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Thread: Cernunnos

  1. #1
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Default Cernunnos

    Chapter 1: Thirteen

    Part 1
    Markus stood at the peak of the hillock, looking over the stream of people that flowed slowly beneath him. The refugees walked, staggered or limped along the road by the thousands, with only a glint of steel in their midst to show that the soldiers were still among them. It was both awe inspiring and tragic, these people had come to their capital, believing it to be an impenetrable bastion. They had been proven horribly wrong. The Lusignan Empire had continued their relentless march, seizing Herbstberg after four months of continuous siege. The seat of the Erdestreuer Empire had fallen, and refugees from across the kingdom had found themselves homeless once again.

    Markus made his way down the hill, grabbing up the bridle of his horse before mounting it. It was a huge beast, more Dray than warhorse, but it was the only thing that could support its rider’s massive bulk. He was known as ‘Der Riese’ by many in the Erdestreuer military, as was fitting any man who stood at seven foot and nine and weighed a strapping five hundred punds. On his back was a Zweihänder, and to his hip a katzbalger. He rode along the refugees, his deep set blue eyes surveying the slow moving mob. They were marching on to Eisenwasser, on the shore of the lake that was its namesake. There, one final defense would be created, and there would be no escape this time.


    ------------------------


    Markus sat by the large bonfire where horse meat sizzled on long skewers, sending fatty smoke into the sky. They had struck camp in a long valley, a few days’ rest for triage and recuperation, and then the long march would resume. Hundreds of little lights flickered in the valley, a large flame intermittent; it would have been beautiful had it not been so tragic. It was a cool night, the first of the Reaping season; now the red-orange oak leaves drifted in the fire’s updrafts and sailed into the darkness. Just then a young woman came to the fire; she sat on the ground with her arms wrapped around her stomach. She had to be at least in her twentieth week of pregnancy, and she had been weeping. He looked at her with sympathy; no doubt she had lost her husband either in the siege, or on the road.

    He pulled two skewers from the fire, handing one to her. She looked at him a moment before taking it, thanking him quietly. They sat silently for the rest of the night, long after the fire had burned down to embers and the twin moons sank beneath the trees and the sun emerged like a victorious seraphim.



    ------------------------


    Seven weeks on the road and very near the promised safe haven for those ragged refugees. They had taken to calling themselves pilgrims, those poor wretched souls, for what reason they couldn’t say. By that time, food had become scarce and many were dropping dead as they walked from either hunger or exhaustion. Even the soldiers had begun to break down, with many falling victim to cholera or dysentery. They had even taken to dropping their heavier equipment, in order to keep exhaustion at bay. Wherever they walked, a trail of discarded steel, feces and corpses was left behind.

    Markus looked at Catrin, the woman he had met by the bonfire weeks earlier. She sat sidesaddle on his massive horse, left hand gently over her belly. They had formed a rapport, and were nigh inseparable. However, their love was that of a brother and sister, or two close friends. Her respect for her husband’s memory made sure of that.

    She was a woman of great fortitude, never allowing herself to fall into the dark mire of despair that had claimed so many of the pilgrims. Instead, she turned all her energy and devotion to the child yet unborn. She would talk to him for hours, about the hopes and dreams she felt for the little life incubating within her, a small loving smile on her face. He found her optimism to be infectious, and had begun to see a small ray of hope in the dark.

    However, one night, a great and pained crying rose from the tent she shared with a dozen other women. The baby was coming, and coming roughly. The few doctors who were not sick or dead came to her aid as best they could. Markus had been summoned to the tent at Catrin’s request, and looked on as the doctors continued their work. The baby was positioned with its feet first, prompting the physicians to cut into the womb to retrieve the child. It was painful, blood-slick work, but the physician removed from the mother a tiny, wailing infant. They knotted and severed the umbilical root, before handing the still crying child to him while they worked to save her mother.

    He marveled at the small, pink life in his hands. He could feel her heartbeat through her moist, soft skin, and felt the spasms of her muscles as they were used for the first time. He stood in the tent, his back arched to keep from hitting the canvas roof, holding the tiny newborn and watched.

    ------------------------

    Catrin died two nights later, the shock of birth too much for her malnourished body to bear. Markus kept vigil over her body, ensuring she was buried despite protests of wasted time and energy. They had been so close to Eisenwasser, so Gods damned close, but yet she had not made it. She had joined the rest of the pilgrims who found the long road home to be their grave. All was not lost, however. The infant had stubbornly clung to life, despite her tiny size and premature birth. Refusing to show any sign of illness or morbidity, she lived as an orphan, clinging to the giant who held her first. Markus knew nothing of being a father; the military was the only life he had known. But he had made an oath to the child’s mother, and he would sacrifice all to keep it. And now, in their new home of Eisenwasser, he sat and looked as the child suckled the wet nurse he had procured. He had named her Ashlynn, fitting for she was her mother’s dream, and now it was his duty to keep her alive.

    He would not fail.


    ------------------------


    Far away from the war, Coatl knelt in the light of the bronze brazier, a human heart in his hands. Today, he would become a man. The priest who had overseen his training stood atop the altar, looking down on the boy. He raised up his hands and began the chant. He praised the flayed God of the rain and the burning God of war, he praised he praised lastly the boy’s fortitude, before shouting the order to finish the ceremony.

    Coatl raised the bloody organ to his mouth, and bit deeply. It was unpleasantly tough, and still warm from where it had been cut just moments before. He choked down the remains of the leathery thing, before wiping the gore from his mouth and letting out as powerful a cry as he could muster. The priest walked down to him, smiling broadly. He placed two charms, one of jade and one of obsidian around his neck, fashioned to the shape of a winged serpent and a skull, respectively.

    He would soon be joining his brothers in arms overseas, as a man of thirteen

    ---------- Post added at 11:15 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:12 PM ----------

    Part 2

    Six years later, Markus walked with his daughter through the crowded streets of the city, their breath misting before them. She had grown slowly but surely, taking well after her mother in her looks. They walked side by side, her small hand gently enclosed in his massive fist, out of the city and into the first sparse evergreens of the forest that surrounded the lake. They wove through the pines until they came to a small glen, in which flowed a small river that fed into the lake with cold, clear water running smoothly over the round pebbles. They followed the stream, until the valley opened into a field dominated by the red-gold of apple trees in season. This was their special place.

    Markus had played here as a child, roughhousing with his friends when they played soldier ,during which they would all gang up on him, and attempt to bring down the bigger boy, or simply running along until his lungs felt as if they would burst. The field was the remains of a long abandoned orchard, and it had been forgotten by anyone who may have known about it prior.

    Ashlynn worked her hand free and ran to the closest tree, before deftly scrambling up the closely set branches and pulling free two apples. She climbed her way back down and giving one to him, smiling proudly. He smiled back and hugged her, before allowing her to run off again.

    He had never planned to raise a daughter, instead he had always dreamed of many strong sons to carry the family name, but now, in the cold autumn air, he held all his love for the little girl with whom he shared no blood relation. But she was he daughter, nonetheless, and her joy was the greatest victory he could imagine.


    ---------------

    The crowd surrounded the gallows, shouting vicious slurs at the condemned man before them. Today’s execution was particularly exciting for them, instead of a patricide of rapist getting their neck popped, it was a foreign mercenary. He had murdered the Lord Baron’s elder brother, for the Lusignan Empire, breaking into his house and beheading him with his strange, obsidian-edged paddle. He now paraded before them, stripped to the waist, revealing deep, puckered scars and scores of smaller scratches and discolored patches of proud flesh. He smiled viciously at them, clearly drawing amusement from their rancor. He was still smiling when the crier and executioner made their way to the gallows.

    The crier was a scrawny man with a thin mustache who kept glancing nervously at him, as if he might attempt to strangle him with his bound hands. And he might have, if not for the soldiers who held their swords ready to strike him down if he so much as farted too loudly. He was led up the gallows and stood over the trap door. The executioner hobbled behind him, sending pins and needles up his body. He wanted desperately to strike out at the disgusting creature, but knew it would just end in his death. The Baron apparently wanted to increase the grotesqueness of the execution business, by employing the most deformed reject of a human he could find. The executioner was a cretin dwarf with both a hunchback and harelip, through which his drool cascaded if he neglected to wipe it away. The misshapen man stood on a stool to tie the noose around Coatl’s throat, giving an ugly smile to the crowd. The crier cleared his throat and began to read from his unrolled scroll.

    “By the decree of His lordship, Baron Heinrich von Scheissesser of the Kingdom of Winterküste, this man has been sentenced to die for the following crimes: The murder of a noble in the house of Scheissesser, the unlawful entering of a noble’s home, the theft of noble property, collaboration with an enemy state, corruption of a citizen, disregard for the laws of the kingdom of Winterküste, public urination, and general debauchery. He has admitted to these crimes under interrogation overseen by His lordship the Baron. May the Gods’ mercy find this soul in death. Proceed, executioner.” At this the dwarf wheezed laughter through his split lip, and pulled the lever which triggered the trapdoor.

    Coatl dropped suddenly, the rope cutting into his bare neck. His eyes bulged and the swarthy skin of his face turned an ugly mauve. He kicked uselessly with his bound legs, and spittle flew from his gasping mouth. The crowd roared approval, and it took all of the soldiers' might to keep them back from the condemned. After three hours had passed, the crowd had gone, and ravens perched on the dark shoulders of the hanged youth. A dark spot had formed in his trousers from where he had pissed himself, and a few bruises had formed from where some of the rowdier observers threw stones at him.

    Coatl opened one eye and smiled grimly, his ruse had worked, and all he had to do now was to escape before they decided to take down his body for a fresh execution. He twisted his hands, rubbing his wrists raw on the hemp. The blood made his hands slick enough to squeeze through the tight knot, and he raised them to his neck to undo the noose. It took time but he eventually undid the knot and fell hard to the cobbles below. He drew a deep, burning breath which cut like glass down his throat. He rubbed the deep abrasion the rope had left, wondering if it would scar. The knot was shoddy work, but then again it had been the cretin who had tied the damn thing.

    He ran through the dark streets and into a small alley, where he sat with his back to the wall to think over his next step. He had indeed murdered the Baron’s brother, on the bastard’s orders. The Baron had hired him to eliminate his elder sibling, knowing full well the skills of the Haranec warriors. By hiring a third party, he had full deniability, quite smart on his part.

    Up to the point of betraying me, thought Coatl with a scowl.

    The fool decided that his living would be a loose end, and it would be for the best to arrest him and feign grief at his brother’s death rather than pay the young man.

    All in all, it had been a rather unpleasant nineteenth birthday.

    ---------------


    Ashlynn laughed happily as she threw another wad of snow at her father from the top branches of the tree. He looked up at her, exasperated, and pointed at the ground.

    “You come done from there, it’s long past dark and it’s a long walk home.”

    “Can we not just stay out here tonight, please?”

    “Absolutely not, now get down.”

