"No, this is unacceptable!"
He was angry and pounding his fists on the table. She hates it when he gets like this. His anger is a flash of stabbing white hot sorrow in the pit of her stomach. He took long strides to her and took her face in his hands.
"Please, please, please, don't do this. I cannot bear it. There has to be another way."
His tears were silky and hot on her cheeks and he gently wiped them away before covering her mouth with his. The kiss is tender and displays all the emotion he feels for everyone to see. Finally breaking apart, her face filled with longing and sorrow, she kissed him on the cheek one last time.
"I have to. To save them. There is no other way," Felice gently says, running her fingers along the blue scales of his beautiful wings. "I have to go now, my love."
"Oh, no, you don't. Where you go, I will follow. You will never sacrifice yourself, I won't allow it." He lunges for her, wrapping her in his arms. His wings make powerful strokes upward, the muscles pulling with each movement as he begins to flap and make his way for an open window
"Stop him!" Queen Willow yells.
Black winged guards tackle him to the ground, being careful not to harm Felice. His wings strain with his attempts to escape.The guards pin him down as Queen Willow steps over to Felice and kisses her forehead.
"Go, my dear, and know we will always be with you."
An unseen guard steps from the corner of the room and gently takes Felice in his arms. Her lover begins thrashing, breaking apart from his captors and reaches towards her before being buried under another pile of bodies. His sobbing could be heard as they jump from the window of the giant tree and flew into the night, her tears streaming behind her and falling nowhere.
With her golden-white hair glistening in the moonlight, Felice looks eerily similar to a wraith in the darkness. The blood that is soaking her white gown and sinking into the soil below her slipper clad feet making the resemblance even more obvious.
She can feel the nameless ones hot breath on her neck as he inhales and exhales. She continues to stare forward, holding her head high.
"How brave you are, little dove", the demon hisses in her ear, his putrid breath making its way into her nostrils, "I will enjoy devouring you from the inside out."
"You will never have them, for they are everything that you are not," Felice's quiet voice remains steady.
"I will find a way, even with the contract you have so bravely inscribed to me. I want you to suffer knowing your sacrifice was in vain. Give your powers to me, now," the demon demands, walking to the front of Felice and holding out a knife.
With trembling fingers, Felice reaches out and takes the knife from him. Placing the blade on her neck, she makes a small cut. Golden light erupts from the puncture and begins to reach lazy tendrils towards the tree line. Pouncing, the demon latches onto his victim and begins to inhale her shining life-force.
Felice weakly pounds on his chest, her legs buckling as she slowly falls to the ground. Not breaking his hold on her, the demon follows her down, her golden light now dwindling to a muted yellow. Felice's onslaught on his chest becoming weaker with each passing second until she finally lay still.
The demon continues his onslaught, taking his fill.
A great plume of bright white light erupts from Felice and enters his mouth, causing the demon to wince. He stands suddenly, seemingly struggling with an inner force. His eyes flash a golden bright yellow and back into a deep glowing red in a split second.
Finished with the girl, the demon looks to the tree line. Throwing his arms to the side, giant plumes of black erupts from his hands and hits the trees surrounding him. The trees instantly disintegrate, leaving nothing but black smoke in their wake.
Lying on the dirt and taking shallow breathes, Felice watches in horror at what she has done.
The pounding an onslaught to her temples. The demon turns and runs through the smoke he created and disappears with a flash of light.
Pain erupts behind her eyes as Felice feels the wind stir around her.
"NO, GO BACK," Felice thought, unable to form the words in her mouth.
Roaring, a tall and handsome male runs to her and takes her in his arms. His brilliant scaly blue wings the last thing she sees before Felice is no more.
