT]
Sarathka glared at the cleric with clear frustration in her voice “Pain is a condition of the weak mind”. Thaluien shook his head in protest “Pain exists so that we may know our limits and eventually surpass them” he retorted dryly resuming his work.
In the background both Dark Elves heard the creaking of the door followed by a series of footsteps. There was a clicking sound that only Sarathka recognised as a repeater crossbow being loaded.
Thaluien calmly moved closer to Sarathka and whispered in her ear “I believe I just found the problem, hold perfectly still this will hurt.” Placing a wooden splint between her teeth she bracing herself for anything she felt the cleric press down firmly upon her shoulder, there was a cracking sound and a surge of white-hot agony.
The three masked bandits had meanwhile presumed the cleric’s abode to be empty and had begun to help themselves to various provisions. Two of them were armed with short swords while the third held a repeater crossbow; they wore cloaks that reminded Sarathka of Shades.
Sarathka stepped out of the shadows with Thaluien’s sword raised in anticipation. Oh how she had missed the weight of a finely crafted blade! She fought the urge to make practice swings with this surprisingly elegant weapon realising that it would only make her seem weak and unskilled in the eyes of the intruders.
The crossbow-armed bandit took aim at their unexpected guest, however she had anticipated his actions and threw a smaller surgical knife at his throat. The two other bandit’s watched in horror at the spray of dark red blood and though they were no strangers to death they recognised the ease with which she dispatched their companion.
“How I regretted to do that.” Sarathka said in a sombre tone before gesturing to his two companions with her sword “Are you going to leave before I shed more blood?”
While her words of remorse were true she prepared to deal with the remaining bandits in a similar fashion.
One of the two who remained stepped forward and raised her mask so that she and Sarathka could truly speak eye-to-eye her words were strong and passionate, the tone of a worthy Druchii “We won’t leave without the medicines and no bloodthirsty noble is going to stand in our way!”
Both bandits darted across the room towards Sarathka their long hooded cloaks fluttering behind them as though they were vengeful wraiths rather than some pathetic dregs that needed to steal medical supplies.
With an almost unearthly finesse Sarathka dodged the first blade that came towards her, twirling upon the spot as though in some deadly dance of war before blocking the second blade with a truly masterful parry. Her counter attack fell upon the female bandit, only gracing her thigh enough to incapacitate her.
The bandit who remained removed his cloak and mask before addressing his foe “Well done you highborn whelp! The real battle is only beginning”. Sarathka stood defiantly; she didn’t care if this was Tullaris himself, she was as always defiant until the bitter end.
Steel struck steel as she parried his first attack; the absence of his sword and mask had not improved his inferior swordplay. Unfettered by battling two opponents at once Sarathka dropped her defences and launched into a flurry of attacks, each strike caused her opponent go give ground until his sword was swept from his hand.
At that fateful moment an iron toed boot connected with Sarathka’s stomach causing her to struggle for breath and drop her sword. He followed up with a series of swift blows to her head and torso, giving her no time to recover and with that his confidence returned, as he started to gloat “You can duel but can you fight?” he asked mockingly as the battered noble fell to the ground.
The bandit had no time to savour victory as he collected his sword and positioned it over Sarathka’s prone form muttering to himself “It’s quite a shame really, you were so beautiful” he swung his sword to end it but instead felt Sarathka’s sword move up through his stomach and the last thing he ever saw was her glaring up at him with fierce determination.
Pulling herself to her feet Sarathka turned to one surviving bandit who was attempting to crawl out of the door, the noble placed her foot down upon the bandit’s cloak and ended the pathetic escape attempt.
“Who are you and why are you here?” Sarathka asked her captive in a harsh tone, the female bandit seemed smaller pressed under her foot and certainly more open to dialogue “My name is Arhlathia and my brothers and I came to secure medicine for our clan”
“You mean steal?” Sarathka corrected, before urging this dirty reject of a Shade to continue her pathetic story of woe. “We were only taking what we needed!” Arhlathia protested “A plague has befallen my people and we took it upon ourselves to seek help, though we had nothing to trade.”