    She pouted, and jumped from the tree, into her father’s arms where he grasped her tightly and spun her around effortlessly. He smiled at her as he set her down, it was impossible for him to stay upset for long. They walked back through the forest, the twin moons shining their pale light through the branches. They had been walking for some time, when three men emerged from the trees and stood in their path.

    “Evening, good sir” said the leader amiably “may I query as to why a man and his daughter would be walking these woods so late in the night?”

    “Just out for a stroll, we do not want trouble, please stand aside.”

    The bandits laughed, and closed in, with two more joining the rear.

    Markus cursed himself; he should have seen it coming. Thousands of soldiers had deserted during the war, becoming brigands that now plagued the countryside. He was unarmed, save a small dagger which was entirely decorative and held no edge, and he couldn’t let Ashlynn come to harm.

    “Daddy…” she whimpered behind him. He scooped her up and placed her on his back, where she wrapped her arms around his thick neck.

    “That’s a beautiful daughter you have there sir, how old is she? Five?”

    “Touch her and you’re dead” growled Markus, which caused the brigands to shoot nervous looks to one another.

    The leader, however, was unperturbed by the giant’s menace, and idly swung his short sword. “Oh no, we’d never touch her, Gods no. Why spoil her, eh? There’s markets that will pay whole bags of gold for a girl her age, and her intact maidenhead makes her all the more val-“

    Markus cut him off with a punch to the head which caved in the brigand’s skull and sent streamers of blood flying from his smashed nose, mouth and eyes. He lay gurgling in his own blood and brains, before finally falling slack.

    Ashlynn stared horrified at the body, her wide eyes matching those of the remaining brigand’s.

    “He killed Kurt!” cried one; “Kill that bastard!” shouted another. They all charged him, their weapons held high.

    He grabbed the first one he could reach by the arms, yanking them down so he shoulder blades erupted from the skin and silenced his agonized screams with a kick that pulverized his guts and sent him sailing into his comrade. The two grabbed his waist and tried to drag him down, but Ashlynn gave a scream and begin to kick hard with her wooden soled shoes, breaking the nose of the first and knocking out a good portion of the second’s teeth. Markus whirled and shook them off, before seizing the one with broken teeth and slamming him into his friend with the broken nose, killing them both. The last brigand freed himself from his dead friend, and stared agape at the massive frame before him. Markus reached out his arms and roared, sending the thief feeing into the woods with a terrified scream.

    Markus’ rage cooled quickly, and he turned his attention to his daughter. He hated himself for what he had showed her. A battlefield’s worth of gore, at such a young age, must have been a horror to see. Made worse by the fact the perpetrator was none other than the gentle behemoth who had cared for her with the utmost love for these six years.

    By the time he returned home, Ashlynn had passed out. He carried her limp body in his arms and set her down in her cot. He smiled sadly at her, gently stroking her hair with his fingertips. He stayed with her until dawn, before heading back to his massive bed. He settled into the cool softness of cotton and goose down, falling into a short, fitful sleep.


    ---------------


    The gateman at the Scheissesser manor looked tiredly off into the night. It was almost dawn and he desperately wanted to sleep. Just as he begun to dose, the hoof beats of a horse sounded down the dirt road, accompanied by the squeak of un-oiled wagon wheels.

    “Halt!” cried the guardsman to the incoming rider. He grabbed up his sword and candle lantern, and approached the cart.

    “What is your business?”

    The rider drew a raspy breath and spat, before looking at the guardsman.

    It was Felix Schneider, a drunk and petty thief whom the Baron hired as a teamster occasionally, especially when the loads in question were of dubious origin.

    “Baron wants me to cart away a chest o’ his” he rasped under the hood of his cloak “says its best that it’s done quietly.”

    The guard nodded, and pulled back his lantern.

    “Go up ahead, man, but be quick about it.”

    Felix simply spit again and reined the horses forward.

    ---------------

    Up in his chamber, the Baron shooed out the servant girl he had chosen for the night. She was a young thing of sixteen, and had been in his service for six years prior. He could hear her sobbing in the hall, and considered going out and beating the bitch some more. She had initially refused him, but a couple of strikes with a brass candlestick and threats against her elderly parents had changed her mind. The Baron smiled, and scratched his double-chin. He always got what he wanted, whether people wanted to give it to him or not.

    He was surprised when the door opened, and was about to yell the servant away, when he saw the stooped form of that drunken wretch of a man, Felix.

    “What the hell are you doing here? Get out you miserable worm!”

    Felix chuckled under his cloak, and began to rise.

    The Baron’s indignation turned to fear as the tall man locked the door with an easy click of the bolt, and gave that same snarling chuckle.

    “Who the hell are you!? What do you want!?”

    “You know very well who I am, you traitorous bastard.”

    The Baron felt a warm stream of urine trickle down his leg, and the man peeled away Felix’s face and pulled back his hood. He dropped the grisly flesh mask, and gave a terrifying smile.

    “It’s you!”

    “Indeed” hissed Coatl.

    He pulled his long kukri from its sheath, one of the personal effects he had managed to retrieve from the prison armory, and turned it so the flat of the blade reflected the Baron’s scared face.

    “Oh Gods, please, you don’t have to do this! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! Please, I’ll pay you twice what I owe, take my strongbox, the key is under it!”

    “You try to have me killed and you then you cower when I come to collect. Pathetic, you’re absolutely pathetic.”

    He laughed curtly and sheathed the kukri, before pointing at the large trunk in the center of the room.

    “Get your bloated ass in that trunk. If you make any noise, I’ll castrate you.”

    The Baron’s face brightened at the perceived mercy, and he began to cry. He squeezed himself into the trunk, and closed the lid on himself.

    Coatl spared no time locking the trunk, before grabbing the strongbox and key and hiding them in the folds of Felix’s cloak. He then dragged the heavy thing out the Baron’s chamber, and down the long flight of stairs to the main hall.

    ---------------


    It was morning when he arrived at the lake, and unloaded the trunk. He popped the lock and the Baron burst forth like a spring loaded devil-in-the-box. He took deep breaths, and looked around.

    “Why…”

    “Because you need to disappear. Killing you isn’t enough.”

    “I thought you weren’t...”

    “Going to kill you? You’re right. I’m not. At least, not right now, I’m just going to stab you, low in the guts. Your stomach will fill with shit and you’ll be dead from blood poisoning or blood loss in three days, at most.”

    “Oh Gods, not like this! Please not like…”

    “Shut up. You made it personal, all that earns you in the end is a bit more pain than most.”

    He punctuated the sentence with a deep stab from his kukri, before turning away and left the Baron screaming, with his guts falling out the hole in his protruding belly.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 04:29 PM.

  2. #2
    DQ 1337 Member RustyMagnum's Avatar
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    I guess i should be thankful for being used as a main character.
    Quit the bitchin'
    we gon' make it in a second.

  3. #3
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Part 3

    Coatl pursued the old man, careful to keep a casual pace, and to keep his macuahuitl hidden under his cloak. Thievery wasn’t his forte, but times were lean and being a wanted man didn’t help his chances. The old gentleman turned down into an alley, and Coatl readied the paddle, and moved in for the kill. The obsidian blades had become chipped over the six years he used them, and the wood was beginning to show signs of rot. He would have to go for the neck, lest he find himself with an injured, screaming victim and a stuck sword.

    He swung hard, an easy sideways slash that would sever arteries and cut into the windpipe. But the old man ducked it easily, and kicked back. The boot connect hard with his crotch and staggered him, meanwhile the old man drew his own sword with a quick, fluid motion. He smacked the flat of the blade against Coatl’s head, before kneeing him in the stomach and kicking him to the ground. He stomped on the macuahuitl, breaking it in two and shattering the obsidian blades, before putting the point of the sword to his throat.

    “Bad choice, boy.”

    Coatl swore and backhanded the blade away, scrambling for his kukri. The old swordsman responded by casually stabbing him through his bicep and kneeling on his neck.

    “You don’t give up, do you? Impressive, most thieves would have been begging by now.”

    He sheathed his sword and put more pressure on his knee, his eyes peering deep into Coatl’s.

    The last thing he saw before unconsciousness took him, was the old man’s smile.


    ---------------


    Ashlynn drew the sinew taut, her gloved hand holding tight to the bow. With a simple flex of her fingers, the sinew snapped back and sent the arrow sailing down range and into the soft hide of a pumpkin.

    Her father nodded approval, walking over to her from where he had stood, observing.

    “Very good, your form has improved. You’re still too tense, though, it causes the bow to jerk when you loose. Understand?”

    She nodded and notched another arrow, redrawing the sinew. This time, the arrow sailed straight in the windless air and stuck itself in the dead center of the pumpkin. He smiled and put his hand on her shoulder, gently taking the quiver from her back.

    Ever since the incident with the thieves, he had begun to teach her self defense. And while she had taken naturally to archery, what little he had tried to show her in swordsmanship and knife use had not found its way.

    “Will uncle Diethelm be coming today?” she asked him, a hopeful glimmer in her eye. Girls were not typically schooled in the Erdestreuer empire, much less taught combat, but fortunately Diethelm had been more than willing to offer both.

    Diethelm was Markus’ brother through marriage, and while the union had been completely political, Diethelm had proved himself to be an extremely loyal member of the house of Wolfherz. He and Markus had served together as Fuss-Ritter when the Lusignan Empire invaded from the south. In the early months, they had served in the main guard, cutting swathes through enemy infantry, Markus with his zweihänder and Diethelm with his halberd.

    “Yes, he said he would be coming later.”

    Ashlynn smiled happily at this and hugged her father, before running on ahead.


    ---------------

    When Coatl came to, he was lying in a soft cot as a barber daubed his arm with a rag soaked in purifying tincture. He sewed up the deep laceration and bit off the thread. He left the room without a word, only stopping to bow once to the old swordsman as he entered the room. The old man greeted the injured youth with a backhand across the face, before sitting down on the end of the cot. Coatl tried to rise up and attack the bastard, but found his legs and other arm was lashed to the bed. He reached out with his free hand, trying to get a fistful of the old man’s cloak.

    “Is this really how you’re going to thank me for sparing your life?”

    Coatl saw it was pointless to continue, and went slack, fixing a hard look on the older man.

    “Just what do you plan on doing with me?”

    “I plan, first off, to treat your injuries. You’ll be useless to me if you can’t handle a weapon. Then, you will start your training.”

    Coatl laughed at him, the sheer ridiculousness of the last statement was too much in spite of his anger. The old man responded with another backhand to the head.

    “Cut that shit” he said curtly “You’re not a common thief, and you’re obviously not native to this land. I’d say, judging from your skin and those trinkets you had on, you’re of the Haranec. And even if you’re not, you were trained somewhere. Your technique was effective but archaic, and your execution was sloppy, to say the least. But right now I’m sure you don’t give a rat’s ass about any of this, and just wish I would shut up, don’t you.”

    “Just who are you, old man?”

    “Erich Von Fluss, leader of the Mountain Blades and premier swordsman of the Erdestreuer army.”

