The Orken Horde have arrived on the doorsteps of Serenity Home. Many have gathered to defend the ‘serenity’ of this once peaceful and quiet town but it is doubtful they will be enough.
The heroes scatter all around the kingdom to find those allies. Some go to other cities, some to their own people to get help.
And some go where they shouldn’t..
Gnine Tinkerdome, Laila Wolvesbane, and Merisoul Xyrotwu travel to Silent Hills and quietly enter the Demon Fog to find a way to pass the slithering fog and enter the Silent Halls. The only clue they have is the strange riddle that Nadine Graciousward gave them.
With the help of unexpected allies from Hell itself, the three have gained access into the long-forgotten, dusty and silent vaults under Silent Hills.
This story takes place a few days after
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More And Ascend..
And, here they come again!”, swore Gnine Tinkerdome as he took a step back and to the left, making room for Laila Wovesbane and her great bow.
“Persistent, aren’t they?”, replied Laila cooly as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes and drew a pair of long shafts from the quiver buckled to her back. “Don’t they know, these arrows cost money!”, she added mournfully.
“Perhaps these will pay..”, scowled the gnome as he started weaving his fingers into some strange, cross-over knot and started incanting.
“Persistence is the herald of victory. This they know. This they will use, always..”, came the soft, alluring, and vague voice of the unearthly beautiful girl with the raven black wings, and the dark, crowning horns, Merisoul Xyrotwu, from behind them. “..and they are likely bored!”
“I hate being the butt-end of relieving the boredom in demons!”, grimaced Gnine, and released his spell..
..and a faint, barely visible giant hand appeared in front of the half dozen fiends howling and charging in their direction. The fiends, barely humanoid in shape and size, otherwise black, spike riddled and bearing long, ugly-looking claws, smashed into the hand and stumbled back.
Laila ‘loosed’ her arrow, cocked the second, and sent that one as well, as she drew more arrows from her quiver and sent them one after the other —all in seamless, fluid motions.
Looking at the pretty ranger corporal, one would think she was knitting, rather than raining arrows into demons!
In all candor, it was quite rare for any talented bowyer to shoot half a dozen arrows in under a few seconds. What made the Ranger Corporal Laila Wolvesbane particularly unique, was the ‘cool’ in her deliberation, anticipation, and application.
“Want me to nuke them?”, asked the alluring voice from behind. “Or save it for later?”
“Save it for later..”, growled Gnine as he gritted his teeth. Holding back the demons with the very-nearly invisible hand was a tasking chore and beads of sweat had started gathering on heated his face. “I believe Laila’s got these.. You got these, right?”
“I got these..”, confirmed Laila as she riddled more and more arrows into the dark, and angry fiends pushing the giant hand, step by step closer to them.
“Now, I am bored..”, said Merisoul with an unhappy voice and released a pair of erratic, brilliant purple shafts of force sending two of the fiends smashing into the ones coming from the rear.
“Three down. Three to go..”, reported Laila, and hung her bow, drew her two long blades, and dashed into the remaining fiends.
“What. Are. You. Doing?!”, half shrieked Gnine.
“Arrows are expensive.. Thought I told you that..”, replied Laila as she rammed into one of the fiends, slashed it open with one sword, and stabbed it with the other. The fiend let loose a horrific scream, then fell back dead.
The remaining two rushed the ranger corporal!
Another pair of sizzling, erratic shafts of bright purple lightning-like beams cracked in the dark tunnel and struck one of the fiends, pushing it some twenty feet away, and buying just enough time for Laila to get into a defensive stance as Gnine sent a flaming bolt of fire, hitting the third and causing it to yowl like something that could barely be called feline.
Laila didn’t give the third one time to recover.
She lept forward, slid under the creature’s claws, blew her bangs out of her face, sliced open its belly with one sword, and half gashed open the demon’s scaly leg with the other.
The demon shrieked in pain, stubbled, and fell facedown onto the ground.
Laila stabbed it in the back of its neck, severing its spine.
The ranger corporal did not like half-dead enemies.
She liked them dead.. all the way!
Another pair of jagged shafts of purple lightnings jazzed right past her and the last demon crumbled, its chest caved in.
“Well..”, said Merisoul, merrily. “That went well!”
“Damit.”, spat Laila when she bent down to inspect the corpses. “Two more arrows, broken beyond repair and are now totally unsalvageable. I really hope I get paid. Or I am never going to be able to replace these.”
“You will get all the arrows you need.”, said Gnine, looking down at the dead fiends. “I will personally pay for them. Or have them crafted for you.. If and when I get my throne..”
“Ow? That’s generous of you.”, smiled Laila —a something she rarely did.
“Of course, my dear girl. You are risking your all, coming here with me.”, replied Gnine.
“Actually, I am here just to make sure you come back and in one piece.. As for your promise, I would like the same deal for ‘Bree’ as well!”, she smirked.
“Why? She’s not here..”, scowled the gnome.
“She’s my cousin. She gets what I get.. Unless you want to explain why she’s not getting the same generosity from the prince of the gnomes.. To her face!”
Gnine Tinkerdome sighed.
“And something for Merisoul as well. If anyone is risking anything, it’s her.”, she added.
“It’s alright, love. I don’t really need gifts. What I need has long been forfeit from me and can not be procured. Only comprehended, earned and merited.. Something neither my old master can give, nor my new shall ever deign to bless upon me..”, said Merisoul, with her own sigh.
The hour was early.
And it had been four days since they had entered the silent vaults under Silent Hills.
Early or late, it didn’t matter. Fiends, demons, and.. other ‘things’ came at them constantly, relentlessly, and mindlessly..
And always insane!
As if the Demon Fog had driven everything in it, fiend, beast, and even the occasional walking corpse, insane..
They would come at them and just charge them.
Like some endless stream of rotting debris being carried off in some nightmarish, swift-running river.
Other than what they had offered thus far, the vaults themselves were barren, silent, and bereft of cognatious life. Gnine hadn’t minded it at first. As a matter of fact, he’d marveled at the geometry of it all. In a very non-human, defiantly gnomish way, the structural design of the vaults under the hills were.. beautiful! After four days —and nights, however, he’d started having doubts, for they hadn’t seen or met a single other soul.. The unearthly beautiful half-born, Merisoul, had inspected everything she could with mild interest, pointing at this or that —things she thought were… well… interesting. Laila had found the lifeless halls depressing at best. ‘Spooky’, was the word she thought was more fitting. Perhaps, if and when ‘life’ came back to these halls, vaults, and vast chambers, it might make these hills ‘spectacular’, though, even then, she thought, she wouldn’t have stayed here even if she were being paid for it.. Laila loved nature. And trees, and the sun.. None of which, she would ever find here. She looked down at her little friend, Gnine, with sympathy as she huffed her bangs out of her eyes. From her point of view, he was genetically predestined to like such depressing and dreary places.
There was something about this place that Laila truly found.. intimidating?
She was not really sure.
These vaults, great as they were, were also silent. Too silent. Much like the tombs under Serenity Home temple. Laila had been down there, but only once. Sort of as a private ‘dare’. It was cool, dark, not musty or moldy, nor did the place stank of death or anything.. just.. ‘still’.. and unmoving. And this place, these halls, and the vast, empty chambers they had left behind, were just like how those tombs had been. But with much, much more dread and certainly at a larger magnitude.
It made her feel diminished, sparse, scared..
Laila inadvertently shivered.
Yep, her forest, her trees, and her sun, out there, was much, much more preferable than here and now.
What truly hit her was the thing she secretly feared most. That she was likely going to lose one of her oldest friends; Gnine Tinkerdome, to these halls, even should they survive and succeed in their endeavor, for here would be his home and his kingdom, and not Serenity Home anymore, and just the thought of that, brought a knotted lump up to her throat she found trouble sending back down..
She sighed and tried to remember their happier times. It was something she often did, for she knew it was important to keep one’s spirits up. If they fell to despair, likely the next encounter would be their last.
“Now there’s a gloomy thought!”, murmured Laila.
“Happy thoughts, girl, happy thoughts.”
Then she thought of ‘Bree’ —Bremorel, her cousin and wondered what she was doing right now. She remembered the voice call they had received from her some months ago and inadvertently smiled.
So.. Thomas, that skinny boy, had finally garnered enough courage to be able to speak with her cousin, let alone go on some mission with her. Who would send that kid on any mission? The boy was a bookworm! And suddenly he was sent all the way to Dim Woods on some dangerous mission? With her ravishing and equally raving cousin, Bremorel Songsteel?
Laila liked Thomas.
Yes, they had never really had much in the way of interaction, other than the rare times she’d visit the town temple and he would greet her with his serious but generous smile.. And when they’d see him scurrying behind them like someone’s lost puppy whenever they returned to town in hopes of finding some desperate opportunity to speak, or at least get a glimpse of Bree.
Laila thought he was a good boy even if she found his quite mindless and very nearly melancholic obsession with her cousin a bit creepy..
Then, perhaps because they hadn’t seen each other for some time, Laila felt she should amend her perspective.
Thomas was not just a good boy, he was a good young man. Good, decent, calm, well-mannered, and well educated, but never condescending the way most ‘well educated’ tended to become. And both the orphans and the other children of the town loved him, as he’d somehow find the time, among his overcrowded temple duties and his studies to engage in all sorts of games with them, particularly the one called hog-ball even though he would end up losing in most.
Hog-ball; a game that involved a rough, ragged ball wrapped and knotted with strips of leather thongs, and lots of pulling, pushing, kicking, and tripping. Laila had played it a few times before, but only after she’d become a ranger novice. It was too rough a game and seemed to have one basic rule; if you ended up with lots of scratches, scrapes, a black eye, preferably two, and likely a bloody nose, you won —in a personal achievement sense.
Gnine had played it too. Gnine played everything that would get him hurt, for some reason. And when he played hog-ball, he chose to be the goalkeeper; the sole person where EVERYONE pulled, pushed, kicked, and tripped! Kids on their teams wanted larger boys to stand in front of their goal. Someone who could take the heat, AND block the big barrel; the goal. And Gnine would defiantly be their team’s goalkeeper and take all the heat.. just not block the goal. Once, the opposing team had simply picked him up and stuffed him, head first, into the barrel, along with the leather ball!
Her cousin, Bree, had participated in them since she was six and always came back with black eyes, a bloody nose, split lips, skinned knees, ankles, and knuckles. But she would also return triumphant and likely laid waste the whole playground!
The children of Serenity Home had heaved in collective and popular relief when she’d been drafted off to be trained as a ranger!
Another time, some years back, when they had come to town after a particularly long patrol, they had chanced upon one such game. Bree had elbowed her and both had entered the fray where they had ended up in opposing teams. Thinking back, Laila conceded that her cousin had deliberately joined the side where Thomas had been.
He had run in front of her cousin the whole time, screaming like a lunatic and literally throwing himself on anyone who would try to tackle her! It had been a mindless, selfless, totally unnecessary, and endearing brevity on the boy’s part, leaving him massively scraped, thoroughly grilled, heart-breakingly bleeding, and outright concussed, but had given Bree the opportunity to score an epic goal!
Her cousin, however, had NOT found his ‘protective’ approach amusing..
She’d raged down upon him, hissing and screaming at his witless attitude all the while, until she’d found him lying knocked unconscious—
—with a stupid smile on his face!
Bremorel hadn’t talked for two days after that. She’d just steamed with confused furry and equally puzzled and somewhat scared expression on her face. Laila had kept her company with badly concealed amusement, triggering further frustration from Bree.
Funny how the stupid things people did in life had such devastating effects on others.. More so than the smarter choices they made.
Thinking back, she could still remember what Thomas had said, when she’d asked him why he’d acted so.. ‘rashly’.. rather than be the smart person that he was..
The boy had said, in his calm, serious voice;
“The smart choice was the stupid choice; no one is going to hurt Morel so long as I am around.”
The stupid things people did, indeed!
But then, Laila wasn’t one to complain either.
She entertained bangs!
The girls back in Serenity called them ‘fringes’ but Laila liked to call them ‘bangs’. Sounded more.. well.. ‘rangery!’
Rangery? Was that even a word?
Laila snorted. Like that made a better word!
She deliberately dismissed both words and returned her attention to the issue at hand;
Bangs were bad in fights..
Bang kept getting in her eyes..
Bangs made seeing near impossible when swinging swords while dancing among fiends, demons, and crazed corpses..
Bangs made aiming a problem too..
But there she was.. persistent with her bangs perpetually biting into her eyes..
The things people did to impress others.. Even when they weren’t there to be impressed!
Laila huffed her bangs out of her eyes and plucked another arrow out of one of the dead fiends.
The arrow splintered.
“Damit!”, she murmured in frustration.
That was the third arrow now, totally destroyed!
✱ ✱ ✱
It’s a big room.”, whispered Whimsi Lola.
“Big? How big?”, asked Gnine, to his sprite familiar in hushed voices.
“Big..”, replied the tiny, ‘less-than-six-inch’ girl as she hovered next to Gnine’s head.
“Big like.. a farmhouse?”, asked Gnine.
“Big..”, repeated Whimsi Lola.
“The farmhouse and the barn?”
“Ok.. the farm itself, then?”
Laila just stared at the two as they ‘haggled’ about the size of the room with the eerie light, at the end of the hall, some two hundred yards away.
Merisoul though seemed much amused and caressed and stroked her own familiar, Jay the little pseudo dragon. Jay purred and made happy croaking noises as he sent his pretty mistress mental images of the room ahead and indeed, it was..
“Four farms? Geez, how big is that room?, Gnine asked in an exasperated voice.
Whimsi Lola shrugged.
“Great Heavens, girl. Don’t you have a word to describe just how big it is?”, fumed Laila finally.
“No.”, replied Whimsi simply.
“Well, is it ten farms big?”, she asked.
“Dunno..”, said the sprite vaguely. “How big is ‘ten farms big?'”
“And this is why I never have pets!”, she glared at the minute girl.
“I am not a pet.”, replied Whimsi Lola with pure indignation and added with a disparaged huff, “I am an indentured cooperative auxiliary! I would have thought a big girl like you would know the difference. Apparently, I was mistaken!”
Laila glared at the minute creature buzzing in the air.
“I don’t think you even know what you just said, means.”, she growled back.
“Of course I do. All fey know about debts and what they entail, and we very much stick to them, once owed, Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane!”, replied Whimsi Lola, buzzing higher and staring down at the ranger corporal with a distinctly superior tone.
“Don’t you look down on me, young lady! And it’s ‘Ranger Corporal’. Not lieutenant.”, scowled Laila.
“Not from what I heard, you aren’t!”, sniffed the ‘not-even-six-inch’ fey girl with admirable disdain.
“What?”, stared Laila up at the tiny, buzzing girl.
“We fey always correctly define things so we are not called upon our mistakes that would lead us to more debt. Don’t you know anything? You had Mistress Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, the Ritual Guardian, for months with you to learn you all this!”, piped down Whimsi Lola in disgust. Then she turned to Gnine and gave him a look of pure exasperation. “How do you mortals even manage to live as long as you do, not knowing anything that goes around you?”
Laila just ogled at her.
The little creature turned to Merisoul and scolded her as well.
“You are not fey, ‘Soul Keeper’, but you are aware of the things I speak. Why have you not learned them these things?”
“It is a mortal thing, dear Whimsi Lola.”, replied Merisoul. “It takes time for them to be adequately equipped with the nesessary wisdom to start to notice such things. And by the time they do.. well.. they run out of time!”
The tiny Whimsi Lola glared down balefully at Gnine.
“You had better not run out of time soon, Master Gnine Tinkerdome! We just started having some decent fun!”
“I.. will make a point not to..”, replied Gnine a bit deflated.
“So.. I am a Ranger Lieutenant now? When did this happen?”, asked Laila a bit shaken.
“One month, twenty-four days, and the time since we entered this horrible Demon Fog! The Fey do not come here so I do not know exactly. It happened after your mothers’ oath-sisters’ daughter, a Bremorel Songsteel and the Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood returned back to the mortal town you know as Serenity Home. They had both you and your cousin change ranks!”
Laila ogled at the tiny creature, some more..
“Wow.”, said Gnine. “That must have been some mission those two went to. I wonder what happened?”
“They fought many very big creatures there, with the elves and some dwarves. Creatures that have no respect, called Greater Orken. The elves warned us not to come near, so the details of what happened are a bit sketchy.”, shrugged Whimsi Lola.
“The Orken attacked the elves, again?”, Laila asked feeling a bit sick.
“Yes. But the elves were ready this time. And were backed up by your cousin and the Temple Guardian. Many elves still died, but then the dwarves from Elder Hills came and together, they defeated these Greater Orken.”
“But.. why would the Orken attack the elves again?”, frowned Laila. “..unless they wanted the north of Ritual Forest cleared to move in their main forces without hindrance when the time came.. And I think the time finally did come! Dammit. We had better get moving and fast.”
“So we are back to the room ahead, then.”, said Gnine, staring down the two hundred-yard tunnel-like hall.
“Big!”, prompted Whimsi!
“She is right, you know.”, said Merisoul from behind them. “The room is rather big. Possibly bigger than your Serenity Home itself, though its purpose escapes me. Why do the little races want to always build things so much bigger than they are? And certainly bigger than they need?”
“Well.. we like to..”, stammered Gnine.
“..compensate for something, perhaps?”, smiled Merisoul.
“We just like to emphasize things, that’s all.”, replied the gnome sternly then shut up.
The unearthly girl smiled at him again then started down the long tunnel.
“I think you just got served.”, snickered Laila.
“Yes. Yes, I did..”, agreed Gnine, then he smirked at the ranger lieutenant. “But at least I got served by something otherworldly..”
Laila scowled at him, then up at the little, buzzing ‘indentured cooperative auxiliary’..
✱ ✱ ✱
Gnine Tinkerdome gazed down the eerily lit room. But to call this place a ‘room’, was like calling the gigantic monstrosity of a T-Rex they had fought months ago in the Arashkan Arena, a rock lizard! It seemed to go on and on and on forever and it was not empty. Rows and rows of tall, stone boxes were laid out and aligned both vertically and horizontally in military precision so much so that it was downright creepy.
“Wow..”, said the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “What is this place?”
Gnine looked up to see the succubi half-born, Merisoul Xyrotwu flap her wings overhead, with unveiled envy as she glided past them again, doing a wide circle in the great hall. It seemed like she was having a lot of fun while doing it. Fun, Gnine thought, that he would never hope to achieve. The gnome had many weak spots in his life. His unquenchable desire to be the things he saw, pretty faces, and to be able to fly, at will, and free of constraints. He secretly gave a side-long glance at his closest friend, Laila, and saw similar envy in her eyes. But there was a distinct nuance in how they viewed the half-born’s flight. Laila viewed it as something unique and perhaps wanted to try it out of thrill, and because it would make travel much easier on her feet.. Quite a practical wont, really. Gnine, on the other hand, much preferred the immense pleasure he could only imagine it would give him. The kind of pleasure only ‘total freedom’ would give. He watched Merisoul, a magnificent creature; her raven black wings stretched, her arms wide open, her honey-brown hair whipping among her dark, crowning horns, her very nearly black-purple strapless dress fluttering, and her tiny, baby pink feet tickling and who had a distinct dreamy expression on her face, disappear in the distance.
“Wow..”, repeated the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane from behind in hushed awe. “I feel jealous, now. I mean, you have got to admit, that’s just awesome!”
“Yes. Yes, it is.. It is almost a sin, watching her like this and know how hard she tries to be a mortal. She must truly want honest love and compassion.”
“She’s an idiot!”, fumed Laila.
“What? That’s a bit harsh, now, don’t you think?”, asked the gnome, taken aback with her sudden vehemence.
“That girl already feels love. And she certainly feels both passion and compassion..”, replied the ranger girl, frowning after the succubi half-born.
“How do you know?”, asked Gnine, a bit surprised because Laila wasn’t one to open up easily, nor give her opinion about ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’. On this score, he thought she was more catatonic than her cousin, Bremorel had ever been. As a matter of fact, he knew Bree displayed her emotions, like, all the time. Yes, it was mostly limited to anger, but Gnine knew it was to hide her real feelings. Laila, on the other hand, was always.. well.. ‘cool’.. Which is how she hid her emotions..
“Gnine.”, she said sternly, looking down at the gnome. “You do not sacrifice your own blood the way she keeps doing to ‘heal’ others, without some sort of genuine feelings. No one can be that ‘chore oriented’. I mean, look at Lady Magella. She healed us so many times, I can’t even come up with a number, and she still snapped at the end and she doesn’t even have to bleed to heal us.”
“Huh..”, grunted Gnine.
“That girl..”, Laila said, pointing at the general direction of the succubi half-born, “..does that every time she thinks any of us are in danger. I have yet to see her flinch when she is being attacked. I mean, she’s all like, ‘meh’, when a demon trice her size in coming at her, yet she very nearly panics when we are. That just can’t be ‘chore’!”
“Hmmm..”, mused the gnome, also looking in the direction where Merisoul had disappeared.
“Yes, she has issues. Issues I could only define using words like, monumental and otherworldly.. But she feels love, passion, and compassion. I can not imagine a girl who does not have those and do the things she does.. Have you seen her face? Actually seen it, when Princess Lorna said, ‘I thought you were my friend..’, back when we had just ran away from High Woods and were hiding in that cave? And the time when the two of us declared her as our friend when we were stumbling in that bloody Demon Fog? She very nearly broke down and cried. Had we been just a bit less nonchalant, or a bit more formal in our impromptu declaration of friendship, I fully believe she would have fallen apart.. Like, really fallen apart.. I was half afraid we had, inadvertently dismantled her! That girl lives for things we have and take for granted.. The things every ‘mortal’ has. Her problem isn’t the total lack of the things she wants. It’s connecting what she has, to her heart.. and mind.. She can’t relate.”, she said, and not without a certain amount of rage.
“Damn..”, Gnine whispered. “That’s.. that’s just sad..”
“When she says, she is broken, she actually means it. And until WE, her FRIENDS, find a way to make her relate to things she already has, she will STAY broken.”
“That’s going to be one, hard task, that is.. And I must admit, I am impressed AND pleased you opened up, the way you just did. Thank you.”, said Gnine happily.
Laila just stared down at the gnome.
“Just which part of anything I said, gave you the impression I was talking about me, let alone opening up, little man?!”
“Ahhaa..”, smirked Gnine. “..Anger! You always get angry when I am right.”
“No, I don’t.”, scoffed Laila.
“Yes, you do.”
“No. I. Don’t!”