Sabre awoke with a start, a cold sweat dripping down her back. She had the same dream about two lovers for the past few nights. It always played out the same way, with the beautiful females sacrifice. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Sabre jumped out of bed and strode over to a washbasin. Washing herself quickly, she got dressed in a pair of trousers and white shirt. She enjoyed dressing simply, what was the point of dressing in a fancy gown and parading herself in front of the endless stream of snub-nosed royals? What she needed was to get out Vellarus. She needed some fresh air away from the overpowering stench of human waste that lined the outskirts of the lesser part of the city. Walking downstairs of the inn, she found Etiorahc. He was face down on a table with his feet just barely hanging off the edge. Etiorahc was a sizable dwarf with strong corded muscles and a mane full of springy, shockingly white hair. With a long beard to match and lavender eyes, he was often found with no shortage of women with which to share his over exaggerated stories of their journeys beyond the city of Vellarus. After a life of working the mines underneath Fqahap Mountain, Etiorahc earned enough money to buy his freedom from the king only to be reenlisted back into the king's service. His bloodline, however, remains underground working the mines. Each member bears the same trade mark white hair and lavender eyes of the proud Nibola clan.
They had just returned to Vellarus the night before from their latest skirmish with some rebels and decided to have a night of drink at their local inn, The Rusty Wagon. Grabbing a pitcher of ale she found at a nearby table, she counted to three and tossed the ale on Etiorahc. He awoke with a start, dagger already in his hand. Flailing around, he fell from the table and lay on the ground, motionless. Giggling a bit, Sabre walked over to him and touched his shoulder with her boot. Jumping up, he took a swing at her but stopped short upon realizing who his opponent was.
"Now, whatya do that for," he asked impishly, placing the dagger back in his belt.
"I wanted somebody to take a ride with me, care to join?" Sabre asked with a serene smile.
"Ya know, ya could have just shook me. I almost killed ya."
Sabre laughed, enjoying their banter, "go get washed up, ill meet you down here in a bit."
After cleaning himself up, Etiorahc met Sabre in the dining area of the cramped inn. She was enjoying a warm bowl of oats and some unidentifiable meat that had been dried and seasoned. Spotting Etiorahc, she indicated to a spot next to her where another bowl of oats lay waiting for him. He sat eagerly and dug in, choosing to ignore Sabre.
Finished with their meal, they set out on on horseback, streaming past long rows of fields on the outskirts of Vellarus. The farmers were already out tending to their crops, their backs glistening with beads of sweat formed underneath the sweltering son. The feel of the air on Sabre's face was the most relaxing thing she had felt in a good while. Riding horseback had always had its way of soothing her. Sabre and Etiorahc were supposed to meet King Godafre at Tharfield hold late in the day and she decided to ride there early and have a look around. Black hair streaming behind her in waves, Sabre urged her horse into a gallop and took a peek behind her. Etiorahc rode on his horse a short distance behind her. A scowl set on his face and his beard still damp from washing the ale away. Noticing Sabre looking at him, his scowl grew deeper but she had already returned forward, her laugh catching on the wind and making its way to his ears.
Reaching Tharfield Hold, Sabre and Etiorahc dismounted their horses. Sabre released the reins and stroked her horse, Striker, on his snout. She looked into his eyes and whispered words of praise into his ear.
"I find it strange how animals respond to ya. Tis jus' a wee bit unnerving," Etiorahc stated.
"Tio," Sabre began, "I believe you are jealous of such a fine animal."
Etiorahc scoffed but guided his horse to a nearby tree and tied the reins onto the small trunk. Sabre whispered one last thing into Strikers ear and let the reins go. The majestic beast stood still for a few moments, gazing into Sabre's eyes until sauntering slowly over to a patch of browning grass and delicately taking a nibble.
Walking over to the crumbling fortress, Sabre examined the moss covered walls of Tharfield Hold. What was a proud estate was now a downtrodden pile of rubble. The tower that had once housed the fiery spheroidal orb that signified a high ranking Lord and Lady presides over the estate was a dull black; lying in the reeking brown waters of the trench surrounding the fortress. The orb nowhere to be seen. The rest of the fortress looked to be intact, however. Sabre sidled closer to the framework and nimbly leaped over the chains and onto the rotting wood of the drawbridge. The fortress had become a rather irritating place for King Godafre to meet his trusted huntsmen. Their meeting place was not known to many in the hopes that the kings requests be kept secret from commoners and, perhaps most importantly, Queen Allana's delicate ears. It is common knowledge that the queen is sick and any attempts at carrying an heir for the king had been ultimately unsuccessful.