“That is where you are wrong Arhlathia” replied Sarathka as she eased her foot from the prone Shade’s cloak and helped her up “I will provide the herbs and potions you require and you can tell your clan anything you wish, in return I ask only for your personal oath of loyalty”.
Arhlathia realised that this was the most sensible choice of action for all involved, while she longed to avenge her brothers she had seen Sarathka fight and knew that she would utterly destroy her. Perhaps later there would be a chance to evade Sarathka’s oath, yes then she would have her vengeance!
Until that day Arhlathia the viper would buy her time...
I don't know if anyone reads these or not, but I enjoy writing them! So there!
Part 3: Trouble in her wake
Thaluien bolted the door closed; he wasn’t prepared for any more uninvited guests today. Papers had been flung in every direction, bottles had been smashed and even the cupboard doors had been torn off. Aside from that there had been plenty of blood spilt.
It looked as though Witch Elves had attacked his store and it certainly resembled a post Death Night scene from his childhood. Thaluien however chose not to dwell on that. Sarathka was trouble of the most interesting kind; she was constantly getting into scrapes and biting off more than she could chew and he had missed her.
Behind him he heard footsteps and turned to see a beautiful Dark Elf female waiting for him; she had long black hair and smooth skin the colour of purist alabaster. Upon meeting her red-eyed gaze Thaluien sensed wisdom far greater than his own, a cold chill inexplicably ran down his spine.
“I’m sorry but the store is closed until I can get more supplies from the market.” said Thaluien in a polite tone he reserved for potential customers, pausing only to point out the obviously bare shelves and broken cupboards.
“Oh but you can still help me and I have so much to offer you in return” replied his guest with a voice as soft as silk before she settled provocatively upon his desk, her form hugging black dress seemed to flow around her body as though possessing a will of it’s own.
He wondered how this beautiful creature had gained entry to this store given that his humble establishment had only one door. While she had the look of a dilettante noblewoman there was an intoxicating and unnatural aura around her. Thaluien could think of any number of reasons why this could be the case, most of them quite rightly depended upon magic.
“What do you want me to help you with? Surely a female of your exquisite beauty would have no trouble seeking companionship amongst the nobles?” asked Thaluien as he roamed the perimeter of his store, he was clearly intimidated by his guest who had taken to lounging on his desk.
She giggled happily at the compliment and rolled over onto her stomach, the impossibly black dress flowing effortlessly with her and betraying nothing as though her movements had been carefully choreographed and practiced.
Propping herself up by the elbows she resumed her vigil of Thaluien, the look in her eyes was indescribable but it seemed almost predatory “As it happens I am seeking a particular noble” replied the visitor with her softly spoken words.
“Few of the nobles consider me fit to associate with, those that do prefer my non-disclosure of their wounds and ailments” she smiled thinly clearly unsatisfied with that particular answer but far from losing her temper.
“My presence here is not political dear cleric” she leant forwards giving him a good view of her voluptuous figure “I seek the youngest daughter of House Uriketh”
Thaluien laughed nervously, he instantly realised her target “I know of House Uriketh but not of any daughters, as you can see from the recent ransacking I’m not so fortunate in my endeavours” it was a thin lie at best but at least it would keep this mysterious guest from Sarathka’s trail.
Liadriel could track another elf by scent, she could hear Thaluien’s heart beat faster as he spun his feeble lie and yet despite this she grinned. “Please pardon the intrusion, I admire your efforts of non disclosure” there was a satisfied purr to her voice that the cleric distrusted.
“What will you do now?” Thaluien asked as the Anointed moved towards the door, even her walk had an unearthly grace to it. Liadriel looked over her shoulder and gave the cleric a warm smile “As you suggested dear Thaluien, I shall seek out the company of nobles.”
Arhlathia had watched from nearby as Liadriel disappeared into the crowd, she had no idea of the implications of that encounter and didn’t much care. The wiry little Shade was had information for Sarathka’s ears only.
