Torie paced back and forth in the Lord's antechamber. It had
been weeks since the Mage-Lord had been seen ... not since his
servants, his Fey'ri, had returned from whatever mission their
master had sent them upon. Torie disliked both the mage and the dark
minions that fluttered about him, but the young warrior considered
them the lesser evils. Dominia had shattered when he was just a lad
on the verge of manhood. The Royals had vanished overnight, leaving
a power vacuum that everyone rushed to fill. Now the once proud
kingdom was little more than a collection of various city-states, and
tyrannical baronies. There were near constant skirmishes, raids and
wars between them as each so called Lord pushed his claim to a throne
that no longer mattered. The innocence and future of the land was
being trampled in the mud under an iron-shodded heel.
Into this, the young Torie grew from a boy to a man ...
conscripted into one of the Baron Heldrin's militia.
Bravery,intelligence, talent, and more than a touch of luck had served the young man who quickly rose in rank, moreso from his determination to protect the innocents of his home than a desire to serve his Lord. He despised these so call Lords ... growing fat and happy, safely tucked inside their keeps moving armies like chess pieces in personal grabs for power while their people were starved, murdered, raped, and taxed till they barely had clothes, and all just to support their Lord's ambitions. The very same ambitions that were being played in a room somewhere on the floor below him. The Lords Heldrin, Lenet, and Orniv were manuvering as to which would succeed the Mage-Lord should he not return from his chambers. Pride, and ego were the twin drummers as the tell-tale sound of war drums began to beat again across the still wounded land.
Torie's growing anxiety over the mysterious disappearance of the Mage-Lord and his overwhelming desire to save his innocent people from yet more suffering from the rising political storm was forcing his hand. If the Lord didn't return soon the storm would break and all he had worked so hard to obtain would be lost. He didn't like the idea of having to consort with the Fey'ri, especially Sarya, but he was desperate and his list of allies was thin. Torie brooded for hours over his decision but finally sent a message to Sarya requesting a discreet meeting to discuss the situation. They had arranged to meet in a small clearing in the forest to the west of the city, not far from Torie's ancient family homestead.
The new moon enshrouded the forest in gloom and the settling fog provided ample protection both from prying eyes and ears. Torie watched and waited for over an hour and had decided that Sarya had backed out of the meeting and started to head back to the city. Defeat was all encompassing now and the trip back would be a long one. Looking off in the distance, there was a break in the growing darkness; a flicker; something out of the corner of his eye. Something out of place. Then a moment later her distinct shape came into focus; Sarya had come after all.
They had arranged to meet in a small clearing in the forest to
the west of the city, not far from Torie's ancient family homestead.
The new moon enshrouded the forest in gloom and the settling fog
provided ample protection from both prying eyes and ears. Torie
watched and waited for over an hour and had decided that Sarya had
backed out of the meeting and started to head back to the city.
Defeat was all encompassing now and the trip back would be a long
one. Looking off in the distance, there was a break in the growing
darkness; a flicker; something out of the corner of his eye.
Something out of place. Then a moment later her distinct shape came
into focus; Sarya had come after all.
The Fey-ri stood silhouetted in the faint moonlight just outside the shadows of the forest, causing Torie to wonder how long she had been watching him. She lifted a hand and a globe of light came to life at her fingertip, softly illuminating both herself and the clearing in which they stood. Her small lithe frame, stunning beautiful features, and long delicately pointed ears spoke to her elven heritage. The deep crimson shade of her skin, yellow reptilian eyes, and the dragon like wings that spread from her slender shoulders spoke of a different, more infernal parentage. Her lips were pulled back in the ever present smirk she wore that was both amused and condescending, revealing slightly pointed teeth that gave her a feral look. Her dark hair was tied up into a topknot that stood up from her head before dropping down in a braid to rest only a little ways from the ground. She wore deep blue silk tunic with copper trimming that folded over and buttoned from one shoulder to her opposite hip while complimenting her reddish-toned skin. Loose fitting tan pants neatly tucked into the tops of her black dyed riding boots. Lastly, the curved blade of the scimitar he had seen her wield with a skill that would make the greatest sword master he ever knew green with envy, rested in its midnight black sheath on her hip. The blade's evil looking carved leather wrapped bone hilt that ended in a feline skull staring out at you with twin onyx eyes, completed the image of the woman who lead the Mage-Lord's Fey-ri.