“Then what’s with the name-calling?”, snickered the gnome.
“It’s the pre-warning you get before I knock you out of your socks!”, Laila fumed.
Gnine snickered, some more.
“You know, you really should go and have a long sit-down with that pretty boy, D.D. Dexter!”
Laila’s eyes blazed!
“That. Is. Non. Of. Your. Business. Dead. Man!”, she hissed at him.
“The well-being of my oldest and closest friend is non of my business? Just what world are you living in, girl?”, asked Gnine, still smirking. “If you are going to smack me, by all means, do, but my stance in this matter isn’t going to change.”
Laila glared down at him even more. Lucky for her though, or perhaps for the still smirking gnome, Merisoul appeared and did a stunning dive in their direction, swung up at the last moment, then gently settled down next to them!
“Wow, girl. That was truly spectacular, amazing, mind-boggling, and simply awesome.”, admitted Gnine.
And both Laila and Gnine noticed it.
That.. had never happened before.. Merisoul never showed any emotion other than perpetual sadness in her otherworldly beautiful face. Yet, here she was blushing..
Gnine ogled at her.
Because a blushing Merisoul was a whole new definition of ‘otherworldly beauty’!
Laila cleared her throat as a certain heat washed over her.
The half-born was unprecedentedly beautiful and Laila just now understood what would have happened had the girl actually used her succubi heritage over them the whole time she had been with them.
She also got a glimpse of what the girl truly meant, when she’d said, she was ‘hungry’ and hadn’t ‘eaten’ since she’d been forced to switch masters!
‘She must be starving!”, she thought, more than unnerved. ‘How does she even stay sane?’
“Tha.. thank you, Master Gnine.”, stammered Merisoul, still blushing in a baby pink-red color.
Gnine tried to clear his mind but failed.
Laila stepped on his foot and asked with a somewhat hoarse voice, “Uhh.. What have you seen?”
“Tombs..”, Merisoul replied. “These stone boxes are tombs.. All of them.. Thousands upon thousands of them.. It goes on for as far as I dared to fly..”
Gnine reeled back in desolate horror.
“Tombs? What the..? Why?..”, he spluttered.
“Relevant questions.”, Merisoul replied, all business again. “I suspect they all contain someone in them.”
“How do you..?”, the Gnine shuddered.
“They all have similar-dissimilar names, carved on brass plaques at one end of each box.”, she said.
“How do you mean, ‘similar-dissimilar’?”
“The names are all unique, but have a similar phonetic function, meaning they are likely all kin or of the same race and familial clan, Master Gnine. I believe we found your Silent Gnomes. I am, however, afraid it might be a bit too late for them.”
Laila suddenly felt sympathy for her little friend when she saw the sick expression on his face..
✱ ✱ ✱
Gnine, Laila, and Merisoul examined the ‘tombs’ for hours only to find very little more than they had expected to find. And now, Gnine was sitting on the cold, smooth floor of the immense hall of tombs with his back on one of the stone boxes and seemed very much on the verge of breaking down when the succubi half-born silently came and sat next to him.
Quietly, she put one arm over his other shoulder and hugged him closer to herself, and spoke in whispers. “I am sorry Master Gnine. I did the best I could to bring you here.”
“Tis alright, dear Soul. None of this was your fault, nor your doing. We were a couple of centuries too late.”, sniffed the little gnome.
“I know all seems lost, but I am not certain, nor do I know if they are actually dead or in some kind of suspended animation or cryo-sleep. If so, then there must be some way to deactivate it. Otherwise, It doesn’t make sense, preparing all these stone boxes, just to lie down in them and die.. Besides, the logistics behind it all doesn’t add up, either.”
“How do you mean?”, asked Gnine with a hoarse voice, stifling another sniff.
“There must have been a considerable number of gnomes left behind who were not put to ‘sleep’. Gnomes that had to ‘activate’ these ‘sleep-stones’, to care for them, and to make sure they were left unscathed.. Basic logistics and maintenance.”, she explained.
“She’s right.”, Laila said as she appeared between the stone boxes, further down the hall. “Other than the wear and tear of ‘time’, I noticed pretty much all the containers, or coffins, are still in pristine condition. So I checked for tracks. The floor is not marble, but very smooth and tightly fit stone, much like the walls. There is, however, quite a bit of dust. I found many tracks. Most of them belong to the demons we have slain on the way here. I found some small bootprints too. Seeing as you are one of my oldest friends, I could easily say, these prints also belonged to gnomes, though they are old. Very old. I happened upon many dead demons as well. Having looked closer, they all seem to have been ambushed. I suspect that Temez girl and her friends came through here. She did say they cleared all they could on their way to the Door.. The ones we met thus far were likely wandering around, rather than stationary sentries. We should move on.”
“We could be just wasting our time, you know..”, Gnine said in a depressed tone.
Laila looked down at the little gnome.
She felt a fluttering pang in her heart, for him.
But she refused to show any sympathy.
Her brows crossed and her gaze turned hard.
“Get up.”, she said with an unmerciful hiss.
“Wha—?”, gapped the gnome at her.
“I said, get up. Or I will hurt you. This is no time for your sorry feelings. We didn’t come all the way here, and through Hell, just to go back empty-handed. My town.. Your town needs you.. And I have no desire to see it go to waste by the Hell-Spawn Orken. I have seen firsthand what they did to Arashkan. I have seen what they did to High Woods as well, and so have you. Will you give up now and let our town, our homes burn because you are feeling sorry?”
Merisoul tried a poor attempt of a cough.
“Well, now. That was a bit harsh, girl, don’t you think?”, Gnine said taken aback. “‘Get up’ was more than enough. You didn’t have to beat me into the ground.”
“I don’t do ‘half ways’, little man.”, said Laila sternly. “Nor do I like doing repeats, re-do’s, begs, or pleads.”
“Apparently you don’t!”, mumbled the gnome. “I think you have hung around Bree for a bit too long.. All her bad habits seem to have rubbed off on you.”
Laila scowled even harder.
“Okay, okay..”, said the gnome in defeat. “There.. I am up! Geez, girl, you can be harsh at times..”
“Quit whining, Gnine!”, scoffed the ranger lieutenant.
“I think she’s right.”, smiled Merisoul.
“By all means, chose her side..”, grumbled Gnine.
“Well, yes. You are cute. But she’s prettier, and she has bangs!”
✱ ✱ ✱
Finally.. That was one, big, room.. We must have walked for.. How many hours?”, wondered Gnine Tinkerdome.
“More than five, closer to six.”, came Laila Wolvesbane’s voice, off to his left.
“How do you know, girl? There’s no sun here to determine—”, wondered the gnome.
“She’s been counting her steps.”, said Merisoul Xyrotwu simply, from his other side.
“Easier than counting steady heartbeats, I must admit. But I have wings and skip a step or three, now and then..”, the succubi half-born replied a bit abashed.
“You have been counting your heartbeats?”, asked Laila, with a surprised tone. “Won’t that be a bit.. inaccurate? Considering it changes when sleeping or in exertion such as running or even prolonged walking, as we have been doing.”
“Yours does. So does Master Gnine’s. Mine?.. Mine only changes under particular conditions? Otherwise, it’s much like a metronome swinging on even surface.”, replied Merisoul, with a reluctant voice.
“That is ..remarkable; a truly metronomic heart!”, admired Laila.
“Not as much as you make it sound.”, Merisoul answered with the same tone.
“How so? And how do you do it?”
“I don’t do it, dear Laila. It has to do with emotions. More like the lack of them in my case. Hard to have a hyped heartbeat when you can’t feel love, fear, anger —or any other form of excitement.”, she said in a monotonous voice.
“But you said, yours does, under particular—”
“—When I feed, dear Laila.. My heart rate changes only when I ‘feed’..”, came the half-born’s defeated voice.
“When you feed?”, asked the ranger lieutenant a bit confused. Then it dawned on her. “Ow.. when you ‘feed!’“
Laila blushed furiously and shut up.
Gnine cleared his throat after several silent moments.
“Ahem.. Back to the issue at hand, then..”, he offered.
“The thing you are actually wondering..”, said Laila in a subdued and flushed voice. “We came just over 30,000 yards. Each stone box/coffin/crate/or whatever you want to call them is two yards long and one yard apart. There were twelve rows, each row has four lines of crates grouped together. You do the math. I did the steps!”
“Fair enough.”, Gnine said and did a quick calculation in his mind but voiced it for the benefit of the girls. “That’s 10,000 crates per row..”
“How did you come up with that number? I said 30,000 yards..”
“Well..”, said the gnome. “..Each box is two yards long so we can reduce 10,000 yards off right there and another for the length of each crate.. Then we have twelve rows, each row with four crates, making the lot 48 actual rows in total. Now we time that with the 10,000 crates and we’ll get 480,000 crates in total!”
“That.. is a lot of crates!”
“It is indeed..”
“You reduced 10,000 yards, twice, right at the start. Why?”, she asked.
“Because, my dear girl, 10,000 yards of it is just empty space between each sequential crate, and the second was because 20,000 is in ‘yards’. It is not the number of crates per column.. Each crate is two yards long, so that’s 20,000 divided by two..”
“Ow.. right..” *cough* “Well.. Let’s just get moving, shall we?”
Gnine did not laugh. He did not even snicker. A friend never laughed at his friend, and certainly not at a girls’ blindside or folly. But that wasn’t really the reason.
The Heir to all the gnomes of Silent Hills had just come to a stunning realization.
These.. were not crates..
These.. were tombs containing his gnomes, his people!
The adventures of the Wizard Prince Gnine Tinkerdome, the Ranger Lieutenant Laila Wolvesbane, and the sad, otherworldly creature, Merisoul Xyrotwu will continue as they travel deeper into the demon-infested vaults of Silent Hills, desperately seeking answers and allies, and the original denizens of the hills..
Adalar Krallığında ürkütücü bir sesizlik hakimdir.
Elf’ler, Dwarf’lar, İnsanlar, Gnome’lar ve adı geçmeyen diğer bütün ırkların hepsi sanki nefeslerini tutmuş, ölüm ve felaketin ön habercisi olan bu sessizliği dinlemektedir.. zira sessizlik sonrası gelecek fırtınanın adı bellidir.
Bir araya gelip hazırlık yapma zamanı gelmiştir.. yada bunun için biraz geç kalınmış da olabilir çünkü ‘düşman’ çoktan harekete geçmiş durumdadır. Bunun ilk göstergesi, gerçekte Büyük Arashkan Şehrinin, hemen sonrasında da kadim elf şehri Bari Na-ammen ve High Woods’un yok olması değildir. Bu iki ‘cinayet’in kendileri başlı başına hayret verici ve kahredici olsa da, en nihayetinde ve ‘büyük plan’ açısından iyimser bir şekilde sadece birer dip nottan ibarettirler.
Kötümser olarak ifade etmek gerekirse;
Bu bir başlangıçtır..
Ve uzaklarda bir yerde, unutulmuş binlerce yıldır bütün bunları ‘keyifsizce’ bir şekilde, Büyük Kuzey Tundralarının en ücra batı köşesindeki muazzam şatosundan seyreden Gullem bulunmaktadır..
Bu hikayenin ne zaman yer aldığı kati olarak bilinmemektedir.
Ancak kronolojik olarak;
A Demon’s Plan (Part Four) – All End.
The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More, And Ascend.,
arasında bir zamanda gerçekleşmiş olması muhtemeldir.
Kapkara bulutların arasında, kızıl yıldırımlar vahşice çatallanarak harlamaktadır. Kara bulutların altında ise belki bir zamanlar koyu mor olan, ancak artık grinin ürkütücü tonlarıyla kirli pas renklerinin karıştığı devasa, demir bir şato bulunmaktadır ve şatonun büyüklüğü, ancak ‘göz alabildiğince’ ifadesi kullanılarak tarif edilebilirdi. Şatonun muhtelif yerlerinden, rastgele serpilmiş izlenimi veren ve daha çok kanlı birer mızrağı andıran sivri kuleleri ise, gökyüzünü kaplayan kirli bulutların arasında kaybolmuştur. Şatonun devasa, girintili kapısı dışında bir başka girişi görülmediği gibi, ana kulesinin kara bulutlara yakın bir noktasındaki tek delik dışında da herhangi bir penceresi yoktur. Bu pencereden ise, dışarı kızıl-sarı bir ışık süzülmektedir. Gecenin karanlığında duyulan sesler, şatodan gelen çığlıklar, vahşi havlamalar ve ne olduğunu kimsenin bilmek istemediği seslerden ibarettir..
Burası yaşlı, mel’un ve şer kelimelerinin gerçek sahibi olan lanetli Gullem’in şatosudur ve buraya canlılar ayak basmazlar. Ama cansız bir çok şey buradan sürüler ve tümenler halinde ayrılır ve güneye, Demon Wall adı verilen, insanların, elf’lerin ve dwarf’ların korumaya çalıştığı İblis Duvarına doğru yollanırlar.
Şatonun ana kulesinin tepesindeki, kızıl-sarı kötürüm bir ışıkla aydınlanan kemerli pencerede bir gölge belirir. Uzun, sıska ve uğursuz bir gölgedir bu.
Gölge, bıkkın, isteksiz ve kataraktlı gözlerle güneyi süzer. Güneyde, demir şatonun iki buçuk üç günlük mesafesinde Demon Gates/İblis Kapıları vardır. İblis Kapılarının ilerisinde ise uçsuz bucaksız, yarıklar ve çatlaklarla dolu, keskin kayalar ve zehirli gazlarla hayata dair hiçbir şeyin yaşamasına imkan vermeyen Fiend Pits/İblis Çorakları, onun da ilerisinde, yüksek uçurumların altında, Demon’s End/Sonsuz İblis vadisi bulunmaktadır. Bu vadide bir zamanlar belki bir medeniyet var olmuş olsa da, söz konusu medeniyetlerden geriye kalan şeyler sadece yüzlerce, daha gerçekçi bir tahminde bulunmak gerekirse, binlerce yıl önce yıkılıp talan edilmiş harabelerden ibarettir ve bu harabeler ise artık, adı konulmamış on binlerce yaratığa ev sahipliği yapmaktadır. Bu vadinin sonunda ise, Gullem’in görüyormuş gibi baktığı Demon Wall/İblis Duvarı durmaktadır ve yaşlı, uğursuz adamın keyifsizliğinin kaynağı da bu duvardır..
..son, yüzlerce, unutulmuş ve umutsuz yıldır!
“Bıktım..”, diye kendi kendine mırıldanır yaşlı adam yılgın bir sesle. “Ama ölümlüler bıkmadılar bir türlü..”
Melanet adamın arkasından bir inleme sesi gelir.
“Sen hala yaşıyor musun?”, diye arkasını dönmeden sorar Gullem.
“Ce.. cehennemde yanacaksın..”, der inleyen sesin sahibi anca duyulur bir fısıltıyla.
“Hayır, evlat. Ben cehennemin ta kendisiyim.. Hiç merak etmiyor musun ailene ne oldu, yada şehrin güvende mi, diye? Ben olsam merak ederdim..”, diye kendince kıkırdar lanetli adam.
“Onları.. bir gün göreceğim.. Ama seni bekleyen.. hiç kimsen yok..”, diye bitik bir şekilde hırıldar sesin sahibi.
“Benim kimseye ihtiyacım yok. Asla da olmadı..”, diye çirkefçe cevap verir Gullem. “Ve sana bak. Bütün sevenlerine rağmen buradasın. Aslına bakılırsa, sevdiklerinden ötürü buradasın..”
“Bu.. dünya nasıl biterse bitsin.. seni bekleyen son aynı.. İblisler def edildiğinde.. senin de sonun gelmiş olacak. İblisler bu dünyayı.. ele geçirseler de.. senin sonun.. yine gelmiş olacak.. çünkü efendilerinin.. seninle de işleri bitmiş olacak..”, diye zorlukla fısıldar ses. “En nihayetinde sen.. insanlığını ve insanları satmış bir.. hainsin.. Ve kimse bir haini sevmez.. ve ona güvenmez.. Bu dünya ile işleri.. bittiğinde, senin de defterini dürecek ve ipini kesecekler.. ve seni hayatta tutan güç her ne ise, o da son bulacak..”
Gullem arkasından gelen sese döner.
Yüzünde çirkin bir ifadeyle, kızıl-sarı kötürüm ışıkla aydınlanmış demir kulesinin devasa zindanında, karanlıkta kaybolmuş tavandan sarkan bir zincire tutturulmuş havada asılı duran dikenli kafesin içindeki erimiş tutsağına bakar..
..ve yüzündeki çirkin ifade yerini tamamen çirkef bir ifadeye bırakır.
Gullem bir omzunu silker ve pis bir kahkaha atar.
“Ama sen bunların hiç birisini göremeyeceksin..”
Demir dikenli kafesin içindeki bi deri bi kemik kalmış tutsak acı bir şekilde ‘hıh’lar.
“Verebildiğin.. en iyi cevap buysa.. bahsettiğim sonu.. zaten sende biliyorsun.. Sadece.. duymak istemiyorsun.. o kadar..”
Gullem bir elini pençe yapar ve kötürüm, kızıl-mor yıldırımlar kafesi ve içindekini vurur.
Kafesten acı içerisinde inleyen sesler yükselir..
..ama çığlık gelmez.
Dakikalar boyunca melanet yaşlı, demir dikenli kafesi, ve içindeki tutsağını kaynatır.. Kan ter içerisinde yıldırımları kestiğinde, kafesin demirleri kor halinde harlanmış, içindeki ‘şey’ ise yarı yanmış bir şekilde tütmektedir.
“Belki bu cevap daha çok hoşuna gitmiştir.”, diye horlayan bir sesle mırıldanır lanet Gullem ve tekrar tutsağına ve demir kafese arkasını döner ve kulenin penceresinden dışarıyı, İblis Duvarını seyretmeye başlar.
Aradan ne kadar süre geçer bilinmez. Bununda gerçekte çok da bir önemi yoktur.
“Teşekkür.. ederim..”, diye inleyerek gelir tüten ses.
Gullem nefret dolu bir ifadeyle başını kafese çevirir.
“Be.. Beni her.. yakışında.. günahlarımdan da.. arındırmış oluyorsun..”
Gullem demir dikenli ve paslı kafesin içindeki yarı kömür olmuş ‘şey’i oracıkta öldürmeyi düşünür. Ölümün eşiğine getirdiği ‘şey’den istediği bilgilere ihtiyacı olmamış olsa, onun buraya getirtilmesi için verdiği emeğe de, planlara da gerek kalmış olmaz, onu öldürüldüğü yerde bırakması yeterli olmuş olurdu.. Yada özellikle acı çekmesini istiyor idiyse, onu aşağıda, yerin çok derinliklerindeki zindanlarından birine tıkar, ve beyin emici iblislerine yedirmiş olurdu çoktan. Ama Gullem’in bilgiye ihtiyacı vardır ve tutsağında o bilgilerin var olduğundan da emindir. Sorun, onun cinsinin kati inançları vardır ve kırılmaları da oldukça zordur.
“Sorun değil, sorun değil..”, diye söylenir içinden habis Gullem. “Burada çok uzun bir süre kalacaksın.. Çooook uzun bir süre.. Seni ve inançlarını kırıncaya kadar.. Dünya da bir çok şey değişebilir, ama senin için bu gerçek değişmeyecek..”
Yaşlı melun adamın odasının kapısı tıklanır ve içeri, pıhtılaşmış kan kırmızısı cüppeler içerisinde bir ‘şey’ girer. Giren şey her ne ise, ancak genel hatlarıyla bir insanı andırmaktadır ancak sırtında koca bir kamburu, ayaklarından birisinde yenmiş, pırtık bir çizme, diğerinde ise öküz toynağı bulunmaktadır. Yaratık içeri girer ve kapüşonunun içinde olması gereken yüz yerine sadece karanlık bir boşlukla, kıpırdamadan Gullem’e bakar.
“Ne var?”, diye hırıldar yaşlı adam.
Ve sanki adamın emri, yaratığı canlandırmış gibi hareketlenir ve garip, yankılı, derinlerden gelen, bir hortlak ulumasını çağrıştıran, ve herhangi bir vurgu yada duygu içermeyen bir sesle konuşur.
Yaşlı adam tiksintiyle yaratığa bakar.
“Söyle geliyorum.”, der kısaca ve odasının köşesinde duran bir sandığa doğru yönelir.
Yaratık, kendisine verilen emri duyup duymadığına dair herhangi bir tepki göstermez. Bir anlığına yerinde kıpırdamadan durur, sonra sektiren adımlarla ‘tok’, ‘tok’, ‘tok’, diye toynağının yankılarıyla geldiği gibi çıkar odadan.
“Lanet Renfield’ler..”, diye neredeyse tükürür Gullem ve sandığı açar. Yaşlı, mel’un adam bir süre sandıktaki eşyaları süzer, sonra uzanıp, çarpık bir asa, kömür karası bir çubuk, iki yüzük, bir madalyon, ve ne oldukları anlaşılamayan bir-iki eşya daha alır ve sandığın kapağını kapatır.
Kapıya yönelmeden önce madalyonu boynuna geçirir, yüzükleri takar ve diğer eşyaları kirli cübbesinin muhtelif yerlerine saklar, kömür karası çubuğu da kemer niyetine kullandığı altın ve gümüş simli sicime sokuşturur sonra bir elinde asası olduğu halde kendisi de odasından ayrılır.
Yaşlı Gullem tam kapısını kapatacakken demir dikenli kafese, ve içinde hala tütmekte olan bitmiş tutsağına bakar.
“Benim canımı sıkmayı başardın. Sırf bundan dolayı, duvarı yıktığımda Korduba’s Watch’ı kuşatacağım, ama almak için özel çaba sarf etmeyeceğim. Ana ordularımla önce senin şehrine gideceğim ve ilk katliamımı orada yapacağım.. Bunu da senin ailenle başlayarak kutlayacağım. Bunun için sana tarih bile verebilirim. Ama bilmemen daha iyi. Merak kediyi öldürmüş derler. Seni öldürmeyecek ama delirmen için kâfi gelecek.. Herkesin bir kırılma noktası vardır. Bu da seninkisi olacak..”
✱ ✱ ✱
Face!..”, diye saygısızlığın ancak kıyısında denebilecek bir tonla hırıldar mel’un Gullem, devasa, loş ve boş salona indiğinde. “Hangi rüzgar attı seni buraya? Gelebilmen için harcamak zorunda kaldığımız büyü gücü ile yarım düzine iblis müfrezesi çekebilirdik cehennemden.”
Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ölümcül bir sükûnetle yaşlı adamın salona girişini seyreder. Aradan geçen onca yüz yıldan sonra yaşlı bunağın hala yanına bir güç asası, kendince kendisini koruyabileceğini sandığı bi düzine oyuncakları ve sihirli çubuğu ile gelmiş olmasına hem şaşırır, hem de bu durumu komik bulur.
Şaşırması, beceriksiz adamın her geldiğinde oyuncaklarıyla gelme noktasında gösterdiği azminden kaynaklanmaktadır. Ahmak bunak, aynı azmi Demon Wall surlarını yıkmak için değerlendirmiş olsa, ölümlülerin ‘Adalar Krallığı’ diye kibirle adlandırdıkları toprakların tamamı zapt edilmiş olurdu çoktan.
Komik bulmasının sebebi ise, bunağın kendisine karşı oyuncaklarının herhangi bir işe yarayacağını sanıyor olmasındandır.
“The Face”, içinden tiksintiyle ‘hıh’lar.
Bir ölümlüye yirmi altı bin yıl verseler dahi, kibrinden, ahmaklığından ve aptallığından hiçbir şey kaybetmemiş olmasını hayret verici bulur.
Ruhunu eline alıp sıktığında, yaşlı ahmağın surat ifadesini görmek pek keyifli olacaktır ve Kardax’Trakxa, bunağa neden kendisine “The Face” dendiğini o zaman hatırlatacaktır..
..iş işten tamamen geçtikten sonra —ki bu da an’ların en güzelidir, Trakxa için!
“Senden beklendiği gibi göndermen gereken raporlar gelmediği gibi, gelen düzensiz raporlar ise en iyi ihtimalle yarım yamalak, eksik, kusurlu, tutarsız ve yanlış yönlendirmelerle dolu.. Neredeyse bilinçli bir şekilde öyle hazırlanıyormuş gibi.”, der “The Face”.
“Rapor edilecek bir şey olduğu zaman, ve gerekli gördüğüm kadarını paylaşıyorum.”, diye kibirli bir kinle cevap verir mel’un adam.
“‘Gerekli gördüğüm kadarını..'”, diye düşünceli bir ifadeyle yaşlı bunağın cümlesini tekrarlar “The Face”. “Sanıyorum, Efendi Gullem cehennemle yaptığı antlaşmasını tamamen yanlış anlamış görünüyor.”
“Cehennemle yaptığım anlaşmamda sen yoktun, Trakxa. Yanlış hatırlamıyorsam o zaman sen daha basit bir iblis müfreze komutanıydın.”, diye hatırlatır Gullem küçümseyen bir ifadeyle.
“Eskiyi yad ederek kendine mutlu anılar oluşturma zamanın sona erdi bunak, zira işler artık değişti. Buraya gelme sebebim, sana bunu kati olarak hatırlatmak içindi, zira sen istediğimden biraz kıt çıktın ve bu döngüde geçen 7,600 yıl seni bu gerçeğe ayıltamamış belli ki. Önünde sadece iki seçenek var, ölümlü! Bunlardan birincisi; benden sana gelecek olan emirleri harfiyle yerine getirmen ve kati, özlü ve dakik bir imtina ile sonuçlarını rapor etmen, ikinci seçeneğin ise benim seni yok etmem.”, der “The Face” sakince.
“Buna cesaret edemezsin, Trakxa.. Tahtımı bana sen vermedin, Krolum’da Xora vermişti. Ve kendisiyle yaptığım antlaşmaya göre de ‘sonsuza’ kadardı..”, diye hırlar Gullem.
Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, gerçek tiksintiyle bakar melanet Gullem’e, zira bu ahmak tam olarak tahmin ettiği kadar geçmişte takılıp kalmış bir sürüngenden ibarettir.
“Bu konuyu istersen Krolum’da Xora ile konuşalım. Kendisi acaba ne diyecek senin beceriksizliklerin hakkında.. Aaa.. sanırım Krolum’da Xora ölmüştü.. Ad Ara onu öldürdüğünde ben oradaydım, bunak. Bunları sana söylüyorum çünkü bu sana vereceğim son şans ve tek uyarı. Ve açıkçası Cehennemin, senin gibi bir fazlalığı beslemesi için herhangi bir sebep görmüyorum. Ama Xora benim eski kumandanımdı ve ondan ‘aptallığın’ ne olduğunu öğrenmiş olmamdan ötürü küçük de olsa bir boyun borcu hissetmiyor değilim.. Her ne kadar kendisini defalarca uyarmış olmama rağmen kendi aptallığının kurbanı olmuş olsa da..”, der “The Face” aynı sakin ve ‘alttan alan’ gibi görünen yanıltıcı sesiyle.
Yaşlı, mel’un Gullem öylece Kardax’Trakxa’ya bakakalır.
“Siz ölümlülerin ‘hayat’ dediği şey gereçekten kendi ironileriyle dolu. Sana ölümsüzlük vaad eden acımasız Krolum’da Xora, kendi ölümünü bile ön göremedi. Onu ‘merhamet’ meleği olan Ad Ara öldürdü. Ve ben de Ad Ara’yı öldürdüm.. 1,600 yıl süren, adı konulmamış işkencelerden sonra. Önce onun kanatlarını kırdım. Teker teker. Sonra onları yoldum. Ve köklerinden kopardım. Bir daha kaçamayacağını anlaması için.. Ve kaçabilse bile bir daha asla Göklere geri dönemeyeceğine ayılsın diye.. Sonra onun parmaklarından başladım. Onları kırdım, kopardım ve iblislerime yedirdim.. Kolları.. Sonra kollarını omuzlarından yırtıp kopardım. Canı o kadar yandı ki, çığlıkları bütün şatomda bir sanat eseri gibi yankılandı.. O güzel saçlarını yolup hatıra olsun diye kendime bileklik bile ördüm. Göğüslerini, onun gözlerinin içine bakarak kestim. Pek sevdiği ölümlülere benzerliğini de bu şekilde gömmüş oldum. Ve bacakları.. Evet bacakları en keyifli yerleriydi. Onları yüzerken o kadar çok ağladı ki, yanlış hatırlamıyorsam gözleri yuvalarından akmıştı. Ve ben bunları ona çok uzun bir süre yaptım.
Halbuki ondan hoşlanmıyor değildim bile.”
..diye anlatır “The Face” sessiz ve korkunç bir sükunetle.
Yaşlı Gullem dehşet içerisinde önünde duran Cehennem Komutanına bakar.
“Şunu çok iyi anlamanı istiyorum, Gullem.”, der Trakxa, bir eğitmenin, biraz kıt bulduğu bir öğrencisinde kullanabileceği bir üslupla. “Ben ondan sanıldığı kadar nefret etmiyordum. Ben Ad Ara’dan sanıldığından çok daha fazla nefret ediyordum. Ama hoşlanıyordum da. Çünkü o becerikliydi. Giriştiği bütün mücadeleleri başarıyla ve en önde idame ve idare ediyordu. Ve asla bir melek olduğu için kendisini ‘garantideymiş’ gibi düşünmüyordu..
Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ilk defa yaşlı ahmağa bakar —gerçekten bakar.
Ve o bakıştaki tiksinti ve nefret o kadar yoğun ve derindir ki, bir ölümlüde asla görülemeyecek derecededir.
“Ve sen, Gullem.. Sen onun yanında tam anlamıyla bir ‘hiçbir şey’sin ve ona duyduğum saygıyı da sana karşı hissetmiyorum..”, diye sessizce tıslar.
“Ba.. bana bir şey olursa bu şato çöker ve yerle bir olur.. Ve Sonsuz İblis vadisindeki bütün iblis ve yürüyen ölü saldırıları durur. Bu dünyadaki tüm girişimleriniz de sekteye uğrar..”, diye kekeleyerek ve sırılsıklam terlemiş bir şekilde cevap verir Gullem.
Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, ona acınası bir şekilde bakar.
“Ne kadar aptal olduğuna karar vermeye çalışıyorum, ama her ağzını açtığında bana yep yeni bir tavan seviyesi gösteriyorsun, yaşlı, ahmak, çürümüş bunak! Bütün bu toprakları yerle bir etme pahasına seni gözden çıkardım zaten. Sana bunu anlatmak için geldim bugün. Ama görüyorum ki sen gerçekten aptal ve kıtmışsın ve bir türlü sana ‘nazikçe’ anlatmaya çalıştıklarımı anlamamakta ısrar ediyorsun. Sen, Gullem, gözden düştün, ve gözden de çıkarıldın. Senin defterin son sayfasında ve ben sadece o sayfayı okusam mı, yoksa okumayıp ‘sobaya’ mı atsam diye düşünüyorum. Dediğim gibi. Bu sana olan tek ve son uyarım ve önündeki seçeneklerde belli.”. der..
..ve harekete geçer.
“The Face”, olağan üstü bir hızla ve hiçbir ön uyarı olmaksızın gelir ve melanet Gullem ne asasını, ne her bir yerine gizlediği büyülü eşyalarını, ne de belindeki sihirli sopasını değerlendirme fırsatı bulur.
Cehennem Komutanı onu gırtlağından tutmuş, içi saman çöpleriyle doldurulmuş bir bez bebeği kaldırır gibi havada ve gırtalağından tutar.
“Bu dünyadaki ‘bütün girişimelerimizi’, senin kadar beceriksiz bir aptala bırakacağımı düşünmeni de şahsıma yapılmış bir hakaret olarak görüyorum. Ben buraya çeki düzen vermeye geldim, bunak. Bunun için de sana ihticayım yok. Bunun için ya varlığınla yolumu açarsın, ya da sereceğim yolun altında kalırsın!”
Yaşlı Gullem, kan ter içerisinde kalmış ve morarmaya başlamış bir suratla bir elini beline götürür. Titreyen eliyle belindeki sihirli çubuğu çekip çıkartır ve kendisini gırtlağından yakalamış Cehennem Komutanına doğru yöneltir ve..
..ve tetiği çeker!
Sihirli çubuktan uzun, ince, ve kötürüm bir hale, muazzam bir hızla “The Face”e isabet eder..
..ve İblis Komutanının göğsünde, kısa bir anlığına, girecek bir delik arayan kertenkele gibi oynaşır, sonra da kaybolur.
Kardax’Trakxa “The Face”, sırıtmaz, gülmez, yada küçümseyen herhangi bir şey söylemez. Dipsiz ifadesiyle, kendisine hayret.. ve korkuyla bakan mel’un adamı süzer.
“Vurduğundan emin misin, bunak? Bir daha denemek ister misin?”, der sakince.
Gullem bir daha dener, ancak bunun sonucu da ilkinden farklı olmaz.
“The Face”, diğer eliyle sakince uzanır ve yaşlı adamın elini, elinde tuttuğu sihirli çubuğu ve neredeyse kolunun tamamını kavrar..
..sonra da acımasız bir sükunetle sıkar!
Gullem en son ne zaman canının bu kadar yandığını hatırlamaz.. On bin? Yirmi bin? Yirmi altı bin yıl önce belki..
Bir önceki döngüde..
Kardax’Trakxa, yaşlı, lanet adamın çığlıklarını duymaz. Aynı sükunetle sıkmaya devam eder.
Aradan ne kadar süre geçtiği bilinmez ama kendi acı sümükleri, göz yaşları ve silik inlemeleri duyulan mel’un adamı “The Face”, akıl almaz gücüyle fırlatıp attığında, Gullem’in sol kolunda kullanılabilir, değerlendirilebilir, yada iyileştirilebilir hiçbir kas, tendon yada kemik kalmamıştır. Kol, dirsek altından itibaren çamura dönmüş, kanlı bir balçıktan ibarettir artık ve sihirli çubuktan da geriye, birkaç acınası kıymık dışında hiçbir şey kalmamıştır.
“Yarın yeni bir kapı aralayacaksın.”, der “The Face” sakin bir şekilde elindeki yaşlı adamdan geriye kalan kanlı pise bakarak. “Buraya üç komutanımı gönderiyor olacağım. Onlardan çay, kahve, kurabiye.. —hürmetten hiçbir şey esirgemeyeceksin. Burayı hizaya getirmek ve gerekli değişiklikler için öngörülen.. siz ölümlüler nasıl diyorsunuz? ‘Performans değerlendirmesinde’ bulunacaklar ve istenmeyen, eksik yada gereksiz görülen her şey ‘shred’ edilip ‘çöpe’ atılacak.. Umuyorum atılanlar arasında sen de olursun.”
Kardax’Trakxa “TheFace” bir omzunu silker ve yerde inleyen habis Gullem’e bakar.
“Ama bu da senin ‘elinde’..”, diye ekler soğuk bir şekilde gülümseyerek.
✱ ✱ ✱
Gözleri acıdan kanlanmış ve faltaşı gibi açılmış bir şekilde odasına döner habis Gullem ve sessiz bir kinle elinin olması gereken yerdeki kanlı ‘şeye’ bakar.
Yirmi altı bin yıldır var olan uzvu artık yoktur..
Zorlukla ve ayaklarını sürterek sandığının yanına kadar gelir, sonra olduğu yere çöker.
“İnlemeni.. uzaklardan duydum.. Gullem..”, der demir dikenli kafesin içindeki ses. “Efendilerin.. senden memdun değiller mi yoksa?”
“Değiller..”, diye acıyla itiraf eder yaşlı mel’un.
“Bunu.. bekliyor olman.. gerekirdi.. halbuki..”
Mel’un Gullem acıyla ‘hıh’lar ve kıvranarak sandığını açar, içini biraz karıştırır ve aradığı şişeyi bulur. Şişe, yuvarlak, koni şeklindedir ve bir buçuk – iki karış boyundadır ve muallak, çamurumsu yeşil bir sıvı içermektedir.
Lanetli adam şişenin tıpasını dişleriyle açar ve kafasına diker..
..ve sonuna kadar içer.
Uzun bir süre sonra elindeki acının ‘tahammül edilir’ bir hale geldiğini hisseder ancak elinde herhangi bir gelişme olmaz ve hala iğrenç bir balçığa benzemektedir.
“Belki bir birimize yardım edebiliriz..”, der neden sonra mel’un Gullem.
Demir dikenli kafesten boğuk, anlaşılması zor bir ses duyulur.
Kafesteki her kimse, ‘kıkırdamaktadır’..
“Sen.. Mel’un ve Hain Gullem.. Benden.. sana yardım.. etmemi mi.. istiyorsun?”
“Hayır.”, diye cevap verir sızlanır acıyla Gullem. “Kendine yardım etmeni istiyorum. Heavens Hand ve gerisindeki şehirler ve kaleler hakkındaki bilgin azımsanmayacak kadar çok. Bana istediğim bilgileri ver, beraber ikimiz de ‘Efendilerimizden’ kurtulmuş olalım..”
“Ben.. ‘Efendimden’ memnunum.. Sen.. olmasan da.. Benim.. sonum belli.. hain.. Bu.. değişmeyecek.. Kendi hayatımı kurtarmak için.. bu dünyada yaptığım en son şey.. bana güvenenlere ihanet etmek.. olmayacak..”, der fısıltılıyla demir dikenli kafesten gelen ses.
“Bu sadece kendini kurtarman için değil. Aileni kurtarmak için de bir fırsat.”, der mel’un adam.
“İnsanlığına.. ve insanlara.. ihanetinden sonra.. şimdi de adına ihanet ettiğin efendilerine mi.. ihanet edeceksin..?”, diye hayretle inler sesin sahibi. “İhanetlerinin.. bir sonu yok mu senin?”
Habis adamın kaşları çatılır. Büyük bir kinle demir dikenli kafese, ve içindeki yarı kömür olmuş ‘şeye’ bakar ve hırlar.
“Ben senin aklının alamayacağı kadar uzun bir zamandır bu dünyadayım. Ben kadim ejderlerin ateşinden kurtulmuş kadim bir zatım. Ben iki döngü arasındaki boşluktan kurtulabilmiş tek kişiyim. Ben—”, diye çığlar aynı kinle.
“—Sen.. sadece çok.. uzun bir süre iblislerle yatıp.. kalkmış bir hainsin, Gullem..”, diye inleyerek araya girer demir dikenli kafesin içinden gelen ses. “Kadim ejderlerden.. kurtulabilmiş tek kişi olman da.. sana hiçbir onur kazandırmamış.. Kendi kibrin ve müritlerin.. sana.. ölümsüz.. olduğun sanısı vermiş.. Ama bir gün.. bir anda.. elin gibi.. sen de kuruyacaksın.. Şunu.. anlamalısın.. habis.. Gullem.. Yaşadığın bütün.. bin yıllarına rağmen.. gerçekte.. hiçbir şeyin yok.. Varlığının tamamı.. iblislere.. ait.. Ve senden istediklerini.. hasat edecekleri gün.. geldi..”
Yaşlı, melanet Gullem’in suratı daha da çirkinleşir ve demir kafese, ve içindeki tutsağına kaynayarak bakar. Ancak medeni tutabildiği bir sesle ona hırlar.
“Bana oldukça sınırlı bazı tercihler verildi bugün.. Şimdi ben de sana benzer bazı tercihler de bulunacağım. Ya bana yardım eder ve buradan kurtulup tekrar halkına ve ailene dönersin, yada yok olursun.. Evet.. YOK OLURSUN! Seni Oblivion’a gönderirim ve oradan da pek kıymetli Göklerine hiçbir geçiş kapısı da yoktur!”
The Orken Horde have arrived on the doorsteps of Serenity Home. Many have gathered to defend the ‘serenity’ of this once peaceful and quiet town but it is doubtful they will be enough.
The remains of the once glorious Arashkan, the beautiful Bari Na-ammen, and the mystical Vodgar cities are all that stand between the annihilation of humanity. The numbers, however, say otherwise.
It is clear, Serenity Home needs her allies;
known, unknown, and forgotten..
The heroes scatter all around the kingdom to find those allies. Some go to other cities, some to their own people to get help.
And some go where they shouldn’t..
Gnine Tinkerdome, Laila Wolvesbane, and Merisoul Xyrotwu travel to Silent Hills and quietly enter the Demon Fog to find a way to pass the slithering fog and enter the Silent Halls. The only clue they have is the strange riddle that Nadine Graciousward gave them.
into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
blood for blood
soul for soul
life for life
trade and be king
This story takes place a few short weeks after
Eski Efendim, Sahibim
ve Çok Daha Fazlası..
Are you sure this is the way?”, asked the gnome with a tight voice as the heavy fog settled around them once more, hiding the hills, the trees, the bushes, and finally, the earth itself.
“I have no idea, Master Gnine..”, replied the girl with the honey-brown hair, the crowning horns, and the raven-black wings, smartly.
There was a sullen silence..
..followed by a snort from the silent half-elf ranger girl, Laila.
The gnome, Gnine, turned around and scowled at Laila, then at the otherworldly beautiful girl, Merisoul, and scowled at her as well.
“This is no time for levity, Miss Mersoul.”, he said through clenched teeth.
“I don’t do levity, Master Gnine. This, you should know by now. Sweet Laila knows that I don’t, don’t you love?”, replied Merisoul brightly.
“I am not getting involved in this.”, she said and coughed again.
Merisoul shrugged and added, “And you really don’t have to ‘miss’ me all the time, you know. I will admit it is endearing, but methinks this is not quite the right time.”
Gnine ignored her wish and her remark. He scowled at her, some more..
..and at Laila as well, just so she wouldn’t feel left out.
“You said you knew the way!”, he nearly flared.
“No. I said I could find the way, given enough time..”, she corrected.
“We don’t have time.”, Gnine growled.
“Perhaps you should have decided to become a king a bit sooner, then, no?”, she smiled down at him.
“I didn’t know I had a kingdom, nor the fact that I could become her king!”, said Gnine in an exasperated tone.
“Well. There you have it then. Neither of us were sufficiently prepared and none of us knew we had to come here. This is where we admit we were caught with our pants down, I suppose, except I don’t’ have any pants and never owned one; always thought them to be a bit constricting and refraining for my taste, really..”, she said happily.
“Merisoul. PLEASE!”, said Gnine.
“‘Please’, always helps.”, Mersoul replied a bit seriously. “However, the fact remains; much like you, my dear Gnine Tinkerdome, I never came this way before either. I said I could find the way in, which is possibly true. All things considered, I am likely the only ‘friendly’ demon you are ever going to find, to get you in and through the Demon Fog.”
Gnine loved Merisoul.
She was pretty.
She was oddly fun.
She had an uncanny memory for events, conversations, and strange trivia.
She gave a ‘novel’ meaning to many unimportant or seemingly insignificant things.
And she was delicately accurate in whatever she did, be it blasting —or smoldering her enemies, or helping a friend..
..or even deceiving the said friend.
She would walk through fire to save what she thought was worth saving.. literally..
But she did have her exasperating moments, as well, and pushing her never helped..
Not in the long run, nor in the overall scheme of things.
Hence, Gnine Tinkerdome took a deep breath, slowly let go of his steam, and asked the raven winged half-succubi;
“How shall we proceed, then?”
“Smart move..”, complimented Laila.
Merisoul Xyrotwu smiled at her, then looked down at the gnome.
“I am sorry Master Gnine. I truly am. I really am not going out of my way to make things harder for you. Some things just are as hard as they are.. Period.
When the curse of the Demon Fog was laid upon these hills and your ancestors, Mortal counterparts had to be used so the curse would ‘stick’, per se. Otherwise, it would have dissipated a long, long time ago.
It is through those ‘willing’ Mortals the fog persists and said Mortals were not going to put something that could be thus easily cracked, now were they.”, Merisoul tried to explain.
“So, in other words.. what, exactly?”, asked Gnine.
“She means, we are screwed..”, inserted the ranger girl, in a low, noncommittal tone.
“Not quite.”, disagreed Merisoul.
“How so?”, asked Gnine.
“The Mortals who helped anchor the curse on this, ‘mortal’ end, used hard-to-decipher words to make it impossible for the anchor —the curse itself— to be broken. I suppose using a long array of random numbers, some sixteen or thirty digits would have sufficed and made it truly impossible to crack, but we are talking about Mortals who are, forever, subject to hubris, hence they put conditional rhymes and riddles. And you can always find the answer to a riddle.. provided you do it in the correct, sequential order.”
“Why?”, the gnome asked as a lump settled deep down his stomach for he felt a mind-numbing, and possibly a logic-murdering explanation coming his way.
“Because, my dear Master Gnine, it is the nature of hubris, which is the culmination of arrogance, pride, and vanity, to want to be noticed, much like serial killers leave calling cards behind. They want to be admired on how clever they are and how they have managed to elude capture for as long as they have.”, she replied happily.