Meanwhile Sarathka was very pleased with herself, the return to Hag Graef had thus far gone better than she could have planned. The unexpected encounter with the Shades had worked in her favour. One challenge remained ahead though; she had to report back to her father.
Sarathka walked through the black iron gates of House Uriketh as she returned to her ancestral home, to a casual observer the Black Spire was one amongst many identical towers and in that lay it’s genius. The Spire had been the stronghold of her kin since shortly after the great exodus from Ulthuan when Hag Graef itself was new.
Three years at the Watchtowers had done nothing to dull Sarathka’s memory of the intricacies of the Spire’s magical defences, she reached out to the obsidian structure and placed her hand on a concealed doorway reserved only for the nobility and their most trusted servants.
Once inside she lowered her head in reverence to the great marble statue that represented Khaine in his aspect of the High Handed Executioner, given that Sarathka and her father had not parted on the most acceptable of terms the statue filled her with a deep sense of foreboding.
The interior of the Black Spire was a veritable treasure trove of relics and trophies acquired by her ancestors over the long and illustrious history of the Household. Sarathka always felt a sense of pride when she took the time to examine the walls.
Various magical artefacts adorned this particular section of the wall, most of the artefacts were clearly elven although Sarathka had found herself staring at the mirrored shine of a Dwarf rune axe and wondering just what sort of creature could use such an unwieldy weapon.
Though the most potent artefacts had been given to the Drachau or the
Witch King’s agents in the form of titles, gifts and even the occasional bribe it would be a sad error in judgement to presume any of these items were mere trinkets.
Sarathka stopped at a nearby fountain and took this opportunity to check her reflection in the shimmering waters. Her neck length black hair was neat as always, for the most part hiding the delicate points of her ears and the paleness of her skin accentuated by dark brown eyes.
By the high standards of Dark Elven nobility Sarathka was bland but to the lesser races she had almost unearthly grace and nigh eternal beauty, she pitied these wretched creatures for some misfortune of fate they had not been born as elves.
Banishing such trivial thoughts from her head Sarathka entered her father’s throne room and dropped down onto one knee with her head held low. The lack of obvious guards was an encouraging sign that she had not met with her father’s displeasure, she knew from experience that he was not above leaving her in the dungeons overnight.
Her father sat upon the ivory throne as he read through a series of reports, after a moment or so passed he turned his attention to Sarathka “ah my prodigal daughter” he seemed almost pleased; surely that was a good sign?
For a moment there was an intimidating silence before Sarathka spoke in a respectful, hushed tone “My lord I have returned to you, my sword is as always yours to command” she offered forward her sword.
Lord Uriketh smiled smugly and reclined in his throne, clearly he was privy to information Sarathka lacked and the reports he was constantly browsing were more than a front to appear intellectual but were reports from spies all over Naggaroth and beyond.
He placed the papers to one side, indicating that she had his full attention. Sarathka, quite aware of this gesture smiled to herself as he addressed her “Khaelhan returned from the Old World a few days ago, he shall assist you with your task.”
“A task?” Sarathka’s voice quivered despite desperately trying to hide her feelings. The task didn’t trouble her it was no doubt for the greater good of the house. However she loathed her brother with a passion, he had a blatant disregard for authority particularly her authority on the few occasions they had shared it and yet he seemed to remain father’s favourite.
Her father chuckled at Sarathka’s response already knowing the reason for her displeasure. Lord Uriketh waved his hand dismissively “Know that you are my heralds in this matter, if you fail to show each other respect there will be consequences!”
The young noble looked at her father pleadingly for a moment, only to be greeted by a wicked glint in his eye that Sarathka instinctively associated with unnecessary punishment “Your will be done, Father” she squeaked before skulking off.
Lord Uriketh lounged back in his throne and smiled knowingly, by making his servants take a course of action they disagreed upon he knew they were instruments of his will and not their own. Khaelhan and Sarathka were no different, what were children if not servants already moulded in ones image?