Leaving the glowing sphere of light floating unattended in the air, she slowly walked over to him, each movement with the sensual grace of a predator. It was difficult not to be momentary entranced by her movements. More then once he had watched her dispatched a man who had displeased, or had failed the Mage-Lord who just watched her unaware that his own death was at hand till her blade flew free of its sheath. She seemed to have reveled in that last moment of terror and horror before the rush of red filled the air. Torie wondered briefly if it was his time as her eyes held his, a bird trapped in the gaze of a snake. Her hand came up and her long black nails ran along the curves of his chest, breaking whatever spell held him in place as she purred softly, "So what has the oh so noble Torie begging me for a clandestine meeting in the dead of night?"
Torie shivered at her touch, but kept himself from pulling away. He
needed her assistance and he could ill afford to alienate her. Though
he disliked Sarya and her kind, the Fey-ri were the lesser of evils
at the moment. Torie briefly wondered when his life became a choice
of varying degrees of gray with no clear cut path of right. With a
sigh, he looked down at the crimson skinned woman before him. "With
good reason, Sarya, I need your help."
A smile of utter delight crossed her blood red lips as she walked around the warrior, letting her fingers trace along his frame, now with a certain amount of possessiveness. He had always intrigued the Fey-ri's leader with his odd notions of honor and duty. To hear him ask for her help was like sampling the sweetest of chocolate for Sarya, a pleasure she fully intended to savor as she purred softly to the handsome warrior. "You need my help? Whatever for could you have need of my skills for? Perhaps this is a personal request instead of business, after all you have chosen such a romantic setting for our encounter."
Torie caught her hand as she stepped back in front of him stopping her, and drawing a sharp look form her yellow eyes. "Sarya, I am serious, this affects you too. The Mage Lord has not been seen for close to a month now, and the other lords are starting to make grabs for his position and power. It's only matter of time before it turns bloody, and then everyone will suffer."
Sarya tilted her head back and her musical laughter filled the clearing for a moment before she turned her attention back to Torie. "What of it? Our Lord will return and then he will punish the traitorous dogs who would usurp his position and reward us who stayed loyal. Besides I thought you hated the lordlings, and they are next to useless. So just let them fight amongst themselves, keep to you oath to the Mage Lord, and their positions may well be yours when he is finished with them."
"Damn it, Sarya, I'm serious," he snarled softly his gaze held her own, surprising the Fey-ri with its intensity. "It is the people of our lands that will suffer if the lords begin warring with one another. The people who are looking to the Mage Lord and to us for their protection, people who have barely begun to rebuild their lives from the last series of wars. I will do anything in my power to see to it that what little peace they now enjoy will not be shattered." Torie's momentary burst of anger had been spent as he watched her unreadable face for some clue as to how she would react. He feared that he had lost her and her much need assistance in that instant. His thoughts started to twirl desperately, trying to figure how to stop her should she turned to leave. Torie had no idea what he would do if she turned him away.
Only the night crickets broke the tense silence as the two figures stood still in the center of the clearing each regarding the other. "What do you want of me?" Sarya's question finally broke the painful silence that had held the scene in its tense grip.
"What do you want of me?" Sarya's question finally broke the painful
silence that had held the scene in its tense grip.
Torie relaxed when she spoke, tension draining out of him as he exhaled the breath he had not realized he had been holding. Not only had she not walked off, she was willing to help him.
"I've seen your skills at illusions... making yourself look like someone else. All you need do is convince the others that the Mage- Lord has returned. Just for a short time, Sarya, till he's finished with whatever he's working on. The other Lords fear him enough that even if they suspect they won't dare challenge our ruse in case they're wrong. None of them would risk ending up eating flies come morning." He spoke quickly, outlining what he thought was a simple plan.
She listened. The task would be child's play for her and might prove to be amusing. She knew that the Mage Lord was within days of finishing the magical blade he was crafting and that the young warrior's fears were for naught. But Torie, without that knowledge, was so desperate to protect these so-called innocents. More importantly, what would he be willing to give her for the assistance that would cost her nothing to give. She regarded him again with a soft smile. He'd always been interesting to her . . . something about his purity ... his innocent nobility ... plus it didn't hurt that he was handsome. She lightly ran a finger along his arm, feeling a certain possessiveness as she considered what she would ask of him.
