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Author Topic: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread  (Read 7798 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« on: January 01, 2014, 10:37:41 PM »


"The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies. It comes from friends and loved ones."


Your challenge this month is to write about a betrayal. It doesn't matter if you write from the perspective of the person betrayed or the one betraying or a third party.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must contain betrayal and elements of fantasy.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.

Entry will close January 31st 2014 and voting will begin February 1st 2014.


Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)


The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website in March 2014.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 10:39:14 PM by xiagan »
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline ACSmyth

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2014, 03:48:08 PM »
Stab and Twist

By dawn, the children were already carrying water from the well for washing. We used it cold. Not even a betrothal warrants wasting precious fuel to heat water. In the desert, we are used to discomfort.

I made sure to wake Pietrig myself. Aithne and Kael’s wedding celebrations had gone on late, but Pietrig had come home later still, and filthy with it. He’d been with Sylas; I could tell. Our father and Sylas’s had gone to great lengths to keep them apart, but the soot from the kiln—their meeting-place of old—gave them away.
I pumped Pietrig for information, though he was barely awake.

“Did he say anything? Is he willing?”

Pietrig spluttered as I poured cold water over his head. He scrubbed his fingers through his dark curls, rubbing behind his ears and down his neck. Funny. I used to help wash him when he was little, and here he was, wearing the gem in his ear, a grown man. Sooty water ran in rivulets over his shoulders.

“They’ve told him.”

“Is that all? Does it please him?”

Pietrig shook the water from his hair. “What do you think?”

I didn’t have to think; I knew. I’d talked to Sylas before he left. All he wanted was to be a changer and escape the village, his father, the linandra pits—everything that makes our people the lowest of the low, and him lowest of all.

“I think he’d want to stay at the Aerie.”
 
But his father would never allow that. After only three children, one dead these several months, Craie needed grandchildren to raise his status. Although most suspected Sylas would sooner lie with a man, Craie would still force him into marriage for his own ends.

“I know why this betrothal is happening, Fienne. To free me from the dig team. Father’s giving me a future by taking away Sylas’s. It stinks.”

Pietrig wasn’t meant to be a linandra digger; he was meant to follow father as village elder. But if Sylas took his place in the pits, Pietrig could come home, and Sylas marrying me would drag his family off the bottom rung of our village’s ladder.

As a marriage proposal, it did indeed stink.

#

The morning was cool; the clean dress fresh against my skin. Sylas was freshly scrubbed, all hints of soot washed away. The linandra bead that marked his adulthood glinted in the early sun, but the bead on the thong about my neck was a sham. It proclaimed me a woman, but I was seventeen, nearly eighteen, and I had never bled.

My stomach fluttered. It’s expected for the girl to be nervous, but Sylas looked just as tense, and I wondered what had passed between him and his parents. When I tried to catch his eye, to give him a reassuring smile, he looked past me, to where the rest of my family stood. To Pietrig.

Can there be anything more soul-destroying than knowing your betrothed loves your brother better?

I’d guessed years ago. Pietrig would flirt with the village girls—sneak a kiss when he could. But Sylas only had eyes for Pietrig. Would Sylas even want to take me to his bed when we were married? Had that too been part of my father’s plan? To blame him when I failed to conceive?

When my father suggested the betrothal it seemed ideal. I loved Sylas like another brother already. He’s a good man, kind and gentle. But I didn’t think they’d trick him; I thought he knew. I’d sooner he had been happy about the match, but could I lay my hand on my heart and say I wouldn’t marry him even if he was unwilling, knowing this might be my only chance? The Lady knows my shame, I reasoned, and still she has brought this man to be my betrothed.

As we stood, waiting to be joined, my betrothed-to-be tried to catch my brother’s eye. When at last he succeeded, he tensed and looked uncomfortably away. Shifting, he stared across the circle to where his own family were gathered. He and his mother were so very close. What were they conveying to each other with those lingering looks?

My father took my hand to lead me towards Sylas. Sylas’s father took his elbow and tried to do the same, but Sylas shook his father off. He muttered something. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I could guess the intent from his truculent posture. A chill ran through me, and my heart beat so hard, I thought my father could hear it. My father leaned close, his breath tickling my ear when he spoke.

“Take his hand, child. Many men are nervous when it comes to it. He will do it for you.”

I held out my hand, and Sylas looked at me, his eyes full of pain. He didn’t want to hurt me, I could tell, but he would do it all the same. I wanted to run. To hide. To pretend this wasn’t happening. But the whole village was watching. I had to see it through.

He looked like an animal in a trap.

“I’m sorry.” He barely whispered the words, but I read them from his lips.

His father yanked his arm. “Take it. Take her hand, damn you.”

The look he gave me broke my heart. “I can’t. Fienne, I can’t. I’m sorry.”

It’s only nerves, I told myself. It has happened before, one partner hesitating, realising the importance of the vows. But I could hear villagers shuffling behind me. This was not just nerves. They could tell something was wrong.

“Please, Elder Skarai. Don’t do this to her. Take her back to your wife. Say we made a mistake. Say she refused me. Say she loves another. Please don’t do this.”

I tried to speak, could feel my lips trembling as I did so. “But I would not refuse you. You are the gentlest man in the village. I would have you as my husband before any of them. When my father asked me, I agreed right away.”

He raised his head and looked over my shoulder, far into the distance. I didn’t need to turn to know he was staring at the mountain on which the Aerie lay. Thinking of his dreams of changing; his future, left in tatters because of me.

“I cannot marry you, Fienne. I will not.” Then to my horror, he raised his voice so all the village could hear. “I will not take her, do you hear me? I will go back to the Aerie. I cannot marry. Not Fienne. Not anyone. I mean to be a changer.”

“You’ll do as we say, young Sylas!” My father tugged at my hand, and Craie did the same to Sylas. Was there ever a less auspicious start to a marriage than a man and woman’s hands being joined by force? I wanted to scream at them to stop, but I controlled myself.

“No,” I said, and the words caught in my throat. “If he does not want me, I would not have you force him.”

“He will do as he is told, girl, as will you.” My father would never normally speak angrily to me. “Who do you want in the desert: Sylas or your brother? Your brother, who will lead after me?”

Pietrig was right, I thought bitterly. All this was to release Pietrig from the digging—from the life in the vents that rotted men’s lungs and ate the skin from their faces. Had he been part of their schemes?

Sylas raised his voice. “They try to trick my father. The girl is barren. She has had no flows. She should never have had the bead. I will not marry her.”