Once again a good read. I do read them but have not had the time to post a comment.
Why use science and education when ignorance and superstition will work just as well.
Still very much appreciated
Part 4: The Gathering Storm
Sarathka prowled the main the main hallway like a caged beast until the inevitable arrival of her older brother. Khaelhan had not changed since their last encounter; his slightly angular face sported the same smug smile and he still tied his long hair back into a ponytail. Despite their differences Sarathka and he were undeniably brother and sister.
As befitted a noble of his status Khaelhan had not come alone though; his current retinue consisted of four elves that kept to his flanks like loyal attack dogs. While none of them made any obvert signs that they were ready to attack her, Sarathka was all too aware of the intimidation attempt.
Their equipment was varied and the individualistic garments diverged greatly from the military units she knew Khaelhan controlled. Three were male and one was female, that wasn’t so uncommon but Sarathka judged that factor worthy of extra attention largely out of prudence.
Sarathka immediately knew only one of the four as Harathkan, a Druchii she knew to be an experienced soldier. A network of shallow scars marked Harathkan’s face, a grim reminder of a battle he fought long before she was born. In her ignorant adolescence she had almost feared the warrior but overtime had came to respect him for his service to Naggaroth.
Upon the other side of Harathkan was a beautiful male Dark Elf who sported a carefree smile. His most notable feature was his striking blonde hair the likes of which Sarathka had not seen before. The closest thing she could compare this magnificent mane to was spun gold. He was absolutely ravishing and seemed all too aware of this.
Now looking to the far side of the group, she saw another male who curiously seemed to be the outsider of the group. Sarathka suspected from this that he was somehow a pariah or a heretic. His ragged black robe that resembled a funerary garb and tangled greying hair certainly supported the notion that he simply didn’t belong in Hag Graef let alone beside the nobility.
Finally Sarathka turned her attention to final retainer that stood between the heretic and Khaelhan. The elf female had a stern expression on her face and a little scar beneath her right eye that made her seem even more severe. The retainer’s armour was heavily stylised to accentuate her body’s natural curves, something that Sarathka had seen before and found utterly frivolous.
Khaelhan broke the silence “Welcome home little sister” he said with a clear reluctance. Sarathka’s response was equally uneasy and forced “brother it is good to see you” hopefully that would appease any agents of their father who were covertly observing them.
Harathkan watched as the two nobles exchanged hateful glances, left to their own devices it would not be long before someone’s temper flared. Unlike the other retainers he was familiar with both nobles and knew neither would merely back down and concede defeat.
“Noble Lords?” Harathkan’s deep voice broke the deadlock between Sarathka and Khaelhan, each of whom turned to look at him. Harathkan lowered his head respectfully before continuing, “I feel the task at hand warrants our full attention”.
“Father told me not of the task, what is his will?” Sarathka replied in an attempt to maintain civility. Khaelhan was also done sabre rattling for now “House Arhakar has taken one of our own in a feeble attempt to gain influence”.
“What does that pathetic excuse for a house want?” Sarathka interrupted, Khaelhan looked exasperated for a moment before continuing. “The other houses need to learn that strong-arm tactics will be met by force”.
Sarathka remained silent and quickly realised that like many of her tasks there was a political motivation. The prisoner was ultimately expendable; to indicate otherwise would only give other houses incentive to attempt a similar gambit.
Reluctantly she decided to comply with Khaelhan’s methods “If father wants aggression I will obey” she added dispassionately. At this point Khaelhan’s black robed retainer whispered something in his ear that were no doubt words of good fortune judging by the broad smile on his face.
Sarathka looked uneasy as she waited for Khaelhan to share this information with her. “We will attack tonight under cover of darkness, I’m told that there will be a storm to help cover our tracks” her brother laughed at their good fortune.
Arhlathia slouched against the wall behind her as she tried to take shelter from the deluge of rain. Her long grey cloak trailed behind her, weighing heavy on her shoulders as she desperately sought more adequate shelter from the elements.