    Coatl stared in shock a moment, completely dumbfounded. This geriatric man, who so casually choked the light from his eyes and dragged him back home, was none other than the most legendary swordsman in the Empire, if not the world. His status was that of some Deity made flesh, capable of slicing through whole armies single handedly. He had survived three generations of war without a single casualty to the band of swordsmen he had led. And now, he was offering his time as a mentor.

    Recognition and determination filled Coatl’s eyes and he smiled in spite of himself, and the old man returned it.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 03:55 PM.

  4. #4
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Part 4

    Coatl made a lunge with the saber, and the old man parried with his own before disarming him with a flick of his wrist. He stepped back to evade the old man’s lunging stab before drawing his kukri. His left handedness gave him an edge, as the old man was forced to parry in reverse to what he had been trained. However, experience was still the ultimate factor and so far, he had been unable to defeat Erich in their mock duels.

    On the sidelines Erich’s grandson, Wolfgang, watched eagerly with a great smile on his face. He was a few years younger than Coatl, but just as tall and possessed a good bit more bulk. His grandfather had been training him personally, hoping to carry on the Von Fluss swordsman dynasty. He cheered when Coatl’s saber went flying, and called out encouragement to his mentor.

    “He’s unarmed, Grandfather, go for the kill!”

    Erich raised his free hand to silence the youth, before shifting right to keep on his opponent’s off side.

    Coatl saw him and immediately repositioned himself; he could not allow the old man any purchase if he had any hope of winning. When the old man made a long sweeping slash, hoping to knock his opponent off-balance, he made his move. He ducked the slash and delivered a sound kick to the old man’s shin. Erich grunted and went down, but not before raising his own blade in a retaliatory strike which cut through Coatl’s shirt and sliced off his left nipple. He grunted as blood began leaking from his chest, but did not relent, instead he scooped up a handful of dust and cast it into the old man’s eyes. As his foe staggered, disoriented, and knocked the saber from his hand and wrestled him to the ground, before putting the edge of the kukri to his neck.

    “Yield or die” he said, gasping.

    “You cheating bastard!” screamed Wolfgang angrily “I should take your head for that! How dare you attack a man so low, you would be dead if not for-“

    “Silence!” shouted the old man, straining to open his dirt filled eyes. “I yield, young swordsman, and I yield smiling. I should have known to guard myself against subversion from low tricks. Although that is not to say I did not use such tactics in my youth.”

    Coatl pulled him up and helped to wipe the dirt from his eyes. However, Wolfgang was still brooding, and he stormed over to where they stood.

    “If you don’t have the stones to fight fairly against an old man, at least be man enough to fight me” he growled.

    “Wolfgang, enough of your prideful foolishness, my defeat was rightfully won by him.”

    “He kicked your shin and threw dirt in your eyes!”

    “And I did the same when I was a soldier. Real combat is not a gentleman’s duel, boy. It is grisly, brutish and low, therefore one’s tactics should reflect that.”

    Wolfgang would not relent, and badgered them both for a second duel. Finally, it was decided that they would fight at first light. The victor would be decided through yielding, or death.



    ---------------



    Ashlynn grimaced as the handmaiden pulled the comb pulled through her hair one last time, before securing it in place with a silver hair stick. She was dressed in a heavy formal gown of blue silk, and her feet were covered in fine slippers. Today was the King’s birthday, and he had invited his loyal subjects Sir Markus and Sir Diethelm von Wolfherz. She had been all too willing to join her father at the palace, but now the discomfort that the heavy, tight formal wear was beginning to make her think twice. The handmaiden gently daubed her cheeks with scented oil and gave her a mint leaf to chew, she was going to have to hold her own with true royalty, and she would rather go through a dozen more preening sessions before shaming her father.

    When she was done, the handmaiden escorted her out to the large sitting room where her father and uncle stood waiting. He smiled when he saw her, and nodded his approval to the handmaiden.

    “She looks stunning, your work is excellent.”

    The handmaiden smiled softly, as to not reveal her poor teeth, and bowed. “It was a pleasure, my lord.”

    He gave her a handful of silvers and a double of coppers before sending her off, he then turned his attention back to his daughter.

    “By the Gods, you look like a princess.”

    Diethelm gave a wolfish smirk, and looked her up and down.

    “I know, I would never have thought she could look like a proper lady. Do you think she’ll have many suitors?”

    Ashlynn blushed softly at the jest, and gave a small embarrassed chuckle, but her father was not amused.

    “Damn it, Diethelm, she is all of six and you are saying she is ready?” he rumbled irritably.

    “It was a joke; calm yourself before you bring the walls down. But think, your sister had just reached eight when she was betrothed to me.”

    “That was different; your house is just as old and powerful as mine, with fine blood. But I shudder to think of low men and serving boys making crude passes at my daughter.”

    “Relax, Giant, Ashlynn is a free spirit, not a fool. She is not the kind to be wooed by any passing peon or squire.”

    As they boarded the carriage, which had been specially designed to handle Markus’ bulk, he addressed his daughter again in a hushed and grave tone.

    “Mind you this,” he began “the people attending this feast are powerful and set in their ways. They will not appreciate a girl speaking of archery or horse riding; in fact they will take you for a mad woman and me an indulger of crazed fantasies. If anyone addresses you, speak of the weather or of the party. I know it is inane drivel, but humor them just for tonight. Please?”

    Ashlynn understood and nodded, before turning to look out the coach’s window.



    ---------------


    When she stepped into the dining hall with her father and uncle, Ashlynn’s senses were immediately assaulted with hundreds of sights, smells and sounds. All around people laughed or shouted or debated or sang. In the corner a large cadre of bards strummed at their lutes or harps, while others sang or played their violins and violas. The air was full of smells, roasted meat mixed with herbs and honey and liquor to form an intense aroma that made her mouth water. She looked as servants handed out plates full of choice cuts of fresh game or fresh fruits and pungent cheeses. One came by and easily slipped a goblet of wine into her gloved hands, before striding away to cater to the other guests. She sipped carefully at the strong stuff, careful not to spill.

    This went on for a few hours more, and several times she was accosted by giddy nobles who struck up talk with her. She did as she was told and spoke in childish tones of the party and of the weather and of the beauty of it all. They always laughed and called her adorable, or some other affectionate emptiness, before wandering off to rejoin the convivial masses. By midnight she was tired and irritable, she wanted nothing more than to regale them with her stories of climbing trees or shooting apples from a hundred paces, but she kept quiet and tried to sneak away to a quieter corner.

    Her father snuck behind her with a shocking ease and she yelped in alarm when he placed a huge hand on her head.

    “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asked calmly, with only a slight drunken rasp giving away his partaking in any of it.

    She gently shook her head, and he turned her slowly to look at him. He frowned and moved his hand down to her shoulder, concern in his eyes.

    “It’s too loud, and I can’t dance or talk to anyone about anything I like” she said trying hard to keep a whine from her voice. Her father seemed to understand and he released her “The King will call an end to it soon” he said reassuringly, “he will just give one more speech and that will be it”.

    The King had turned twenty-one that night, scarcely older than the boys who served him. When his father and mother died when the old capital fell, he quickly assumed his rightful place on the throne. He was a severe featured young man, but not unhandsome. The sharp angles of his face gave him an intense look that matched his personality. He was a soul ruled by passions that were barely kept in check by his sense. When he called for silence in his cold, sharp voice, the din of the festivities died at once.

    “I thank you all for this wonderful evening” he began, his cold voice becoming warm and melodious instantly, “I am truly grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful subjects.”

    He continued on like that, proud yet courteous, thankful but not obsequious, he was a master of turning crowds and Ashlynn could tell. She could also see a hungry, angry gleam in his eye, a look that belonged to only a madman or a fanatic. And as he talked, he shifted from thanking his guests to his promises to his kingdom. At this point the gleam grew more and more feverish; getting to the point his eyes seemed almost as bright as the oil lanterns on the walls.

    “My people, I promise you, I will not stop until Herbstberg is reclaimed and our honor restored!” he shouted, raising his fist in the air “I promise you I will bleed every damn Lusignan dog in my path! I promise you that my armies will sweep across their lands like the plagues of old, killing any man, woman or babe who dares stand before us! The land they stole from us was the land of our fathers and their fathers before them, and yet we failed to hold it, I failed. I will not lie to you, a war is coming and it shall be fierce. But when, when it comes…we will strike them down with such great and righteous vengeance the Gods themselves will tremble on their thrones! And as we choke the last bloody breath from them, they will know that Erdestreuer belongs to us!”

    For what seemed an eternity, the whole hall remained silent in the wake of the young King’s outburst. Then, one started clapping, then another. Before long the hall was erupting in applause, the King shakily sat in his chair, and drank slowly from his goblet, suddenly drained. Ashlynn stared at the young man, unsure of what to feel.

    The party had finally begun to die, with many of the guests emptying out the hall and back to their carriages or deeper into the keep where they had taken temporary lodgings. Ashlynn had begun to doze in one of the many great chairs that lined the long table, when a commotion broke out. Several young duchesses had been harassing the small daughter of a local freiherr for some time, insulting her lowly birth and lack of prospects. The little girl, a sweet, unassuming creature of about five, had put up with their abuse in stolid silence, her eyes down at her feet. The girl’s fathers cared not that their children were committing such rudeness, and the freiherr did not dare intervene for fear of angering the dukes. His barony was tiny and could easily be seized, if someone had a mind to do it. So he simply watched as his daughter was vituperated by the older girls.

    Her lack of reaction had only served in angering her abusers, who then decided to become a physical threat to their victim. The leader, a tall, pretty girl whom Ashlynn knew to be the prime prospect for the King, grabbed a fistful of the younger girl’s soft, straw-colored hair and yanked her head up so their eyes met.

    “Answer us when we address you, you motherless animal, tell the others what you said.”

    The littler girl shook her head, prompting abuser to smack her hard across the face. Her father took a step forward before his cowardice got the better of him and he remained still.

    “Say it, or I will.”

    Ashlynn strained to hear, she wanted to know what the young maiden had said that could have prompted such an incident. The maltreated girl mumbled something, her jaw trembling. The older girl twisted her hair, and pushed her to the ground.

    “Speak louder you stupid bitch.”

    The little girl started crying despite all her attempts not to show any weakness, tears flowing quickly down her smooth cheeks.

    “I wish to marry the King” she sobbed softly, the girls laughing at her. One of them cast her goblet of wine upon her simple white dress, staining it a deep burgundy. But the laughter stopped when the King approached behind them, quiet as a shadow. The expression on his face was that of pure contempt, and his eyes were full of that passionate fire.

    The leader straightened herself immediately, releasing her victim. She tilted herself in such a way the light caught her rich red hair and displayed her ample bust.

    “My liege” she said, smiling prettily “I am very sorry you must see this base creature. But she had to be disciplined.”

    “For what offense?” asked the King, his voice icy.

    The girl’s smile shrank a little, and her posture slackened just slightly, but the effect was enough. Gone was the lovely figure of the maiden of seventeen, and in her place the bully that used her position to achieve her low desires.