No one moved. No one spoke. I stared at him, speechless. He might have come to this betrothal unwillingly, but to shame me before everyone…

My eyes threatened to overflow, but I would not cry in front of him. I would not let him see how deeply he had wounded me.

“Who— Who told you? They said it was a secret—that no one beyond family knew of it. How could you do this to me, Sylas? In front of everyone. Omena’s wings, but I thought you cared for me a little.”
No one beyond family.

I had washed the soot from Pietrig’s body myself.

Pietrig had slept with Sylas last night, of that I was now certain. And at the kiln, in the throes of lovemaking or in the quiet after, he had told Sylas my secret. The one thing he had sworn no one outside family would know. He had told him I was barren, and now the entire village knew.

I ran home sobbing. Sylas was not my betrothed, nor ever would be now, but he had been my friend. Pietrig was my own blood.

A friend’s betrayal stabs deep, but a brother’s betrayal twists the knife.

Offline Maxfield

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Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2014, 09:39:13 AM »
Origins of Rohanna: Demon Hunter

Tibet China, year 1811.

“Vampires have surrounded the monastery,” alerted Choi-Sin as he burst into his masters chambers.

“They’re here for the book,” replied Naroda.                               

“Choi-Sin, you must protect the children. I will guard the book.”

“We don’t stand a chance against the demons master.”

“I know.”
   
“Look at the monks scurrying about like insects, asking to be stamped on. At least their armed so it will make it a little challenging when I slaughter them,” remarked Rohanna, as she stood next to her master. “No need to waste your dogs, Bilic. I’ll take care of the monks.”

“Who are you calling a dog?” Snapped the smartly dressed vampire, standing the other side of Bilic.

“Now, this isn’t the time to be arguing my darlings. Even though I do love you both veining for my affection! Just kill them and get me that book so we can go home. I do hate China, too many Dragons for my liking.”

“That’s fine with me. Just stay out of my way Dylan. We wouldn’t want any accidents with my sword,” Rohanna grinned, with intent. She then skimmed down the mountain into the monasteries grounds and started cutting through some monks.

“Head towards the far building,” ordered Dylan to the other vampires. “The monks are protecting it. The book must be there.”

“Look at my darlings, so beautiful and destructive. I don't need any assistance from Zantan's demons to retrieve a book. My vampires will have it no time,” proclaimed Bilic, proudly to the shadows behind him.

“They would; if the book was in that building,” answered a voice from the shadows. A demon then swept past Bilic and headed towards the unguarded building below.

“Stay close together,” commanded Choi-Sin to his brethren. We outnumber them; we can hold them, if we stick together.”

“That’s correct, you do out number us,” agreed Rohanna. “Let's see if I can do something about that.”

The monks may have been trained in combat, but they had never faced a vampire like Rohanna before. Using her demonic speed, Rohanna leapt in between a group of monks and within six moves she had succeeded in slicing the heads off all five men. In her next four steps she ducked two advancing monks and kicked Choi-Sin through the door of the building which they were protecting.

“Now where's that book you've been hiding?” Demanded Rohanna, as she strode into the room.

But it then struck Rohanna that it wasn't a book the monks were safeguarding, it was children. Rohanna had killed many children before and smiled as she advanced to do so again, but then suddenly stopped. She felt something inside of her change instantly, a feeling she hadn’t had for a very long time, a feeling that she once had when she was human…it was love. But it wasn't love towards all of the children, just one of them. It was the largest child, the boy standing in front of the others and the only one who didn’t look scared.

It had been just over a hundred years since the day she first met Bilic and she had killed more humans than she could count, but there was something about this young boy which brought back that dormant memory, the day that Bilic and Dylan entered her mother’s lodgings looking for shelter from a storm. The day she was turned.

Rohanna was playing with her younger brother who she had helped bring up with her mother as their father died when she was very young. She recalled being intoxicated by Bilic's handsome looks when he walked in, but it was Bilic who took more of a liking to her. He instantly desired her and much to Dylan's liking, he decided to turn her right then. It was her mother and brother who paid the price for her beauty that night as he ended theirs without remorse and then took Rohanna's forever. Rohanna remembered her brother crying before he was murdered by the demon who she had served ever since...she remembered. The evil vampire was no more. Rohanna was reborn and she wasn't going to let these children die.

“Where's the book?” Commanded Dylan, entering the room in a trail of monk’s blood.

“You will never have it,” shouted Choi-Sin, as he lunged at the vampire with his sword, which Dylan blocked with little fuss. He then grabbed him by the neck and turned him to face Rohanna.

“You’re slacking Rohanna. You've missed this monk and I can also see a bunch of children behind you still alive. Never mind, I'll just kill them and give the book to Bilic myself.”

“You won’t lay a finger on the children,” shouted Rohanna, pulling a blade from the side of her waste belt and flicking it towards him.

Dylan had to drop Cho-Sin as he narrowly avoided the blade, but lost part of his cheek in the process.

“You crazy bitch,” screamed Dylan in agony, as his right cheek burned.
 
“She is no longer a slave to your vampire master,” announced Choi-Sin, as he picked himself up.

“Vampire, you must protect these children. I need to go to the aid of my Maha Thera. I pray God favours you."

“I told Bilic it was a mistake to turn you. I sensed the betrayal then. At least I will have the pleasure in killing you.”

“Your right Dylan, it was a mistake turning me. And I'm going to make sure that every last demon on this planet knows that as well, starting with you.”

Rohanna then sprung forward with her sword held high, bringing it down towards him, which he automatically deflected away. He then took a step forward in retaliation with two swift swipes, but Rohanna was just as quick avoiding the attack.
Bilic had trained his two favourite vampires to the highest standard. They were his best and evenly matched. But Dylan had numbers on his side and didn’t hesitate in calling three vampires into the fight.
The first vampire was quickly dispatched as Rohanna extended her arm taking his head, but the other two vampires were not so amateur. They knew better than to give themselves so easily to an experience vampire warrior like Rohanna. Instead they positioned themselves around her at triangular points. Dylan then gave the order to all attack at the same time as he took the lead.
Rohanna moved at lightning speed, moving her head to avoid Dylan's sword by an inch. In the same move she kicked the hooded vampire to her right, whist ducking the sword of the vampire with the large moustache to her left. Rohanna then jumped clear, whilst blocking two more attempts from the sword of the hooded vampire. The fight was moving at such a high tempo. Within the next five seconds Rohanna had blocked three more strikes from Dylan, two from the hooded vampire and taken a punch to the head by the other.

