Luciana of Sivlaatar, part 5
When Jeremiah saw the man for the first time, he immediately knew that there was something odd about him, something different. But it was as he drew his blade that the true nature of his origin came to light. The blade was of a peculiar design, a design with one purpose in mind, to kill. The handle was prolonged to allow for a two handed grip but not quite as long as a regular two handed sword would be. It had mounted combat in mind and yet the spikes and small blades at the point of the curved sword made the impression of a very personal attitude. Apart from this blade the warrior carried a weapon even more fearsome that the first, a two handed mace stained by blood of many who were crushed beneath its weight.
The fighter stood still and so did Jeremiah, he knew now that he‘s facing a warrior of Kaerd, a militant nation of most skilled warriors. Like every other militant nation even the Kaerdians maintained the physical strength of the nation through a rite of passage. Unlike other militant nations, the Kaerdians decided to make the rite harder than it should be. It led to two things, for one, the new offspring and the generations after this drastic change were extremely strong and well equipped for battle just by their nature, not to mention the hellish training which all young had to go through. The second effect was that the nation lost major part of its populations; for not many survived the rite and often those who did were crippled for the rest of their lives leaving but a selected few who had the privilege of reproduction.
Kaerdians devised the ritual themselves, it consisted of two parts first was to hunt a beast and the second was to hunt a man, well the beast hunted the man. During the former the twelve years old boys and girls of Kaerd had to bathe in blood and then go out into the wild to hunt down the mighty Kaerd Tiger. A majestic beast with its long claws and many a sharp teeth it was feared by most of the people. Just a few inhabitants were sent every five years to collect one kitten from an adult mother. When they managed the ritual could begin, they bathed their children in the blood of the kitten, just to make the mother more aggressive and sent them out to go through a location filled with the mighty cats.
In the light of the dusk Jeremiah cautiously observed the warrior and slowly slid his hand onto the handle of the Anerith. It was getting dark and so he would have the advantage, but every time he tried to come up with an opening for an attack he failed miserably. He knew that if there is any chance for him to win this fight it will have to be either through trickery or deception.
He put the Moonblade in his other hand and turned the crystal to the wind symbol, speed, he thought was the way to overcome a mighty warrior of Kaerd. He leapt sideways, spinning in the air to gain momentum and strike. In the last moment of the flight their eyes met, Jeremiah mid-air and prepared for the blow and, seemingly disinterested look of the warrior were just a few centimetres apart. Then he stopped. The feel of cold steel nearing his neck that he was too familiar with gave him the edge, as soon as his feet touched the ground he jumped back and observed the blade that could have been his death should he be just a bit slower while retreating.
It was now the warriors turn, with an expressionless face, and dead eyes he leapt forward. His huge two handed mace smashing the rocks that were just a second ago under Jeremiah’s feet. He never lost his momentum, the strikes were consecutive and fast, too fast, the warrior spun and with each circle closed the gap between the two warriors. It was no other than Jeremiah who got to taste the blood first, his own blood that is. He crashed onto the ground coughing up the blood that emerged in his lungs as his broken ribs found their way into the organ.
The Kaerd stopped his movement. He laid the hammer next to Jeremiah’s head and waited for his look. Jeremiah then still unable to move after the shattering, bone breaking blow watched the bloody end of the hammer. The warrior waited and watched, but somehow the remains of his training told him that there will be no more fun with this prey and so decided to end his struggle as all Kaerdians do, with one blow to the head, a painless honourable death. They believed that by smashing your opponent’s head you prevent him from seeing his own loss and so let him die in the good way. It was just a way for people like them to deal with the death on every day basis. But Jeremiah saw no honour in death. However, he felt it closing in; he felt it with every inch of his body, the cold and the darkness, crawling all around him. He had but one desperate solution in mind, he turned on the ground to face the warrior and then with a slight movement of his fingers adjusted the stone on the Moonblade to the symbol of rock and attempted to kick the Kaerdian warrior, the effect was not as visible as he would wish it to be but it gave him an opening to escape from the biggest danger, a circle which was drawn around the warrior with his weapon.