Even as she scuttled under the foyer of a nearby building the Shade sensed she was under observation. Arhlathia crouched low, her cloak made a wet slapping sound as it touched the patch of dry ground. Fighting with her clothes in such a state was a bad idea; equally fleeing to safety along the rain soaked streets could be difficult.
Spying the cleric’s store out the corner of her eye Arhlathia discarded her cloak in the hopes that the reduced weight would prove advantageous. She knew that for the moment in the open she would be completely exposed to anyone with a repeater crossbow but risked it anyway.
Thaluien heard a resounding thud as though someone had ran into his door followed shortly by frantic knocking. He moved closer and started to unbolt the door with his one hand, his free hand grasped his sword tightly. On the other side he could hear the heavy panting of someone in clear distress.
As he finally pulled open the door Arhlathia fell to the ground, for a moment he wondered if she was alive or not before she looked up at him “cleric get down” she cried causing him to notice a crossbow wielding figure on the rooftop.
Not stopping to think Thaluien pulled Arhlathia inside and quickly closed the door the door. Arhlathia flinched as she heard several crossbow bolts slam into the sturdy wooden frame but the cleric was less concerned “don’t worry” he said tapping on the door “nobody’s broken down this door yet”.
She paused to get her breath back, her whole body felt like it was about to overheat from all the exertion “I have information for Sarathka, her mother is being ransomed by the Arhakar clan”.
“House Arhakar” Thaluien corrected as he helped the Shade up off the wooden floor “I have a few clients amongst their ranks, is that them on your heels or did you ransack someone else’s store?” Arhlathia scowled at the cleric for a moment before realising she was indebted to him “A lot of Druchii don’t like Shades, but it has to be them.”
Outside there were hurried footsteps and there was a dull thud as a weapon impacted the door. Arhlathia immediately took cover but Thaluien smiled and went back to his work much to her disbelief. “You’re not going to escape?” asked the Shade as she darted over to his desk.
Thaluien waved his hand dismissively “While house Arhakar is perfectly capable of destroying this entire building it dare not, moving the resources required to do so would only serve to alert the Drachau. Most importantly the other Noble Houses would view such excessive force as a sign of weakness”.
“Yes I see,” replied Arhlathia, not truly understanding city politics and becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation “how do we get out though?” Pausing for a moment the cleric explained “the information you obtained is time dependent, after this time expires we will be of no interest to them.”
Kneeling uncomfortably on a vacant chair the Shade remarked “If anyone wronged my clan I would hunt him or her to the ends of creation” Thaluien looked at her for a moment as though he were looking right through her and replied coldly “That’s exactly why I don’t trust you”
Arhlathia squirmed awkwardly “I stole to survive, you will be repaid in full!” she protested. Thaluien waved his finger all too knowingly “You misunderstand, how do I know you won’t stab Sarathka in the back when it suits you?”
Slamming her hand down onto the wooden table the Shade glared at the cleric “You dare accuse me of going back on an oath?” Thaluien wasn’t even remotely intimidated and was nonchalant in his response “What value is an oath if it contradicts your customs?”
It was at that moment Arhlathia heard the ominous rumble of thunder on the horizon, as it died down her sensitive ears caught the tail end of a scream that was promptly cut off. Her eyes were now wide with fear “Did you hear that cleric?” she asked in a hushed whisper.
The door shuddered on its hinges as something heavy struck it from the other side. Thaluien gestured for Arhlathia to take cover, fearing that the Arhakar had dared to use a bolt thrower in the city confines. The heard sounds the other side of the door but only Thaluien recognised them as bones breaking.
An eternity of silence passed with not a sound from either Dark Elf, no noises from the outside other than that of the pounding rain. It was almost dark now surely?
Very good read
Interlude: Dark Designs
Lord Darolath Arhakar reclined back in his throne and sipped from his newly refilled goblet of wine, he waved his hand in a grand gesture for his entertainment to continue.