“You can't keep this up forever Rohanna,” snarled Dylan, as he twirled his sword around furiously towards her legs, body and head in quick session, which she narrowly dodged each time.

But Rohanna wasn’t alone, and the numbers were soon reduced as the hooded vampire was unaware of the boy protecting the other children. He could see the vampire needing help and swiftly moved forward pulling out a dagger with unusual markings carved down the side and plunged it into the back of the vampire’s skull, who then disintegrated.
Dylan fumed, and was about to make the boy pay for interfering, when he was interrupted by a vampire soldier entering the room.

“Zbarski has the book Dylan. We need to get out of here before Ong and his demon hunters arrive.

“Go on without me. I will take care of this traitor first.”

“You will leave now,” instructed another vampire. It was Bilic.

“Zantan Mundeara told me years ago that you would betray me one day Rohanna. I never wanted to believe him, yet here I find you locked in battle with Dylan, my two darlings trying to kill each other. It’s such a shame. Come Dylan, these soldiers can see to Rohanna.”

Bilic then slammed the door shut leaving Rohanna and the children trapped inside with five vampires…

« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 10:37:27 AM by Maxfield »

Offline TOMunro

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2014, 11:45:38 PM »
Desperation

“Betrayal tastes good doesn’t it?” he hissed in her ear.

She looked ahead, eyes fixed on the throne as the King stalked around her.

“I just don’t want to die.” She tried to supress the shaking of her limbs.  There was a sudden stillness in the plush pavillion.  The guards were holding their breath. Behind her the prowling monarch was abruptly motionless.  She’d done something wrong, what was it? Words chased each other out of her mouth.  “I don’t want to die, your Majesty.”

Time moved again and his Magnificence King Chirard the third circled round to face her.  It was a disconcerting prospect.  She could only see his mouth and chin with the pencil thin beard.  His nose and eyes were obscured by the blank steel visor of the Great Helm of the Vanquisher, the symbol and embodiment of royal power.  Although the design should have obscured his sight she knew that he could see her.   Bloodless lips twisted in a mockery of a smile.  “Of course not Lady Yalenst, but you will let others die in your place.”

“They’re going to die anyway.  They’re all going to die, your Majesty.”

He settled back in his throne, spreading the red robes over his thin body.  “True, so what value to me is the treachery you offer.”

“I can lead you to him. I can get past his wards.”

He stroked his chin with a long bony finger. “And?”

“I know you like to dispose of the pretenders in person.  Too important a matter to delegate.”

“Oh my dear Lady Yalenst, it is not about delegation, it is all pleasure.  I have sent two dozen of my nearest and dearest relatives into the afterlife. The memory of their screams soothes my sleep.”

She blinked. Chirard never slept, or so the rumour went.  He’d not been seen without the Great Helm in the whole two decades of his bloody reign.  Did he even take it off to sleep?  No-one knew.

“Your cousin,” the King went on. “Is just the last obscure off shoot of the royal line, one well over due for pruning.”

“He is still your heir, the next entitled to wear the Helm.”

“And after I’ve killed him, the dignity of being my successor will fall to you.”

“I hadn’t thought of it, your Majesty.”

He stood up mouth twisting in harmony with an unseen frown.  “Of course you had, fool girl.  Do you think I cannot see through your petty ambition?”

“I have no ambition for power your, Majesty,” Yalenst stammered. “I just don’t want to die, not like all the others.”

He tilted his head, straining to hear his own thoughts. “Maybe you won’t.   My advisers think it is time I took  a wife – fathered my own successor.  It would amuse me to unite your half formed house with the true line of the Vanquisher.”

She looked up into the blank steel of the Helm, her own face a mask in return. “And would I see my Lord’s face on our wedding day?” She hesitated at his silence. “On our wedding night?”

“Drunken peasants and paid assassins alike have perished in their attempts to harm me, thanks to this Helm’s great dweomer,” he snarled.  “It’d be a warm bed indeed that made me yield its protection for so much as a quarter-hour.”

Yalenst bit her lip. “Your Majesty, we should make haste if we are to catch the Lord Thren unawares.  He will mark my absence soon.”

“We will strike your cousin down, girl, but there is another matter I must attend to first.”

“Your Majesty,” she tried to insist.  “Thren may shift his camp, reset his wards.  We cannot delay.”

The fierce grip of a bony hand drew her face to Helm with him. “You do not give me orders, Yalenst.  I know what I am about. I know everything. I even knew you would come.  Did you not think it odd that the guards welcomed you so readily?”

“I… I..”

“I told myself you’d be here.” His mouth cracked in a giggle.  “And now, before I sweep Thren and his rabble into the Sea, there is a conversation of the utmost importance that I must have.”

He thrust her away and stepped through a velvet curtain behind the throne.  The captain of his personal guards moved to block the opening, not that Yalenst had any intention of trying to follow.  For the long hour he was gone she paced the canvas chamber watched by the great ugly brutes of guards.  She hugged herself, marveling at how tedium and mortal fear could coexist within one body and one time.   

***

Yalenst tried to block her mind to the screams, the groans of the dying and the anger of the living.  The night was awash with fire as Chirard’s elite mowed methodically through the rebels’ camp.  They were so few, they were always so few and death had come to them in the form of the Kinslayer and his household troops.

Despite her fears during the long wait for Chirard, all was as she had left it when she had crept from Thren to his nemesis. The path to the warded camp lay open, unguarded and through it the army of her new fiancé had charged.  She wondered at Chirard’s brutish proposal, whether he meant to keep it, whether he meant to keep her and for how long.  Still, she told herself, one day – survive this day.

“Where are you traitor?”   Flame light flickered across the steel helm as Chirard spun in the midst of the carnage.  “Did you really think this an army fit to overthrow me or have half your number run already?”

A trio of rebels wrestled a royal guard to the ground, stifling his grunt with thin blades, before two of them launched at the king.  Two strides in, a jet of green fire from the kinslayer’s hands engulfed them and they fell writhing to the ground.  Chirard laughed at their death throes not noting the silver haired figure, sword raised, running at his unprotected back.

“Bertolt!”  Yalenst called out.  Neither man heard her shout as the old soldier’s sword hurtled down towards the King.  A flash, so bright it blinded then, as her vision cleared Yalenst saw Chirard lowering over the charred remains, the corpse’s fists curled up in pugilistic defiance.

“Is that the traitor, your Majesty,” a guard growled.