Just in time he managed to switch the symbol back to wind and evade an attack, it was all he needed. He spun and placed the Anerith in the back of the enraged warrior. He stopped, and the smell of burning flesh filled the air. That’s more like it. By now the warrior fell on his knees and rested the remaining weight of his body on his weapon, grasping the handle as tight as he could while trying to drag himself up. Jeremiah felt the life power seeping away from the warrior. He swapped the Moonblade’s crystal back to fire and was just preparing the final blow of mercy when he passed out. The warrior, still kneeling on the ground held the mace and looked as vital as before. With a quick flick of his hand he removed the dagger from his body, the smoke of burnt flesh still rising up from the wound. Was it all an act? He thought just before finally touching the ground.
Luciana – After
Luciana had to stop. She turned back and with a long look in the direction of the castle made a silent wow never to kill in this way again. Even though she had all the reasons to do so, after a while it seemed more brutal, considering her own standards for brutality, the crime that she had committed was indeed despicable. She was looking at the topmost tower of the castle which was the only part of the structure still visible on the horizon. Soon she would have to travel into another world and there, she knew. There will be no time to reminisce about the old deeds. This is how she wanted to amend for her sins. With a wow to herself which was meant to restrain her cruelty, to restrain herself. Yet the she could still feel the new gained power tingling on her skin, flowing and twisting, making her aware of what she had done.
Luciana – Before
S*he entered the front gate and as she did an awful disgusting smell managed to find its way through her nose. It was way worse than the smell of a rotting corpse, it was way worse that the smell of a shit filled sewer, it was something she has never experienced before. The stomach unsettling sensation made her put a protective charm just on her sense of smell to keep it intact. She carefully looked around the entrance hall and found nothing out of the ordinary, there were tables, candles, tapestry, a fireplace in the centre and food, which despite being rotten and crawling with worms seemed to be prepared by many servants. She walked towards the throne, which was in the corner of the room. Odd as that may be, there had to be a reason for that and she was pretty sure the space occupied by the fireplace was not it.
She attempted a few nonviolent spells to break through the magic of the place but failed. High time to get more destructive. She conjured a fireball above her head, a large sphere of fire, which she then sent directly towards the fireplace. It moved at last. The pressure wave opened a path into a room directly behind the fireplace. The room was even gloomier than the rest of the castle; it was filled with dim dark green light and the same disgusting smell which now took the form of smoke. As she entered she started to recognize shapes, there were several braziers in a circle around the centre of the room. Rookie magic. She moved even deeper in the room, one hand clutching the Bloodthirster, the other ready to cast a protective shield in an instant.
There was a distinctive shape in the middle of the room, a skeleton, but this skeleton had clearly living eyes, which were now looking directly at her. She noticed too late, that the servants of the castle were already closing in on her from behind. One of the horde managed to scratch her back, then she jumped. Quickly she moved to the other side of the room. Obviously, she knew summoning and necromancy, but it was way above the skills of a master sorcerer to summon and control more than ten ghouls, where here, obviously, were hundreds. Now she realized, that what she saw earlier outside the castle was no plague, it was the doing of a mighty wizard; all that remained was to find him. But first she had to deal with other things. She cast a light spell, suddenly the room shone bright white. Now you’re done maggots… But the spell had no effect on the ghouls; they continued their slow march towards her, undisturbed. Luciana was surprised. This was one of the more powerful spells against necromancy and its spawn. She decided to take up the challenge, a spell which would draw considerably more of her power but would cleanse the whole land when cast well, and she knew that she could cast it more than well.
Luciana looked for a spot on the ceiling and then, focusing on one, cast the spell to open the gates of heaven and smite the blight. A small bright crack appeared above her head. It was even brighter than the rest of the lit room, celestial white. Light filled with warmth and feeling of safety started to crawl through the growing crack, but Luciana felt her powers had dropped considerably. If she was to maintain the gate she would have to consume the last of her energy stones. As she did the gate cracked full out open and the ghouls immediately evaporated when struck by the light. They fell and their souls, Their souls are not there… Luciana noticed too late once more. The skeleton in the middle, as it was now clearly visible, had all the souls around him, around the castle, around the land. His bony hand moved a bit as if to pull at a string. At that moment massive amounts of energy were pulled in. The hand immediately grew flesh and started to move a bit less clumsy. The skeleton repeated the same with the other hand. Again Luciana felt a massive pull of energy which was likely to tear the whole room apart.