Gnine stared at the girl with a sick expression, because that made ‘solving’ the riddle near impossible.
Laila chewed at a finger as she stared into the sticky fog and seemed like she wanted to be anywhere else but here.
“Do not despair, Master Gnine.”, Merisoul smiled at the gnome. “The riddle says;
into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
And here we are, in the hills, which are silent and empty. And we have thus followed the path into the fog.”
Laila rolled her eyes and silently ‘ho boy’ed at the half-succubi girl’s monumental misuse of logic.
“And the door?”, asked Gnine, looking around. “I see no door..”
“Well. If you had, that would have been too easy, and for just about anyone to find. I am thinking, the door is not a door, but a frame of mind. You of all people should know, Master Gnine, what appears, may not be. And what may not be, may be..” Merisoul said and looked at the gnome with expectation and anticipation..
..And it dawned in Gnine’s mind and he gave a sharp hiss..
“The bloody door is almost a metaphor. Very nearly an illusion.. It is the ‘unexpected’. It is right here; anywhere and everywhere!”
“Very astute, Master Gnine. I suspect you will make an excellent king someday.. What you have defined is, in fact, the very core of all power evil thrives upon; all its promise.. is an illusion!”
“Eh?”, baffled Laila.
Gnine, on the other hand, stared at the half-succubi girl with stunned admiration as true comprehension slowly dawned in his eyes.
“All those months ago..”, he gasped. “..back at that bloody demon pit, right after we killed Themalsar.. You tried to warn me.. Ow. My. Gosh! You tried to warn me and I never understood you were trying to tell me all along!”
“It’s alright, my dear Master Gnine. That self-same irony was lost upon myself, for I had descended into the same ruins for nothing other than to find power. And power I found. Just not the one I had considered, nor the kind I would have ever wanted, seeing as who and what I am.. Yet, here I am, working for one master, against a former master who will find me in the end, and suffer me pain like never felt, nor seen before.”
Gnine looked up at the otherworldly young woman, stepped up to her, and hugged her.
“Then we shall drill a hole into his Hell and come rescue you, my dear Merisoul.. Bet Udoorin would love that kind of carnage. Me, I prefer nuking from afar.. We shall bring his own walls down around him and make him suffer as he has made you suffer.”
Merisoul looked down at the gnome with surprise and astonishment.
“But.. Why?”, she asked.
“Because, my dear Soul, as inconvenient as we Mortals are, we are also headstrong, mule-headed, you might even say.. What’s more, WE LOVE and WE PROTECT OUR FRIENDS..“, he finished fiercely.
“What he said.”, added the ranger girl stoically and put a hand on the half-succubi’s shoulder.
Mersoul Xyrotwu rocked where she stood, as two ‘Mortals’, one little gnome, and one pretty ranger girl declared her, so blatantly, and honestly, a ‘friend’..
“Then I shall make it so, that you get your home, your people, your kingdom, and your destiny back, Master Gnine.”, she whispered, drew a step back, and knocked on the fog!
Knock. Knock. Knock.
..and the fog parted, revealing a dark, broken tunnel..
..and there were shadows in the tunnel..
..and they moved..
Laila instantly cocked an arrow and drew her bow.
But the otherworldly beautiful half-succubi did not tense nor prepare.
“There’s no need, love.”, she said to the ranger corporal!
And then she smiled.
✱ ✱ ✱
Hello, mirima..”, she whispered.
“Hello, doll..”, replied a soft, husky voice..
..and the leading shadow formed into a ravishingly pretty girl with short, tanned hair, one amber-brown, the other pale green eye, and long, elegant antler-like horns.
“Took you long enough.”, said the ravishing girl with the antler horns.
“Took a while to convince my friends and get here..”, replied Merisoul.
The ravishing girl looked down at the ogling gnome and at the stunned ranger-girl and smirked.
“You seem short on friends, or is he just short?”, she said with an amused voice.
“Friends come by quality, mirima, not by quantity.. and he is the right height for his kind. The others are busy elsewhere.”, explained Mersioul.
“And this? Pretty isn’t she..”, she smiled.
Laila fidgeted uncomfortably while Merisoul looked past her, and into the dark tunnel.
“What are they doing here?”, she asked a bit surprised.
“The Mortal anchors set the conditions, doll.”, replied the girl with the antlers.
find the door
blood for blood
soul for soul
life for life
trade and be king
“You knocked and I opened The Door, but you needed more.. and these..”, she said, pointing at the many shadows in the tunnel, “..are the ‘more’. They all knew you. All I did was tell them about what you had done, and they all decided they wanted to trade their blood, their life, and what soul they had, and given freely, to ascend..”
Merisoul stared at her and perhaps for the first time, a thunderstruck expression cast on her face..
“Sweetheart..”, she began, but the antler-girl butt in.
“..Told them it wouldn’t be so much fun as it would be painful, and that they would actually have to get real jobs and work for their ascension, yet here they all are.
You always did say Auntie Irine wasn’t treating her trainees right.
Perhaps she should have indeed employed and nursed us better, rather than having us suffer the extremes of her ‘education program’.. nor indulged herself upon us, the way she did..
But then, if she could have, she wouldn’t have been the bloody demon bitch that she was and none of us would have had to endure this mess in the first place as we would never have been.
Now. Are you going to introduce us or what?”
“Thank you.”, she said softly.
“No, doll, thank you. For the first time, we are free, and for the first time, we will have our will to our own. We will have real lives and should we wish, real mates; true loves, and lovers.. We will burn, not in flesh, but in our hearts.. And worthy pains they will be; that of birth, of life, and of death.. And perchance, understand what was bereft of our birthright; COMPASSION..”
“Sweetheart.. He will never forgive me. He CAN’T. This, I know. And this, I have accepted. But he will never let you be, either. One by one, he will hunt you all down.”, said Merisoul with tears in her eyes.
“Then we shall look upon it as a down payment for our ascension!”, replied the antler-girl, and harshly.
Once more, Merisoul signed.
Then she looked down at the befuddled gnome and the creeped out ranger-girl standing next to him and said, “Mirima, these are two of my friends, who have also claimed me as their friend; Master Gnine Tinkerdome and Ranger Corporal Laila Wolvesbane. Master Gnine, Corporal Laila, this my BFF, Lanna Temez.. “
“..Also known as Perigren Ostlanna Temez. Nice to meet you two, I think.”, Lanna said with her soft, husky voice.
“Umm.. You are welcome?”, replied Gnine. “Nice to meet you too, I hope.”
Laila could only nod.
Perigren Ostlanna Temez smiled at the abashed gnome and the somewhat dumbstruck ranger-girl for a moment, then, just like that, she was all business, once again.
“Alright, you lot!.. Form a line, give your oaths before The First among the Lost to Rise, the King of these halls, and the Witness; She-Who-Stands-Between and go.. Hence you shall be bound only by your own oath and be free to fight for your ascension.”, she said and looked down, once more at Gnine.
Then, without warning, she slashed open her right palm, using her bare fingers..
She squeezed, and upon her bloody fist, she solemnly oathed;
“This blood, I, who has been known as Perigren Ostlanna Temez for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”
Gnine Tinkerdome just stared at the antler-girl.
Laila had thought she’d prepared herself for ‘wierd’ when she’d decided to come here with Gnine and Merisoul but this had just gone off her charts.
“Where will you all go?”, asked Merisoul curiously?
Lanna Temez smiled at Merisoul.. smirked, really.
“To the one that burned you!. The young throw-away bantam, Thomas..” she said. “I arranged to ask him and he said he would keep us all hidden and safe, in his temple, of all places, until the fighting started. He thought we’d make excellent teams for surgical strikes against enemy HQs, though I am not quite sure what that really means!”
“You.. you spoke with Thomas? Thomas Dimwood?”, blurted Laila.
“Not in person, pretty girl.. Not yet, anyway. But I suspect I shall. I just must meet the boy who burned our Merisoul.”, she said happily.
And then a tall, young, pretty young man with pale hair and impressive, curving horns stepped up, gorged open his palm, squeezed it into a bloody fist, and spoke with a cool, rusty voice.
“This blood, I, who has been known as Hal Mali Volent Pierce for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Hal Mali Volent Pierce, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend.. Hi Soul!”
“Hey, Hal.. Thank you.”, Merisoul said.
“No, girl, thank you.”, smiled Hal..
..and walked off, and disappeared in the fog.
Laila stared after the handsome creature with a thunderstruck expression.
“I thought all you succubi were girls.”, she mumbled.
“Ow, no, sweet Laila.”, smiled Merisoul with a glassy expression. “We were made to sow discord among Mortals..
I think, deep down, you also know; of the two genders, which is the stronger and the truly dangerous one.
Should you ever want to destroy a people, you need not kill their men, devastate their lands, nor slaughter their animals, but merely degrade, deprave, degenerate, immoralize, and corrupt their women..
And we are not succubi, which is a word used to describe our heritage. The females of our real counterparts are called ‘Succubus’ and the males are called an ‘Incubus’..
My mother.. she was a beautiful mortal woman. She got caught in a cult led by an Incubus, who was my father.”
“I.. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to..”, faltered Laila.
“It’s alright, love. Not your fault. I loved my mother because I remember her whispering warm words to me when I was born. She died two days later. She is probably the only one that I have known to have loved me unconditionally and uncritically. Perhaps I shall find my father, one day, and discuss what he did to her.. at length.”
“I’d be happy to come along.”, Laila offered. “I myself love a good, long discussion with bow charts and pointy, directional arrows.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience, Master Gnine.. “, said Lanna Temez seriously. “But the oaths to ascension must be observed and properly.”
“It’s perfectly alright, my dear.”, replied Gnine with a spooked and amazed voice as he watched the long line of the prettiest, most beautiful and striking, very young women, and the very nearly as pretty, beautiful and devilishly handsome young boys come filing out of the dark tunnel.
“This blood, I, who has been known as Mathilda Ravish Demure for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Mathilda Ravish Demure, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend.. Hey, you!”
“Hey, Demure. I am sorry about Blenda. She was truly a loss.”
“I am sorry too. She never did learn to keep her trap shut though. A girl should always know when to shut up and when to mouth off, particularly where Demogorgon is concerned.”, replied Mathilda with a shrug and walked off into the fog..
“This blood, I, who has been known as Constance Alure Smithen for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Constance Alure Smithen, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”, said another, rather alluring, soft-eyed creature with flowing, silky black hair, and long, beautiful horns, followed by a particularly bewitching girl with glowing red hair, mesmerizing eyes, pretty little horns and distinctly curving figure wearing expressly fashionable.. almost see-throughs..
“What she said..”, she blurted..
“Demelze..”, the antler-girl said with a reproving tone. “..you know that won’t work. A binding must have your full name, your intentions, and your dedication in it, put to words, and properly.”
“She’s right, dear.”, confirmed Merisoul. “You must start this with the correct perspective and reasons.. Doing what we have just done, then losing it all on a technicality would be a sorrow way to go.”
“You can’t even give us a definitive outcome for this lasting and binding excursion but you want me to be definitive in my application?”, she whined.
“Mortals never get any ‘definitive’ in anything they do, sweet Demelze. Why should we?”, asked Lanna Temez. “Which is sort of the point..”
“I don’t understand..”, said Demelze with a deflated pout.
“Neither do I. But I do know exactly what’s waiting for us back there, and so do you.”, replied Temez as she pointed back at the dark tunnel.
Demelze sighed, nailed the skin of her palm open, and said;
“This blood, I, who has been known as Cee Lingerith Demelze for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Cee Lingerith Demelze, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”
..and she skimped into the fog as well.
“That one’s going to be trouble.”, said Temez, staring after the Cee ‘Lingerith’ Demelze.
“Yes..”, agreed Merisoul. “..can you but imagine me in those skimpy things?”
“Did. Any number of times..”, smirked Lanna, and barked a silvery laugh.
Laila let out a blushed snort.
“Mirima..”, said Merisoul reproachfully.
“Yes, yes, I know. You’d look spectacular in them, though.”
“Perhaps. But then, so would you. So would any girl, Mortal and not. Which, sort of ruins the whole thing for me; to get appreciated for only my appearance in a particularly revealing bit of cloth that has nothing to do with my mind, my heart, my feelings, my wants, my ideals, nor my desires. It turns me from a living, breathing, thinking being, into a specific object with a specific use.. Which is what we were back there to begin with..”, she said and nodded at the tunnel.
“Fun, though.”, Lanna smiled.
“Fun, and demeaning.. When I want to capture a man, it must be a permanent arrangement, and without the use of my heritage. It must be because he wants me as a person who has the free will to say ‘no’ at any given time.”, replied Merisoul.
“You never say, ‘no’, doll..”
“Yes, I do.. I just prefer not to.. I like to arrange things in a way that I do not have to say ‘no’ because I don’t like seeing sad faces around me and ‘no’ makes people unhappy. Hence, I balance my integrity with their conformity.”
“That’s a lot of work..”, said the antler-girl thoughtfully.
“Saying ‘no’ outright is easy. It requires little to no effort but a tint of courage. ‘No’, also is a heart and deal-breaker. Once it’s out, it is always out there. Why break something when it can be avoided by giving just a bit more effort on my part. We give so much more effort to the truly insignificant and the inconsequential to attain equally pointless ends. Why should it become an issue when I take the time and effort in trying not to break a heart? I find those who don’t or just can’t be bothered, corrosively sad and destitute.
Don’t get me wrong, sweetheart. My rates aren’t really all that high. I only crave mutual wanting that isn’t limited to certain interactions.. That, I can take from any man.. The mutual wanting I desire is that of the heart.. And for that to happen, I must first understand the heart. I think that is a reasonable rate, don’t you think?”
“Then.. how will I know if I have that mutual wanting?”, Lanna Temez asked and the shadow of an unfathomable fear cast on her beautiful face.
“Do not fret, sweetheart. You already have it.”
“How? How do you know?”
“Because you still hurt, dear.. Years have gone and you still simmer and still burn!”
Gnine Tinkerdome watched the long line of Half-Borns coming out of the tunnel, a count of perhaps over two hundred of them, listened to their bloody oaths and stared after them as they walked into the fog and disappeared in it, with awed fascination.
But he was so much more enthralled by the point of view upon which his friend, Merisoul Xyrotwu, based her whole life and perspective upon.
It was eerie, uncanny, delicate, dedicated, extreme and..
..by the Heavens, it had bloody worked!
Then the final half-succubi came; a boy that seemed no more than six or eight, dragging what appeared to be a stuffed imp, of all things. He was holding the hand of an older Half-Born girl with sharp features; sharp red lips, high cheekbones, a bold nose, a sharp, pointy chin, sharp amber-like eyes, and even sharper horns and a slim, curling tail.
She looked down at the boy then at Temez, Merisoul, and Gnine with a vicious scowl.
“I wasn’t going to leave him behind.. They beat him a few too many times and he’s not been right ever since. I suspect he is on their list for termination. No Mortal would want a disagreeable little slut with a creepy tail like me, anyway. I shall find me a home and look after him. Somewhere far and remote. He will never be right, but I will bloody make sure he always has ample food to eat, me to play tickle-tackle-toes and be stupidly happy!”
Merisoul stepped up and hugged the vicious girl.
“And that ‘kindness’ shall be your redemption, then, my beautiful Berete Hamna Vir.. I shall miss you..”
“No, you won’t!”, snorted Berete.
“I might..”, smiled Merisoul.
“Good ‘nuf for me..”, replied the vicious girl. Then she looked down at the little boy and softly spoke to him. “Say, ‘goodbye’ to your kin Merisoul and Temez, Dar Derune.”
“I don’t like the word, ‘kin’. It means ‘hate’ in one of the many Mortal tongues. I shall prefer ‘hug’. It means the same in every language, and everywhere..”, murmured the little boy vaguely, and hugged Merisoul.
“Goodbye, Merisoul.”, he whispered into her tummy..
“Goodbye, my little luv.”, said Merisoul softly. “I shall miss you.”
“I shall miss you too. You were always nice to me even though you had no reason to be. It.. it always felt like you had an angel in you.. I shall always remember, and cherish that..”, he mumbled.
Then he turned to Lanna and stared at her with big, solemn eyes.
“I want to hug you too, Temez. But I do not know if I should because you were always my favorite. I do not want you to misunderstand.”, he said with a barely audible voice.
Temez bent down to the boy, and enclosed him whole, in her arms.
“I shall bloody understand as I please, my beautiful little field..”
“Goodbye to you too, then, mirima Temez. Too bad I am broken and can’t be fixed.”
“Goodbye, Dar Derune. You were all of our favorite and we are all broken!”, sniffled Lanna. “We shall see each other again, one day. If not then, surely it will be beyond Oblivion.”
“Oblivion..”, mused the boy. “..isn’t as far as it sounds, really. I could wait!”
Then the vicious girl and the little boy gave their oaths as well and were soon gone into the fog.
“Well. That’s it, then.”, said Lanna Temez.
“That’s it, then..”, agreed Merisoul quietly.
Perigren Ostlanna Temez reached up hugged Merisoul.
“I shall miss you, Arezme Ara Serraphyn, my Best Fiend Friend, my sister, and my merry soul..”, she said..
..and she sobbed.
“And I shall dearly miss you as well, mirima Lanna Temez, my Best Fiend Friend, my sister, and my free soul..”, whispered Merisoul back, and for a long, long moment, she held her, and fiercely.
Then they parted..
Lanna Temez looked down at Gnine.
“We have cleared what we could, on our way here. Until you find yours, whatever else you face down there, is an enemy. This wasn’t the best we could do, it was merely the only thing we could do.. Through them, you must go to reach your people, and claim your hills, your halls, your throne, your heritage, your kingdom, and your destiny, Master Gnine Tinkerdome. I bid you and yours, a farewell..”
Gnine gave a solemn nod at her.
“Thank you, Lanna Temez. You shall be remembered.”
“No! My kind was a mistake that must never be remembered..”, she said harshly.
“If my friend Merisoul here is any indication of your kind, then you are but the best mistake ever to have happened.. Hence, you shall never be forgotten.”, replied Gnine.
Lanna gave Gnine a queasy stare.. Then she smiled.
“Mortals can indeed be inconvenient at times..”, she said with the same smile.
“Yes. Yes, they can, indeed..”, agreed Merisoul.
“Thank you for being my Merisoul’s friend, pretty Laila. Your kind —rangers, have always been a bane for my kind; always the first to face evil, and always the last thing we see.. You have no idea how important it is to have you as her friend. Now, I truly know she is not alone.”, Temez said seriously to Laila.
“She is welcome. And so are you.”, Laila replied. “For I know what it is to be alone.”
Perigren Ostlanna Temez, now only mirima Lanna Temez, gave Merisoul one last look, but no last words..
Slowly she turned..
..and walked into the Demon Fog, after her brothers and sisters.
It would seem, the great ‘Project Discord’, Aunt Irine had hatched many, many years ago had inadvertently backfired and quite horribly so, once she was, perhaps unwittingly, taken out of the equation.
The fruits of her centuries-old work to create a very special and uniquely dedicated Hell Legion to sow dissension among Mortals had just walked off.. to fight against her own master.
And Kardax’Trakxa “The Face” now had a genuine reason to hate her and her progeny..
into the hills
silent and hollow, we have ventured
chased the path
and through the fog
found the door
and hallowed the grounds
with our blood
freely gave our souls
and returned the king
and fight, we shall
to earn our ascension..
..whispered Merisoul, and with Gnine Tinkerdome leading the way and Laila Wolvesbane following closely, they entered the dark, musty tunnel starting down into the still and muted vaults of Silent Hills, to give back her voice.
There is no good time for a Lie.
Only good timing!
A FEW WEEKS AGO, ON THE ROAD TO ARASHKAN,
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SIM TOWN AND MISTY FOREST
NEAR THE GREAT ARASHKAN LAKE.
I feel sick!”, came the groaning voice of a girl from the shuddering wagon. She was an innocently beautiful girl, with a diminutive, sad face, long, honey-brown hair, raven-black wings, and dark, crowning horns. She lay in a fetal position under a rough, scratchy woolen blanket as she moaned dramatically.
“You were sick yesterday. And the day before that. And the one just about before that as well.”, came the voice of the broad-shouldered she-dwarf in heavy armor, and heartlessly. She was already tethering at the end of her patience; she had been trying to compose a prayer —a feat that was quite a challenge, the way the wagon shook and rumbled like a drunken Mox!
“But she is ill..”, said the third person in the wagon; this one, a pretty and skinny girl, and she spoke with a small, scared voice.
She wasn’t lean, nor slender.
One would think she had been saved from a concentration camp merely a day or two ago.
“And I do believe she totally deserved it.”, scowled the she-dwarf.
“But.. Sister Lady.. Please..”, pleaded the skinny girl.
“Should have kept her hands off my boy. Did she? Nooo..”, the dwarf, ‘Lady’, growled at the skinny girl, Inshala.
“She didn’t know..”, whined the girl.
“What she said; I didn’t’ know!”, came the voice of the girl from under the blanket.
“And that makes it alright, I suppose?”, scowled the she-dwarf, even more.
“Perhaps you should pin a note on your ‘boys’, ‘I AM THE TEMPLE PROPERTY! – HANDS OFF!‘ Or better, yet; ‘OFF LIMITS‘.”, replied the girl in a miserable voice and without a trace of sarcasm. “I promise, I would never have touched him.”
The underlying twisted logic in that was not lost on ‘Lady’, the she-dwarf. Had the ‘boy’ not been a temple guardian, he would have been dead —’used’, and then devoured by the half-succubi girl lying sick under the blanket.
There was no arguing with Merisoul. She was what she was; a half-born, a scion of succubi, and devouring the souls of their victims were in their nature. True, the girl had managed to curb her appetites rather admirably since the day they had met, but Thomas —the young temple guard, had almost fallen for the beauty of the succubi.
To be fair, the half-born was not sick because Thomas had been a temple guardian, but because the boy had long fallen for another beauty; the stubborn, pugnacious, aggressive, and troublesome girl, Bremorel Songsteel..
..and the succubi, as seductive as they were, would get branded and sick or poisoned should they ever try to touch, let alone devour a soul who was truly in love.
Funny how that went; beauty always seemed to cause trouble, and eventually, burn —someone!
And boys always seemed to go for the wrong girls..
Lady loved Bremorel like she were her own, like all those she had taken under her wings, but the girl was trouble.. and troubled. She had been so, ever since her parents had been killed by a band of marauding orcs and brought to the town orphanage.