“A traitor, but not the traitor,” Chirard snapped.  “Thren’s royal blood would have let him touch the helm in safety, though still it would not have let him harm me. I have no idea who this fool was.”

“His name was Bertolt!” a voice thick with the accent of the Eastern lands called out.  “He took me overseas as a babe after you killed my parents. He kept me safe.”

Yalenst saw him, her cousin.  Dark haired, slight of build, in every way an unexceptional figure save that he stood against the tyrant. Chirard spun round, a hand extended in effortless predigistation to fling a dozen streaming bolts of fire at the rebellion’s leader. 

Thren’s fingers flicked and a shimmering muti-coloured disc appeared in time to deflect the Kinslayer’s arcane fury.

“You have some talent!” Chirard begrudged as Thren approached doggedly pushing his magical shield ahead of him a short sword held in his other hand.  “Come close, traitor.  I have a blade will cut through anything, while yours cannot even touch me.”   The King hefted a gleaming longsword and beckoned Yalenst, “come, my future wife, let your cousin look with dying eyes on the face that betrayed him.”

Yalenst stumbled to Chirard’s side, glancing just once at her cousin.  Thren’s expression was blank, but his knuckles whitened on the hilt of his stubby weapon as he closed the gap between them. 

“It was foretold it would happen this way, Thren, prepare to die, be grateful I am minded to make your end swifter than your father’s.”

It was the moment. Chirard raised his sword high, arms spread in the certainty of his magical armour. And in that trice Yalenst seized the Helm and lifted it cleanly from the King’s head.  Thin strands of greasy hair, eyes blinking in confusion, Chirard was blind for a second to his danger.  And in that second Thren thrust his short sword up under the Kinslayer’ ribcage.

The King spun away, reaching too late for the Helm but finding only Yalenst’s robes. He slid to his knees, fingers clawing at her.  All around were shouts and alarms as the other half of Thren’s army burst from the trees to close the trap that had been their most desperate gamble.

Thren looked across at Yalenst with grim satisfaction. “You were late.”

She nodded, “but you waited.” 

A feeble tug at the hem of her dress brought her gaze to the twitching form of Chirard his mouth overflowing with blood, his eyes, pits of malice fixed on her.

“Look on the face that betrayed you, Kinslayer,” she said.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2014, 12:15:21 AM by TOMunro »

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2014, 03:16:45 PM »
Jing Ke - A Tale from the Stone Road

“Your tea, Shifu.” Haung handed the small, delicate porcelain cup to the old man sat across from him. They both tapped the table twice with the fingers of their right hand and then sipped the hot, green and fragrant liquid.

“Haung, Jing Ke is... complicated,” Shifu began. “He is not one man alone. There are a multitude of him. It is how he operates. He finds likely candidates, teaches and trains them to play his role and use his name. His fame and legend spreads with each atrocity. Some only days apart, but thousands of miles distant from the other. You killed one of those men. The real Jing Ke would have killed you in short order.”

“Shifu,” Haung halted as the old man raised his hand.

“Haung, I was tasked with tracking down and killing Jing Ke many years ago. I killed four of his men and never came close to finding him,” Shifu explained.

“Yes, Shifu.” Haung looked into the other’s eyes, “I am sure I can handle an assassin.”

“Haung,” Shifu shook his head, “Jing Ke is not an assassin. He is a warrior, and a master. He may take work as an assassin but that is not how he was trained. I should know. I trained him. Believe me when I tell you, you could not stand against him. Not yet.”

Haung took a deep breath, his fingers gripping the thin porcelain tightly enough to cause the glaze to crackle. “You trained Jing Ke?”

“To be a fighter. I trained him to be a Taiji, not an assassin. He was, is, one of the best students I ever had.” Shifu looked away from Haung and took another sip of his tea. “He is my son, my adopted son. Let me tell you how I found him...”

* * *

The young officer did not wait for the horse to stop before leaping from the saddle. He sailed through the air, tucking into a somersault and landing on his feet, balanced. The long, straight sword appeared in his hands and he struck, twice. The bandits fell to the ground, blood spraying from their necks and swords tumbling from lifeless fingers.

Bandits in mismatched armour spilled out of the ramshackle houses that lined the muddy road, the village’s only thoroughfare. The weak cries of their victims followed them through the doorways.

“Get him,” screamed the largest and they all drew steel; swords, axes and rust-spotted daggers.

The young officer flicked the long braid of his hair around his neck and with a sharp cry he jumped forward into the midst of the on-rushing bandits. His sword flowed like a river over their guards and parries, washing away lives in a flood of bright red.

The young man smiled, proud, as the last slipped off his sword with a soft sigh.


* * *

“... I killed them all. Twelve in all. Back then, when I was young, that was my job. If a problem arose and it needed a quick resolution, I was it...”

* * *

His fingers felt the neck of every villager in every home. He closed the eyes of the dead and eased the passing of those too injured to save. The sharp knife he kept in the intricately inlaid sheath the best mercy he had. And, when possible, he bound wounds, or cut and cauterised if needed. The smell of burning flesh was sweet but repellent.

The village was finished. There were simply not enough people left alive to farm the land. The few survivors were staggering away from the ruins as the rain began to fall and the young man emerged from the last house, a small wailing boy in his arms.


* * *

“...they didn't want him. His mother was dead, as were his three brothers. I never found the father. For all I know he was amongst those stumbling away. To them he was another mouth to feed, a drain on their non-existent resources. I burnt the village to the ground.”

“Shifu, how could you burn the bodies?” Haung asked, “Won’t they rise as ghosts?”

“To haunt a patch of land? No, Haung, I am sure even the dead will never want to return there.” Shifu looked down at the table, tracing the inlay with one finger, “I brought him home with me and raised him as my own.”

* * *

“You have to stand up to the other boys.”

“They’re all bigger than me, Dad.” The little boy’s sad, soft eyes looked into his father’s and the older man was tempted to gather him into his arms, to make it all right.

“Jing Ke, size does not matter. Heart and courage are enough for this.”

“They’ll hit me. They’ll hurt me,” a sob followed the words.

“Yes, they will, Jing Ke. But, by standing up to them, by fighting back, you will teach them that you are strong. That you are brave and not an easy target.”

“I can’t, Dad. I’m scared.”


* * *

“They picked on him because of his size, always small for his age, and because he was my son. They tried to get to me through him. It was not an easy childhood but he was bright boy. Timid and tearful but he cared for others. I loved him. So, I taught him.”