"What are you willing to give me for this service? After all my talents don't come cheaply, and there's risk in what you're asking me to do should our ruse be discovered." She purred softly drawing out each word as she spoke her eyes never wondering far from his face.
The question took Torie slightly by surprise. He'd either expected her to say yes or no. It never occurred to the young warrior that she might ask for payment in return for the task he asked of her. His face could not hide the surprise nor the concern as he tried to think of what he could offer her in return. He had little wealth of his own, and, aside from being the Mage-Lord's captain of the guard, he had little power to offer her anything else. He sighed softly not know what to say, but he knew he needed her help somehow. "I don't know Sarya ... anything you wish. If it's within my power to give, I shall."
~Perfect..~ She thought to herself as she suddenly stepped back from him, her leg quickly sweeping out taking the warrior from his feet before he could think of reacting. The next instant she had straddled his lap and pinned his arms above his head, effectively trapping him beneath her. Her grin was broad and wicked as Sarya leaned down to whisper lightly in his ear. "My price is simple then ... you ... are we agreed?"
The rough landing on the ground had taken the air from Torie's lungs, and she had him trapped before he could move. He struggled briefly, but was unable to break her iron grip on his arms. He thought it was the end when she leaned down to whisper in his ear, but his eyes suddenly shot open at her demand. At first he could only stare at her in stunned silence. Never had Torie expected she would demand that. The people had already suffered so much, and he was determined that they would suffer no more ... especially when he could prevent it, and the price was so small compared to the suffering it would stop. With the tiniest of sighs he nodded to her. "As you wish Sa.."
His answer was cut off as Sarya pressed her lips against his. She felt his body stiffen under hers, and he did not respond to her kiss. She knew he would have to grow accustomed to this change, but he was male and she had little doubt that with the proper encouragement he would perform as she desired. She waited as he slowly relaxed, then at least tried to return her kiss ... he would be amusing to teach, and would be an enjoyable plaything till she grew tried of him. But for now she would enjoy this as her hands slipped from his arms and began to slowly undo the lacing of his tunic...
Beyond the two who matted the green blades of grass in misguided
embrace, beyond the lengthening shadows of the night, beyond the
tangled branches of the knotted trees, a third pair of "eyes"
watched ... watched and turned away in thick-lidded disgust.
The word, ripe with hatred, rode the back of the wind as it whispered through the leaves and swayed the tall reeds of the fens and bogs that riddled the center of Tanglewood. It rode through thicket and clearing, over twig and leaf, past predator and prey as it was spirited headlong on its fast-winged journey though the night- draped wood. It was heard only by these as it passed ... by these and others of a far different kind who called the deep reaches of the forest their home.
It echoed still as it was borne further, deeper into a darkness that no eye could pierce. Many were within ....... many, and one; and within this crowded yet singular darkness the whisper was heard, seen, and tasted. It resounded amidst the hollow of the one and the frenzied passion of the many, taking a shape, a form, a life of its own within the senses that perceived it. Changes, it underwent, passing from one to the next in seamless, chaotic asymmetry.
~Rage . . . Destroy . . . Help . . . Delude . . . Pity . . . Purge . . . Trick . . . Revenge~
The changes sped, endless mutations, infinite combinations. They had now joined together, a twisted, massless form of possibility without beginning or end. Only the one could distinguish them now, and it tasted them all with equal delight. But the many rang on, and more potentialities were added to the fire.
~Feed . . . Avoid . . .Rend . . . Frighten . . .Kill . . . Teach . . . Fear . . . Deceive~
They too joined the warp that ran through the one; images, thought, and sound now one in the stillness that held sway in the dark. And then, at last, the one spoke with the voices of all ... some deep and ancient as the cool, moist earth and the bark-covered giants that rose therefrom ... others naive and spry, as new-sprung leaves dancing nimbly on an errant breeze. With a thousand voices it spoke a single word that echoed heavily amongst the many before catching the ears of the wind and taking flight once more.
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