In time, it was possible she would have recovered as time healed many things by way of clouding old memories..
..had the girl not actually witnessed the butchery, and she had been only four at the time.
Lady decided she should perhaps be a tad more lenient to those under said wings.
“Are you getting worse?”, she asked finally.
“What I am getting, is a smell and it is going to make me retch!”, said the girl and with a sudden motion, she picked herself up and leaned over the side of the wagon and..
For a long moment, she stared at the sick as the wagon moved on.
“I puked.”, she said clinically. “That was mildly revolting, considering I am not even actually, sick! Not physically anyway. You would think a fiend like myself wouldn’t even have a soul, to be spiritually ill.. Shows how much all the great Heavens and their saints know!”
The skinny girl reached up to her with the itchy blanket and put it around her shoulders, shredded a piece of her own thread-bare skirt, and wiped the sick off her face.
“Why don’t you lie down and get some sleep.”, she said and drew her back into the wagon.
“Can’t. The smell..”, she moaned.
“Smell? What smell? I don’t smell anything?”, the skinny girl said.
“It’s coming from ahead. I think someone needs a bath.. and thoroughly!”
“Ummm.. who?”, asked Inshala tentatively.
“That Udoorin boy..”
Inshala stuffed her head under the blanket..
..and she kept on snorting!
The gnome driving the wagon also snorted. But unlike the skinny girl, Inshala, who was trying to keep it down so she wouldn’t be heard —because she was a polite young girl, the gnome, Gnine, on the other hand, barked out with glee.
“Ow, this is just too good not to repeat.. Repeatedly!”, he said, kicking his feet into the air.
“You repeat that, and I will hurt you, boy..”, came the growling voice of Lady. “..repeatedly!”
Gnine cackled some more.
“Would you like me to tell him? I totally can.”, the gnome said with mirth.
“How altruistic of you.”, said Lady and very much wanted something heavy in her hand.
“The ladies shouldn’t be burdened with this. It would break the boy’s heart! Can you imagine his face if someone told him he stank, right in front of Princess Lorna?”, smirked Gnine.
“By all means, do that, Master Gnine.”, said Merisoul from inside the wagon. “I am sure he will enjoy dismantling you. Not that there is much of you to dismantle.”
“Oh no, my pretty Soul. He will do nothing as long as the princess is anywhere in sight. He can’t!“, the gnome said evilly.
“But.. don’t you share a tent with him?”, asked Inshala innocently.
“Well.. as inconvenient as that might be, it might still be worth it.”, replied Gnine a bit dubiously, now.
“Or not.”, added Merisoul.
“You will do no such thing, midget!”, flared Lady. “I will inform the boy and he can take a bath in the lake. We will make an early camp.”
A FEW HOURS LATER..
“Hey, you.”, said Merisoul, as she approached Lorna while holding a large ‘puking tub’ in her arms.
“Hello, Merisoul. How are you today? Are you feeling any better?”, asked Princess Alor’Nadien ne politely, turning to look at her.
Merisoul looked down at her ‘tub’, then at Lorna.
“It’s only half full, so I suppose I am a bit better.”, she said, as she swayed.
“Please sit.”, she said and turned back to look at something in the distance.
“You can’t see him from here, you know.”, Merisoul said with a straight face.
Princess Alor’Nadien ne blushed.
“What? No. I was not trying to peak. That would be very inappropriate. And unkind to Sir Dorin.”, said Lorna, her face still bright red.
“A bit early to ‘Sir’ him, don’t you think?”, and there wasn’t a trace of amusement in her voice.
“I.. we refer to one another so. I would rather he called me Alor’Na or just Lorna. But he insists on living the habit of ‘ladying’ me, hence I reply in kind. He is a good man.”, Lorna said, still blushing.
“He is also alone..”, inserted Merisoul.
“Alone?”, Lorna asked, a bit confused.
“Yes. A young, healthy male, and not bad to look at, out of his armor, taking a bath, in a lake, and alone. I imagine any number of young, Arashkan country girls are having a great time ogling at him.”, Merisoul replied.
Lorna’s face changed..
..from a bright, blush red to a dark, furry red!
“That is.. that is just rude!”, she fumed.
“I agree. Totally rude.. but fun. Probably. Unless someone takes steps. Once one of them musters enough courage though, it’s over; she will jump into the lake for the boy, followed by her numerous competitors.”, the Merisoul mused. “They say the Dryadkin entrap by their charm, but nothing beats an Arashkan country girl to a young, husky, and healthy male specimen such as your Udoorin!”
“They had better not!”, flared the princess in a rather uncharacteristic way.
“I mean, I wouldn’t mind going there myself —to make sure he stays safe, I mean, but I am in a vulnerable state at the moment and young human males are a tad too scrumptious to pass. Ranger Corporal Laila could too, I suppose, but she and young Udoorin are like brother and sister, so that would be a bit awkward. The gnome would end up getting water-logged, then beached because he would enrage young Udoorin. Inshala is out of the question; she belongs to that not-so-nice Aager and Lady just shouldn’t be staring at a naked man while he bathes.. Now that’s just wrong. That leaves you. Unless you want to risk him.”
“I..”, stammered Lorna, returning back to a blush.
“I mean, all the fights and bloodletting we have been through all these months and losing him now to some country strumpets sounds like such a poor trade, and a waste to me.”, the succubi half-born added.
“But I am on watch duty.”, struggled the princess.
“I can cover for you.”, offered Merisoul. “And trust me when I say, no one wants to be anywhere near my ‘puke tub’. It’s toxic!”
“I won’t be intruding upon him, will I?”, asked Lorna hesitantly.
“Intrude away, darling, I am sure he won’t mind. Not that there is anything he could do about it; he is naked, in a lake, and alone, after all, probably about to be ambushed by any number of sunny, buxom, country girls..”
Princess Alor’Nadien ne took off at a run!
Aager Fogstep walked up to Merisoul as he stared after the princess, running towards the lake.
“What’s gotten into her?”, he murmured.
“She is off to watch duty.”, replied Merisoul.
This event triggers the story: A Bard’s Tale X, Dorin’s Day
✱ ✱ ✱
SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, DEEP DOWN
IN DUNGEONS, UNDER THE RUINS OF THEMALSAR.
Aager Fogstep did not like dealing with people. Not at a personal level. He preferred to orchestrate things in such a way that others did the interacting and the conversing. When things came to his attention on a personal level, it usually meant someone was about to be deleted.
Hence he smoothed over to the two ranger cousins and growled at them in his low, implicating voice.
“You two better talk with that girl.”
The two ranger cousins, Laila Wolvesbane and Bremorel Songsteel stared at one another and the younger of the two, ‘Bree’ made a face which she took no trouble hiding from the sinister-looking man in his dark clothes.
There was, apparently, some dislike between the two cousin-ranger-girls and Aager.
Laila never showed him any animosity. Not openly. Perhaps being half of an elf called her to be more subtle. Hence she preferred a passive-aggressive stance. Bree, on the other hand, did not bother with such subtleties and showed her displeasure as she did everything else; openly and savagely..
“What girl?”, asked Bremorel bluntly.
If Aager was taken aback by the girl’s attitude, he didn’t show.
Because he didn’t care.
Aager Fogstep had had his empathy washed out of his system by the time he was five.. back at Drashan.
“That strange girl.”, he said in his quiet, growling voice.
“That doesn’t narrow anything down. You could easily be referring to—”, she began.
“—You?”, finished Aager, causing her to scowl, and her cousin, Laila, to snort. “But no. You are odd enough without talking to yourself. I was referring to that.. little Inshala girl.”
Bremorel fumed furiously at the man standing before her.
“If you want to be taken seriously, and shown the respect you deserve, you must display it to others, and freely, young Morel Songsteel.”, he said.
Apparently, not caring did not equivalate to ‘accepting’ open displays of disrespect nor insolence, for Aager Fogstep.
Laila put a hand on her cousin’s shoulder, then she turned to Aager, and said, “What are we going to talk to her about? She isn’t exactly chatty, you know. Other than sneaking up to us and mumbling a few words, then taking off again, she hasn’t spoken to us at all.”
“My point, exactly. She has some.. issues. Serious issues that must be addressed.”
“Why don’t you talk to her then?”, inserted Bremorel spitefully.
“Don’t be asinine. That girl avoids me like the plague.”, snapped Aager.
“Can’t imagine why!”, she sneered.
“Bree.. Please.”, said Laila reprovingly.
Aager, however, gazed at the young woman for a long, silent moment with dead eyes.
Then he spoke;
“There is nothing to imagine, young Morel. I wasn’t given this job because of my people skills. I was given it to make sure the said people were safe enough to do all the stupid things they do. I do not defy nor deny my shortcomings. I am a heartless murderer with enough corpses to rope all the way back to Drashan.. I have no past worth remembering, nor a future worth living.. When I kill, I feel nothing. No shame, no remorse. Much like I see no reason for joy when I breathe.. Yet, I show courtesy because those that don’t, are cut first. I see little practical merit for ‘life’, yet do my best to keep those around me safe and alive.. What awaits me in my future, is nothings short of a noose..
So tell me, young Morel..
What’s your excuse for being insufferable?”, he snarled savagely.
Bremorel’s face flushed.
“What do you want us to tell her? What kind of issues does she have?”, she asked.
“I wouldn’t know. I could safely say, she needs.. friends. Talk to her. Be her friend.”
Laila cocked an eyebrow at the man in dark clothes.
Even Bremorel was astonished.
Aager Fogstep; the soulless, friendless, exempt-of-all-human-emotions man, was asking them to befriend someone!
“You want us? To be friends? With that girl?”, she asked incredulously.
“Yes.”, he growled. “From what I heard, you two became friends quite after you met. You should know, how.”
“Yea.”, spat Bremorel in a voice that reeked with sarcasm. “Have Udoorin insult my cousin again and we’ll take Inshala with us to beat him! Should make us and her, all cuddly!”
“Ow. Do you like that girl?”, came a soft voice from somewhere above them, and Merisoul Xyrotwu landed right next to them!
Aager Fogstep just stared at the half-succubi.
“No.”, he snarled.
“I don’t believe you!”, she said happily.
“And I don’t really care what you believe.”, he very nearly spat.
“You do know that I can read your feelings, right?..”, she began.
“Neither my thoughts nor my feelings are any of your business.”, Aager growled.
“..And they are all a jumble. A confused mess. Mangled in disarray!”, she finished.
“By all means, repeat the same thing using synonyms.”, he said in an infuriated voice.
“Actually, they all mean different things.”, Merisoul said in an explanatory way. “True. They are, at times, used interchangeably, but in reality, there are nuances. In your case, they all apply independently.
Aager decided this was just about the best time for an acceptably decent retreat and still keep some of his dignity intact. The silly, intrusive girl with the raven wings was a heaven for garbage trivia, making arguing with her, a pointless, but infuriating exercise..
She was exactly the kind of person he avoided at all costs.
The only ‘good’ thing about his birthplace, Drashan, was people like this girl would never last. They would, sooner than later, irritate someone —anyone— and be cut and make everyone else happy.
Other than pirates, murderers, thieves, cutthroats, scoundrels, and whores, it was likely Drashan had the highest concentration of pragmatic and practical people then any other place!
He looked at the ranger cousins one last time.
“She needs friends. Desperately, and soon. Not me..“, he growled and left.
✱ ✱ ✱
A FEW MONTHS AGO, INSIDE AND NEAR THE
ENTRANCE OF THE RUINS OF THEMALSAR.
Tell me, little fiend, have you any last words before you face your doom?”, said the beautiful Archangel of Wrath, Priceptine, as he gazed down upon the broken body of the pretty girl with the long, honey-brown hair, sagging raven-wings, diminutive face, sad, soulful eyes, and the crowning horns. She lay there bruised and bleeding, but still clutching to the dented locket that had been the Archangel’s jail for some eight hundred years.
“To which doom, are you referring to, if I may ask? The one where some Mortals threw me into a pit when I was but two and kept me in there until I was ten?
Or the doom where an incubus had his way with my mother, who died two days after giving birth to me?
Or the doom where I was forced to endure Hell for years? I hope not. Hell is a bore..
Or perhaps you are referring to the doom where the Angel whom I set free, gets to beat me out of ‘gratitude’?”, replied the barely alive young girl.
Apparently, this was not the answer Priceptine, the Archangel of Wrath was expecting. From a demon, something declarative like “I will see you in Hell!”, was more fitting.
“You did not free me out of the goodness of your heart.”, he snarled.
“How could I? I didn’t even know what was in the locket. Had I known the Archangel of Wrath would be my collocutor, I would never have opened it.”, she said, and without a trace of shame.
“So. You admit your intentions?”, he scowled.
“What is there to hide? No one sane would release a being, knowing he will beat you to pulp the moment he’s out. That would be insane!”
Priceptine glared down at the little fiend girl. She was either very smart, cunning, and devious.. or just stupid.
“I think an apology is in order here.”, sniffed the girl.
“AN APOLOGY?“, snarled Priceptine.
“Of course. Something to compensate for the smiting, the lack of gratitude and rewards.. I did set you free. And I am a bit appalled about the lack of base courtesy, as well..”
“You did not release me intentionally, nor with good intentions.”, he grinded his teeth.
“As a matter of fact, I did open the locket with the intention of releasing its prisoner in hopes of being rewarded. That sounds like a perfectly good intention to me.. And any fiend or demon would have complied with those terms. But I suppose such rules of courtesy do not apply to Angels.. Or Mortals! I find the similarity arbitrary and quite disturbing.”, she said.
One must candidly admire the cool in the girl’s attitude; there she was, lying in the rubble, with one arm broken, any number of ribs shattered, at least one lung punctured, and bleeding from multiple wounds and still had the audacity to mouth off and make demands.. from The Archangel of Wrath himself!
“You are a brazen one, aren’t you?”, mused the Archangel.
“There are only brasiers and blazes where I come from. Just more of the same, where I am about to go.”, she replied.
“There will be no rewards. I can’t be rewarding fiends, no matter how smart they think they are. Would set off a very wrong presidency.”, he said.
“Yea. An Angel showing gratitude to a helpless girl who saved him from nearly a millennia of entrapment, as opposed to beating the crap out of her. What could possibly be misunderstood, there?”
“Make your last words, fiend. I tire of your mouth.”, Priceptine said in a weary tone.
“Just out of curiosity, are you going to beat me onto death? Because that is exactly what you have done, thus far; beat me. And in the most literal sense; using your fists.. Much like drunken Mortals beat their wives.. Where is your mighty weapon? I’d rather you run me through with it and get it over with. Beating is a little degrading.. Or perhaps you’d prefer murder by strangulation; less effort there, and not as messy as the other options. You will just have to watch as the light of life fades from my eyes!”
The Archangel of Wrath fumed and glared down at the pretty fiend.
“Right. Last words it is, then.”, the broken, bruised, and bleeding girl said.
So, the devious little fiend wanted to play games, did she?
“A bargain it is. What is your name, little fiend? I shall need it to seal the deal. Can’t have you getting bored nor sidetracked, now can we?”
“Merisoul Xyrotwu.”, replied the little demon girl promptly.
“Happy Soul Zero Two.. An interesting name for a fiend. I see your soul, little girl and there is no ‘happy’ in it.. Only the desire and cravings for ‘happy’, bound by your inner lust.”, he murmured thoughtfully. Then he smiled and his face became even more beautiful. “But that is not your real name, little fiend, is it?”
“How would you know?”, asked the little demon.
“You gave it too soon and too quick! A demon’s name is the most precious thing they have. You truly must be new in Hell!”, he smiled even more.
“Well, bugger.”, grudged Merisoul Xyrotwu.
“So, little fiend.. What shall it be? Your name and a bargain, or no name and Oblivion?”
The little demon, Merisoul sighed.
“My name is;
AREZME XIRISO NU LEI KAREXY ROTXIN GWUE
NIMONORA LUNADORA GWHISHAVA XALISHA
ERRA LILU ALURA NIM DARELLE FEL ESSA WIXEN
BWANDA AD ARA LYNN SELENE BELLA XENARA
DWENDELIEN DE VIENE YLARA X LAKUNA ELLE ISLA
SERRAPHYN EDET VIELLA XILLESSE DEMI
..and it shall never be repeated to another. And for the record, I am not a fiend. I am more along the lines of a demon. A half-born succubi, to be more precise. The differences are minor, from an Angelic point of view, I suppose, but they are there, from a cumulative end.”
Priceptine, The Archangel of Wrath stared at the little fiend.. demon.. succubi-whatsit, for a long moment.
“Your name.. It is a bit ostentatious, don’t you think? Your mother must have been an ambitious woman.”, he said finally.
“I wouldn’t know. She died, remember? But she hated demons and their cults. She gave me that name so I would never be controlled nor ever be used by any demon as she had been.”, she replied and there was something eternal, sadness and loss, in her voice. Perhaps the only time she had shown any genuine emotion since their meeting.
“The bargain, my Lord.”, she said, to skim over her broken heart and what leaked out, whenever she was reminded of her mother.
“The bargain..”, agreed the Archangel.
“You shall defy all your former ties and bonds. You shall enter my service and be ‘good’. You shall never devour the soul of another mortal, and should you try, you shall be smitten by my very hand. You shall spend your days, saving the lives of others, tooth and nail.
You shall commit yourself onto the path of danger to save others, but never with the deliberate intention to end your own life. You shall serve me so long as you live, and until you make true and honest mortal friends. You shall do everything in your power to make them better and you shall do this without ever using your succubi heritage.
Do you, <INSERT THE VERY LONG, VERY OSTENTATIOUS NAME HERE>, accept these terms?”. Priceptine said with a very harsh, demanding voice.
Merisoul Xyrotwu stared at the Archangel.
“Alright. As Mortals say, ‘You have shown me the stick. It’s time for the carrot.’
The Archangel gave her a humorless smile.
“There are no carrots, Miss Fiend. Only the stick!”
Merisoul’s eyes teared.
For these demands were very, very harsh demands. They would effectively close every door from her past, and not really open any new ones. Such a bargain would seal her own doom in the hands of her ‘former’ Master, and in a horrible way, should she ever be found.
And should she refuse these harsh demands, however, this Angel would end her. But at least it would be quick, and ‘mercifully’ painless. She knew Angels did not do the torture thing.
She opened her small, cherry-red mouth in defiance.
This event triggers many stories and:
A Demon’s Plan (Part One)
A Demon’s Plan (Part Two)
A Demon’s Plan (Part Three) – Release the Horde!
A Demon’s Plan (Part Four) – All End.
and The Best Of Bargains, in particular.
✱ ✱ ✱
A FEW DAYS AGO, BEHIND AN INN,
IN THE SLUMS OF ARASHKAN CITY.
She’s right you know. You should tell her..”
The man in dark clothes tensed, then cursed with recognition.
“A bit obscene, but essentially accurate..”, replied the soft, beautiful voice.
And out of the darkness, an angelic girl glided down and gently settled in front of the seething man..
She had flowing, honey-brown hair, baby pink skin, black, raven-like wings, a small, pouting mouth, and a pair of dark, possibly black or dark purple horns that appeared more like an elegant crown. She wore a dark, strapless dress that looked as if it were trimmed with soft, black feathers. Her slender feet, however, were naked, yet unstained as though dirt shied from them..
“I doubt this is any of your concern, Merisoul Xyrotwu..”, gnarled the man.
“..don’t you have a Darly you should be concerned with?”, the man continued with contempt, though it wasn’t clear to whom his distaste was directed at; the beautiful girl, or this, Darly person..
“My poor Darly..”, said the girl sadly. “..He has attached himself to a fairy dream where there are no faeries. He has idealized the woman he once loved so much, her death has beset him on a path he can not abandon.. And no other woman can match such blind and purified ideal, I am afraid. But we are not here to talk about my beautiful Darly are we? Now tell me, when have I ever given you a reason for you to hold me in such contempt, Aager Fogstep?
I am not some cuisine you can eat the parts you favor and discard the parts you find distasteful. I find it quite unjust that you would thank me when it suits you, but try and banish me when it doesn’t..”
The face of the man, Aager Fogstep, turned ugly. He bit into the words as he snarled at the girl. “And when have I ever given you the impression that I was a ‘just’ person?!”
The majestic creature paused for a moment and gazed sadly upon the boiling man before her.
And then, the beautiful girl stepped directly in front of the man, reached up to him with one, small hand, and touched his face as if to caress him..
..and the moment she did, wisps of smoke started from her. The feathers on her black, raven wings curled, her hair danced as if hit by a vertical gust and her dress sagged..
..she cried in pain.
I feel the love you have for her..
And the hate you feel for yourself..
She.. she is so much stronger and resilient than you think, Aager Fogstep!
Do not deny yourself, your love, nor your pain from her, for she has not..
And just like that, the girl caught fire!
The man in dark clothes just stood there, shocked and petrified as the girl in blazing fire crumbled into the ground..
“YOU FOOL! YOU DAMNED FOOL!.. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!“, cried the man with fear and panic.
“I am damned.. and a fool.. But I have made my choice.. Now go..”, a shriek in terrible agony came from the figure, ablaze and crumbled. “Go to her, please.. for she needs your love now more than ever.. Do not make my sacrifice go in vain!”
But the man in dark clothes did not go.
He raised his hands into the night sky as if in prayer.. and called..
“Inshala. My dearest. Merisoul needs you in a most desperate way. She is dying!”
And out of the night, something tiny darted up to the man and landed next to him. It was a small, baby owl..
The owl spun in on itself and suddenly turned into the sweetest looking little girl..
She had very long, soft hair that swept down to her knees, two beautiful, curving horns, deep, forlorn eyes, a small, cherry red mouth, and slightly elfish looking ears. She was also dangerously skinny.
The little girl summoned gallons and gallons of water that came gushing out of the cobblestones and drowned the blazing girl’s fire.
Then she raised one hand in a graceful arc and tiny little sparkling golden motes rained down upon the severely burned girl and the burnt crisps started falling off her, displaying fresh, baby pink, tender skin under them..
And then she turned around to face the man in dark clothes as he stared at the little, skinny girl like she was his last breath on earth.
And the little girl returned that gaze like she had only one more breath left to take, and she wanted him to have it!
Then came Merisoul’s shrieks of total loss;
“CURSE YOU! DOUBLE CURSE YOU, AAGER FOGSTEP! I WAS OUT! I WAS ALMOST OUT AND YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!“
This event triggers the story: Lilly Venom: “İş Teklifi”
✱ ✱ ✱
SEVERAL MONTHS AGO,
DURING THE LATE HOURS OF CELEBRATION AT SERENITY HOME
UPON THE RETURN OF THE HEROES FROM THE RUINS OF THEMALSAR.