* * *

“Here,” he handed the boy a wet cloth, “wipe the blood off your face. The same boys again?”

“Yes, Dad.” His son’s voice was on the cusp of breaking and deepening.

“How many this time?”

“Four of them,” the boy pulled the cloth away from his face and examined the smear of blood upon it. “I gave them something to think about.”

“They’ll be back again, Jing Ke.” He put a comforting arm on his growing son’s shoulder, “Perhaps I should speak to their parent’s.”

“I can handle it, Dad. You’ll only make things worse.”


* * *

Shifu finished the last of the tea and placed it on the table. Haung followed suit and then looked up into the old man’s eyes, recognising the faraway look in them.

“He was a good son, a good student. He got stronger and faster...”

* * *

The loud, repeated thumping on the door reverberated throughout the house. It echoed from the walls and bounced down the corridors.

He sighed as he stood and, putting aside the scroll he had been reading, moved to answer the summons.

“How can I help?” He asked of the two red-faced and sweating men outside.

“Is your thug of a son at home? I want him punished. I want him beaten. Look at what he has done to my son.” The first man, dressed in the robes of a middle ranking administrator, shouted. He dragged his son forward, pointing at the teenager’s puffy and grazed face dominated by the large purple bruise around the left eye.

“And look at what he did to mine,” the second father, in the robes of a trader, waved at his son who limped forward, dragging his right leg and cradling his left arm.

“Are you sure that my son is to blame?”

“Both of the boys said so,” the Administrator raised an accusing finger at the home-owner whose gaze never left the loud man’s face. The finger drooped.

“In that case you had better come in to discuss the matter. I am sure we can resolve this,” the home-owner stepped back to allow them to enter. “Please, take a seat and I will find my son.”

He walked past the variety of swords that hung, displayed, on the wall towards the door at the rear. The two fathers and their battered sons stood in silence.

The owner returned with Jing Ke in tow. The boy’s face showed its own evidence of violence. The other boys saw him and took a protective step behind their fathers.

“My son, Jing Ke,” the owner indicated his boy with sweeping, open palm. “I have been given a brief account of the attack and it is a shameful business.” The two aggrieved father’s nodded, the Administrator going so far as to raise the accusing finger again before thinking better of it. “We, Jing Ke and I, wonder where the other five boys are?”


* * *

Haung saw a small smile form on Shifu’s lips that died a slow death.

“He was my son, my best pupil, and he became an assassin. He betrayed all my teachings and I had to stop him. I failed and now the task is yours, Haung.”

<END>
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Offline Carter

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2014, 09:36:09 PM »
The Clemency of Kings

From my corner of the tavern I watched him closely.  He sat on his habitual barstool, back hunched, head bowed, an array of empty glasses in front of him.  Whiskey, ale, what the innkeeper mistakenly sold as wine; he didn’t care as long as he could drink it.  For his part, the innkeeper didn’t care as long as the money kept flowing. 

My own mug of ale remained largely untouched.  I never could acquire the taste; too bitter for me yet I forced it down sip by odious sip, resisting the urge to retch.  Unfortunately it matched my current disguise.  Besides, ordering the finest wines here in this shambling, run-down place with its decaying wooden stools and chipped, gouged tables, the air thick with vomit and cheap smoke, would only attract unwanted attention even if by some miracle they had a bottle. 

To look at, the former soldier had little to mark him out from the numerous other veterans of the dead king’s wars.  Scarred, muscular arms retained their strength; close-cropped hair matched the anonymity of all the other royal troops; the haunted facial expression spoke of the inevitable horrors witnessed on the battlefields. 

Yet there were those who recognised him still.  And tonight I was not the only observer.  Only one of them wasn’t a regular and it was he who had divulged the truth.  He worked at the local farrier, his chest and arms thick with muscle honed from long, hard hours.  Around him a small group had formed because of his words and connivance, staring at the soldier with an unsettling intensity.  Or it would have been if he had paid any attention.

The tavern slowly emptied, spewing its patrons into the night until only a handful of us remained.  Outside I could hear the wind howling like a wild animal hurtling through the streets.  A vicious night for vicious business.
 
“Right, out, all of you,” said the innkeeper at last as the solitary barmaid collected the empty glasses strewn throughout the tavern. 

No one grumbled and if the innkeeper had any inkling of what this might mean, he kept it to himself, sparing no thought for the man who had been such a generous patron over the past weeks.  The soldier slid from his stool, his legs unsteady beneath him.  In unison, the others stood, watching the soldier closely as they followed him out, sparing no glances for me. 

After a suitable pause, I slipped out after them into the night, bracing myself against the chill autumn wind as it sought out the gaps in my clothing.  At least the rain that had looked so inevitable earlier in the day had held off. 

The soldier was staggering down the almost deserted road, the gang following close behind, sharing whispers of a plan, the tension evident in their shoulders and arms.  Even drunk, even unaware, the soldier gave them some cause for concern.  With long-practised ease, I followed them soundlessly. 

“You’re the bastard that killed the king,” said the leader, placing a hand on the soldier’s shoulder and wrenching him around.  “You’re Guy Spencer aren’t you?”

The others surrounded him; a wall of muscle and menace, of rage and retribution.  Guy did nothing to protect himself, nothing to deny the truth flung at him like a curse.  I slotted myself into the shadow of a building, unseen and unheard. 

“I knew I recognised your face.  I seen you at your so-called execution.  They shoulda hanged you.  But then why would King Henry want to kill the bastard that gave him the crown, eh?  Why wouldn’t he help the bastard that meant he got his thievin’ hands on all our gold and silver, eh?”

A swung fist, the wet, crunching sound of a nose breaking and a grunt of pain soon followed.  In my hiding place, I flinched.  Even though the alcohol buffeted Guy from the worst of it, I still felt an echo, as I always did.  The bond placed on us by the Royal Mage that enabled me to track him did have some significant drawbacks after all. 

The blows started to fall in earnest now, encouraged by Guy’s lack of response, as they always did.  Every blow was punctuated with a curse but somehow Guy remained standing throughout, as stoic and unmoved as I had heard he had been on the battlefield.  Deep within his mind, I knew he felt deserving of the punishment, felt the interminable shame of his actions. 

I wanted to intervene before it went too far, but I had my orders.  I wanted to step in and explain the truth to the thugs but I knew that at best they would just dismiss my words as nonsense.  It didn’t matter to these people that the wars that had made King Pierre so popular had all but bankrupted the kingdom in money and manpower.  It didn’t matter that the reforms King Henry implemented would make their lives better.  It didn’t matter that the truce the king had negotiated with the Calabrians had spared them from the worst of the taxation.  All they saw was the money disappearing from their pockets and our historic enemies sitting in lands we had won by force of arms.  All they saw was a kingdom betrayed by this one man.
 