    “She said she wished to marry you, my liege. A scrawny thing like her should never dare insult you like that.”

    “I’m sorry my liege” the littler girl cut in, her eyes full of tears. “I didn’t mean to insult you, I really didn-“

    “Be silent!” shouted the older girl, before turning back to the king with that lovely, false, grotesque smile. He stood a moment longer, before he shocked them all by roughly taking her arm and shoving her aside. He stopped in front of the small girl, keeping his intense gaze fixed upon her.

    “What is your name, girl?”

    “D-Dana” she said quietly, obviously scared of receiving an even greater punishment.

    He stooped down and put his hands under her arms and lifted her to her feet, she stayed upright, her King towering over her. The other girls were beside themselves now at the perceived injustice of it all. One of the dukes stepped forward and began to speak to him a wheedling voice

    “My liege, I believe there has been a grievous misunderstanding. That, thing, had provoked my daughter with her insolence. She was so taken aback by the affront to her King that she decided to take the matter into her own hands an-“

    “Be silent before I have one of my soldiers cast you from the tower.”

    The Duke stepped back, abashed.

    “Markus!” called the King loudly “your King requires you!”

    Ashlynn saw her father rise from where he had been napping and stride over to the King, stopping smartly before him.

    “What do you need, my liege?”

    “Escort these curs to their carriages; make sure not one remains in my abode. And fetch some handmaidens and my major domo, this girl is in desperate need of a bath and a bed.”

    Markus nodded, and herded up the remaining dukes and their bitch daughters and showed them the door. As the King escorted the little girl away, he turned to her father.

    “It is sickening to see a man act with cowardice in my home. There is no greater insult to my honor.”

    With that he went through the massive portcullis and disappeared.


    ---------------


    Coatl stood in the cool morning air, his bare chest covered in gooseflesh from the chill. Across the yard Wolfgang stood like a shaved bear, his gut hanging slightly over his belt. Without his armor he seemed soft, fleshy and vulnerable, the real menace came from the massive broadsword he carried. Erich stood between them, his cloak billowing lightly in the breeze.

    “Go!” he shouted, and the duel commenced.

    Wolfgang rushed him, he knew his strength and sword was greater than Coatl’s saber. But Coatl had been trained by the warriors of his home in the ways of war, however archaic their tactics were, and he had his never ending list of low tricks. He smashed into the lean, dark boy like a runaway cart and brought his sword down hard enough to snap the blade of the saber. Coatl lunged back in a fluid motion and grabbed his kukri from its sheath which was buckled to his shoulder.
    He feinted and slashed upward, cutting a shallow furrow into Wolfgang’s chest. Coatl smiled grimly and tried another, but the bigger boy had gotten wise and jumped back before kneeing Coatl in the gut hard enough to send his meager breakfast spewing from his mouth in a high pressure jet.

    “Not opposed to low tricks, then?”

    “Not against you!”

    He swung down and Coatl dodged, he swung again, dodged again. This dance continued until the sun was up and both had struck blood from the other but neither relented. Finally, Coatl knocked away the heavy sword and let a flurry of punches fly into the bigger boy’s gut, which instead of fat felt like spring steel. He kicked his knee and head butted him, and was repaid with a powerful punch to the head and a kick to the groin. They carried on for another grueling hour, until they both finally collapsed; the duel had ended in a draw.

    That night, both boys laughed with their master at the large dinner. The duel had proved cathartic, if painful, and both youths had settled the enmity between them. They complimented each other’s blows and skill, as they devoured the herb crusted lamb and the fresh fruit pies.

    After dinner, Erich escorted them both to his private armory, and took two blades from the shelf, presenting the first to his grandson.

    “This, my child, is the sword I took from Lord Alain, leader of the Lusignan heavy cavalry. Fifty years ago I took his head and claimed his sword and helm for my trophies, and all those years I dreamed of giving it to my son. But he passed before I could so it falls to you, take it.”

    Wolfgang unsheathed the blade, and gasped. It was beautifully tempered and its basket-hilt shone with high polish and its rose wood drip was deeply oiled. He felt the blade, finding it to be exquisitely balanced.

    “And another thing” said Erich, producing a scroll “I have held this for seventeen years, waiting to give this to you.”

    He gave it to Wolfgang, who then unrolled it. It was a letter of recommendation to the Royal blades Academy, the premier swordsmanship school.


    Wolfgang began to tear up, and hugged his grandfather tightly.

    “I do not know what to say, grandfather.”

    “Then say nothing, my child, I understand, and as for you, Coatl, take this blade as a sign of my love."

    He gave him the remaining sword, a simple schpef blade set in a dark leather scabbard. He unsheathed it, and stared. It was not steel, it was far too heavy for that, instead the blade was of dark iron but was streaked with a bright metal in a beautiful geometric grain that shone in the light. He ran his hand along the thin, slightly curved blade. He gently felt the edge, and was shocked to find his fingers came away bloody.

    “That blade is not like any other” said Erich “it is called ‘Stars shining in darkness’ and it was forged from the metal left by an Angel’s tear. It holds a sharper edge than any steel, and for longer. I have owned that blade since my boyhood, and only once has it grown the least bit dull. Tomorrow both of you shall leave me; I have taught you both all I can. Go out and do me proud, my boys, with my blessing.”

    The next morning they did as they were told and set off, leaving the old man alone in the silent morning.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 04:02 PM.

  5. #5
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Chapter 2: Storm

    Part 1

    Markus stood in the yard, his brow and back and chest glistening with sweat. It felt good to swing his sword again, if only at training dummies. The massive blade had been forged centuries ago, when Ruprecht Wolfherz went to the metal-singers that dwelt in the roots of Schlafende Gott, the great mountain which no man had ever managed to summit. The great sword was taller than most men, and stood just inches short from Markus’ head. At first glance, it appeared to be made from bronze, but the metal from which it was forged was known only to the metal-singers, and they did not speak of such matters with outsiders.

    The blade was incredibly sharp, although it tended to quickly lose its edge with use, but the true strength of the weapon was in its forging. The metal of its casting held the old power of the earth, and some of it still remained.

    Its name was God Fist, and Markus had made sure that it lived up to that title.


    ---------------


    Dana walked slowly through the halls of the keep, her hand trailing idly on the cool stone walls. Just nine years ago she had been shamed here, and now she called the place her home, as a charge of King Ekkehardt. He had learned of the condition of her father’s barony, and had sent for her. She had no love of the place, and even less for her father. She had never forgiven him of the cowardice he let fester in him. He was a weak man who considered only himself when it came to matters which should have concerned the barony.

    She stopped outside the large window that overlooked the yard, and looked down on the training knights. She first saw the giant, Sir Markus von Wolfherz and his brother. She also spied Sir Heinrich von Blitzdompteur and Sir Adolf von Geistauge, the Seer. She had just begun to drift off in a daydream when she was greeted from behind.

    She turned and saw Markus’ daughter standing behind her, curtseying respectfully. She was dressed oddly, wearing breeches tucked into knee boots and cotton doublet. Her face shone lightly with sweat, and her hair had come down from where it had been tucked into her cap.

    “My lady” she began breathlessly, “I beg your pardon, but I must request a small favor.”

    Dana smiled and walked to her. Despite her eccentricities and unwomanly behavior, she knew Ashlynn had a good heart and she sincerely liked the girl. In a way, she respected her. Ashlynn was only a year older than she, not to mention a good head shorter, but she seemed so much more grown. She had a strong and determined way about her, and a good head on her shoulders. What was more, she had offered her friendship immediately and wholeheartedly, and Dana considered that more precious than feminine refinements.

    “Speak as you would, Ashlynn, I do not care for formalities when they are not needed.”

    She rose from her curtsey, and idly pulled down on the sleeve of her doublet.

    “If you happen to see Sir Otto, please tell him I most certainly did not borrow a bow from the armory and most certainly did not use said bow to shoot pheasants in the free woods. I also certainly did not replace said bow with a snapped string and a cracked shaft.”

    Dana gave the girl a conspiratorial grin, and nodded. “I’m certain it was one of the squires again, they’re always taking things they have no right to. If only we could figure out which one so that he may be punished for his impudence, it is a tragedy that we can never find his name.”

    Ashlynn laughed and curtseyed again, in thanks. As she rose, her expression changed from jovial to serious.

    “Dana, do you believe there is going to be a war, like His Majesty said?”

    She shook her head and closed her eyes, suddenly feeling quite weary. “He is always meeting with his knights and the nobles that control the major baronies. They have mounted their forces along the armistice line and the Lusignans have done the same. In fact, just this morning I walked into one of these meeting by mistake. I was certain he would be furious, but he never is. He always drops his concern for me.”

    Ashlynn smiled softly, and wiped a grimed hand on the leg of her breeches.

    “If you would forgive my saying, Dana, but it’s because he loves you.”

    Dana blushed slightly at the thought, and turned away.

    “If that is a jest, I assure you it is not funny in the least.”

    “I’m sorry, My Lady, if I seem impudent, but it is quite obvious. It is like you said, his greatest concern is you. He wants you to be happy; he would hang the lords if it meant your happiness.”

    Dana’s blush flared a deeper red and she kept her back to her friend. “I’m his charge, not his suitor. He should woo and bed some lord’s daughter, not the girl of a freiherr.”

    “That’s nonsense, if I recall, his Great Grandfather sired his son with a chambermaid.”

    “That was different. Queen Gabriele was barren, and that chambermaid her half-sister. To marry the daughter of such a low noble would shame him and his family.”

    “And do you honestly believe a man like him would care?”

    Dana had nothing to say to that, and kept staring out the window as her friend curtseyed a third time and took her leave.



    ---------------



    Ekkehardt walked slowly out to the yard, his squire trailing behind him. His sword was buckled to his hip and his bow strapped to his back, over his thin jacket. Full Bloom was almost upon them, and the weather had grown far too hot for his heavy, regal dress. He called his squire and handed him the bow, before stripping away his jacket, doublet, and finally his shift. If his men were to train with their backs bared for the Gods’ eyes, so would he.

    The knights stopped and bowed to their now shirtless King, their powerful bodies shiny with sweat and rippling with muscle.

    “Hail to thee” he called to them “today your King wishes to train with the men he shall lead against the Lusignan bastards. Now who wishes to swing against me?”

    Nobody stepped forward.

    He laughed and unsheathed his sword, letting the light catch it. Like Sir Markus’ massive God Fist, his blade had been forged by the metal-singers, but not of the yellow ore of the mountain. Instead, his blade was black as pitch and shimmered like oil. Night Fang, it had been named. And rightly so, the blade seemed to grow stronger in the darkness, and especially under the pale of the twin moons.

    “Come men, I have waged battle hundreds of times with my words, but I scarcely believe even I could talk a Lusignan soldier to death. I wish to be able to lead my men, not just send them to die for my honor. Now, who will swing against my me?”

    This time, one stepped forward, then two, then all. Ekkehardt smiled at his men, his passionate, fiery eyes glowing.