Well, hello there, scrumptious!”, smiled the beautiful girl, Merisoul, at the young man, holding his dislocated shoulder. “I could fix that shoulder for you, and make you feel happy, elated, and very, very exhilarated, all in one package.”
The young man ogled at the ‘otherworldly’ beautiful girl.
He was very nearly tempted to call her an Angel because nothing worldly could possibly be THIS pretty. But he was a polite young man. And as beautiful as this young woman was, he was already fixated on another, even though that other had rebuffed and rebuked him this very evening, sending him off in total defeat and dejection.
“Thank you ma’am.”, he said. “But this suffering of mine is merely part of the learning process.”
“Owww.. Polite and honest.”, observed the angelic Merisoul Xyrotwu, happily.
“As everyone should be.”, replied the young man earnestly.
“Very true. I totally agree. As a matter of fact, I want to keep agreeing with you. Privately!”, she said, blasting the young man’s mind with the full-blown power of her succubi heritage.
“I..”, the young man stammered. “That sounds.. wro—”
“—Right, doesn’t it? Come now. This night should end with some happiness, don’t you think? Everyone is celebrating. Why should you fall short? Why should you be denied of some fun?”, said the beautiful girl and started to respite with excitement and her modest, nubile breasts heaved.
Slowly, carefully, she took a silent but deliberate step towards the boy and reached up to his, not-quite-adult face..
..and something flickered!
It happened so fast, that no one quite saw the long, single streak of lightning that came down the night sky..
..and landed on the slender, otherworldly beautiful young woman, smashing her into the cobblestones of the town.
When the rubble and dust settled, the young man stared in baffled amazement at the nearly charred girl, lying face down and clutching her ‘palm’ of all places and squirming in pain.
“Are you.. are you alright, ma’am?”, he asked, a bit foolishly.
The charred girl waved one hand in a, ‘move along, nothing to see here’, sort of way.
“Perhaps I should call Lady Magella. I heard about a very pretty young woman to have joined their party during her sojourn into the malignant ruins of Themalsar. You must be her.”, he said.
“No, no.. Please don’t call her.”, mumbled the girl. “I believe I have had enough help from your town’s temple for one evening.”
“Well, if you are sure. I should get going anyway. And put some ice on my shoulder. This night has been a hopeless loss for me. I thought she felt something, back there, when she agreed to dance with me and when she was staring at me in the eyes when D.D. Dexter and her cousin were singing. All these years of self-training and she still knocked me around like I was a little boy!”
“You should probably get yourself someone a bit sane, young Thomas.”, groaned Merisoul.
“You know my name?”, asked the young man.
“I know many names. And yours just happens to be one of them. Your dream girl is mad as a hatter and it is very unlikely that will change.”, the burnt girl said, still clutching her one palm.
“Change? She is perfect. I wouldn’t want her to change. I am calm for the both of us. She is all fire. Both are needed in a.. uhhh.. relation..”, his voice trailed off with embarrassment.
“She is broken, boy. You can’t fix her and she is too scared to even try.”
“I do not need to fix her. That is not my place. I can only show her what she could be, or have, or want. She is smart. I am sure she will eventually submit to her own.”, the young man said with patient confidence. “In the end, though, I have but one heart and it’s all hers. It’s always been hers. She can have it, break it, burn it, or destroy it.. It’s up to her.”, he said quietly.
“Anyway. Good night ma’am..”, he added, and with a forlorn expression, he turned around and left, walking in the general direction of the town temple.
“One down. One to go.. There must be an easier way to do this.”, she moaned in pain, staring at the peculiar ‘brand’, still eating at her palm.
“You know, I could cut you right here, and now, and no one would even know about it, you unwholesome little skank!”, hissed a harsh voice, from somewhere above her.
Merisoul could barely pick her head up to see the fuming Bremorel Songsteel, her eyes blazing with some crazy fire, as she held her great, cold blade in her hand.
This had been a painful evening but Merisoul Xyrotwu knew, she just knew, it wouldn’t end there, yet..
“You did not just beat that young, lovely bantam. You humiliated him by physically assaulting him and slamming him into the ground. You did not just break him. You destroyed him. You sent him off refused and dejected. And the moment you did that, he became ‘fair game’!”, the crispy girl in the smoking hole groaned.
“I rebuffed him because he thought he could get familiar with me just because he picked me up to a dance. All these years and he still hasn’t learned, I am not an easy catch.”, fumed the young woman, brandishing her great sword for emphasis.
“Yea..”, agreed Merisoul. “It must be very important for everyone to know you are not an easy catch. What are you? Twelve?”
Bremorel glared down at the burnt girl.
“You know, there is a special kind of hole for girls like you, in Hell.”
“What? Girls can’t have their own opinions?”, Bremorel snapped.
“Mortals don’t get to have opinions in Hell. And girls have rather limited use there. I do not think you want me to spell it out for you as to what those ‘uses’ may be. Suffice to say, cooking, cleaning, dusting, sewing, sweeping, and changing the diapers of imps, lemures, and dretches for eternity is not fun!
But don’t fret. I was done with your boy, the moment I touched him.”, Merisoul said, and in agony, she opened her branded palm and showed it to the fuming girl.
Bremorel stared at the little ‘skanks’ palm in amazement. It seemed like a stylized ‘rose’, and it was still orange-red as it simmered and glowed.
“What the hell is this?”, she flared.
“This.. is the Mark of Love. Or a Fool’s Brand, depending on your point of view. Whenever one of my kind touches a Mortal who is truly in love, we get ‘marked’ —’branded’. If we are lucky, it’s just the mark. If not, we get sick and poisoned for days.. Weeks, sometimes..
The boy is in love and thoroughly, you are an idiot and vastly, and I am the fool who paid the price, and heavily..”, she said in a voice like she wanted to cry.
For a long moment, Bromorel Songsteel glared at the simmering brand, and at the crisped girl in the smoking hole.
“You deserved it.”, she said finally, and quite heartlessly.
“Apparently, but not satisfactorily.”, moaned the girl in the hole, and with dreaded anticipation.
“I WARNED YOU!”
The terrible voice of the Archangel of Wrath boomed in her head.
“No, no.. I am thoroughly ashamed—”, she squeaked in a panicked voice.. to no avail..
..and the smiting Fist of Wrath came down from the Heavens— ⊗
“Well, bugger!”, groaned the crispy Merisoul..
⊗ —and smashed the succubi-whatsit, fifteen feet deeper into the ground.
✱ ✱ ✱
A MONTH OR SO AGO,
LATE ONE EVENING, ON THE ROAD TO
THE GREAT ARASHKAN CITY.
I am sorry Master Aager.”, Merisoul said, holding up her ‘puking pot’. “I have not been well of late and it is likely I will be doing a lot of unladylike, retching noises all night long. I am afraid you will have to park dear little Inshala somewhere else this evening. Possible near the campfire. And keep her company as well, in case she wakes up and finds herself to be alone. She does that a lot, you know, wake up and find herself alone.”
Aager Fogstep stared steadily at the beautiful, half-born succubi girl, then at her empty puking pot, then back at the girl, as he held the sleeping Inshala in his arms. He was amazed at how the hybrid hadn’t even flinched nor blushed in the slightest at the glaringly blatant lie she had just told.
“You don’t have to try so hard, Merisoul.”, he said, in his low, growling voice.
“Hence, I did not. You are a smart man.. for a Mortal, and would have suspected me of something, however I did my presentation.”, she replied, and with a straight face.
“Why bother at all, then?”, Aager asked.
“One must follow the motions. It is polite, if nothing else, Master Aager.”, she sniffed as if stating the obvious. “I wouldn’t want you to think less of me by giving you the wrong impression, after all.”
“Which would be?”, asked Aagar.
“That, I didn’t think you were worth any effort..”, she smiled.
“I appreciate the courtesy. But you are missing the point.”, he said.
“Why bother.. AT ALL?”
“Ahh.. Habit, I suppose. A bad one, yes, but we all have our little vices we like to indulge, now and then.”, she replied.
“No.”, Aager said quietly.
“No?”, asked Merisoul, a bit confused.
“No..”, repeated Aager. “That’s not it. Not the main reason, anyway.”
“What could I possibly want of you, Master Aager?
The thing you most admire, treasure, and care..
The thing that you most desire, hunger, and love..
The thing that perpetually astonishes and astounds you..
And the only thing that has ever given any meaning and joy to your desolate heart..
..is already in your hands, and literally.
And from her, I have never made any requests nor claims but a bit of love and friendship, which she has given without command nor demand, freely and without reservation. Sad, really..”, she said softly.
“Sad.. that nons have ever given her any, yet she gives it to others so earnestly, even though she does not truly understand what it is, nor just how precious what she gives is..
Only gives.. I am not sure if that makes hers just the more precious, or foolish. It hurts me to look at her.”, she mused.
Aager looked down at the little girl in his arms and inadvertently smiled because she was dreaming and probably visiting something she liked in that dream because her face was calm, peaceful, and adorned with a smile of her own. He was still amazed that of all people, this little, scared girl would find peace in a dreadful man such as himself. He certainly would never have..
He looked up at the other girl, still holding her puking pot.
“You are good, Miss Merisoul. One obvious reason followed by another, not quite so blatant tailored specifically for me.. Very good, indeed, but no..”, he said..
Merisoul squinted at Aager and bit her lower lip.
“You are.. Afraid!”, he said quietly.
“And you are rude, Master Aager.”, she said, as she pouted and crossed her arms. “You don’t have to be like that all the time, you know. All the trouble and effort I put into the planning and application and you demolished it just because you could. Not a quality a girl would find admirable. Sometimes, it’s better to be bested by a well-planned conversation —or seduction.. It is the polite thing to do.”
“Perhaps. Too late to rewind now.”, Aager replied, trying to suppress a stifle. Then he scowled a bit. “The fact remains. What is it you are afraid of? You hide it well, but not from someone who knows that look.”
“You don’t know what you are asking of me?”, hissed Merisoul.
“No, I don’t, because you haven’t told me yet.”, said Aager, calmly. “Personally, I think you are quite mad. But what I think is irrelevant in this matter. Only that you are ‘ours’, and that my Inshala loves you. I am sure there are any number of others in this odd group that would be willing to share your burden. It is possible this will not help you, but it will make things a lot more bearable for you. At least you won’t have to retch all night to make us think you are still sick.”
Slowly, he turned around and left the tent, to sit out the night next to the campfire with the skinny little girl sleeping in his arms.
Merisoul Xyrotwu lowered her crossed arms, tossed the puking pot aside, and smiled.
“Saw through all but the real reason, Master Aager.”, she whispered. “But as smart, cunning, and devious as you are, at the end of the day, you are only a Mortal.”
“The main reason was always the joy in your arms. Love her, and cherish her. For she is one of a kind..”
✱ ✱ ✱
A WEEK AGO,
EARLY ONE EVENING, RIGHT OUTSIDE AN INN
IN THE SLUMS OF THE GREAT ARASHKAN CITY.
Merisoul Xyrotwu watched the huge man in filthy looking clothes swaying drunkenly, from the roof she was perched, as he staggered down the street towards the inn they were stationed. She stared down at the man with a puzzled expression on her small, otherworldly beautiful, yet ‘sad’ face.
“What is he doing, I wonder?”, she mused quietly.
“He thinks he is incognito. ‘Undercover’..”, snorted the young, handsome man, lying on his side, next to the pretty girl.
And the light of comprehension shown on her face, making it appear even more angelic.
“Aaah.. Well, you can’t blame him for trying, Darly. He just isn’t cut for that line of work.”, she smiled.
“Actually, you can cut him in two, and neither half would be any good for that line of work.”, said the young Darly, with a vindictive voice. “He has ‘LAWMAN’ written all over him.”
“Perhaps. That isn’t really anything so bad, though, is it? I am sure the fact that he is the son of a renowned sheriff had some effect on the princess’s choice. Being the sheriff of Serenity Home is nothing to sneeze at. It is a highly regarded position, you know. It does not return much of what you Mortals call ‘money’, but it does garner a lot of respect. At least that is the conclusion I have come to, after extended observation of the relative Mortal social titles.”, said Merisoul happily.
Darly snorted but did not dispute the pretty girl.
Her observations had indeed had a certain accuracy to them. He had barely heard of Serenity Home before his.. uninformed venture into that town some months ago. Later, much later, he had learned that the original founders of the town had all been old, but very much renown and powerful men and woman themselves, who had settled there, some five hundred years ago, sort of as a peaceful retire, and in time, the town had grown slowly but steadily. It had had the potential to become a city nearly three centuries ago but had never bothered. The denizens of Serenity Home did not want a city to live in.
“Why do you think Master Aager put him up to this job, then?”, she wondered. “It is obvious, our dear Udoorin will never make a good.. spy..”
“Because he thinks he is smarter than everyone else..”, sneered Darly.
“Don’t do that, Darlius.”, said the girl, absently.
“Don’t do what?”, asked Darly.
“Sneer. It isn’t something that looks good on your beautiful face.”, she said, still absently, as if she was thinking on another matter.
Darly shut up.
“But your observations about that dreadful man are quite accurate, even without the sneer.”, she said..
..and hopped down the three-story roof!
Slowly, she glided down, her raven wings spread, and with her honey-brown hair lashing, her slender arms open, and her dark purple-black, strapless dress fluttering, she looked magnificent.
Like something out of a fantastic dream.
Slowly but surely, she landed next to the huge man, Udoorin, who only flinched slightly.
“Umm.. Hello Lady Merisoul.”, he said politely.
“That is so sweet. The way you are always so polite to me.”, she said with genuine elation.
“Well. It is polite to be polite.. to ladies..”, he coughed uncomfortably.
“You do know I am not really a Lady, right?”, Merisoul said.
“I must disagree. You have everything that makes a woman, a Lady; elegance, refinement, care, loyalty, and a beautifully honest heart.”, replied the young man.
“Wow.. And the things people say about you.. However, I think your definition of ‘a Lady’ might be a little overcrowded, but that’s not my point. Ladies do not bear horns, nor sprout wings.”, she pointed out.
“Some do have ‘crowns’ and some are just angelic!”, Udoorin said honestly.
“That.. is the nicest thing, anyone has ever said to me, young Udoorin.”, said Merisoul and she had a strange, astounded expression on her face. “No wonder she likes you.”
“I.. what?”, blushed the young man.
“Though she feels neglected.”, she said quietly.
“Neglected?”, Udoorin said, and there appeared fear in his eyes.
“Yes.. Your venture into the slums for information about that Gar Thalot is admirable, considering the late hours you put into it. But Princes Alor’Nadien ne is not a girl you can ever neglect.”, she said.
“I.. this is sort of a private matter, Lady Merisoul.”, he blushed, some more.
“Yes. But I share a room with her and I tire the way she ‘sighs’ every other breath, though understandable, considering she has been stuck in that none-too-clean room for days. I think you should go and get cleaned up, and take her out.”, she offered.
“It is a bit late for a walk and the slums aren’t exactly scenic.”, frowned Udoorin.
“I was thinking more along the lines of Heaven Park, then the slums, Sir Udoorin. The area is heavily patrolled due to that, Gar Thalot you seek, so it should be safe.
It is a beautiful night, dear Udoorin, and the princess could use some much-needed attention and care, wouldn’t you agree? I hear the park itself is quite charming at nights, with many paths, ponds, benches, and fresh air.”, she said brightly.
“You.. you really think she would like that?”, asked the young man, with an embarrassed tone.
“Like? No, boy.. She would love it. She is part-elf from High Woods, after all. She does not show it, for your benefit, but I am sure she misses the woods. Inshala goes there all the time. Sleeps there sometimes too. Oh, and remember not to take your axes with you.. They would totally ruin the mood. Take your father’s sword instead..”, replied.
“Oww..”, young Udoorin said, with a ‘dawning’ voice. “Well, I should probably hurry along then. Need to get cleaned up. The stink of the last inn will require quite a bit of scrubbing to wash off..”
“Don’t dawdle, Sir Udoorin. She tends to sleep early when she has nothing to do..”
Young Udoorin thanked the ‘angelic’ girl with the ‘crown’ and politely excused himself and took off, with a haste that would have rivaled any decent charge!
This event triggers the story:
✱ ✱ ✱
A FEW MONTHS AGO ONE EVENING,
IN THE BEAUTIFUL GROVE
WHERE THE RUINS OF THEMALSAR ONCE WAS.
LADY!” screamed Aager in panic and there were so much pain, loss, devastation, and desperation in that scream. A scream that cut right through the peaceful night and echoed in the grove. A pain that begged for help.. and for life!
“Make way!”, Lady Magella’s gruff voice was heard outside the tent and the she-dwarf parted the flaps and pushed her way inside, followed closely by the young paladin girl, Moira Hooman. The tent was only so big, hence the others could wait outside with sick worry for they knew, Aager never screamed. Not even when he had been cursed horribly by Themalsar himself, just a few days ago, and had very nearly died. Laila and Bremorel’s heads pushed through the flaps as Gnine, Lorna, Merisoul, and Udoorin waited outside.
“She.. she just stopped..”, shrieked the man in dark clothes as he held the little, skinny girl, Inshala, in his arms. “She just stopped breathing.. SHE IS NOT BREATHING!“
Lady knelt down next to him and felt for the skinny girl’s pulse.
“Help her.. PLEASE.. WHATEVER THE PRICE, I SHALL PAY!“, he cried desperately.
“I don’t charge to save my children, boy. You should know that by now.”, scowled Lady, but there were tears in her eyes. “She has no pulse. Foolish girl.. She gave her all to burry that mad dog’s temple into the ground and raise this grove. And now she has nothing left. Her heart gave out.”
“Ow my Dear Heavens!”, the stricken voice of Lorna was heard from outside.
“Lady, can’t you do something?”, asked Liala with a horrified expression.
“Anything?”, asked Bremorel reflecting her cousin’s voice.
“The power of your faith will heal her, My Lady.”, said Moira with a nearly broken voice.
Lady did not say anything.
She closed her eyes, silently murmured a prayer, and repeated it over and over, and slowly reached out to the skinny little girl and released her prayer..
..and nothing happened.
Her shoulders slumped.
For she had expected this.
“She is still not breathing..”, said Aager in a scared whisper. “Why? Why will you not fix her, Lady? Is it because of some wrong I did you?”
“I.. I can not heal her, boy.. She is not wounded!”, said Lady as quiet tears rolled down her eyes. “I am so sorry.”
Aager just stared at Lady and there was nothing..
..absolutely nothing in those eyes.
Whatever he had ever felt, or may have felt, ever in his life, was just..
“No.”, said Moira from behind Lady. “Inshala is a fighter. She does not give up. She never gives up. All she needs is some help.”
The young, comly paladin woman raised both hands into the air in plea and whispered.
“Dear Heavens. Hear my voice. This little girl gave everything she had to remove a vile and evil woe that plagued these lands for centuries. SAVE HER. I BEG OF YOU! SHE DESERVES LIFE AND LOVE. SHE DESERVES A FAMILY. A FATHER AND MOTHER. SHE DESERVES SISTERS AND AUNTS AND UNCLES AND GRANDS.. SAVE HER, AND I GIVE MY MOST SOLEMN OATH, THAT I SHALL GIVE HER THE REST!“
And the tent suddenly was awash with bright, golden light.
Moira laid her hands on the skinny girl and gave her everything she had; her sincerity, her love, and her tears..
..yet the skinny girl still did not move, nor did she breathe.
“No.. Nooo..”, wept Moira as she crumbed on her knees.
And outside, Gnine looked thunderstruck.
Udoorin’s face was drawn and tears ran shamelessly down his eyes as he held the princess crying openly into his embrace.
Laila and Bremorel just stared at the unmoving form of the skinny little Inshala, pale, and gone, yet seemingly sleeping in Aager’s arms.
“Why?”, asked Aager silently. “Why give her to me, then take her back so soon? Why blame her for my sins?”
And there were little words to describe his silent wrath.
“Don’t.”, a voice whispered.
“I believe I must.”, said Merisoul back and there was no voice in her reply..
..only the shape of the reply echoed in her mind.
“You owe these Mortals nothing.”, said the voice.
“Owe?”, she asked. “Who shall pay, if no one is willing?”
“Doesn’t have to be you.”, said the voice, with the slightest trace of a plea.
“Didn’t have to be her. Yet that little girl did. And now she is dead. And should I do nothing when I can do something, her death shall be on my head.”
“Why, though?”, asked the voice.
“Because she was so afraid of me, yet she was the first to accept and adopt me, and in the face of death, did she do so.. And like me, she understands so little of love, yet unlike me, she has a chance to find it. I shall make sure she attains that potential.
“But.. but you will die! Don’t do this..”, the voice now begged.
“It is an acceptable risk. I am young and healthy. There’s a chance I can be brought back. She has none.”, Merisoul whispered back.
“He will not accept this. You know that right? Your bargain was that you commit yourself in the path of danger to save others, but never with the deliberate intention of taking your own life!”, pleaded the voice desperately.
“I do not intend to deliberately take my own life. I intend to deliberately trade it with her death, for a heart must beat to love..”, said Merisoul..
..and stepped into the tent.
✱ ✱ ✱
A FEW MINUTES AGO,
ON TOP OF THE WESTERN BATTLEMENTS
OF THE GREAT ARASHKAN CITY.
After weeks in this city, I forgot how much I missed the outdoors and the woods.”, murmured Laila Wolvesbane, as she toyed with the handle of her beautifully carved elven longbow. “It is so quiet up here. One could see the stars so clearly.”
“I suppose so.”, Merisoul said. “A bit on the boring side though. Don’t you think?”
“Boring is good. I like boring.”, said Liala sternly, as she carefully scanned the walls. “We do not want any excitement tonight. If we get caught, this will leave a black mark on my record that will never come off. Collaborating with a known rebellion and helping incite his revolt! Would go excellent in my CV; Laila Wolvesbane: helps thieves, cut-throats, thugs, and insurgents! I would have trouble finding a job at a sanitary dig post!”
“I doubt.”, said Merisoul. “You are smart, observant, can see relevant details no one else can, always cool-headed even under pressure, can shoot threads though needles from 600 yards, and boldly pretty. Love your bangs, by the way.. No.. No one will put you to a sanitary dig post if it is what I think it is.”
Laila was startled a bit.