The Kaerdian warrior fell to the ground. When Jeremiah, a few seconds later, recovered from the shock he just received by his hammer, he could only see the warrior lying on the ground. He was sure that he did not even touch him and yet the warrior fell as if struck by lightning as if his soul left his body and the flesh just crumbled down to earth. His path was clear now; he had to get to the castle on the horizon. The hunter’s mind calculated carefully, if he was to meet another one of these warriors it would mean serious trouble and he did not want to rely purely on luck and forces unknown to him to determine his survival. He calculated that if he’ll move carefully, undetected, and in this forest it would take him about a week to get to the castle. He signalled Aniel to come out of hiding and they continued to cut their way through the forest. I ought to be more careful…
The skeleton now restored the upper half of his body. It was a man, a man filled with power; his face was twisted with a smile. He had dark eyes and long dark hair, his pale white skin only outlined these black features. Even though more and more of his ghouls were evaporating under the light which was still spreading, he was still smiling. Then he looked upon the hole in the ceiling and it shut, it shut immediately. Luciana felt the fatigue and she felt the impact of the spell being forcefully shut, it was like if somebody tore her hand off. She fell on her knees, breathing heavily and thinking. It was obvious that the mage had incredible power and she had barely any left. She tightened her grip around the Bloodthirster and swung it with all her remaining force. Thankfully it struck in the flesh of some of the ghouls, but no power seeped into her body. No power at all.
She needed more power and so she tried one last spell, it was the basic spell of necromancy. From its nature it was cruel and efficient. Just the thing I need…The spell itself required from little to no power at all. For all that needed to be done was to surround her hand with her own soul and then plunge it into another body and consume his or her soul alive. She hit the nearest ghoul and attempted the consumption, but there was a problem something was already eating the man’s soul and it had its teeth buried deep within. She struggled for her life now; she had to absorb at least some of the man’s remaining life force.
Having his soul eaten by two entities at once the man shrieked and twisted his face in agonizing pain, shortly after that he fell dead to the ground. Luciana didn’t manage to get all of the remaining power but she managed to get enough. She had enough power to coat the Bloodthirster with her soul; she swung the blade once again. The effect was not perfect, but she was now gaining energy. The fight started to turn. Her sword grew slightly bigger, slightly deadlier and she, she grew angrier.
How dare he incapacitate Luciana of the Sivlaatar! She was swinging her sword wildly around, with each hit biting a bit of the people’s souls for herself, biting off their lives, their memories. Finally she restored most of her power and the room was clean of the ghouls. She knew that it would take some time before the wizard could flood the room with his servants again. She now understood the evil nature of his spell. He expanded his own soul to his servants and slowly consumed them to gain their power, but in order to extend his soul over the whole kingdom he had to sacrifice a lot. He sacrificed his body. All but his eyes and yet even in peril it looked like the man did not want to call upon all of his powers, his legs were still skeletal, clearly signalling that he still controlled some of his undead armies.
Luciana came even closer and then swung her sword directly at the wizard. His smile was still intact, that upset her even more. But the sword was parried by a shield, a shield of souls. It gave her additional power, but seemed almost unbreakable. She hit the barrier again and again. Feeling stronger with every swing but having no immediate effect on the man. Also now she could see yet another wave of ghouls closing in, but these were different, they looked more like warriors than the castle servants from before. She realized the danger; it was high time for her to think of another strategy. She plunged the sword into the barrier for additional energy and focused on the space directly above the man. Once more, a small opening is all I need…She conjured the gate, and swung it opened with the energy she was leeching from the shield. Once the celestial light made contact with the barrier it started to recede. And she used the opening. She reached in and touched the man’s head. She was angry, so angry and she put all her might into the one spell. It was a curse in fact. First she leeched his power, she sucked in as much as her body would hold but she could not take it all.
Luciana then, in all her anger decided to make him pay. She reversed the spell. All these souls that she, herself, did not manage to eat, would bite off the wizard’s soul, they would bite and bite, through all the souls that he stored and then through his own. It was the most painful way to go that she could cast on him. It would take years before the peasants of the kingdom will manage to eat all of him, years of pain and torture.
His smile disappeared from his face as Luciana left the room…