Son of Nagarythe
I ran forward—not the lumbering, clumping run of a human. The breeze rustled as it blew past, making more noise than my footsteps. Ingrained by the drilling of decades, the training of my tutor and father, Taleryn, took over.
A Dark Elven sentry lay ahead, and I felt a surge of hatred flow through my veins—but I could not kill him. His absence would be noticed.
I pulled up behind a twisted, blackened tree. The faint ‘crunch' of feet on leaves met my ears. I waited until it faded, and he passed me on his rounds.
Again, the run continued. Noiseless as a drifting shadow, I passed through the Druchii lines. Ahead lay a dark stain upon the starless night, my target. The tower of Hazoth-Shur, where the Sorceress Nosirai Thali practiced her dark art. My mouth soured at the mere thought of the witch, and I let the bitterness flow through my body.
Before this excursion, I swore that I would kill her. Whether to my blade or to my bow, she would meet her end tonight. For Taleryn's memory, and for the others of my kin who suffered at her hands.
I threw myself behind a pile of rocks and waited as another sentry picked its way by through the bushes. The tower loomed above me, a dark, cruel pinnacle of twisted metal and stone. Fearful spikes adorned the walls, more than a few rammed through the corpses Nosarai's ‘experiments'.
I will avenge you, my kinsmen.
A row of these metal barbs descended to the foot of the tower near my latest hiding spot. I looked around and, seeing no more sentries or hidden observation platforms, ran to them. After that, it was child's play to haul myself up.
I hung my dark cloak behind me to camouflage my ascent from any lookers from below. Upon wings of righteous fury, I climbed. Halfway up the tower I paused, seeing a maw-like balcony jutting out beside me. I swung my arms over the railing and, silent as a ghost, slithered over. A red, gossamer curtain billowed silently in the wafting breeze, obscuring whatever lay within. Listening intently, I heard a faint moan. This was not a moan of pleasure or pique, but a heartfelt groan of despair. It was an Elven voice, a voice I remembered clearly.
Taleryn. My father was still alive.
I could not continue up the wall. I could not leave my father in some torture-chamber if he was still alive. My hand extended to the curtain, trembling. I lowered it.
My father could wait. My mission was to kill the witch, not rescue any survivors. I had no way of knowing who else might be in that room, no way to guarantee that I could still accomplish my mission with an injured Elf, even an Elf as skilled as my father, in tow.
I will return, father. I swear it.
Sorrowfully, heartbreakingly, I left my father and continued climbing the ridge of black spines. I could not even dare whisper through the curtain for fear of alerting any Druchii guard that might be in my father's cage-room. Tears tracked down my face as I grasped spike over spike and hauled myself upwards.
She would pay for this.
The credo of the Shadow Warrior ran through my head as I reached the window. Two arm's length above me, sentries patrolled the ramparts.
Strike unseen from the shadow,
I jumped, falling noiselessly to the lip of the casement. I landed with the faintest of whispers, silk across an uneven floor.
Without warning or mercy,
Quickly, wraithlike, I ghosted through the window's red veil. I dropped a few feet to the inner floor. Inside, the deep swirls of magenta and ocher blended around me. A thorned throne of purest amethyst sat silently, emptily in the far side of the auditorium that I had entered.
Without pity or contempt;
Chairs radiated out from the dais like petals from an intricate flower. In a single column of moonlight, drawn from a hidden skylight, stood my target, alone.
Strike with poisoned blade or bow,
Pale features against raven-black hair, subtly accentuated with a clinging gown of purple and black. Her back was toward me, and she stood at a plinth with a bowl clasped in manicured fingernails.
With a cloak of silence and darkness,
I slung my bow from my back and silently drew an arrow from my boot. I raised the bow, carefully setting the arrow in place.
With secret craft and cunning guile;
I drew the arrow to my ear, the treated wood of my bow not betraying me with a creak. The fletching of my dart brushed my cheek, and I sighted down its length. Slowly, I release a breath that I had been holding since I came through the window. As I exhaled, I loosened my grip on the string, increment by increment.
Strike against the betrayer.
Everything seemed so far away, and yet the adrenaline pumping through my system burned with the flame of vengeance.
Strike against the traitor.
Time slows. Nosirai set down her scrying bowl and began to turn. I released the arrow.
Strike against our dark kin.
A whirring flash, glinting in the darkness: the hope and purity of the High Elven realm, and the embodiment of our righteous vengeance.
An inch from her face, the arrow froze in the air.
She said a single, power-laden word: "Ekri."
I tried to move, to dart out of the way, but an unseen force grabbed me in talons of rending agony. I was shoved, stumbling forward to the floor in the light.
I tried to raise my gaze but the invisible foe yanked at my hair and ripped my head forward. The moonlit tiles filled my gaze.
"Tell me," said a pure voice, clearly and elegantly, "do you really think that you can enter my domain and remain unnoticed? I think that you take me for a fool. I so enjoyed watching you climb my tower's walls, though it was a disappointment that you chose not see what I had done to your fellow scouts. It is... beautiful."
I tried to say something; to curse her and her kin, but claws of pain lanced through my jaws and snapped them shut, biting through the tip of my tongue.