Only when Guy finally fell and the kicking began did I step out of the shadows. 

“What’s going on?” I said, keeping my tone as light as I dared. 

The leader turned and for a brief instant the assault paused. 

“Nothin’ to concern yourself with.  Just givin’ a traitor what he deserves.”

He sounded reasonable as they always did.  A town guard, a soldier, and they might have fled.  If they had known the truth, they would have done the same with me.  Instead they began to kick Guy once more, as they always did. 

“I think he’s had enough now,” I said, continuing to move forward.
 
The leader turned to face me now, a hand clenched into a tight fist.  I understood the compulsion.  I had seen it many times.  With my clothes padded to make me look fatter, with the slight shuffle I effected, with the lack of any obvious weaponry, I didn’t look a threat. 

“This is no business of yours.  Or are you one of Henry’s men, eh?  You a bastard traitor too?”

I let him attack first.  Leaning aside, I dodged his punch and grabbed his arm, twisting only as much as necessary.  His shoulder popped as I moved beyond him and he began to scream.  A sharp kick to the side of the knee and he collapsed into a heap.  The others stopped their assault, took one look at their leader writhing on the floor and fled, as they always did. 

Guy was staring at the sky, his eyes already beginning to swell shut.  I smelt the alcohol on his breath and his blood in the air.  His breath gasped and wheezed between cracked lips, his lungs moving beneath broken ribs as he clung to consciousness.

“You should’ve let them kill me.”

As always, I said nothing.  Guy’s eyes tightened, scrutinising my face as best he could.

“It’s you again, isn’t it?”

I remained silent.  He ought not to have seen through the disguise, not in this state.  The long blond wig, the paunch, all differed from when we had last met.  In truth he probably didn’t, just recognised me as a royal servant, but it still meant I needed a new persona. 

“You all know I want to die.  Why not let me?  I don’t want to live with what you made me do.”

Again I gave him nothing but silence, as I always did.  No need to tell him that King Henry had reneged on his promise to do just that.  No need to tell him that the clemency granted was a betrayal of the services he had rendered, that the king allowed him to live to deflect some of the anger that would normally have been directed his way.  For such a loyal man the truth could only torture him further. 

Guy didn’t say any more.  I checked he had slipped into unconsciousness at last before heaving him to somewhere he would be found and nursed back to health before disappearing into the night, as I always did.
 
*

He sat on a stool at the bar.  Already a variety of glasses decorated the carefully polished wood.  From the corner of the room, I watched him closely, taking delicate sips of a glass of fine red wine, grinning in appreciation of its deep, fruity notes.  The new beard itched like a swarm of biting insects but I endured the discomfort as best I could. 

A new town, a new bar but the assignment remained the same.  I watched and waited for the inevitable spark of recognition, as I always did. 

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2014, 08:18:41 AM »
Warning: Mild Language. Hope you enjoy.



Fires. The fires of death. They brought a familiar pain, but it was their source that he knew best. He was familiar with Death, for he had already died. Many times, he had died. Many lives he had lived, but only one life was his. The fires burned behind his eyes, above his brain. It was his skull. He remembered. A hammer. A Smith’s hammer. But it was not the Butcher. The Butcher was gone. A madman to herald madness. The Smith was first, but far from the last. Because there is no Death. Death is dead. Because I killed her.

Me? he asked. Yes me, he answered.

Guilt is another form of pain. A form worse than mortal wounds. It stings in places unfound by most. It dwells in dark corners, corners so dark they can house only evil. But guilt is not a thing of evil. It is a thing of good, which punishes wrongdoing.

No, Lu corrected. Perception. Guilt punishes perception. But for his crimes, there was no question of perception. Not in his eyes. He’d done wrong and there were crimes that must be repayed. But first he must live. Death is not repentance. It cannot undo misdeeds. But I can. If only I can stop the aging.

The moon was not his first crime. Perhaps the biggest? A difficult claim. An inaccurate claim, even for Lu. Biggest measured absolutes, but he did not know the future, though pretending was useful. There were places between extremes. Possible. Impossible. The future lived between. Time lived in between. Lu could only see glimpses. Glimpses of things that he could never know, but did, because he could not know them. The biggest yet? he corrected. He could not know that.

The pain burgeoned in the wound. Death was impossible, for he had killed Death. Me? he asked again. Yes me, he answered. He claimed certainty, but he did not feel it. He had spoken true to the liar’s essence; he was the greatest lie of all. But greatest was the same as best. It too, was a lie, because best was not necessarily strongest, for Conviction persisted. And Conviction blamed a Whore, when it should blame itself, for Lu had not killed Death. Conviction had. Of that, Lu was certain.

His body shivered. The feeling returned. Lifting a hand, he felt the wound. Someone had wrapped a towel around his brow. The bleeding had stopped. The wound had healed. He’d dreamt of the First Priest. The Assassin. There was guilt every time he thought of Rift. Two crimes he’d dealt the man. The same crime, in different ways and different moments. Death and death. Galina had gone mad. It was Lu’s fault. Rift’s children had died. Conviction blamed a whore, but Conviction hid from the truth. It could not face guilt. It was not like Lu, who had given in. Lu knew his crimes; he did not hide from them. Instead, he worked to fix them. Me? he asked. Not yet, he answered. Death and death.

A clanking hammer sounded in the yard outside; annoying but beneath notice. An impossible occurrence and therefore possible; the essence of Lu had its downsides. He thought of the hammer. Walter was not his crime. Not wholly. The madness, yes. The deaths, yes. But, Walter’s choices? No. Walter had made his own decisions and Lu could accept that. Free will was a gift. A gift beyond the grasp of gods and Fate. Though the bitch might try.

Conviction’s need was blind to free will, for free will made him culpable. The Whore had made her choices, also. She too was culpable. There was no denying her actions, but Lu had acted in ignorance. There was no mercy in that. Not from guilt. But it did allow for understanding.

There was understanding in the Whore’s actions, also. But understanding was not justification. Not for her crimes. Not for his own. Conviction could not forgive them. Lu could not forgive them. Even Not Lu, had not forgiven her. And Not Lu understood. He understood everything, which is why Lu was him; Who is Not Lu, and is not Lu, but Lu is. Not Lu had given him a gift. The gift of Thought. If there are any worthy of copying, it is he, who is Not Lu.

