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"They come, mistress."


The cloaked one lifted its cowled head toward the soft voice that sounded nearby. Silence reigned within the small hut for a moment before dry, brittle laughter rose from shaded lips. "Yes.. it is about time," some spoke in a sibilant feminine voice. The cloaked one extended her gloved hand to the side. Slender, fine figures gripped with gentle reverence as the slender form of a succubus faded into view. With care she added the stooped figure in rising to her feet unsteadily.


Her other hand extends to the side, calling to her a tall staff. Black stained and twisted like its master, the staff lifts and drifts to her hand. Grasped possessively, the stooped body leans toward the staff's support. Balanced, she draws her arm from the demon, motioning toward the door silently. The succubus smiles as she steps toward the hide veiled entrance to the hut, fading from view even as she flips the hide aside to depart.


The cloaked female lingers for a moment, casting her veiled gaze about this small abode. The narrow bed, the worn desk and simple chair all there is within, aside from stacks of books, parchment and curios. The moment passes and she begins to make her way toward the covered entrance, brushing the hide aside firmly.


Outside dusk is maturing. The sun is a thin line of radiance to the right and the brightest of the stars peek down curiously. Pausing just outside, the cloaked one lifts her head, both hands tight upon her staff as she listens.


Distantly the thunder of hooves reaches her ears. They will be here soon.


Thin lips, just visible beneath her cowl, curl into a derisive smirk. "Brynia.."


"Yes, mistress?"


" You have served Sooka well. You are released to walk this world." She turns her head slightly, tilted to the side, feeling a gentle touch of invisible lips upon her cheek. "See that these fools know pain for what is to come. Long.. slow pain."


"So it shall be, mistress."


Sooka did not need to enchant her sight to know the succubus would be long gone in moments. Nor did she doubt Brynia would do as she was told. It had been decades since she had fully broken her coercive control of the succubus.


It did not take long for them to come. Scant minutes pass before the first horses break through the thinning trees. Eyes glowing a soft green peer from below her cowl, watching them come. Two.. Six.. a dozen powerful steeds bearing an array of humans. Some in cloth, some in hardened plate. All armed, all quite angry.


Her thin lips curl anew into an expression of amusement. As well they should be.


She moves not as they dismount, a dozen warriors and mages, every one of them drawing weapons and staves to confront the lone female. Many hands lifted, poised to cast, half a dozen lengths of pointed steel aimed at her frail form. Yet, for the moment, they do not strike. Not before one in particular steps forward.


"Sooka greets you, young Marcus." Her soft words spoken in near perfect common.


The human, hardly a child as he nears the midst of his lifeline, stiffens at the condescending tone of the cloaked one's greeting. A head taller than the rest of his comrades, the human warrior points his broad sword at her as he responds.


"Your reckoning comes, foul orc! Long have I waited for the chance to see you spitted upon my blade!"


Sooka responds to his scornful words with her dry, brittle laughter. "Come then, young Marcus. See Sooka." One thin hand lifting to draw back her low cowl. "Come.. see.."


See the skin that has grown whiter with just the barest hint of green to remain. The faded black hair gone from her. Eyes once milky brown now glowing softly with their own fel light. The smoothness of her skin faded as well by aged wrinkles. Some aged hide gone in places, only to be replaced with some dark, roughly scaled hide. Her thin lips part in a cruel smile, showing what aged teeth she has left filed to wicked points.


Many of the humans gasp at the sight of her. One retreats a step, yet Marcus refuses to let his own unease show. "I need not see your wicked shape to claim your head, monster!"


Sooka's thin lips curl into a derisive sneer. "Come then, boy. Come show your men what is within you and take Sooka's head," she taunts softly.


Marcus growls, motioning for his men to stand down. Reluctantly they do. All of them are eager to take part, to smite down this foul one. Each having lost someone due to her trickery, her demon magic.


Sooka smirks as her eyes focus on the tall human. He evaluates her in return, seeking some clue as to her power, yet she moves not. Only stares at him with those cold, unsettling eyes. His inability to read her only fueling his anger.


Soon enough his discipline snaps. With a hoarse battlecry his heavy blade is lifted as he charges at her, the deadly weapon poised to sweep through her thin neck. She reacts swiftly for her extended years, one gnarled hand lifted. Thin fingers carefully tracing in the air as she croaks out blasphemous words.