Tallana exhaled deeply as she prepared the final part of her ritual, the chamber was now filled with the pungent smell of various arcane ingredients but the most crucial of all lay upon the black obsidian slab in front of the sorceress.
Bound to the slab was an elven female clad in only simple grey rags, this was likely one of House Arhakar’s dwindling supply of slaves. While Tallana regretted the waste of an elven life her attempts to recreate the procedure with a human sacrifice had thus far failed.
Her victim had long since become euphoric from the cocktail of virulent drugs in her body and didn’t even feel the initial thrust of blade slice through her skin. Without further hesitation Tallana slit the sacrifice from neck to pelvis and threw the entrails upon the stony floor.
Meanwhile Lord Arhakar was sitting on the edge of his seat; he enjoyed a grim spectacle as much as the next noble but considered his tastes to be more refined. He had no taste for mindless bloodshed anymore but to observe a sorceress at work? His curiosity was positively peaked!
Tallana had entered into a long chant, the words she used were not like any Darolath had heard before and her voice now carried a sinister echo as though a choir of disembodied voices had joined in the chant.
Before he could even attempt to discern where the voices were coming from the chanting had ceased and in its place was the unwelcome smell of rotting flesh. The sorceress gestured to where the entrails once were and in their place was a series of crudely drawn pictograms.
Immediately Darolath roared with applause and his prized sorceress grinned at his obvious approval. Unlike his wives, daughters and lovers his relationship with the sorceress was uniquely refreshing in that he already knew she was using him.
“Well Tallana,” he said at last, “what does your little augury say?” The sorceress raised her hand for silence as she examined the pictograms. “An attack!” she said at last and with an unnerving level of confidence.
Lord Arhakar chuckled, “well that’s hardly a surprise”. Tallana didn’t seem to share his amusement but remained respectfully silent until he gestured for her to continue.
Furrowing her brow the sorceress relayed the rest of the information “The augury tells of a conflict between noble houses, a battle between siblings and a dark power claiming victory.”
“It’s nothing I didn’t anticipate” he replied flatly, calmly swilling his drink in his hand “Why should I fear dark power? With you at my side I have all the dark power I’ll ever need”.
Tallana bowed respectfully at the compliment, outside the storm had now reached the city and the distinctive rumble of thunder filled the chamber.
Despite the deluge of rain water Khadath Arhakar maintained his vantage point on the rooftop as he closed in for the kill; his repeater crossbow was loaded with specially poisoned tipped arrows so that even if his prey eluded him with only a flesh wound, she would no doubt die in agony later.
He didn’t see much of a problem with that, such was the price of spying on house Arhakar and he despised how Shades were increasingly becoming a criminal underclass. They were vagabonds with only a lose sense of clan loyalty, not a great and illustrious noble household.
To a fellow Dark Elf who had not personally wronged him Khadath would grant a small mercy, if his crossbow bolts found their mark then there would be only the sweet release of death.
Suddenly his target bolted across the street and Khadath let fly with two crossbow bolts only to have his aim foiled by another Dark Elf pulling his victim out of harm’s way.
For a moment he cursed his aim before he saw a new opportunity and he turned to address his soldiers. “The cleric is conspiring against us, bring me his head,” he said with grim satisfaction.
“I thought Thaluien was neutral, he has assisted our house in the past.” replied one of his more vocal soldiers, a handsome young male whose name he couldn’t recall.
Khadath waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t speak to me of neutrality, everyone has an allegiance! He is harbouring an enemy of House Arhakar and must be at least punished”.
Another voice came from behind him, a female’s voice he didn’t recognise. It was cool and seductive and not at all like any of his soldiers “Perhaps the Shade is not acting under orders from anyone.”
Before he could respond he heard a muffled scream that ended in a gurgling sound. Khadath turned to face the source of the sound only to see one of the Arhakar soldiers on the ground with his throat torn out.
“It’s a trap,” he yelled out to anyone that would listen, to anyone that was still alive. His response was only laughter; it wasn’t like the harsh mocking laughter of his lord and master, it had a genuine glee to it that he found deeply unsettling.