“C’mon keep it moving. I got places ta be n’ a pretty lass that's expecting me by sundown," Etiorahc impatiently quipped, "and ta think, yer were the one that was rushing me this morning with yer insistence of arriving before the good king."
"Lets go have a look around," Sabre stated, carefully sauntering over to Etiorahc and throwing her arm over his shoulder, "The king is not due here for a while yet." Sabre stood several feet above Etiorahc. With her long black hair swaying slightly in the wind, she cut a striking figure. It was no secret that she had a line of suitors waiting at Vellarus but she paid them no mind. Instead, she spent her time following the kings commands and spending her well earned coin on whatever she deemed worthy. This mostly consisted of food and beverage found at The Rusty Wagon inside of Vellarus.. She also found herself giving a great deal of the money away to people she found in the street. Sabre gently guided Etiorahc to the entrance of Tharfield Hold, making sure to avoid any debris that blocked their path.
They walked past the grand hall and into the throne room which was empty except for small piles of debris littering the floor and a chair made of red velvet. The chair stood lone in the middle of the room. It's splendor looking out of place compared to the dusty hovel they found themselves in. Sabre released Etiorahc and sauntered past the chair and into an empty entryway at the back of the throne room. Etiorahc sighed loudly but begrudgingly followed. The long hall they found themselves in was well lit with open windows lining the walls every few feet.
"Ya know, I'm not one ta favor treason. Ya sure like ta toe the line though," Etiorahc teased.
"Come on, where's your sense of adventure?" Sabre laughed. Taking a thin strip of leather from the pouch at her waist and tying her hair at the base of her neck, leaving it free to hang down her back.
"My sense of adventure has been used up doing my duty ta the king," Etiorahc replied.
Sabre rolled her eyes and began walking down the narrow hall, her hair swaying with her steps. Etiorahc attempted to look out of one of the windows but stopped short with his forehead just reaching the bottom.
"I see they dinna design this manor with the thoughts of ones with short stature," Etiorahc quipped sourly. Sabre turned and, finding Etiorahc dragging a block of stone to the nearest window lip, broke out into loud guffaws. Etiorahc shot her a dirty look and dropped the stone, reaching his hand out and placed it firmly on the ground. Nearby debris began to wobble and move, stacking on top each other until forming a makeshift stepping stool at the lip of one of the windows. Etiorahc harrumphed triumphantly and stepped onto the ladder, gazing at the outside world. "This would make a fine home with some care," he stated.
"Well be that as it may the king would never allow you to be lord of this place so it is no use in day dreaming about it," Sabre said gently. "Now, let's go. I want to look around more."
Etiorahc stepped off the ladder and followed after Sabre who turned a corner and disappeared from view. He followed her through a series of halls, occasionally stopping to help Sabre force a door open to look on the inside or they paused to move some debris out of their way. There were several occasions when he was forced to use his powers to clear the obstructions and, after a few uses, he found himself to be sweating from the exertion. However, their friendly conversation kept him from noticing how exhausted he was and he found that he was enjoying himself. Walking down yet another empty hall, Sabre suddenly stopped short, causing Etiorahc to bump into her her. Cursing, he looked up and followed her eyes to the darkened spiral stairwell she was staring at.
"Yer not really going ta go down there?" Etiorahc asked. Sabre didn't answer but rustled in her pouch and produced a flint and steel. "Of course yer are," he muttered.
Grabbing a torch from its perch on the wall and placing it gently on the ground, Sabre crouched and struck the flint and steel together until the torch caught fire. She grinned and placed the items back in her bag before picking up the light. With a wink to Etiorahc, she disappeared down the stairwell. The glow from her torch a beacon that beckoned him to the abyss. Etiorahc cursed again and followed her.