    ---------------


    Dana watched as her King trained in the yard with the knights, seeing his body in motion without the veil of cloth to mask it sent a small shock through her, and gave her a feeling of warmth and wetness in her nether regions. She wondered if what Ashlynn had said was true; the girl had no reason to spew false tales after all. When Sir Adolf accidentally knocked him to the ground, the King simply laughed and brushed away the hands waiting to bring him up. He spoke informally, his gestures speaking of camaraderie and respect for the men who would be doing his will. When he turned to call his squire, he saw her standing in the window. He smiled to her and gave a knight’s salute, much as one would have done for a noblewoman at a tourney. She shyly returned his smile, before turning from the window and fleeing to her chamber.

    She bolted the door behind her and undressed, carefully folding the good silk gown. Her room opened to a balcony which overlooked the small lake that lay to the south of the keep. As she opened the heavy wood doors, she saw dark clouds massing on the horizon, and the smell of rain to threaten the otherwise bright morning. She climbed into bed, pulling the linen sheets over herself. Letting the cool breeze and smell of rain lull her to sleep.



    ---------------


    It was dark when she heard the knock at her door, she sat upright in bed and queried as to the caller’s name.

    “It’s me, my Lady” responded the voice of Ekkehardt through the heavy oak barrier.

    She quickly pulled on her gown and opened the door. He was still dressed simply, a linen doublet open at the throat and simple cotton breeches. He bowed respectfully to her and she responded with a curtsey.

    “I came to ask you to dine with me” he said formally “in my chamber.”

    She curtseyed and accepted at once. The offer to dine alone was a great honor, and not to be refused. She walked with him through the winding halls and to his chamber, watching as the two men at arms stood aside to allow their King and his guest to enter. They took the large brass bars and swung out the polished ironwood double doors, closing the great things behind them once they had entered.

    The king’s chamber was massive, almost the size of a small dining hall. Large windows gave a wide view of the east and north sides of the keep, and a table sat in the middle of the floor prepared to seat two. Their dinner was venison sauerbraten, potato dumplings, a loaf of sweet black bread, blutwurst, various tarts and a large decanter of wine. At first, they ate in silence, with only a thin, stilted quip or two to break it. However, after an hour of sipping on the heady wine and eating more than their fill, both grew at ease, speaking far more casually.

    When she laughed at a story of his, which both would forget later, he smiled and took her hand from across the table.

    “Gods, you have a wonderful laugh.”

    He let go and rose, walking behind her chair. He gently draped his arms around her neck, and kissed her cheek. She held his arms and closed her eyes, allowing him to hold her. She knew precious little of the machinations of the court, and told him as much when he had finished. He assuaged her fear as best he could; gently kissing her and promising to have his advisors teach her all she would need to know.



    ---------------


    He held her in his arms, feeling the warmth and weight of her head on his chest. He could scarcely believe that the girl he had seen nine years before, wine stained and teary eyed, could have grown into the woman of fourteen he now caressed. He had not intended to love the girl, his actions having been dictated by a mixing of his own code of honor and a feeling of pity. But as she had grown, he found it impossible to ignore her. Of course her feminine figure and lovely face had set him to sweating like a stallion, but it was her nature that appealed to him. A quiet thoughtfulness and a simple yearning for understanding set her far and away from her contemporaries. When he let her go, she thanked him and curtseyed before exiting for her own chamber, leaving him alone to press his burning forehead against the cool stone wall.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 04:09 PM.

  6. #6
    n00b! Quatermaster's Avatar
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    ....

    That was pretty cool... But may I ask, is there a specific 'universe' this is set in? Or did you make it up? If you did, that would be some fantastic-ness in your part. Maybe you should draw a map of the land? I would buy this is if it were a book

    The only problem I find is that I don't really know about the history or anything else, but I do get a general idea. But, keep writing! I love it!
    "Your mind is like a parachute, it does not work if it is not open."
    -Quatermaster

  7. #7
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Part 2

    Dana sat in the great chair, her small hands gripping the large wooden armrests tightly. Over the years, she had learned to make her face an expressionless mask, but nevertheless she was terrified. Sitting at the head of the council was a new experience in fear, and she knew she had few friends in the audience. Not even Ekkehardt’s reassuring hand on her own could not distract her from the hostile eyes that stared at her from the seats below.

    It was the dukes, of course, but some of the lords were not pleased with Ekkehardt’s choice in courting her over their children and even a few of the lesser barons held rancor for her. Thankfully, the majority of the lordship knew better than to anger their Monarch and his knights. But whatever small consolation that brought was dwarfed by the sheer enmity of those who saw her very existence as an insult.

    One of them in particular, Duke Tiedemann von Waldbrenner, had been of particular worry. The other nobles appeased themselves on veiled insults and salacious gossip and were no danger, save for what emotional pain they brought, but Tiedemann was different. He was an old soldier, and still had the bloodlust of a man born for war. Infinitely more dangerous, though, was his ability to twist the thoughts of others. He sowed the seeds of doubt and distrust, bringing misease whenever he spoke. He constantly pointed out the weakening of the royal blood, and how the people must rely on a strong ruler to shepherd them during the tumults of war.

    She knew for a fact how intelligent Ekkehardt was, and how large his ego. However, behind the safely bolted doors of his chamber, he was a different man than what many ever saw. He blamed himself for all that had gone wrong, and held himself as culprit in the deaths of his people. For all his passion and fire, he was always fretting over how to be a good ruler for his people and often only slept after dosing himself heavily with strong wine. Every time he roared for Tiedemann to silence himself and remember his place, she saw the latter smile in satisfaction knowing he had given his King another restless night.

    Today was no different, and he had begun his typical diatribe in his standard way. He never ceased to be polite, nor did he ever show signs of any malcontent, and both of these made his words that much more effective.

    “All of us convened here have a shared concern, my Liege. Namely, the succession of your rule, you are of thirty years and you have yet to sire a single son. Is that true, my liege?”

    “You have no place querying that, Tiedemann” rumbled Ekkehardt angrily, the dark bags under his eyes serving to sharpen his gaze. “I am still young; I can sire a son any time I should wish. Now be silent and allow one with less asinine drivel to speak.”

    Tiedemann, however, would not be silent. Dana saw the change in his mood as soon as Ekkehardt had spoken. He had been planning this for a time and she could tell.

    “I will not be silent, you weak man. I will not be silent as you allow concerns of war slip away so that you may try to woo that little whore you dare call a lady of rank.”

    “You will not speak of her!” he roared, his dull eyes suddenly coming alive with the fire. “You will not dare speak of her poorly, I will not allow it!”

    “You’re a thrice-damned fool, Ekkehardt. Your father was far superior to you, and even he could not save his Kingdom from falling. Your dynasty is over; it is time to accept that.”

    “You bastard!” shouted Sir Heinrich, his hand going to his arming sword, “you dare speak to your King that way! I'll have your head you-“

    She could stand it no longer, and her voice came unbidden to her throat.

    “Enough!” she cried in dismay, before immediately covering her mouth, a deep scarlet rising to her cheeks.

    Tiedemann sneered, his hand falling away from his own blade.

    “So the little bitch finally found her voice, eh?”

    Ekkehardt’s eyes were burning as he rose, steadily descending the stairs to face the Duke. The two tall men stood eye to eye, hate swimming in both their gazes.

    “You have insulted my pride, and my honor. I will not stand for it. We will meet on the east lawn at sunrise, arm yourself well.”

    “Aye, I bid you the same, oh honorable king. Now go, meditate on the face of your whore and find pleasure in your hand, much good will it do you.”


    ---------------


    Later that night, as they finished their dinner, Ekkehardt finally broke. He had been drinking heavily since the catastrophe of the council meet, but he was taking to the spirits in a way that frightened her. Normally as he drank, he became much more convivial and his manner eased. He became a man and not a Monarch, letting the pretenses of class slip away. But tonight, he became brusque and angry, cursing the servants every time they came to clear the used platters, constantly demanding more wine. He was on his third decanter, when he roared a curse and hurled his half full goblet against the wall.

    “Damn it all!” he screamed “Gods damn every one of them, every single fucking one of them!”

    She stood and backed away, as he threw his platter to the floor, sending the scraps of a honeyed ham sliding on a trail of grease and gravy. He flipped the table over and picked up his chair and cast it against the stone wall.

    “I hate him!” he screamed childishly wildly staring at her as if she’d second say his rantings.

    A heavy pounding sounded at the door, and the guard called out “My liege, are you hurt?”

    “Leave me be!” he screamed at the closed door, and Dana could hear booted footsteps retreating down the corridor.

    He howled again and brought his fists against the wall, weeping pitifully. He cried openly, not bothering to wipe away the trail of spittle and snot running down his beardless jaw.

    “He’s right” he moaned softly “I am a failed King. If not for my advisors, if not for my damned major domo and his men, I would have floundered my first year. I know so precious little of ruling; my father had not bothered to teach me. He had tried to sire a new son to replace me; he knew I would not be able to carry on his affairs.”

    He seemed to regain some of his composure, wiping away the trail of mucus. He sat wearily on the edge of his great bed, bowing his head slightly.

    “Forgive me, my Lady, that was…not kingly, of me. You should take your leave now.”

    Dana stood silent for a time, trying to decide what to do. When her realization came, her conviction became her only driving force. She unlaced her dress, quietly shivering it from her shoulders. She placed it carefully on Ekkehardt’s bureau, before pulling her shift from her body and discarding it to the floor. She stepped lightly to where he sat, and embraced him from behind, resting her head between his shoulder blades.

    He started, and turned to look at her. She did not hide her nakedness from him, instead taking his hand and putting it to her left breast. She smiled as the old fire returned to his eyes, and his breathing deepened. He played his hands over her, softly, tenderly. She reached up and held his face, stroking his cheeks with her small fingers. They stayed in each other’s embrace for what felt like hours, taking in each other through their touches and looks. When he finally did mount her, she wrapped her arms around his back and moaned softly as her maidenhood was taken, and when she released she kissed him with all the passion of fourteen.


    ---------------


    Markus could not sleep, his blood was boiling too hot for rest. The sheer wrongness of Tiedemann’s insults burned him, and it had taken all his will to not strangle the fool then and there. Even as a man of forty-three, his spirit had not yet stilled. He lay heavily on his bed, idly stroking the empty space next to him. He had never taken a wife, nor sired any children of his own. It was the price of his great strength, he could scarcely bed a woman without harming her, and even whores were wary of having him.

    He sat up, and pulled on his breeches. He walked through his dark home and out onto the lawn. He looked to the sky, and offered a silent prayer for his King.


    ---------------


    Dana woke before Ekkehardt, her eyes peering around his darkened room. Her loins were still tender from their lovemaking, aching pleasantly as she freed herself from his sleeping embrace and padded across the room to where her clothes lay. After she had dressed, she looked back at him, and saw the man she loved and not the passionate King who saved her nine years before.

    Dana stood in the yard, dressed in a fresh dress of scarlet that ended just below her knee, and sandals laced at her ankle. Even in the early morning, the heat of the day sat heavily in the air and was quickly turning the moist morning air into a stifling wet gag. The only relief were the storm winds from the west, which brought cool air and the smell of rain.