Bellow him he heard the slashing sounds of heavy footsteps moving through rain water and he leapt down from his vantage point to join what little of his forces remained.
Immediately upon reaching the street level Khadath realized it was far too late, he could only watch as the female in the black dress tore his best soldiers asunder.
She moved as though she were performing some macabre dance of destruction, elegantly avoiding the blades of his soldiers with a series of fluidic movements that carried her away from their blades. He knew in that moment that their hopes of success were dashed to pieces along with the possibility of survival.
Liadriel’s slender talons lashed out with uncanny precision and tore through flesh and bone with equal ease. She sighed as the last of the bodies fell to the ground, the blood spilling onto the streets.
“It’s too easy” she commented even as she stopped to admire her handiwork turning he head to smile at Khadath. Her ivory white skin was freckled crimson and her long black hair was matted with blood.
Khadath raised his repeater crossbow, his strongest instinct was to run but another force seemed to tug at his heart and his soul. Much like a moth to the flame the Arhakar soldier stood his ground.
“What unspeakable beast are you?” his hands trembled even as he asked the question. She retracted the silver talons and raised her hands as though in a gesture of surrender. Khadath’s mind was drawn back to his lost love Nareniel, for a moment he dared to hope and dream that she had come back to him.
It couldn’t be her, thought Khadath as cold hard reality snapped in, they had found her lifeless body impaled upon her own drannach. He noticed that a single tear had fallen down his face along with the unrelenting rain.
Killing is one of the few pleasures I have left, Khadath.” the soldier blinked for a moment and noticed that Liadriel was now circling him like sharks circled a Corsair that had fallen overboard. He admired the beauty of her face, so familiar!
“You will answer my questions! How do you know my name?” demanded Khadath, he needed answers even if they would be the last he would ever hear. The Anointed chuckled fondly seemingly amused by his attempt at intimidation.
Khadath felt her lips press to his ear there was a comforting warmth to them “Very well.” she said in a soft purr of a whisper. He felt her arm wrap around his waist in an almost loving embrace.
“My name is Liadriel and I was once an Elf just as your beloved was, but I sold my soul and everything I was for the love of a Prince who’s majesty you could never in your wildest hopes fathom”. There was a pause where Khadath could feel her soft body pressed against him and lowered his crossbow.
“If you sold your soul, to be with him why aren’t you?” As much a scholar as a soldier Khadath knew he was utterly at her mercy. If he couldn’t survive then he would at least get some answers.
Liadriel moved her head around to whisper in his other ear, he caught an unusual scent upon the wind that tore through the streets and time seemed to stand still for that moment.
“A soul is merely that Khadath, while unique and magnificent my Prince desires more and most importantly they must be given over willingly. If I could merely take what I needed then I would have been at his side long ago!”
Khadath shuddered at this revelation but nevertheless found himself compelled to keep up the repertoire. “That’s why you protected the Shade? Such desperate creatures put no value on their soul.”
“Not her.” hissed the Anointed as she looked over Khadath’s shoulder and gazed into his eyes. The soldier noticed her irises were crimson and the blood of his men was nowhere to be seen upon her ivory white skin. “The Shade, dear Khadath is currently a wild card one I intend to exploit.”
The Anointed tilted her head up to the night sky to watch the lightning dance above them. Khadath noticed her razor like fingers moving around his neck, he looked into her eyes as though accepting his fate. He barely managed to scream before the talon made its move.
She bent down to remove the Arhakar insignia from one of the bodies before nonchalantly hurling the corpse at Thaluien’s door with such force that even the reinforced frame shook violently.
The cleric and the shade were currently taking shelter in that hovel of a store and for now at least her work was done. Khadath had been an amusing distraction while he lasted but now Liadriel darted through the darkened streets in search of her noble.
Once again a wonderful tale is being told. If it was not for the fact that LO does not load all of the time I wound have had a response to your latest telling of your story. Keep up this brilliant work.
Why use science and education when ignorance and superstition will work just as well.