The stairwell was littered with mice and cobwebs and the occasional spider which Sabre made sure to avoid. After walking for a few minutes, they came to a stop at the bottom of the steps. Sabre moved her torch around, attempting to peer into the dark though nothing but black could be seen outside of the light. Sighing, Sabre stepped forward gingerly, sweeping the light back and forth until coming upon a wall lined with torches. After several moments, the room was flushed with light. The flames forming dancing shadows that moved merrily in time to the crackling embers.
Sabre and Etiorahc stood in the middle of the room and glanced around. A gated cell that looked as if it only had room for one person stood lone a corner of the room. In another corner sat a pile of stone. Sabre stepped closer to the stone, still carrying her torch. She bent down to pick up a small piece but stopped short, her hand outstretched.
"Dragonstone," she whispered with amazement in her voice. She picked up a piece and held the bit of rock close to her face. She blew the dust off until red colored intricate patterns revealed themselves. The patterns stretched around the surface and seemed to change colors as she turned the rock every which way. "Yoit ti enol."
The patterns began to glow a dark maroon in Sabre's hands and she turned to grin at Etiorahc who was looking at her with interest. "Dragonstone", she explains, "this will fetch a nice price when we reach the market".
Etiorahc grinned, "Well would ya lookie there, how do ya reckon it came ta be at this here fortress?"
"The lord of this manor probably had a lair pillaged. The stone tells a story, we just need to find someone who can read it. Dragons breathe their Will onto stone for various reasons. This was probably found in a nest" Sabre paused, surprised at the pain that spread across her chest at the thought of what happened to the dragons living in that lair.
"Everyone knows the story about how the dragons tied their souls ta their powers n' order ta save a simple human girl," Etiorahc replied.
“She was no simple human girl," Sabre interjected, “By pledging her powers to the demon Oran, she single-handedly saved the dragons from annihilation."
"Nobody has seen the dragons in years now," said a familiar voice.
Whirling at the sound, Sabre and Etiorahc scowled at the newcomer. Standing a few yards away was Yuca, perhaps the most brutal of the kings three huntsmen. Yuca was tall and slim with red hair that reveled the tips of his pointy ears, his figure casting him out of place with his surroundings. He was clothed in fine fabrics with nary a speck of dust to be seen. His brooding demeanor forced a sullen cloud over his companions.
"The king is nearing, he'll expect us to have our report ready before he gives us our next assign-".
"Do you think the king is going to give you a treat when you act like a love struck pup? Report is here” Sabre interjected while indicating to her head. Yuca scowled at her, black eyes flashing. "I suppose it is time to head back."
Sabre placed the small stone in her pouch and silently vowed to come back for the others at another time. The trio made their way back to the throne room, their progress much faster with obstacles already cleared. Walking outside, they could make out the sound of galloping hoof beats nearing. Sabre paused at the drawbridge and waited. The king appeared from behind the slope of one of the desolate browning hills that surround Tharfield Hold, two guards in tow. He was a balding man with brown hair that had notes of grey. Though he sat proudly on his horse, it was evident that his years of fighting with his army had taken their toll on him by the way he leaned to the left side in his saddle. Nearing his huntsmen, King Godafre dismounted his horse, his robust belly jiggling slightly with the movement. A guard hurriedly dismounted and rushed to take the reins from him. Walking the horses over to a small barren tree, he made short work of tying them up. The king walked slowly passed the trio, making his way into the fortress. Sabre, Yuca and Etiorahc followed sullenly while the guards took place on either side of the great entrance. Walking into the throne room, King Godafre sat in the red velvet chair, Bowing deeply, the trio waited until the king lifted his hand, indicating for them to rise.
“Speak”, King Godafre ordered. Yuca stepped forward and opened his mouth. King Godafre held up his hand, palm forward, and gestured to Yuca stopping him from taking a step further. “Not you, her,” he stated, indicating to Sabre.