"I won't be having that. Now, I have all sorts of things that I simply must show you..."
Feet appeared in my field of vision, clad in dark, scaly leather boots. A whip cracked. I swore mentally and struggled against my invisible bonds, heedless of the burning pains that wracked my body.
Asuryan, grant me strength!
I stood. A snapping bone, the crackle of tearing tissue. The pain tore through me, a wild beast that shattered my soul and tore out through my lips. I screamed until my mouth was ragged and bloody, but I would not bow before this undeserving witch. The torturous agony exceeded the physically possible, but I remained standing.
An eternity passed, the Sorceress thrusting her will upon me, attempting to make me bow. I would not. I could not, no more than I could abandon my father or leave my kith and kin unavenged. Blows of force shattered my bones, but still I stood.
At last the pain abated somewhat- not gone, oh no, but merely receding to a level of mere unbearability. I clenched my jaws shut, and looked at the witch through blurred eyes.
"Die." I croaked, and staggered toward her.
"Impressive," she gasped breathlessly, exhaustion plain in her voice, "but not enough." Her voice took on a cruel, lilting tone.
"Corothari Shaklavis Summetharil! Elshovani Vanz-Hagorath!"
A bolt of azure energy slammed into me, numbing my right arm, but I paid it no attention. That was nothing next to the pain I already felt, the pain of having lost my father, only to find him again and to have to abandon him. Nothing could compare.
"Elshavareth! Shozai Thoroh-Selaven! Nagrat Thar!"
My body slowed as if immersed underwater, but I paid it no attention. I reached the witch, who stumbled backwards as I tried to raise my arm to draw my sword. My right arm would not, could not move. Blearily, I tried my left arm and gripped my sword's pommel. I struggled unwieldily to draw my weapon from the same side as my arm, but the blade slid clear.
The Sorceress staggered back as I came at her, moving her hands in arcane sigils of protection. She shrieked her curses in desperation.
My blade smashed into her wards, knocking her back and disrupting the spell that she cast. The energy crackling around her fingers lashed backwards, wrinkling and aging the skin of her arms.
She shrieked again and turned to run, but I was ready. I slammed the sword of my father, the sword of my father's father's father, deep into the back of the witch, a blight upon Ulthuan. She gasped, stumbled, and coughed.
The rushing in my ears receded and silence returned—but for the soft ‘flump' of her body crumpling to the ground.
I was tired. So incredibly, mind-numbingly tired. I looked at my right arm, and such was my exhaustion that I did not fully understand the ragged stump that I saw.
Something clicked in my mind. I became an automaton, focusing solely on tearing strips from my cloak and binding my severed arm. When I finished, I wearily yanked my sword from the corpse of the dead witch and slung my bow in the case on my back again. My mind was clouded and fogged, and I barely made it to the window in time.
As I staggered to the window, thumping sounds from outside the auditorium grew louder. I climbed up the windowsill and clumsily grasped the spikes that I'd climbed earlier. I heard the sentries from the roof burst into the room I'd just left. No doubt that they had been under orders to leave the Sorceress alone with me, but they had realized that something had gone wrong.
But I was too tired to realize this now. My only thoughts were of escape and of my father. When I clumsily reached a spike a short height above the other balcony, I dropped. I didn't care that I landed as heavily as a human. I was beyond that.
I pushed through the curtain to the room my father was kept in. My eyes saw spikes and racks, brands and cages, but I truly only took in the sight of my father. Staked atop a flat board and surrounded by blood and scraps of flesh, he had been skinned entirely. His organs, though not severed from whatever tubes they might be attached to, had been arrayed around his body and nailed to the panel, reminiscent of a diagram of an Elven body in an anatomy book.
When I finished retching on the floor, I looked around again. Other of my fellow Shadow Warriors, captured at the same time as my father, were spread around the room and disabled in similar depraved manners.
"My son?" The faint whisper was almost beyond the edge of my sharp hearing. Incredibly, he was still alive.
"No. You... are not my son. You are only another... lie."
"Father!" I gasped in pain, at this rejection and at seeing him brought so low.
"If... you are my son... you will give me mercy and and my pain."
"Father, I- I can't kill you!"
"Then you... are weak. Can you not see my pain!" His harsh whisper cost him too much. He coughed blood and slumped back.
I wept. There was no choice. Slowly, I drew a knife and walked up to the elf that I loved so dearly, so purely.
"Goodbye, father." I said, choking on my sobs.
A look of gratitude flashed through his eyes and he smiled.
After I finished the deed, I assisted my each brethren in turn. Every single one of them was maimed beyond any repair. Most of them were too far gone to express their gratitude. Each and every one that I set free was killing another part of myself. I imagined that I could see their souls flying free, released like the Phoenix of Asuryan.
Soaked with their blood and shattered in soul, I left my kin and that accursed tower. I cared neither for the triumphs that I had achieved nor for the laurels that I was given. I had consigned my family for dead before I entered the tower, and to have the cruel gods hurt this poor son of Nagarythe so was terrible.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
Last edited by Mossy Toes; 03-27-11 at 03:54 AM.