The dream had been of a city. A dying city, but it was not the city of Death. The dream had been of the First Priest. He had followed him. He had been witness to his own mistakes. The gift of Thought was not enough. The flaw of Thought is that it is not Truth, Lu quoted. And a copy of Thought is even less. He had read Teachings of a Whore many times. He kept a copy at his bedside. He had seen the Assassin take the book from the city. Guilt was not enough. If it were, he would have stopped himself long ago. Guilt had urged the First Priest. Guilt had driven Lu to action. It should have halted him. He wished it had, but it had not stopped him from killing his apprentice. It hadn’t stopped him from killing Gemm.

Me? he asked. Yes me, he answered.

Ignorance did not excuse guilt, but it lessened it enough for him to continue. Conviction spills, Lu noted. He’d convinced himself that need was sufficient, and that need had made him reckless. He could not stop Conviction if he became it. Do I wish to stop him? he wondered. He did.

Me? he asked. Yes me, he answered, but he did not remember why. Memory was not Thought and Thought was not Truth and Lu was Not Lu.

Did I follow Rift from the city?

Me? he asked. Yes me, he answered.

Lu opened his eyes to a thatch roof and pine eaves. He was in Vale. The hammer blow hadn’t killed him, or at the least, Death had failed. But Death never failed. Except with Lu.

He lay on a cot, his staff resting beside him. He liked his new staff. It was more himself than the wooden bird; the erratic yellow, the flashy lights. The staff was foreign. It didn’t belong. The jay had been appropriate, but the orb was better. It was proof of the impossible and Lu was impossible. He liked to believe that lie, but he knew it must be false. He existed. That was proof enough of possibility and Lu did not like justifying himself. The staff did not try to justify its existence, the staff simply was. He liked that, also. But objects are not me, and I am not them, for they are not Lu and I am him, who is Not Lu, but who is not me.

Lu chuckled. There was plenty of time for self reflection, but not now. He still had enemies. Reflection must wait, for understanding must wait. If his enemies knew him, they would finally understand and he couldn’t have that. If they understood, then they would understand, but that would be terrible, because then, they might understand, which might be worse than understanding. Understanding had bought him time and time was all he needed; the time to repent for all his crimes.

Repentance? Do I want it?

Me? he asked. Yes me, he answered.

He owed his people much. To fix them, he must break them. And that was the worst of it. They were already broken. Broken by his hand. He had to admit, Conviction had its uses; all of the men and women who acted in his name. Bell, the merchant Trin, the Grand Legionnaire. The last had been a struggle. To convince her, he’d been forced to enact his power as Sovereign. A lie, of course. He could not be the Sovereign of Just, for although he knew the man, he did not believe in him.

He who is not himself, can believe in nothing.

Lu was aware, but he did not want to be. He sat up and leaned on his knees. His feet were bare and the floor chilly. His surroundings were plain; a simple hut with a bed, a table, a few chairs, and a fireplace. A woven tablecloth shrouded the table, stitched with a floral motif. He recognized the shape; the Smith’s Blossom, a flower often used when quenching steel. The Young Smith. Walter’s son.

This was a man he had not betrayed, but probably would. He had betrayed many and would betray many more, for he was the biggest lie of all, and the worst of men.

But for now, he lived. And that was enough.

Offline LisaElle

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2014, 09:03:22 PM »
The Crystal Hunter

Marianna wrenched the trap door open and jumped down into darkness. There was a rushing in her ears and walls of cold pressed in on her from all sides. I'm under water. The crystal hunter lifted her arm in the gloom and squinted at the glowing face of her detector. The hands on its dial were spinning like a pinwheel, confirming that she'd just fallen into another plane. Good. That's one more door and another giant step closer to my prize.

Marianna looked up. The trap door that she'd jumped through on her last plane -- as much to escape from the soldiers that were chasing her as to continue her hunt -- was on the floor of a barracks. On this plane, the hole that she'd passed through was in a stone ruin that stretched away into darkness. The light of the world was shining at her feet. It took her a disorienting moment to understand that she was floating upside down. Marianna twisted around and kicked for the surface. The hunter gasped for breath when she burst through the water and swiped wet hair from her eyes. Sunlight bathed her skin in warmth and the sky above her was streaked with cloud. The water stretched on for miles around, twinkling with diamonds of light. Hmm. Not a bad day for a swim. She checked her detector for the direction of her next door. The dials had reset themselves to this plane, the main arrow pointing her north-west, so her next door lay to the north-west within a mile's radius. She turned her head to the left, to where the arrow pointed. There was no land in sight.

"Great." She murmured. "Just great. Stupid dog."

A soldier's dog had ripped her crystal pouch from her belt before she'd reached the trap door. This would have been a perfect time to slot a white crystal into her detector and restore her energy for the swim ahead. White were the most common and she'd had a nice collection. Now she had to start building it again, not to mention persisting in her hunt for the rare green at a real disadvantage.

Marianna thought of Yarrick as she started to swim. How many times have you pulled me out of trouble? You're a good friend and I know you need the green to survive this. I won't let you down. I promised you. In all the years that she'd known him, she'd never seen the stalwart Yarrick looking so haunted. He knew that such a rare colour would be difficult for her to find, but he no choice, so neither did she. The militia were closing in on him even now. It was a race to the finish line and she refused to think of what might happen if she came in second best. The hunter gritted her teeth and pushed herself to swim faster.

Marianna was half a mile into her journey before she heard something in the water behind her. She glanced around. It was a man rowing a boat and a thin girl wrapped in blankets was sitting across from him. "Strange place for a swim," the man said as they drew up beside her. "Need a ride?"

"That depends. Who are you?"

"Eshrad. This is my daughter Janelle." The man reached out with a kind smile. "Climb aboard."

Marianna decided to trust him. He could row faster than she could swim. “I'm Mari.” She grasped his hand to pull herself up, soaking the floor as she climbed in. Janelle moved over beside her father to make room. It didn't take Eshrad long to notice the detector on Marianna's arm. She glanced at his wrist and saw that he was wearing one too. "Hunter," she smiled wryly.

Eshrad nodded and resumed his rowing. "Guess that makes two of us."

Marianna was disturbed by how gaunt these strangers were. Eshrad's back was bowed, his mouth pulled into a grim line with the labour of his rowing. She wondered where he found the strength to keep going. Is he hunting the green as well?