“Your Majesty,” Sabre's face remained impassive as she stepped forward, “we dispatched the rebels you ordered. They were found at a camp near the Whispering Willows.” A shiver slid down her spine at the memory. She felt the restless spirits as soon as she got a mile near the swamp. They did not like trespassers. Finding the camp was easy enough. Sabre took a few moments to spy on the twenty or so of them before making herself known. They seemed surprisingly at ease with the spirits and were chatting merrily over crackling fires. That is, until Sabre walked into the light and doused their fires with a wave of her hand. It was clear that the rebels were not expecting visitors and they were easily dealt with. The following chaos as Sabre, Yuca, and Etiorahc killed the rebels lasted only a few moments.
“Do you have it,” King Godafre demanded.
Etiorahc reached into his satchel and pulled out a bulky golden ring taken from the hand of one of the rebels. “What purpose does it serve, majesty?” he asked, passing the ring to the king. King Godafre ignored him and instead inspected the piece of jewelry with interest. Without taking his eyes from the ring, he tossed a bag of coin towards the huntsmen. It made a loud clinking sound and landed at Sabre’s feet.
“I’ve gotten reports of another group of rebels near the Fqahap Mountains. They have been practicing dark magic and this needs to be stopped before they become too strong,” King Godafre stated, placing the ring in his waistcoat pocket. The huntsmen nodded in unison. "You are to bring me a woman from this group. She has the ability of healing, she may be useful to the kingdom. I know not who she is or what she looks like. Find her and bring her to me unharmed and I will double the amount of coin given to you. "
"And the other rebels?" asked Sabre.
"Kill them," the king stated simply, "you have until the hunters moon to bring her to me."
Sabre, Yuca and Etiorahc bowed once again to the king who stood in one swift motion and walked briskly past the trio. Waiting until the king was out of sight, Sabre picked up the bag of coins and stood, the coins dancing and clinking merrily.
"The hunters moon eh'? The poor lass will thank us by the end," Etiorahc said, breaking the silence.
Sabre stood still, silently examining Tharfield Hold. The Hunters Moon held a place of fear in the hearts of the people of Amotria, for good reason. Every ten years the moon becomes blood red and drives the worst kinds of creatures from their hiding places and into the night. The creatures are filled with blood lust and are known to terrorize villages, killing hundreds. The last time Sabre witnessed a blood moon, she was but a girl living in the orphanage. Although she was forced to hide underground, she could still hear the screams of the dying as they were torn apart by the gods knew what. The next day, the streets were red with blood with creatures and villagers alike laying broken in ditches. It would come to be known as the Field of Blood. This time, King Godafre has promised that no such harm were to come to the people of Amotria. After the announcement, villages all around celebrated their love for the king. Now, however, fear still held a place in the hearts of the innocent. For there were no changes to be seen and it appeared as though this hunters moon would be just as brutal as the last. Villagers could be seen buying weapons and potions they normally would not set eyes on in preparation. Sabre would occasionally slip some coins into an unsuspecting purse or would gift food to a beggar lying in the street, giving tips on the weak points of different foul beasts whenever she could.
She calculated that the Hunters Moon would not be near until the sun rose and sat twenty times. Those calculations were based on what she learned from Aziel, the astrologist of Vellarus. Aziel was known to be a strange being. He had big round crossed eyes and wore spectacles made of glass an inch thick. Sabre often wondered how his nose kept the spectacles perched but thought it wise not to inquire. He was a balding man but made it up with thick, bushy eye brows made of grey that reached towards his receding hairline. He would often spout off non-consequential information that made sense only to him, completely ignoring any previous conversation. Aziel was not one to dress for the climate as he was often found in dirty leather covering him from head to toe, even when the sun scorched the ground so badly that no living being could be found. Sabre visited him whenever she could, learning as much as possible and enjoying his company.
"Im heading back to Vellarus, are you two joining me?" Yuca asked politely, though his face was stony.
"Right behind you," Sabre replied, looking to Etiorahc who nodded.
"Aye, I'm ready for an ale," he said.