True, that she had never really chatted with this peculiar, or perhaps ‘quaint’ girl and that was the politest way she could readily define her.. as opposed to weird, off, creepy, odd, mad, and happily insane!
What had startled her was, the girl, Merisoul sounded.. well.. down to earth!
Something very much unlike her usual self.
“Mind I ask you something?”, Merisoul asked, further surprising Laila.
Merisoul never asked if she could ask.
She just said things.
Whatever that crossed her mind.
“I suppose..”, replied Laila, carefully.
“Who is D.D. Dexter?”..
..aaaand she was back to weird, creepy, off, and odd, again.
How in the blazes did she even know about D.D. Dexter, let alone relate him to her?
“I am guessing you already know, who he is.”, Laila said.
“I do.”, she replied. “But more importantly, do you?”
Laila cocked an eyebrow at the pretty girl with the angelic face, crowning horns, and raven wings.
“Saw him trice.”, said the succubi half-born, quietly.
“The first time was just before the celebrations and the dancing began, back at your Serenity Home, arguing with his friend, Thomas, so he would divert your cousin Bremorel. I am guessing his plan was to get you alone, so he could brave up to ask you for a dance. The plan worked, more or less, though young Thomas was arguing with your D.D. Dexter more for show, really.. I could practically see how he yearned for your cousin. Yearned and feared her. He was actually trembling when he went up to her. It was so adorable. I am guessing he would have slopped into a puddle and oozed all the way back to his temple in dejected embarrassment had she said, no. To be fair, he did ooze all the way back to his temple in dejected embarrassment at the end, even though she’d said, yes, the way she man-handled the poor boy.
The second time was when the two of you were singing together at the festivities and I must say, you two have beautiful voices and they blend very well. ‘Seamlessly’, I believe the word is.. His, slightly raspy and masculine, yours, contralto, as the Mortals call it.
And the last time, when we were leaving the town, two days later. He was hiding in the bushes, watching you go. He looked.. sad. ‘Forlorn’, to be more precise.”
Laila was a private sort of girl and D.D. Dexter was not someone she wanted to share with anyone. Certainly not as a ‘pass-time’ topic.
“I still don’t hear any significant question in any of that.”, she said, seeking verbal room to maneuver herself and the odd girl away from the current conversation, and the potentials it carried.
“Ahh.. My bad.”, said Merisoul Xyrotwu. “Though my question is a rather simple one, really.”
“Ow?”, asked Laila, not quite sure she wanted to hear it.
“What’s the holdup?”
This event triggers the story:
“The Marshal and The Bard”
(a work for the distant future..)
This story takes place
“A Demon’s Plan (18+) (Part Four) – All End“
Tonic! Wake up..”, very nearly screamed Seressa Wraiven, and there was nothing but terror in her eyes. She frantically shook her little, gnomic pair as if willing her to wakefulness.
“Whot? Is it morning already?”, mumbled the sleeping gnomic girl.
“PLEASE, LUV! WAKE UP!“, shouted the very tall, very dark girl in hysteria.
Tonic jumped up..
..and fell, face down, off the bed.
“Quickly. Quickly luv. Go get Master Brom here, right now. Tell him to get all his things..”
“Whot? Why?”, Tonic asked in pain as she held onto her bruised nose.
“Not now, baby girl. We must get out of here..”
“Here, like the inn?”
“No.. Here, like, THIS CITY!.. GO, TONIC, NOW.. I will get Cora. Meet me here in two..”, she half pleaded, half shrieked.
It was a good thing Tonic’s DOS hadn’t quite booted, just yet. Otherwise, she would have argued with her pair, demanding explanations with markers, illustrations, and possibly a blueprint schematics, no less.
Seressa grabbed everything she could get her hands on and stuffed them into whatever bag she could find, then ran to Cora’s room, and banged it open to find the barbarian girl not quite dressed, but holding her great, frosty sword with both hands.
“Is nothing ever calm, in these places you call cities?”, she asked curiously.
“Will not be, luv.”, she said hurriedly. “Grab everything you got and meet me at my room in one..”
“What is going on, Seressa?”, she asked quietly and calmly, as she grabbed her shirt, her pants, the large sack with her armor, her bags, and her leather-hide fur cloak.
“Put the pants on, dear. And the shirt! We don’t want Master Brom to ogle, now do we?”, she said, waving at the snow elf.
“Ogles at you all the time.”, Cora said, as she slipped into her pants and shirt.
“That’s different.”, she said a bit loftily.
“Don’t like sharing the ogling, then?”, smiled Cora.
“Who likes?”, she asked.
“Good point.. Alright. I am ready. Let’s go..”
“Hold hands.”, Seressa said, when they had all gathered in her room.
“Must I?”, mumbled Brom, as he gingerly took Tonics little hand. “And what in the blazes happened to your face, girl?”
“Same thing that’s about to happen to yours!”, she growled.
“Hush!”, hissed Cora and grabbed his hand as Seressa held hers and Tonic’s, forming a rough circle.
“What’s the rush?”, grumbled Brom, still not quite awake.
A low, rumbling noise was heard from far away..
..and something tectonic landed three houses away, sending it to blasted pieces all across the district in a fiery blaze!
“THAT!”, said Seressa.
Then she looked up at the unseen night sky.
“My Queen..Your maiden pleads.. We are ready..”, she whispered.
They stared at each other for a moment.
Then, in a shimmering haze, they disappeared..
..and something huge and burning crushed the inn, down into the ground..
This story takes place
“A Demon’s Plan (Part Four) – All End“
“You.. you obstinate fool! You bargained my ‘Shal’ for the damned soul of a demon!”
“Silly girl.. You should have bargained for your own.”
“I shall earn, my ‘own’.”
“Why would you do this? What is she to you, that you would make this bargain?”
“A friend? She is a fiend.”
“She has no ‘friend’.”
“She can never have, ‘friend’.”
“She had me.”
“You truly are an unredeemable fool and not quite sane.”
“The fact that you will consistently see me a silly girl, I have never minded, for I have always been that.
“But reminded me, unfailingly, as a fiend, unredeemable, and alone, is sad..”
“Yes, I am a fool. And perhaps not quite sane as well..”
“But does my folly and relative lack of sanity have any relevance to the validity of the bargain?
“Will you, then, go back on your word?”
“No. I do not betray my word.”
“Then, I am content.”
“You could have asked.. for a lot more.”
“You could have wished for anything!“
“I did not want a lot more. But I did wish for anything;
“That my friend was to be free.”
“That she would be allowed to work to save her soul.”
“And like any Mortal, that she could Ascend.“
“She is the scion of Succubae.”
“She will always have lust.”
“She can never be free of that.”
“Then, she is already Mortal!”
“She is Sin. She cannot Ascend.”
“It is good, then, that the choice of Ascension is graced by ‘Compassion’ before it’s judged by ‘Wrath’.”
“Your faith in her is commendable, but misplaced. This, you must see.”
“It does not matter. I have made my choice. She will be free and she will have the chance to labor, and save her own, every day, and every night, and every walking moment of her life to attain her Ascension.”
“She will have the opportunity to be a woman to her man and to bear his children. With the sweat of her brows, she will grow the food from the dirt ere she puts it on their table. With the strength of her back, she will care and carry him, when he grows old. And with the pain in her heart she will fear, not for herself, but for them.”
“With tooth and nail, she will fight and bleed to protect what she has..”
“She will be the first among us to feel.. and understand compassion and love.”
“Hence, she will have a chance to earn her Ascension..”
“That is more than anyone has ever offered to any of my kind..”
“She will die.”
“All die. And All End. Until then, she will live happy. And when her time comes, she will die content, for she will have her children, and her children’s children around her.”
“She will have people who shall love her in life, and mourn for her in death. She will have people who will remember her. And the life-long labors of her deeds will walk this earth after her, thus she will never be forgotten, for her grueling deeds shall be a gift to her lineage; they will be free of the curse that beset her.”
“She will be known to all Mortals and not, as ‘the Fiend who Ascended’..”
“It is ludicrous and lunacy, to think she could be saved. And you bargained my ‘Light’.. my ‘Grace’.. for her..”
“We are, because you let it happen. You watched, with your kind, from your perch among the Heavens, as Mortals did what they did to us. Had you, perhaps, given us better options, we would never have been.“
“I remember. Someone else said something similar. Once.”
“Perhaps you should have listened to her.. You ask me why I bargained your ‘Light’ and your ‘Grace’ for the soul of a fiend.”
“That ‘fiend’.. walks and carefully, every day. That ‘fiend’.. sleeps and fitfully, every night. Always in fear, always in terror that she might be ravaged, stained, and slain as her flesh is torn, shredded and gnawed off her bones, as her will, and her life is taken from her, at any moment.”
“She is alone and vulnerable, always.”
“Tell me. Who is to protect my fiend?”
“We. Were. Born.”
“Never were we asked, nor were we ever tasked with a choice.”
“And thrown into pits before we could walk. We were fed by the lurid sins and the feces of Mortals.”
“We were broken, and beyond repair. We were made so we could never understand, never feel, never relate..”
“Always lose, but never mourn.”
“Yet, she found me. And together, we were two broken fiends who became friends in Hell.”
“Was the only free choice..”
“You.. you could have bargained for the souls of so many.”
“I do not have so many.”
“I do not know so many.”
“I have but one.”
“And I know only that one.”
“Be damned, you and your fiend friend..
“I already am.”
“She. No longer..”
“She. Is free.“
“You could have saved your Mortal friends.”
“I have. Their lives and their loves..”
“Bled for them, I have. Suffered pain and again for them. Lied and cheated for them. I have made them woe and abhor me so they would be reminded of the truly significant.”
“Abandoned all sound and reason, and traded the beat of my own heart for them..”
“And burned for them.”
“Watched over them, day and night, above them and around them.”
“Thus, with tooth and nail, I have worked to earn my Ascension..”
“It is likely she will kill the boy.”
“We only burn once. All these years, and her burn has never gone, never faded. It still simmers.. That is remorse. And that is love.”
“Who, among Mortals and nons, feel as we feel; always lost.”
“Who, among Mortals and nons, live as we live; always destitute.”
“And who, among Mortals and nons, suffer as we suffer; always scalded.”
“Judging the Half-Born must not be much of a challenge, when you shun us for being born the way we are. They have judged us to be fit for only one purpose. And you have judged us for merely being.”
“Are we thus doomed, Priceptine, to be treated the same by them, and you?“
“In your willingness to pass unseasonable judgment and reign your wrath upon us, you fail to see what we have thus achieved..”
“One is an accident. A freak. A defect born of deficiency.”
“Two is not.”
“It is a promise.“
“And it is hope..“
“We have thus shown all, Mortals and nons, that they do not have to be what they were indoctrinated.”
“We have shown them that they are not doomed to their predicament, but that all could work for their Ascension.”
“This is the new precedence that we have set.. in Hell!”
“They will know..”
“..if there can be two, there can now be three.”
“And where there are three, there can be more..”
“You are naïve, and this was truly a depressing bargain;”
“A fiend, for my ‘Galad’..”
“..was the best of bargains;”
“A ‘friend’.. for a stick!”
This story takes place
“Is that you, girl?”
“Doll? That’s a new.”
“Have you been eating, again?”
“Part of the job. I had to improvise..”
“Please! I have standards, you know..”
“Imps.. Bit on the sour side, like Mortal’s rhubarbs. Can’t be too picky. Options are limited. Dretches make a stink and Manes just are inedible! Imps are fun to eat; they make this squeaky ‘eeep!’, when they die. I can eat them and no one cares..”
“Gluttony is sin, you know..”
“Yea.. and I am in Hell.”
“Needed the supplements, doll. This plan is taking everything I’ve got.”
“Sweetheart, you really shouldn’t have done this.”
“He gave surety.”
“He does not give.”
“He cannot give.”
“He can only take.”
“Doesn’t matter. Not at this point.”
“Are you safe?”
“As can be. For now.. We can talk. This line is secure. All is ready.”
“So there was a collaboration..”
“Apparently. Or else an awesome coincidence.”
“I doubt. We are never blessed with such serendipities. Should have eaten him when I had the chance. Haven’t had a bite since I left..”
“You met him?”
“Met him, and played right into his hand; I am at the fuse.”
“Understandable, if you haven’t eaten since you left. How do you stay sane?”
“Last one I tried was what I thought to be a Mortal bantam throw-away; rejected and dejected.. You know; puppy eyed, newly defined chin, cute, polite and vague..”
“Turns out he was a temple guardian. Like that wasn’t enough, he was also sorely, thoroughly and excruciatingly in love!”
“Ouch. Burnt or sick?”
“Burnt, sick, struck, slammed, marked, nearly eviscerated —and fined for everything but pubic indecency!
“Then I figured, sanity is a luxury and not quiet a necessity.”
“How bad is it going to be?”
“You better not be there when it happens, bad.”
“Then this will be a deplorable evening.. Many people will get hurt. And many more will die..”
“That is inevitable; they are Mortals. Death is always what awaits them.
“Making life more precious, though.”
“Perhaps. I wouldn’t know. But nothing we do could change that. Death was coming, yet they foolishly preferred to stay blind. They had all the signs; the attacks, the ambushes, the raids, the slaughter.. Yet they did nothing.. This one act of sin will open their eyes, and strengthen their resolve. You know this to be true. We had agreed on this.”
“I know. But still..”
“Why change of heart now?”
“Change of something, though..”
“We are not going through with it, then? Little I can do to stop it, considering all the effort I gave to start it. Has too much momentum, now.”
“You were always good at moving things..”
“You were better.”
“That’s.. so sweet.”
“Have you figured it out yet?”
“Made more, I think..”
“Will they replace me?”
“I do not understand.”
“Neither do I.”
“Then how can you have more?”
“I did not try. They did..”
“Mortals can be so inconvenient.”
“True. But they carry compassion. And love.”
“We have passions. We have love.”
“No, sweetheart, we don’t have passions. We have destitute desires. We don’t have love. We only make love; we feed upon lust with tangible despair! Theirs are not the same.”
“I have seen, how they can want and not touch. I have witnessed, how they can give but never take. And I have beheld, how theirs smolder and burn without brimstone and fire..
We do not have passions. Nor do we ever have love..”
“They are so stupid.”
“They are Mortals.”
“They have lust.”
“They must have fun too.”
“I do not understand..”
“Neither do I. It is like, ‘friend’. Never comprehend. Only feel..”
“When will I see you again? I am bored.”
“Not soon. Perhaps never.”
“I will die.”
“I do not understand. You said this plan would save us.. And your plan worked flawlessly. He hates you now..”
“Yes. That was the plan..”
“..And Irine. He hates her very nearly as much as he hates you. Did you really kill her?”
“No. Was busy..”
“She could be alive, then?”
“Doubtful. Last I saw her, she was flat.”
“Irine? Flat? How very unlike her. Last I saw her, she had curves.. Many curves.. How did it happen?”
“A bug fell on her. A big bug!”
“The great and cunning, above all and favored Irine, graving under a bug.. Sounds ludicrously fitting.”
“I thought so, too..”
“He will not stop, you know? He will never stop! Not until he has you.”
“Hence, I must die.”
“But you are my.. ‘friend’ and I will never get to see you again..”
“Now you feel, ‘friend’ ?”
“Now I feel, ‘friend’. It is a sad thing.”
“When is it not?”
“When we had fun.”
“True. We had many fun. Long ago..”
“We will again.”
“When I die..”
“It is the only way..”
“Things end, when they die.”
“Why die, then? Life is better.”
“Is it? Are you happy?”
“I am a play-slave in Hell. I have no right to ‘happy’.”
“You are you.. You have free will..”
“Why? All my choices and I will still lose.. And be alone.”
“Not all things we lose, are our strengths, sweetheart.”
“But when you die, all ends.”
“The plan was to save my friends.. and you..”
“But not yourself.”
“We.. started wrong. We must end it right. And this.. is my right!”
“How will I end it right?.”
“Where you first killed.”
“I do not go there. It..”
“That is ‘guilt’. An extension of ‘compassion’. Something only the best of Mortals feel.. It is like ‘friend’. Not understood. Only felt.”
“What is there?”
“Older now. And alone..”
“What shall I do?”
“Will not be fun.”
“Do you truly want to know?”
“Yes. Can not forget his face. And how mutely he accepted his end.”
“What shall I do?”
“Return what you took..”
“I.. will die!”
“Perhaps. Must be your choice. Your free will. Only way to end it right.. and save yourself.. and your soul.. from Him, and from Hell..”
“I.. understand, now.”
“You understand, now..”
“It is midnight.”
“Light the fuse.”
“Let all burn like I burn!”
“I am tired and I hurt.”
“It is lit.”
“I can use my wings now.”
“Take your friends and fly, then. Make haste. They are coming..”
“I have one small favor to ask of you, ere we leave..”
“The Door. I shall need you to open it for me.”
“Ow?.. Owww.. That will be nasty.”
“It will. But it must be done.”
“Because I can not open it from this side.”
“If I must..”
“For me.. and my friends..”
“Then I shall.”
“Thank you, and farewell, then, mirima Temez.”
“I will see you again, perhaps, and beyond Oblivion.”
“Am I not a Peregrine and Ousted anymore, then?”
“You never were, sweetheart. Only and always mirima Lanna Temez..
“My Best Fiend Friend..”
“Farewell, Arezme Ara Serraphyn, my Best Fiend Friend..
“The only merry soul in Hell..”
Perigren Ostlanna Temez; “Perigren”, ‘peregrine’ kelimesinden türemedir ve yabancı, garip, uzaktan gelen, egzotik anlamlarına gelir. “Ostlanna” ise, ‘oust’, dışlanmış, ötelenmiş, reddedilmiş kelimesinden gelir ve ‘dışlanmış/ötelenmiş/reddedilmiş Lanna’ demektir:
“Garip, yabancı ve dışlanmış Lanna Temez.”
Daha küçük yaştan itibaren Merisoul Xyrowu bunu reddeder ve ona eski elfçede, ‘özgür’ anlamına gelen “Mirima” olarak hitap eder;
Arezme Ara Serraphyn, Merry Soul: “Arezme” – eski Yunancadaki ‘Erasmus’ kelimesinden gelmedir ve ‘Beloved/Sevgili’ anlamına gelir. “Ara” – kız adı; O ki yağmur (huzur) getirir. “Serraphyn” – Seraph’dan türemedir ve bir nevi ‘melek’ anlamına gelir. “Merry Soul” ise ‘Mutlu Ruh’ demektir.
“Arezme Ara Serraphyn, Merry Soul.”
“Huzur Getiren Sevgili Mutlu Ruhlu Melek.”
Two figures, one young, slender and beautiful, the other, extraordinarily tall, lean, muscular, and by all means, bespoke; ‘male’, in a demonic sense, stood deep down the bowels of the chateau-like structure, planning the ultimate destruction of the mortal world..
Tell me, little Perigren, what goes in that pretty head of yours.”, said ‘The Face’, looking down at the slender, ravishing girl, even though she was calmly standing far across the large and broad table, in the vast and vaulted throne room of the Lord and Commander of the Infernal Armies. “You did not come here to merely besmirch and thus destroy my bride-to-be. Surely you must have more to ease my displeasure.
The slender and ravishing girl, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, looked at her liege, lord, and commander with her soulless, detached eyes.
“My Liege.”, she said in her comly bold and detached voice. “I cannot see the future as you can for my life does not reach thus far, but I know the hearts and minds of mortals. I know how they work, how they act, how they seek the things they do..
And more importantly, why they do them..”
For a bare moment, Ostlanna Temez held her own, not to consider what she would say, but to emphasize the importance of what came next..
“They already suspect there’s something coming and they’re merely looking for an excuse and the Orken have given them more than ample of it; their scouts, their trackers, and their rangers are all seeking and they will find their query. It is only a matter of time, My Liege. When they do, our window of opportunity and our element of surprise will be gone.
This, you must see..
Once they find your Orken, they will engage them in a delaying tactic, buying what time they would need while the elves and humans gather their armies as they did at Themalsar. It is very, very likely their dwarven allies will also come to their aid and from our flanks and our rear.. And as strong and vicious as your Orken are, in the end, they will be vastly outnumbered and slaughtered and decades of planning will be for naught. That, however, will not be your true loss, My Liege..
The Orken can be replaced. Their ‘revelation’, can not..
Humans, as a whole, are at a slumber. They truly are unawares or prefer to ignore the signs around them, favoring such bliss to a state of perpetual terror. The discovery of the Orken at their doorstep will have raised their general awareness to full wakefulness and remind them of the dangers in which they live.
I estimate a very high possibility that such awareness will pull them together all the more. Enough to form yet another alliance..
A stronger alliance..
For that was the true and underlying reason their Kingdom of Isles was founded in the first place.. An alliance that will overrun the Demon Gate at Demon Plains and destroy it.
Should that happen, there truly will be nothing left to hold them back nor to keep them at bay from gathering at Demon Wall by the hundreds of thousands and move against Gullem the Damned himself, and he has the only working and stable Demon Gate left anywhere in Kingdom of the Isles.”
Perigren paused once more. This one, because it was quite unavoidable; her unhealed back was getting at her, and at an incredible rate…
“My Liege..”, she said hoarsely. “..we faced only the high elves of High Woods and the gnomes of Silent Hills, with a pittance of humans, the local dwarves, and some loosely gathered druids with their pixies and sprites, at Themalsar and he still could not defeat them. He outnumbered them and still failed to overrun them.
I will not argue about the inadequacy of that old priest, but the matter of fact remains; he could not defeat the elves and the gnomes, even when you, My Liege, lured, ambushed, and entrapped Priceptine himself, down in the dungeons of that temple..
Despite all the diversions in place to delay, the knights of Koruxan, the paladins of Durkahan, and the mystics of Vodgar still managed to slip by your forces and join with the elves and the gnomes.. And when they came, Themalsar was utterly thwarted and his great temple put to ruins, and some eight hundred-odd years later, killed.. by a bunch of nobodies.
True, they had your bride-to-be, and it is always easier to second guess events that which we have not personally witnessed, but I am sure you know, she was no match for Themalsar..”
She fell silent as she swayed.
The Face stared at the frailing girl and there was no mercy, nor compassion in that stare.
There never was, and never had been—
“Sit, little Perigren. My presence is not a good place to fall on your back.”
—only pitiless calculation.
Perigren slumped and stumbled, but did not sit.
“Your presence is not a good place to fall on my back, sitting or otherwise, My Liege.”, she said with a rasping voice, breathing harder.