"Nice day for it at least," Eshrad smiled and glanced at his daughter. "It's the first hunt that Janelle's come with me for. Important one too, eh love?" The girl nodded shyly. She couldn't have been more than six years old. Why has he brought his child? These hunts are dangerous enough as it is.

"Oh?" Marianna asked. "Why's it important?"

"How's about we lay our cards on the table here? You know the green is close as well as I do."

She grinned and said nothing.

"Huh." Eshrad grunted. "So the question remains, who's going to take it? I've come too far to give up now."

"So have I."

"I'll give you five reds right now if you turn back. That'll get you a pretty penny on the open market if your client won't accept them."

"Sorry. My client's in trouble and he needs the green. I can't go back on my word. Even if I could, I don't know where the door is and we're almost out of range. I'll need crystals to help me find it and I've lost all of my own." 

"It must be under the water." Eshrad lifted his oars into the boat and searched his pocket. He pulled out a black crystal and offered it to Marianna. "Here. Take this." Judging from its size, it would protect her under water for half an hour, feeding her body enough oxygen to search for the door. 

"No, I can't. You'll need it."

Eshrad's face crinkled in a wince. "I'm not strong enough to use it. It's about all I can do to row this boat. Janelle and I..." He wrapped an arm around his daughter. "We're sick. I can tell you've noticed. If I go down there...” He shook his head with a meaningful look. “I can't take that risk. I'm not too proud to beg you. Please, take this black from me and bring the green back to us. I'll pay you well, Mari. I'm a man of my word. You can name your price in crystals if you like. I can get you anything but the green. What is your client paying you? I can beat it.”

Marianna frowned. "Look, Eshrad. I'm sorry for your trouble but... Why is this green so important to you?"

"Janelle and I have been looking for a cure for our illness. We've found a healer. He can use the green crystal in a spell that can save one of us." He moved his hand closer to her, offering the black once again. "For my daughter's sake. Please." Janelle looked up at her father's desperate face. Marianna wondered how much of this conversation she understood. Did the child even know that she was dying? That her father was fighting with the last of his life to save hers? They were running out of time. All three of them.

"I'll do it," Marianna said. She took the crystal from Eshrad's hand, flipping back the glass case of her detector to slot it inside.

Eshrad watched her, uncertainly. "How do I know you'll come back?"

"I'll come back," she said and reached for his wrist. "Here. I'll take your code so I can get back to you when I have the green."

Marianna took the number of Eshrad's detector and turned the dials of her own mechanism to establish a link. A tracking light began to blink on the faces of both instruments. Eshrad glanced down at his tiny beacon of hope. "Thank you." He whispered and wrapped his arm around Janelle. "Please hurry. We'll wait for you here."
 
Marianna stood up in the boat. Her detector whirred as it drew on the power inside the crystal. The hunter was enveloped by a protective aura as she dove into the sea. She swam, down and down, breathing the crystal's air as she needed it. This time the cold didn't touch her. Ten minutes into her dive she found her door. Her detector had taken her to a porthole in a sunken galley. It acted like a window onto her next plane where a field of wheat was swaying in the wind. Marianna stepped through, the water flowing off her to saturate the dirt track beneath her feet. There was nothing but the shell of a cottage behind her when she turned around. She was standing in its doorway. Marianna glanced at her detector. The hands were a blur and she waited for them to settle before reading her next direction. North. She was going north. Hold on Yarrick. Please hold on. Her finger hovered over the button that would sever the connection with Eshrad's detector. She frowned at the blinking light and pictured the skeletal faces that it represented. May the gods forgive me. The hunter closed her eyes and pressed the button. The tracking light went out.
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline jakle

Re: [Jan 2014] Betrayal - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2014, 10:40:47 PM »
The flickering flame of the touches lets out a warm glow in the freezing cold wooden hall. As the king sat with his men as the sound of drunken laughter has they try to drown there memory of the day’s events. The Rising Hunger. Undead monstrosities that hunger for the living and have their pale white eyes set on the lands of Nordrake. But are noble king is having none of it he has amass an army of elite solders mages and rogues all well versed in combat. The young king arthas has brought with him his most trusted adviser the achmage Nalvin. Although he has noticed that Nalvin has become quite recluse in recent month. I think that Nalvin is fine your liege he is merely engrossed himself in his studies said the servant. But it’s not just his beaver that bothers me his appearance has also taken a decline since we moved to this forsaken frozen waste said Arthas. By each day he looks more and more like the rising he we’ve swore to fight. It’s just the cold it does not agree with him and the lack of sun light does not help a mage of such prowess as Nalvin. Well for his sake and mine I hope your right I cannot have my archmage sick at a time like this said the king. But it still worries me I’ll send a priest to check on his health and he should find something for whatever aliment he is suffering from. But now to a more pressing topic we have lost 22 men this moon and 6 have rising they are currently being held in the dungeon. There should be some priests coming down from the capital sometime today so I want you to get some quarter ready for them to work. If we are lucky and the divines are looking on to use with pity the priests will find a way to deny these fowl creature’s passage to are land and maybe even a way to kill them so that they bloody well stay dead for once. Arthas if I may intervene said the cold voice of Nalvin form across the hall. His voice was quite but something about it whether it be his tone or manner quitted the thousand or so battle harden men with a fear that would normally be achieved by genocide. A Nalvin I have been awaiting your council for quite some time now said Arthas happy to see his old friend leave the sanctuary of the mounds of ancient scrolls and tomes that in Nalvin’s mind was his chamber but in actual fact was the library that he had taken over with little resistance form the large majority of occupants of the frozen citadel other than a few priests and healers. The rising appears to be amassing outside the Blood gate. Why now Arthas whispered to himself quietly as thoughts rushed to his head of all the recent events as he tried to make sense of it. We should garrison the blood gate immediately and have archers and pyromancers twiddle away corpse while they are still relative passive!  The room was quite for a minute and then Arthas broke the silent, well you heard the man. The men instantly jump into action like a group of scared cats. The hall was nearly empty just a few servants left as Nalvin stared at Arthas. Well my liege I’m sorry it has to end like this. The king looked confused, what you mean end like this what are you planning Nalvin. He smiled as his appearance started to take a sicklier look. He took off his cloak to reveal a dark suit of armour stained in blood and with to skulls for shoulder pads.  The cart rolled up to the iron gate the priest step out to see a massive hole covered in blood boring right through the gate he look inside and almost vomited. As about 5 rising stud around the main court yard Too looked like servant and the other was adorn in noble attire with a crown on his head.