He is nearly upon her when she clenches and twists her hand in a sudden jerk. The effect is instant as Marcus stumbles, his fighting form breaking as he releases a strangled gasp. Her lips curl into a derisive smirk. "Give unto Sooka," she mutters, pulling her clenched fist inward.


Marcus howls out at this, his body jerking in uncontrolled spasm. His heavy blade falls from nerveless fingers, dropping heavily to his knees. Yet part of him does not fall. A faint, wispy silhouette of the tall human remains, held rapt by the orc's dark magic.


The other humans look on in horror as this faint form draws toward the wizened orc. The definition of the form fading as it collapses in upon itself. Drawn by her will as her clenched hand releases and opens slowly. The glowing energy drawing together in her palm, crystallizing into a slender gem of pale violet. Marcus watches this with wide eyes, feeling himself fade with every moment. Watching his soul go to her. His vision blurring.. fading to black as the gem forms.


Her fingers curl about the stone as Marcus' now empty body pitches to the ground heavily, her eyes lifted to the rest of the humans before her. "Marcus belongs to Sooka now. Feel his strength unleashed."


With a twist of her wrist, the stone is flung toward one of the stunned men. Glittering in the waning sunlight for an instant before it is consumed by shadow. Shadow that grows as it hurtles toward one of the startled warriors. His choked gasp rising in volume as the shadow envelops him.


Sooka's dry laughter rings out as she sweeps her hand toward the rest of them slowly. "Come now, humans. Bore Sooka no longer with your dull presence. Come do as you wish and stand no more like the dullards you are. But know not all of you will walk from this place unmarked by my wrath!"


Broken from their shock, her words and their collective fear takes hold. Their instincts driving them to fight that which threatens them. Disjointed battle cries rise, even as two of the men are stricken, some dark plague manifesting within their bodies, eating at their flesh from the inside out. A caster crying out in agony as his well tailored robes catch to flame, burning a lurid green.


-==O==-


It's a somber procession that emerges from the forest some hours later. Seven men astride their steeds. Five horses bearing the remains of their former riders. A part of men meet them at the edge of the hamlet they call home.


The eldest among them speaks as the riders come to a pause, surveying the wrapped bodies. "It is done then?"


One mage, still bearing the deep scratch of nails along his cheek, nods and speaks. "The crone is dead. I have her head." His hand dipping to motion to the bloodied sack that hangs from his saddle.


"Take them to the priest and see to your own wounds. We shall not have another plague here because of that one," the elder proclaims, waving the men on their way.


As they move past, one of the other men with the elder speaks softly. "Condolences on your son. Marcus was a good man."


The elder Magistrate nods, heaving a low sigh. "Good, but headstrong." He pauses, then looks to his aides and waves them along. "Go now. I will be along shortly." Both bow slightly to the elder before reentering the hamlet.


Alone, the elder looks back toward the woods, where once the orc crone lived. A great, old wood that few entered because of her menacing presence, yet now it was wiped away. Still, he could not look upon the trees without feeling uneasy.


"Good riddens, says I," he murmurs, turning away to enter the town himself.


"Hello Himeld the Elder." A soft, sinuous voice speaks, sounding close enough to startle the aged man. He looks about quickly, but sees nothing.


"Wh.. who is it?" His walking staff held tightly as he seeks the source of this strange voice.


"A messenger, dear, sweet man." The voice coming from behind the aged man as he felt the smooth, cool pull of braded leather against his thin throat. "Your death will make a strong one, don't you think?"


The Magistrate gasped, then choked as the doubled whip cut off his breath. His staff fell with a clatter upon the paved path as his balding head is drawn back against the comfortable padding of the succubus, her slender form shimmering into view. Her cruel smile growing as she feels the old man die slowly within her enticing embrace.


She lets him drop after feeling his heart flutter its last. The succubus glances over her shoulder toward the huddled cluster of buildings as she coils her whip, surveying her new playground with care. Every life, every soul within her toy. This she will enjoy, oh yes. Let every one of them go to linger with her mistress in the burning fires, for their welcome will be warm indeed.


She laughed gaily as her form rippled, fading once more. Time to play.

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