The Face smiled. The pretty little peregrine was not only smart but she was also cunning. All her actions, all her choices in words were calculated; just enough to aggravate or ‘compose’ a reaction out of him, yet appear meek, submissive, and barely docile enough not to get physical with her..
Quite the actor she was and playfully deceitful —all the traits one would find in a fully grown succubus.
Too bad she wasn’t one. The smart, ‘meek’ ones were always delicious and delightful to drag into his bed. The way they would squirm up until they died of ecstasy, was always a superb experience..
On the other hand, it was also a good thing she wasn’t.. The succubi were too lust-driven to make good generals, nor long-term planners, where massed forces were concerned. Their long term plans were always on a singular, ‘target-obtained’ basis and ended when they finally devoured the said, acquired-target.
Whatever she was playing at, because that’s exactly what she was doing, it had been pre-planned.
Many days, weeks, and perhaps, months of thought and research had been put into it and Kardax’Trakxa would find out soon enough. He always did. And when he did, his displeasure —or pleasure, would echo, high and low..
The Face was sure, the little peregrine also had her own end accounted for; likely by some fast-acting, powerful poison; the pretty ones always went for poison.
Still, she was a step-up from the usual brawlers and ambushers who had tried their way with their claws, fangs, barbed tentacles, and their hell-forged weapons. One could only take so much delight in repeat butchery upon failed assassination attempts, and The Face detested mediocrity.
The pretty little peregrine would get at him where he least expected.
And the question was not, ‘Would she?’
The question was, ‘From where?’
Not for a moment did it cross his mind that the pretty girl with the succulent flesh, and currently squirming in pain, had approached him in good faith..
Good faith? Really, now..
This was Hell!
There was never any good faithing going on here..
“So..”, said The Face. “..you have a plan, then?”
“My Liege.”, whispered Perigren. “I only have strong suggestions..”
“You come here.. with no plan?”, murmured The Face and there was a dangerous quality in his voice.
“I am not a general, My Liege, nor a commander. I hold no troops, no status, and no presence, nor do I have any prestige to show for. In the eyes of those under your command, I am a mere pretty face —a juicy piece of flesh and tasty skin with a ‘limited lifespan’, and barely tolerated and only due to being the joy project of a once, favored concubine.
And now, she is dead..
I AM, MY LIEGE,
EFFECTIVELY, A NOBODY!
To say that I have a plan, would indicate, ‘I know better’..
What I do know is the accumulation of small, seemingly insignificant parts put together to see the bigger picture, and make mere suggestions. And the current picture suggests we use the available resources, dormant or otherwise, in the area and take full advantage of your hidden Orken. I estimate their discovery in less than two months. Whether they think they can’t be seen nor discovered, My Liege, is a moot point.
And that is putting it rather optimistically.”
She looked up and faced her liege and commander, conjuring everything she had left into that gaze;
Boldness and surety, a touch of a smirk, a squint of an eye, and deep, distracting breaths..
..and no small amount of ‘curious’ arrogance.
“It is time, My Liege..”, she said.
“IT IS TIME TO RELEASE THE HORDE!”
For a long, thoughtful moment, The Face mused at the quietly panting, pretty girl..
“You waltz a dangerous dance, little Perigren.. You would know of the ‘available resources’ in the area, how?”, he asked, more out of curiosity than menace, really.
“Auntie Irine..”, Perigren said, with all the cool detachment she could muster. “She talked in her sleep.. This, I think, you already know, My Liege..”
“Have an answer for everything, do you?”, he asked with amusement.
“Only for the inconvenient questions, My Liege.”, she replied.
“I know, Irine talked in her sleep. The question is, how do you?”
Perigren Ostlanna Temez went for a poor attempt of an amused smile. She felt her time was almost up and with utter surety, she did not want to faint in pain and drop —on her back, before her liege.
“Auntie Irine also liked to cuddle, My Liege, and very much, with her soft and succulent trainees, when she was otherwise not entertaining you..
Said, it was all part of the program!”
Kardax’Trakxa ‘The Face’ stared down at the squirming girl who stubbornly clung to her cool, and there was, not so subtle wrath in his burning eyes..
..and when he spoke, he blared.
Perigren Ostlanna Temez; Perigren, ‘peregrine’ kelimesinden türemedir ve yabacı, garip,uzaktan gelen, egzotik anlamlarına gelir. Ostlanna ise, ‘oust’, dışlanmış, ötelenmiş, reddedilmiş kelimesinden gelir ve ‘dışlanmış/ötelenmiş/reddedilmiş Lanna’ demektir:
“Garip, yabancı ve dışlanmış Lanna Temez.”
Spiring somewhere in the dead and desolate grounds of Hell, stood a tall and mighty chateau. And deep down the bowels of the chateau, the slight figure of Perigren Ostlanna Temez slumbered fitfully..
In her nightmarish disposition, Perigren Ostlanna Temez could vaguely register the few things around her; that she was somehow still alive, enough to feel the searing pain spasming down her back, that she was afloat in some, lukewarm solution, and that she was stripped naked..
And it was that last bit was that alarmed her more than the others, interestingly. Considering she was a succubi half-breed, one would think that she would be in her natural element.
Many unsavory things she was, and many sins she had done, true, but all and always with her own will. And whatever she had done, they had all been her own choice.
“Free will.”, her former trainee friend had called it..
..The vague and pretty girl who had been chosen among all the other trainees as the bride for their liege and commander, the mind behind every plan, every sinister conspiracy, and every single unspeakable atrocity that had ever occurred in the mortal coil in this cycle; Kardax’Trakxa, ‘The Face’..
The vague and pretty trainee who called herself, Merisoul Xyrotwu!
Perigren Ostlanna Temez knew, deep in her heart, she was downplaying her former trainee friend by referring to her as ‘vague’ and ‘pretty’..
The girl was more like.. How did the mortals say it?
Mad as a hatter?..
..And as she, Perigren, would jealously admit, unearthly, or more like, otherworldly beautiful!
Ostlanna Temez knew just how beautiful and striking a figure she, herself, was.
On a scale of 1 to 10, she was somewhere very near 14 —pessimistically speaking.
19, if she was on one of her good days..
But while she was ravaging, lust-inspiring, blood steering, just by her phenomenal flesh, she lacked the one thing that Merisoul had.
The appearance of ‘innocence’..
The very thing that drew morals and non-mortals upon her like bees to honey..
..or flies, depending on your appetites!
Perigren had very nearly chewed through her knuckles, and certainly through her own heart, in a metaphorical sense, when she had first seen Xyrotwu..
..And damn her if she herself hadn’t wanted a bite out of her! But then, she was already damned..
If her name, Merisoul, wasn’t a giveaway, her actions, her ideas, her approach to any given matter at hand, certainly said, something was just weird about her —something off!
They were pretty much at the very center of ‘Hell’; a totally dead, rotting, dreary, devastated, and desolate land where bouts of magma and spits of poisonous gases were the only things that marred the otherwise hopeless and monotonously twilight landscape, and she called herself, Merry Soul – A Happy Soul..
Perigren Ostlanna Temez knew exactly and of the many depths of what the word ‘demented’ meant, but it always seemed to fall short where that girl, her friend, had been concerned.
Not to mention, it had been that same pretty, vague, and pretty vague girl who had introduced her to the word, ‘friend’, in the first place.
“We are now BFF’s, Lanna Temez.”, she had declared, just after having slain their first mortal; a huge and ugly brute of a man who had thought it would be a good idea to make use of those ‘pretty little legs and what came between’, running around in their skimpy little outfits the way they did..
“What is a Bee Eff Eff?”, she’d asked, reeking of the mortal blood splattered all over their hands, faces, and their half-naked, nubile flesh..
“Best Fiend Friends!”
And yes, the fact that only, and only Merisoul had ever called her by that name, her real name; Lanna Temez, was not lost on her..
For everyone else, she was either ‘that little slut in training’ —the common use of reference for her and her kind, or Perigren Ostlanna Temez, at best. She hadn’t ever minded being called by her full name and title. But Soul had insisted calling her by Lanna Temez and deep down, she’d liked that.. a something that had also buffed up something that she would figure out much, much later..
Incidentally, that had also been their first time to have ever devoured a soul.
The big, ugly man’s soul had certainly been ‘fill’ing, but it had tasted horrible.. and vile.. Like, beyond belief!
Which was also the time they both had learned, not every soul was edible..
Or rather, every soul was edible, but some just shouldn’t be et! Unless you had no taste whatsoever, which by default, disqualified you from being a succubus anyway, full or half-breed..
It had been an educational experience much like mortal grown-ups taught their kids not to put everything that moved into their mouth!
When it came to souls and soul-devouring, apparently the quality truly did matter, as opposed to quantity.
And Perigren Ostlanna Temez had had her true soul, soon after her first trip on the mortal world.
He had been a young, not quite man, human boy. Sixteen at the most..
He was helping his parents at the far end of a field, planting things, Perigren knew not what they were. She had walked up to him and the boy had just stood there, ogling at her with his puppy-eyes that could only be called, ‘stupified adoration’..
That look had stirred some things in Perigren she never knew she ever had. Something hot and wild.. Something that demanded every sensual part, every tender inch of her..
Her lips, her hips, her modest, nubile breasts, and.. well.. everything. And she had devoured the boy, then and there.
Perigren Ostlanna had learned a few vital things that day;
That she had never known anything that could ‘taste’ so beautiful.
That what she felt, was something beyond mortal ‘ecstasy’. That certain kinds of souls could ‘burn’..
..and for many years, that burning sensation would never truly diminish.
Which was also when she had learned what ‘innocence’ meant and why Merisoul’s such appearance appealed to mortals and non-mortals the way it did.
Two other things had stayed with Perigren Ostlanna Temez that very same day;
That would be the last time she would ever devour any soul, no matter how much she might want to..
..And the memory of the boy she had devoured; he hadn’t cried, nor made a single attempt to save his own life.
He had just stood there, staring at her with the same, adoring look as she devoured him away until he was no more.
Perigren knew very well what a fiend was, as she’d see one on any polished, reflecting surface. She never really understood what a ‘friend’ was, however, and she strongly suspected, neither did the pretty and vague girl.
Only that it related to some form of connection.. Or possibly, a bond.
She also knew such forms of bonds were assumed ‘punishable by death’. Which likely meant being chared, shredded, et, disintegrated or worse and while still alive..
Always while still alive.. that was the optimal way of making the most out of an example, after all.
And yet, she had declared her, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, as her friend.. She must have known about the consequences. Merisoul had always been a walking encyclopedia of not only spells, enchantments, necromancy, and magical theorems but of both mortal and non-mortal laws, the finer details of mortal life in general, and lots and lots of irrelevant, ‘garbage’ trivia.
Merisoul Xyrotwu confused Perigren.
And for some demented reason, she’d liked that; the state of wakeful, yet confused silliness! It was like being caught in a bout of uncontrollable, but genuine laughter where you’d end up lying on your back, staring at a pretty, mortal sky on a warm, summer afternoon, with a stupid, happy smile on your face, for no reason or source. It comported the phrase; ‘contentment’, and so thoroughly!
That weird girl had given her something none of her training, nor her Auntie Irine ever had;
A sense of self.
This was what she would figure out, much, much later.. And correspondingly;
A something that very nearly creeped her out of her tight, exposive bodice at times because that ‘free will’ also related to their bond;
“ARE YOU AWAKE, YET, LITTLE PERIGREN?“, came the strong, commanding, and beautiful voice of The Face, her liege and commander..
Perigren Ostlanna Temez jammed her skittering thoughts deep inside her vaulted ‘safe’ —a trick she had learned, also from that pretty, vague, and pretty vague girl, Merisoul Xyrotwu..
✱ ✱ ✱
Have I been returned for the extended pleasure of suffering numerous early retirements, My Liege?”, she rasped as she tried to sit up in the lukewarm solution. It was an odd, sluggish sensation, being in that solution. It smelled.. nice.. Something quite unexpected of her liege to have done for her, or anyone, for that matter, and certainly not in Hell! It also made her feel dizzy and, well, to put in finer terms, elated and all fuzzy on the inside.
What the hell was this thing?
“Unlike my predecessor, I detest raving on repeats. If I have not done a sufficiently effective work, out of my first try, I do not bother with retries.”, said the tall, lean, muscular form of The Face.
“I certainly feel like I have been afflicted by any number of ‘sufficiently effective work-outs’, My Liege. How deformed and mauled am I, if I may be so bold as to inquire. I am afraid to even ask; do I even entertain a back?”, she asked trying to buy enough time to clear her mind.
“You will live, and still be pretty. Do not despair, little Perigren, many bees will still flock to your honey! And you certainly do entertain a rather delightful back.”, The Face replied with an amused tone of voice. “Your wounds should smooth out in another day or two in that solution. Your pain, however, is there to stay for quite a bit longer..”
“What is to become of me, My Liege? Shall I be of use, or be used? This, I must know..”, she said as her sight came into focus while trying very hard to seem diffident.
The commander, her liege, had a very beautiful body! Perigren had never really liked her Aunt Irine, but she certainly had had a good taste for ‘quality flesh’!
Concentrate, girl. Get it together!.. If you want to get ahead with The Plan, you have to concentrate only on the business at hand.. There is no surviving the other options, no matter how delicious they might be..
It was hard for Perigren Ostlanna Temez.
Her commander and liege was indeed the height and peek of male attraction.
And her being a succubi, even if a mere half-breed, did nothing to help.
Quite the contrary, it boosted her certain instincts, made her want to very nearly luster after her commander like a bitch in heat!
Perigren closed her eyes.
No one should have to suffer the wants and needs of a succubi heritage. It was delightful, in a skin and flesh way, but very, very demeaning and humiliating..
..in a sense that you stopped being a human; the whole, other half of your existence.
Which was why half-breeds, such as herself, had a limited life span of ‘use’.
They mostly went insane towards the end, mindlessly lustering and prostrating themselves that left nothing of their humanity, self-worth, or awareness.
Such ‘details’ were never given to them during their training.
Why would they be informed of such details? They were all expendable and were bred for a very specific reason.
They were all, to put it bluntly, tools for the amusement of their masters with the skills and training for extremely high accuracy for assassination, espionage, and sowing dissension among mortals.
An average succubi half-breed was good for four or five such missions. Seven, maybe eight, if they were exceptional..
Also, the reason why Perigren had opted to be an ‘organizer’ for her liege’s covered ops, rather than gore herself to madness in them..
“You wanted surety, little Perigren, you now have it. I expect you to be up and running in two days. We have much ground to cover.”, The Face said, giving the naked, slender form of the succubi half-breed a smile that would have sent many mortals to their fright-induced deaths.
“It’s alright, My Liege. I will be up and running as soon as I can get my hands on some fresh set of clothes. What is this solution I have been dozed in? It has worked some wonders if I am indeed as intact as I was before.”, she said as she waited for her liege to leave.
“It is an expansive solution some enterprising mortal concocted at a place called The Academy of Melshieve. He was banished and barred from the Academy, due to the immoral use of certain.. ‘infantile’ ingredients, in his solution.. A truly happy outcome, as he works for us now, though he does not know it. He thinks he is being sponsored by some anonymous pharmaceutical company —for the betterment of mankind! I like a man who indulges in one or two of our seven sins. But this one went for so many; pride, greed, envy, lust, and gluttony! Really, now..”
Perigren made a disgusted face and very much wanted to jump out of the oozing solution, but didn’t dare to do so, in her current.. condition..
“My Liege. If I may..”, she half pleaded.
“Of course, little Perigren. I shall be waiting for you at my ‘office’, as the mortals like to say, next to my table, and my easily accessible chronicles..”, said The Face lightly, though Perigren felt the wrath in his stance.
Very soon, many mortals and non-mortals would die, even if they were remotely suspected of ever having been anywhere near that book!
✱ ✱ ✱
This one, My Liege..”, Perigren said, pointing at a miniature ‘peon’ on the large, very detailed map, representing the mortal world, the towns, and cities, the mountains, and forests, lakes, seas and oceans, swamps and ruins and much more. Any mortal cartographer would kill for a map like this one. But would likely die quite sooner than ever getting his hands on it. The map was immaculately drawn, as if The Face had whole legions, walking in a straight, horizontal line, noting down every bush, every pebble, every leaf they came across, in fear of missing anything.
“And this one..”, she said, pointing at another representative peon. “They both have to act at the same time.”
The Face cocked an eyebrow.
“It is a very unprofitable move, little Perigren. And their syncrosity would mean nothing. The distance between them is too great to have any effect on either side. Not to mention, the losses would be irreplaceable for quite some time. Especially the ones at Demon Plains, seeing as how the Demon Gate is still malfunctioning and is unable to import more than a trickle of our forces at any given time.”, he said quietly.
“The simultaneity is not for the benefit of either of those forces, My Liege. They are the bait.. The distraction..”, Perigren said, also quietly.
“Explain.”, said The Face, looking up to the slight form of the succubi half-breed, still quivering with unhealed pain.
“They are for the benefit of these forces.”, she said solemnly, as she took a loose peon from the box at the side of the map, and placed it..
..at another location, quite aways east of the Demon Plains.
The Face stared down at the girl. And hot, infernal breath seethed down his nose.
“You are not supposed to know about those forces, little Perigren.”, he said with burning eyes.
“My Liege. You wanted answers before you asked of them. This is me, supplying you with the answers. How I know the things I know matters little. Suffice to say, mortals and not quite mortals fail to curb their instincts to try and impress ‘that little slut in training’.. The short and tall of the matter is; those forces are very nearly unearthed.. discovered..”, she said, gazing at her liege with the detached expression she was so good at.
“And you know the fact that they are about to be discovered, how?”, The Face asked silently.
“Due to yours, My Liege. She.. she is with a group of unlikely venturers. They have been after certain clues, left behind by foolish, inadequate, and incompetent mortal thugs, what could otherwise have been a simple snatch and grab by one of my kind, leaving no clues to be found, nor any trails to be followed. Which is exactly the opposite of what those fools did. Unfortunately, the clues first led them to no other than Themalsar himself, even though he had nothing to do with it. Suffice to say, she was there when Themalsar was destroyed.. She was also there when the same mortals slew Aunt Irine. The clues have now led them elsewhere, directly to where they should have gone in the first place.
Or would never have, had the job been done correctly..
As for your forces, the ones that have been in hiding, are a mere glimpse away from being discovered no matter what.”, Perigren said, succinctly.
“Those forces are unlikely to be discovered, little Perigren. They have been extensively trained, both physically and mentally.”, replied The Face, and there was a district ‘storm’ in his voice now.
Perigren Ostlanna Temez paused for a moment. She felt her stomach churn. She loved and absolutely hated being what she was. She could play, at will, a whole crowd of mortals like a lute, and as flattering as that sounded, she felt stained, somehow, every time she had done it. It was a simple chain reaction that, one thing would inevitably lead to the other; she would lose a piece of her self, her humanity every time she did, what she did.. and given enough time and repetitions, she would eventually lose it all and her free will along with it because her humanity would have died, leaving only half a succubi.. a creature with only base instincts, and base desires, as her demonic heritage would finally take over and she would slowly but decidedly, earnestly, even, and with perverse pleasure, deteriorate towards that insanity, she so feared..
And she hated admitting it openly, even for the ’cause’..
“What is in common with a succubus and I, My Liege?”, she asked finally.
“Both you and the succubi are creatures of lust, little Perigren. This, you already know. You will do your best to stay the madness of that lust as best as you can, and one day, though unlikely, you might overcome it. Even my bride-to-be has an expiration date, and she has shown exceptional mental capacity, unseen even in fully grown succubi. In the end, it is a lost fight with only one possible outcome. What you make of yourself until then, is up to me.”, The Face said, with his merciless, handsome voice.
“My point, exactly, My Liege.”, Perigren replied morosely. “Your Greater Orken are well-bred, and exceptionally trained warriors, scouts, and ambushers, true, but at the end of the day, they are merely experimental orcs. Much like I am an experimental succubi.. That is their heritage. You can see the loss of their patience and discipline by the way they have been raiding farms and villages. They have been killing the scouts and rangers of the elves and humans alike, inadvertently exposing themselves and their presence.
The humans are already aware something is afoot, My Liege. And so are the elves. Either they find out about your forces prematurely, or we strike first and take away their choices, and the possibility of the Orken being discovered becomes altogether a moot point.”
Another pause ensued, but this time, it was on The Face end..
“There a few too many details that you know, but shouldn’t. Not unless you were personally there, little Perigren. AND THEY NEED ADRESSING.“, The Face said, leaving no room for debate.
“I know them, My Liege because she told me herself.”, Peritren said quietly. “I can not locate her, because I suspect Priceptine, the Archangel of Wrath conceals her through their bond. But she speaks to me..”
“And she would do this, why?”, The Face said, and his voice was like the grinding of thousands of stones.
“Because she believes that she and I are friends, My Liege, even though neither she nor I know what it means to be friends.”, replied Perigren Ostlanna Temez soullessly. “She’s a demon, trapped, and alone in the mortal coil with no one to hear her, listen to her, relate to her, or be her friend. Whether her betrayal is genuine, I am not privy to that knowledge. But her bond to the archangel is in place and there is little she can do to escape it, even if she wanted. I do, however, know that she has saved the lives of her companions many times, even at the expense of her own. I shall do as I must, and talk to her when she contacts and pry what information I can. Should I get the chance, what would you want me to do, My Liege.
Kardax’Trakxa ‘The Face’ paused only for so long before his words spat out like the Wrath of Hell, that he was.
“A bond such as she has forged with an angel, much less an archangel, can only occur on a mutual agreement basis. That is how angels work. Otherwise, such a bond would not be fair! She has opted to serve Priceptine. It was a choice of servitude or.. death.. She should have chosen the latter, for as sure as she did not, she must suffer the consequences of her betrayal.
Bring her to me and alive, little Perigren. I shall place her in a cell I had once used for no other than Ad Ara, herself!
There, little Perigren, you and I, shall make her suffer torment like never heard of, nor witnessed before.
Thus she shall learn the true meaning.. and the price of ‘a friend’ in Hell.
And after we have had our fill, I shall not honor her by casting her to the ethernal voids of Oblivion.
I shall allow you, little Perigren, to devour..
..and consume her soul!”
Perigren Ostlanna Temez; Perigren, ‘peregrine’ kelimesinden türemedir ve yabacı, garip, egzotik anlamlarına gelir. Ostlanna ise, ‘oust’, dışlanmış, ötelenmiş kelimesinden gelir ve ‘dışlanmış/ötelenmiş Lanna’ demektir: Garip, egzotik, ve dışlanmış Lanna Temez.