    She was flanked on either side by two of Ekkehardt’s knights, Sir Diethelm and Sir Adolf. The latter turned and smiled at her, his bizarre violet eyes shimmering.

    “My Lady” he said quietly “I wish to thank you for praying this morning.”

    She nodded, accepting his words even though she knew he had no way of knowing she had done such. Sir Adolf’s house had a history of Seers, and he had been born with the gift. However, he had no control of what he saw, and had been driven half mad by visions he could scarcely speak of without becoming hysterical. She had seen him in the throes of one of his fits, he held his head and made horrific braying cries, ranting of things beyond the stars of which God nor man had no way of understanding. Beings that existed before the Gods, and had been spawned in the primordial chaos in the depths of the Outer Black, mindless and unknowable every one.

    He had only calmed when his young wife came to him, she took his head and placed it on her heavy belly. He smiled and gave a weak greeting to a daughter yet unborn, and a son that would follow the next year.

    He turned from her and stayed silent, a tall and gallant figure of twenty two.

    She spied the Duke’s wife and daughter, who shot her ugly looks, and she saw other knights and nobles who had come to see the bloodshed.

    When the duelists did finally come out, her heart began to race. Ekkehardt was dressed in fine plate, the Erdestreuer crest blazed green, silver and copper upon his breastplate. He held Night Fang aloft in the stance of honor, the black blade rippling in the sun.

    The Duke approached from the opposite end of the yard, his own plate clanking loudly. She became disheartened when she saw him, and knew why he had baited his King into the fight. Like Sir Markus and his brother, he was a Fuss-Ritter, an armored knight who fought from the front lines on foot rather mounted. His armor was twice as thick as Ekkehardt’s, and he carried a massive battleaxe in both hands.

    They stood fifty paces from each other, weapons in hand. The Cardinalis stepped between them, and read the rules of honor from an old goatskin scroll. He called out the condition for defeat in a clear voice, death was the only way this would end.

    He stepped away, and the duel began.


    ---------------


    Ekkehardt was faster, not weighed by the massive plate or weapon Tiedemann carried. But Tiedemann was far more experienced, and read the King’s moves easily. He parried and countered, driving the King back steadily. His plate gleamed in the sun and his axe’s blade shone bright as he brought it down. Ekkehardt dodged and swung, the blade struck the heavy pauldron and bounced away, a small nick the only evidence it connected at all.

    Tiedemann laughed and swung the heavy axe into Ekkehardt’s breast plate, cutting deep and bisecting the royal crest. Dana cried out as a handful of Nobles cheered. Ekkehardt was kicked off the blade, and he staggered before regaining his balance. The cut had not gone through the mail, and he was still willing to fight. He struck out with his sword, each time the blade bouncing away harmlessly. He was quickly tiring and Tiedemann showed no signs of stopping. He brutally struck the King with the flat of the axe head, shouting taunts and curses. He knocked his victim to the ground, and put his foot on his back as he pulled clear his helmet. Ekkehardt stared up nakedly at his attacker, his mouth hard with conviction.

    Just as Tiedemann brought his axe over his head to decapitate his foe, the wind which had been blowing hard sent a dark cloud over the sun, plunging the yard into shadow.

    Ekkehardt brought his sword up hard, under the skirt and through the solid steel codpiece and the soft cloth beneath. Tiedemann howled as his manhood was ruined, blood leaking from his stabbed genitals. Ekkehardt stood and swung with renewed vigor, this time his blade scoring deep cuts and drawing blood. His eyes were burning with fury as he half severed Tiedemann’s left arm, and fully cut off his right hand. He swung deep into his side and impaled him through the stomach. He kicked him onto his back and tore away his helm. Tiedemann looked up with an expression of pure terror, his eyes wet and glistening. Ekkehardt brought his sword down, and split his head in twain.

    Tiedemann’s wife and daughter shrieked, and sobbed as they were escorted away by the other nobles, and the knights cheered. They hailed their King and lifted him aloft, bearing their exhausted ruler away from the scene of carnage.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 04:19 PM.

  8. #8
    n00b! Quatermaster's Avatar
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    *IGNORED*

    But okay then, I will review this fine story!

    The best part I liked about it was how Tiedemann was killed, that stuck-up really deserved what was coming to him. Maybe how the sun was blacked out... Was like the swords magic? What would be good for next chapter would be Ekkehardt getting rid of those thrice damned nobles who cheered for Tieddemann. I mean, he's the King! Take down the people who don't support him! Also known as... Sweet sweet revenge!

    And I also took note of how a baby will be 'sired'. At least you didn't, go into any real details, I don't think pornography would fit well in this story. But, it was a necessary part of the story.

    I SHALL READ ON!
    "Your mind is like a parachute, it does not work if it is not open."
    -Quatermaster

  9. #9
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    (Sorry if it seemed that I snubbed you, but I try to keep non narrative posts to a minimum. I am grateful for any criticism you can give me and I will try to make a group to help explain some elements of the universe (my own creation but draws heavily from Tolkien and George R.R. Martin) that are not well explained.)

    Part 3

    Ekkehardt held Dana’s hands in his own, a soft smile on his face. He did not hear the Cardinalis as he read the vows, and he scarcely noticed the massive crowd massed below them. People stood bunched together, holding their collective breath as the two were bound as one before the Gods.

    Two months had passed since the duel, and Full Bloom was upon them. The days were hot and bright and the nights warm and heavy. But in the chapel, the incense filled air was cool, a mercy for everyone there.

    Word of the marriage had spread quickly, and many had flocked to the new capital to partake in the mass festivities. It provided a good distraction from the whisperings of war, and the secession of the nobles. After Tiedemann’s death, a small cadre of barons and dukes under the banner of Lord Dietfried von Schwarzholz had announced their secession from the crown and had sealed off their baronies. They had finally realized that their King would not bow to pressure, and had decided to take their wealth and power elsewhere.

    But to Ekkehardt, none of it mattered. He swore his loyalty to his bride and she did the same for him, and when they kissed the crowd cheered their approval. Unknown to them, her belly was already full with his child, an unexpected but not unwelcome result of their night together months before.

    The reception feast was massive, and the entire south yard had been transformed into an outdoor banquet hall. Knights, Barons, Lords, Freiherrs, and a vast multitude of well-to-do people filled the great lawn, eating and drinking and dancing.

    After the feast had dispersed, he and his new wife ascended the winding stairs and moved swiftly through the long halls to their chamber. They made love and held each other close, and as Ekkehardt lay there, he finally felt at peace.



    ---------------



    Full Bloom turned to Reaping and Reaping to Sleeping Earth, the air growing cold and the snow falling as the rebellion smoldered. Dana sat in the large chair, her arms folded gently over her swollen belly. She had not forgotten her duties as Queen, even as her child grew within her. Ekkehardt sat by her side, speaking to messengers from the loyal Nobles, or the few knights that still remained at the keep. He had allowed the seceded baronies to exist in peace, choosing to ignore them for the larger threat the Lusignans posed. However, on the last days of Reaping, soldiers loyal to the rebelling nobles, specifically Lord Schwarzholz, had raided several merchant caravans on their way to Eisenwasser from the east. It was then that Ekkehardt knew he could not allow for the rebels to remain, and had begun drawing plans for battle.

    The baby kicked hard, bringing her back to the present. The messenger had gone and her husband sat in his forehead in his hands. She reached over and took his arm gently, giving a reassuring squeeze. He was barely past thirty and yet his hair had begun to grey at the temples and deep bags had formed under his eyes. He turned to her and smiled, placing his hand atop the swell of her stomach and gently stroking it.

    They heard the large door to the hall open yet again, and pulled away slowly from each other, again becoming monarchs.



    ---------------



    Ashlynn looked down on the hall from her hiding spot, her breathing slow and silent. She had watched the procession of messengers and soldiers, taking note of anything of interest. The spot was a small hollow between walls that was accessible from the servants’ tunnel. It had originally been used to transport brick and mortar through the inner keep without being seen. Now it was her private observation room, a small hole in the brickwork providing the means to see.

    The crier announced to the visitor the titles of those he was seeing and bowed politely as he entered. The stranger bowed first to the monarchs, and then to the little man, before striding easily to the foot of the thrones and dropping to one knee. His face was hidden by a large hooded riding cloak, and his hands encased in rough leather gloves.

    “Pull back your hood and drop your cloak” demanded her father from his spot at the King’s side.

    The stranger rasped laughter and unclasped the heavy garment, letting it fall carelessly to the floor. He was lean and fit, with close set shoulders and angular features. His long, dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail and he was dressed in a strange mismatch of quality, the fine with the shoddy. His breeches were of good silk and his boots of supple kidskin, however, his shirt was of rough spun wool and was fastened with rawhide threaded through irregularly spaced eyelets at the chest.

    He looked up, the light reflecting off his dark skin and the ugly rope scar on his neck.


    ---------------


    “Thank you, your Graces, for allowing me an audience within your hall. The ride was long and the air colder than a witch’s tit, so forgive me if I seem a bit out of sorts.”

    Ashlynn took note that the man’s speech was superb, completely lacking an accent and flowing as easily as if had spoken it all his life.

    “You are the mercenary known as Coatl, correct?”

    “Yes, your Grace, that is my name.”

    Markus cleared his throat and stepped forward a bit, his eyes fixed on the dark skinned foreigner.

    “Forgive me, my Liege, but I say you should cast out this man. I know his kind; sell swords like him will betray you in an instant if they see a profit in it.”

    “You wound me, Sir giant” rasped Coatl, an impetuous sneer on his face “the good King has been betrayed enough, I think.”

    Ekkehardt glowered at him, but remained calm.

    “That’s enough, both of you. I understand your concern, Sir Markus, but I am the one who summoned him.”

    “Yes, my Liege.” He stepped back again, but kept a hard gaze fixed upon the mercenary.

    Ekkehardt gave his attention back to the kneeling sell sword, his words cold.

    “In my land, it is uncustomary to insult a man in his own keep. By all means, I should have you dragged to the stocks for your rudeness. However, if the whispers of your abilities ring true, then that would be a waste of a powerful asset.”

    Coatl kept the sneer on his face, but his eyes were cold, shrewd and calculating.

    “My sword is yours, your Grace, provided you keep the coin flowing. However, if you attempt to betray me, you will learn you know nothing of pain.”

    “You dare threaten a king!?”

    “Calm yourself, Sir Markus, do not let the petty words of a sell sword affect you. Save your rage for a real threat.”

    Ekkehardt took a breath and rose, walking to the kneeling mercenary and backhanding him across the mouth.

    “Thank you, your Grace, I’m honored you deem me worthy of your hand.”

    Ekkehardt ignored him and sat back down, his eyes angry but his face cold.

    “One more impudent word and I’ll allow Sir Markus to strike you. Understand?”

    “Of course, your Grace.”

    “Good, now, was the sum specified in the letter I sent satisfactory?”

    “Yes, your Grace, very generous indeed. I can set out whenever you need me to.”

    “You will set out in a week, with a contingent of my men to accompany you. If any of them come to harm by your hand the only payment you will receive is the headsman.”

    Coatl snickered and rose, bowing to them. As he did, his eyes shot up to where Ashlynn was hiding, falling right on her. He smiled in a way both friendly and frightening, and walked out the door.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 12th, 2012 at 04:24 PM.

  10. #10
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Part 4

    Ashlynn walked quickly through the hallway, keeping her head down as she went. She had not trained with a bow the entire season, and she did not wish to fall out of practice. Snagging one from the armory was easy enough, with the heaviest guard being on the pole-arms and arquebuses. She did not understand why they put so much effort into defending a worthless thing like an arquebus, all it did was make a loud bang and a lot of smoke but in the end the lead ball hit nothing more often than not. She would take a bow any day over a heavy, loud, useless machine.

    She descended the steps two at a time and came to the barracks, now empty of soldiers. They were all training in the yard, preparing for their deployment to either the armistice line or the border of the rebel baronies. She was almost to the armory door when an arm shot out of the side hallway and caught her by the bicep. She gave a small cry and wheeled, the grip slackening to allow her to turn. She looked up at the dark face of the mercenary, and he gave her that same menacing smile.

    “There you are” he rasped “you just saved me the trouble of looking for you.”

    She noticed how heavily armed he was, a schnepf sword was buckled to the right side of his waist, and a large curved knife to his right shoulder. On his belt were strapped an assortment of knives, seven in total, of varying sizes and shapes. He released her and she pulled back from him, her voice hard despite her surprise.

    “Looking for me? What business do you have with the daughter of a knight?”

    He gave a rasping laugh and motioned at her heavy snow cloak. “I might ask you why you are headed to the armory, and wearing such heavy garb indoors.”

    “I was hoping to find my father; I thought he might be down here.”

    Quick as a snake he grabbed her arm again, this time he dug in his fingers hard enough to leave small bruises.

    “Do not lie to me” he rasped angrily “you were spying on me the other day, why? And what’s more, nobody saw you but me. Where did you learn to hide yourself like that? Answer me.”

    She kept her face a mask of defiance, but inside she was deeply afraid. She knew lying would only make things worse so she drew her breath and answered him “My father taught me how to shoot, and I taught myself to sneak. I am down here to take a bow and practice shooting. Now, release me.”

    He released her arm and looked at her, cocking an eyebrow. “You shoot?”

    “Yes, that is what I said. Are you hard of hearing or just a stupid brigand?”

    She immediately regretted her words, wishing to turn and run.

    Insult the armed man, brilliant thinking, Ashlynn, really excellent decision making.


    The mercenary, however, surprised her by laughing and turning away. He opened the heavy armory door and stepped in, emerging minutes later with a fine yew bow and a quiver of freshly fletched arrows. He handed them to her, smiling again. This time, however, most of the menace was gone and a friendly gleam was in his dark eyes.

    “Come with me, and show this stupid brigand what you can do.”




    ---------------



    Coatl looked on as the girl drew another arrow, and let it fly into the straw dummy. She was a good one hundred paces back and she still found her mark with unerring accuracy. For such a tiny creature she had a true skill with the bow, and she was a deft climber to boot, she would be perfect.

    “Another hit” he called, his breath puffing before him “how many arrows do you have?”

    “Ten” she called back to him “why?”

    “Those will be the ten you do not shoot. I have seen enough; let’s go back before my balls freeze.”

    He ripped the arrow out of the dummy and walked back to her, pressing the wooden shafts into her gloved hands. As they walked, he turned to her.

    “Have you ever shot anything living with a bow?”

    “Only pheasant and a few squirrels.”

    “Ever shot any person?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “You heard me, have you shot a man?”

    She kept her eyes ahead, her stolid silence being the only answer he needed.

    “How old are you, fifteen?”

    “Sixteen.”

    “You’re not a typical woman, if you’ll forgive my stating the obvious. I know you hate being penned up in one place. So, why don’t you and your knight father accompany me on my job?”

    She looked at him, an incredulous expression on her face.

    “Are you completely mad? My father would never allow me on such a thing; he cannot think of my being hurt without becoming sick with worry.”

    “A weak stomached knight? No wonder your king can’t control his people, if he has men who put so much stake in their loved ones they can’t take risks.”

    She knew she was being baited, but she was too angry to care.

    “My father is Sir Markus von Wolfherz, you impudent bastard, and he is more of a man than you will ever be!”

    He smiled viciously, and took her arm again, but instead of painfully squeezing he stroked it almost affectionately.

    “Then accompany me, and then you can show me how great Sir Giant is.”

    She broke from his grip and ran, blushing in shame. She knew she couldn’t resist following along on such an adventure, even if it was being headed by a mercurial, flippant bastard like him. He had gotten her like a hare in a trap, and he knew it too.

    When she told her father later that evening, he swore and blustered but eventually gave in. She would be going with the contingent to end the rebellion, and he would be going with her.



    ---------------



    She did not sleep that night, she was far too angry. The dark skinned bastard had used her, and had gotten away with it. She flipped through the medical tome, trying to drown her indignation with facts and procedures. The text was translated from an Al-Jaziri book. The Al-Jazirs were the people of the south-eastern deserts. They were a great kingdom, and their scholars were the best when it came to astronomy and medicine. In fact, even as the Lusignans conquered the black-skinned tribes of the southern grasslands, so far across the sea, the Al-Jazirs held them off, their desert home providing the greatest fortress of all.

    She placed her dry quill pen between the pages, marking the spot, before returning to her bed in yet another bid to sleep. She thought of the mercenary, and his intentions. He had so flippantly trapped her, and yet he had shown her something like kindness out in the woods, and it had seemed genuine. As she closed her eyes, she couldn’t help but feel that she could never know the man’s heart, and wondered if he knew it himself.
    Last edited by Jedi-L; May 7th, 2012 at 09:20 PM.

  11. #11
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    Part 5

    The company rode out the following week, as Ekkehardt had said; one hundred soldiers split into four groups of twenty-five, each with a knight at their head. They were to force Lord Schwarzholz into submission, and end his rebellion before it got out of hand. Their route would take them along the west road and into the Gotteswald, the ancient forest.

    Markus, Ashlynn and the mercenary Coatl would head one group, Sir Alphonse, Sir Heinrich and Sir Friedrich headed the rest. The west road was one of the ancient highways cut out by the ancient people who once called this land their home, a great network of dirt paths lined with massive stones that snaked their way across fields and rivers and mountains. Lord Schwarzholz’s barony was situated near the Winterküste border, with his keep in the center of it. It was a good three weeks’ ride and the amount of men would only prolong the journey as food, water and other essentials would need to be brought along.

    They rode by day and rested by night, striking fires to ward the freezing dark. The night before they entered the Gotteswald, they lit a great fire and offered up a prayer and offering to the Gods before they entered the hallowed wood, for a moment even the youngest, rashest soldier sat in reflective silence as the choicest cuts of venison were charred to ash in the huge bonfire. But soon they again fell to their boasting and bawdy stories, laughing and swearing as if nothing had occurred. Of the stories around the fire, the ones that featured Markus were greatly popular, especially among the younger men at arms. They constantly begged they big man to regale them with tales from his time in the war, or told of stories they heard of him, which he denounced as greatly exaggerated.

    “I heard you slew a hundred men in one battle!”

    “Please, that’s hardly true. I served my duty as a loyal soldier, and that is all.”

    “I heard you crushed two men to death with just your hands, you just picked them off the ground and squeezed their heads until their eyes burst and brains came through their noses.”

    Markus shifted uncomfortably at that one, unknown to them he had done just that, and not just to soldiers either.

    “Aye, well, the Gods gifted me with strength and so I use it to protect my people and my comrades.”

    Ashlynn was also a great favorite, telling stories she had heard from her wet nurse as a young girl. The soldiers had learned to appreciate her skill with a bow, as it was what kept them fed with fresh game and not salted venison.

    Through all of this, the dark skinned mercenary stayed silent, simply observing everyone with his black eyes. This night, however, a young soldier kept prodding him to speak. The youth was a good fighter, but scarcely past boyhood with only a few whiskers to his chin and a voice which constantly broke.

    “Come on, sell sword” he said “we all know you have some stories to tell. You must have been all over the world; surely you have something to share?”

    Coatl looked at him, the fire causing his eyes to look like empty pits.

    “The things I have seen and done are not the sort that should be repeated.”

    The boy scoffed and stood with a haughty expression on his face.

    “You don’t scare us, come on and tell us something.”

    “Very well” rasped the mercenary “I will tell you about my childhood, if you would care to hear it.”

    All eyes turned to him, as he began to talk. He was monotonous at first, but slowly, surely, became more and more expressive.


    ---------------

    He was born on the day of flint, when the sun had been swallowed by the black hole that served as the door to the land of the dead. His mother’s labor had been difficult and painful, a sign his father hoped to mean his son would bring the same agony to his foes. The crimson corona around the darkened sun looked like flowing blood, and the whole land was cast into shadow. Finally, the door closed and light returned again to pour through the glassless window and into the birthing room where he now lay wailing and bloody on the straw mat.

    His father was the greatest warrior of the empire, or so he had been until the loss of his arm rendered him unable to swing his great macuahuitl or use an atlatl, his young wife was the daughter of a lesser priest, a beautiful woman who never wished harm to anyone.

    By the time he was five, however, his mother was gone forever. Imprisoned as an adulteress and sacrificed to the flayed rain God.

    “Your kind sacrifices people!?” interrupted one of the soldiers, horrified.

    “Depends on the God” replied the mercenary in a calm, cold voice. He lifted up his two pendants, the jade serpent and the black glass skull, letting the light catch them. “The plumed jade serpent, lord of the dawn and of the wind, he only wants fruits and animal blood, this God, however, we call him Tepeyolotl. He is the lord of night and of battle and jaguars. His skeleton burns away his skin and human blood quenches his thirst. Then there is our skinless lord of rain, he needs the blood to keep our land from draught.”

    “So…how…how do you do it?”

    “If you mean my mother, her skin was cut away and her heart pulled out and burned. The priest also wore her skin until it dried away, like a corn husk.”

    He heard one of the soldiers retch quietly, and waited until he was done to continue.


    ---------------

    With his mother gone, his father set him down the warrior’s path. He trained from dawn until dusk with the other boys who hoped to become Ocelomeh, jaguar knights. Every day he returned home bloody and bruised and exhausted, to which his father would look on with disapproval and say he could do better.

    When the boys reached thirteen, they were deemed ready for their final test. They would go out and capture people from the nomadic Zaranec people who were currently in the area. The nomads were not as powerful as their martial neighbors, but skilled warriors nonetheless and were worthy of sacrifice.

    They set out at dawn, wearing the traditional wooden armor and eagle feather headdresses over the steel that the pale skinned foreigners had brought when they first came to that land almost a century prior. For three days they marched across the rough, arid land and only stopped to drink from filthy puddles left in animal tracks or eat their dried locusts. When they came across the small village, they saw that the people had been expecting them. Their warriors were out in force, armed with their own macuahuitls or lances made from steel saber blades bound to a long chaparral poles.

    “There are many” said Kojotl, a thin and sly boy whom Coatl felt a close kinship, “we should wait until nightfall and take them by surprise.”

    “I agree” said Coatl, nodding his head, “by night we will have the greatest advantage.”

    “I do not care for trickery” said Mizquitl brusquely, folding his massive arms, “there is more honor in a fair battle than a trick.” The two other boys, Epazotl and Nohpalli agreed with him. Seeing there was no swaying the three dissenters, they grabbed up their weapons and prayed quickly to their lord of the burning bones and smoking glass, and charged down the hill with a great cry.

    The village warriors raised their own cry and charged to meet them, lances and macuahuitls held high. The youth let fly with their atlatls, some of the darts striking true and slaying the warriors. When the gap between them was closed, great bloodshed was had. Mizquitl swung his massive sword, the size of a small sapling, and took the head off one warrior before spilling the guts of a second. Kojotl and Coatl broke off from the melee, flanking around the back. Coatl swung his blade into the crotch of one of the warriors, before extracting the blade with an upwards sawing motion with sent the unfortunate man’s intestines falling out the jagged chasm between his ass and his belly. He lost sight of Kojotl in the dust, and continued deeper into the village. He pushed over a clay charcoal brazier where maize flatbreads were sizzling, before kicking the burning coals into several of the dried grass huts. The small huts almost immediately caught fire, and he killed the burning occupants while the others scattered. When all was done twenty eight warriors lay dead and thirteen more injured fatally. Eleven warriors were still alive and were bound with ropes of twisted donkey hair. Coatl had finished binding the surviving villagers, when he heard Kojotl groan. He looked behind him and saw his friend staggering towards the others with a lance speared through his stomach. He sat heavily on the ground and took deep raged breaths. He began to chant rhythmically, a small prayer to the dead god of Mictlan, the shadowy realm of souls. He knew his wound was fatal, and reached down and pulled the spear from his body. Coatl came over to him, and in the sight of all the others put a hand on his shoulder, before smashing in his head with a rock. They cut out his heart and buried his body with his sword and armor, praying for his safe journey to the shadow land, and set out with forty prisoners in tow.


    ---------------

    They had reached their second day of walking, when the hunting party fell upon them. The village they had destroyed had sent out hunters a day prior, to kill the deer that inhabited the foothills of the holy mountains. When they came to their destroyed homes and found their people butchered or taken, they had simply dropped the carcasses of the deer and followed the tracks. They would revenge themselves upon the youths who had done this, and dismember their bodies so that they may not reach their shadow lands.

    Nohpalli was the first to fall, an arrow erupted through his chest his tried to pull it out but another arrow buried itself in the back of his neck to the fletching and he fell dead. The hunters gave a cry and charged the youths, they numbered ten to the three youths and were so drunk on rage they did not see the boys ready their wooden swords. Coatl struck first, cutting into the first hunter’s shoulder and down into his chest, when he pulled his blade out the man’s ribs and pulsing lungs were clearly visible and a great eruption of blood came forth. Mizquitl took three down at once with a swing of his massive weapon, but was brought down himself by two hunters who perforated his back with their stone daggers. Finally it was Epazotl and Coatl alone against six hunters, and they swung their blades and killed them, but in the final seconds Epazotl was laid low with a well placed stab to his neck.


    ---------------

    Coatl stood alone, all around the dead and dying lay sprawled in the dust. A great swarm of biting flies came and he had to drive them off as he cut the hearts from the other boys and placed them next to Kojotl’s. All but four prisoners had died in the chaos, and these were badly wounded.

    By the time he had reached the great city, only one remained. But that night he was the sole boy to become a warrior as he devoured the heart of the prisoner and his friend’s hearts burned in the brazier.


    ---------------

    Coatl finished his narrative and looked up, the soldiers and knights looked at him aghast, before flying into a flurry of questions and pleas to continue the tale. He raised his hands and to his pleasure they grew silent. He would not admit it but speaking had felt cathartic, and he had a desire to do it again, but not now.

    “We will have time for tales later” he rasped “now, I need to sleep.”

    And as he said he pulled his saddle blanket over himself and drifted into a dream plagued sleep.

  12. #12
    DQ 1337 Member Jedi-L's Avatar
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    (This took far too fucking long to write)

    Chapter 3: The Snake, The Giant, The Lamb

    Part 1

    The Gotteswald was truly a wonder, conifers so ancient it was said the Goddess of Nature herself planted the saplings. The massive spruces were so tall and so close together they blocked the clear sun but still could not keep the snow off the forest floor. They had been traveling for a good week before they found their first settlement in the great woods.

    It was a tiny town, with only a few woodcutters’ shacks and a tavern. They stopped to rest and set out the next day, the townsfolk apparently knowing nothing of Lord Schwarzholz’s rebellion. So they continued on through the dark forest, the trees as old as mountains swallowing them in their evergreen embrace.

    ----------------

    It was nearing their second week when Ashlynn found herself alone with the mercenary. She had dismounted and walked to the side in order to pass water. Squatting near the cold ground was unpleasant, but between that and riding with a full bladder, it was lesser of two evils. When she had finished lacing up her breeches, she walked around the tree and found herself behind the dark skinned sell sword.

    He always rode in the rear of the formation, as he was mistrustful of anyone going behind his back, and would refuse to remain in a position that made it so others would be behind him.

    She quietly knelt down scooping up a fistful of snow, and crushing it down to a rough sphere. She let fly and her aim was true as ever, with the snowball striking Coatl on the back of the head. He reined his horse hard, brushing the cold stuff off his hair and bringing his hand around as if he were checking for blood. He dismounted, and stood still for a moment, before he scooped up his own wad of snow and flung it back at her.

    She yelped in surprise as the snowball hit her in the chest, exploding into soft white powder. The mercenary’s face was blank, but his eyes laughed with light. She began to make a new snowball, and he responded in kind, this time a thin smile playing on his face.

    They let fly and he took her throw on the shoulder and she in the stomach. She smiled back and scooped up more, but before she could form the projectile he sprinted at her and grabbed her wrist, a motion which caused her hand to jerk and the snow to fall to the ground. He was still smiling, his faces inches from hers.

    “That’s enough, little girl; it’s time you got back to the others.”

    He helped her mount her horse, before mounting his own. As she rode back to the advancing force she could feel Coatl’s eyes watching her the whole way.

    ----------------

    When they came to the town, the embers were still smoldering. The entire village had been burned to the ground, its citizens killed and thrown unceremoniously into a ditch. The only building that remained intact was the small temple, its solitary brass bell ringing mournfully in the wind.

    “That bastard” growled Markus, folding the remains of a torn Erdestreuer banner. “He would sink so low as to butcher a village, his own people, for holding loyalty to their true king.”

    The mercenary grunted and reined his horse forward, coming up beside the giant.

    “Judging by how fresh the blood and tracks are, we just missed them by hours, half a day maybe. If you want to revenge yourself upon them, do it and be done.”

    Markus narrowed his eyes, and shook his head. “The King wants this down peacefully, if possible. Lord Schwarzholz must be given proper justice, however undeserving he is of it.”

    The mercenary chuckled darkly at this, looking at the road ahead. “By my hand, you would call it murder, but by your King’s, you call it justice. His blood is on your hands then, but I’m sure you can live with that.”

    Markus did not offer any response, instead simply calling a forward march and reining his horse ahead.

    ----------------

    Night had begun to fall when the dark man came upon the raiding party, a group of four men in light plate and armed with simple swords and shields. They had made their camp in a clearing, and the smoke from their fire was easily visible. They were most likely the scouts of a much larger force that had razed the village.

    They all sat around their small campfire, roasting bits of game on skewers of green wood. They laughed and joked and told bawdy tales, as if the slaughter they had committed had never happened.

    “I’m going to go take a piss” said one with a drunken slur in his voice. The man made his way into the dark, the thick foliage swallowing him. When an hour had passed, his compatriots grew worried.

    “Johan, Uric, go check on Franz. That fool better not have passed out or have gotten lost.”

    The other two drew their swords and lit torches and walked into the deep woods, their torch growing dimmer as they moved. When they did not return, the last man drew his sword and moved to the brightest part of the fire, his back to the thick trunk of one of the great conifers. He eyes darted nervously from one shadow to the other. There were tales of ghosts in the Gotteswald, angry spirits of dead soldiers driven mad with rage and pain that still remained even after the battle fought in that ancient wood was long forgotten.

    Ghosts could not abide the light, however, and if he could stay there until sunrise he would be safe. He smiled to himself, his plan was foolproof. He still kept that smile when the dark figure wrapped his hands around his throat and choked him into unconsciousness.

    Coatl returned to the riders an hour later, his sleeping victim dragging behind.

    “What are you doing?” demanded Markus “unhand that man.”

    Coatl shot him a dark look and kept going, not even looking back.

    “You said Lord Schwarzholz is protected by justice, not this man, I’m going to go see what he knows. It may take a while.”

    “You depraved bastard, even if he is a traitor he is still a human, the Gods damn those who cause pain for no just end.”

    Coatl laughed, it was an ugly barking sound that Markus loved not.

    “Says the soldier to the mercenary. When I get back, I will gladly hear all your righteous rhetoric and hypocrisy.”
    And with that, the dark man dragged the helpless victim deep into the forest.




    It was daybreak by the time he returned. He had learned the main raiding party was being led by Schwarzholz’s son, Max, and numbered eighty rider and forty more men on foot. Their lead on them was also greater than anticipated, two days was between them and the King’s men, the small village was the work of a group that had splintered from the main force but had now reintegrated.

    How he had become privy to such information, the others dared not ask. They knew well enough that they would not care for the answer.

    ----------------

    When they rode on Schwarzholz’s keep, they were greeted with a closed gate and archers on the parapets. They defiantly flew their banners in place of the royal crest and their soldiers were armed with full quivers and freshly strung bows.

    They halted eighty meters from the wall, looking up at the stoic faces of the keep’s defenders.

    Sir Alphonse dismounted and pulled the scroll from its wooden box. He unrolled it and called out to the archers in his strong voice.


    “By the decree of His Majesty, King Ekkehardt Gottgipfel, true King of the Erdestreuer Kingdom, Lord of the mountains, heir to the Gods and protector of the people of the realm, Lord Ulfric Schwarzholz is to end his rebellion at once, make reparations to both the Kingdom and the families of the men he has had killed upon his order, surrender his keep to the crown and come to Eisenwasser immediately to stand trial for his crimes. If the following conditions are met, the King has promised that no harm shall come to Lord Schwarzholz or his family before the trial and-“

    Sir Alphonse was cut off by an arrow striking his pauldron, the heavy armor piercing head erupting bloody and dripping out the other side. He grunted and fell, scrambling to remount his horse as the rest of the archers notched arrows and let fly.

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