Conclusion Part 1 of 3Edit
A cold wind blew through the trees. Tears slipped from her face as she leaned in and let her brother support her. The chill breeze swirled around her beautifully crafted robe, whipping the thin material around her frame and pressing it against her trembling legs. No one had come. It was just her and her brother. A thin little man with a balding head and wire thin glasses said the prayers and an old man huddled under a thick dark cloak to keep out the cold stood off in the distance.
The last of the freshly dug earth was patted smooth and she choked back a sob. Giving up the battle not to cry, Loria let loose the soft wail. She collapsed against her brother Alexi and they both stood there in the cold wind. The gray overcast sky threatened rain on their mothers grave.
The thin man opened his jacket and pulled out a scroll. He meticulously unfolded it. The paper crackling was the only sound until he cleared his throat. He looked around guiltily as he broke the silence. It was as if he were afraid of disturbing the countless dead lying under the earth all around them. With a reedy finger he pushed the wire glasses off his nose and said the last few words. Then, silently, he then left them; two young adults huddled together and the old man.
The old man did not move. His shabby, dirty and dark cloak remained tightly wrapped around his frame. An old and battered hat was pulled down past his eyes. He leaned against a tree and watched as Alexi slowly led Loria away. A single rose was tossed onto the mound of freshly turned earth.
Alexi pulled his sister closer. He felt he needed to protect her now. He regretted that he had let the time slip away. His sister was a young woman now, pretty even, for a sister. Her hair reached her waist, shining gold just like their mothers. She was slim and looked so tired. She had obviously overworked herself in training, pulling on reserves of strength to get her through the last remaining challenges before she became a full magus. He vowed to not let his duties in the priesthood come between them again. It was sad that the first time he had visited her was at their mothers funeral.
Softly Alexi placed his arm around his sisters waist and lifted her up on his horse. The young chestnut shifted under the added weight but didnt rear, as if he sensed the delicate female on his back was lost in deep sorrow. A crack of thunder rumbled away as Alexi spurred his horse and led them toward the long road back to their inn. A soft cold rain began to fall around them as if the sky had finally released its hold on its tears. Just before the horse passed out of sight, Loria looked back and gently bowed her head at the old man against the tree and then looked ahead, never to look back again.
Back in the graveyard, the old man stepped away from the tree and approached the disturbed mound of earth. He walked slowly as if his age had finally caught up to him and made his muscles weak. He hardly made a sound until he reached the side of new grave. He fell to his knees and pressed a withered dry hand on the white tombstone. His bony fingers traced the lettering, LUCIA.
The cloak parted a bit in the wind revealing a torn and rotted body. A single dry sob escaped from his throat before a gleam of anger replaced it. Violently he slammed his fist into the stone, knocking it slightly to one side. Still shaking, he bowed his head again. Trembling fingers caressed the tombstone lovingly as if it were the most precious thing in life to him. He spoke then, a rasping, hollow voice in a strange hissing tongue. Even if anyone had been around they would not have understood what he had said. The Gutterspeak trailed off as the rain slanted around the thin kneeling body on the ground. There was nothing but death present.
The rogue smiled slightly when through the rain a single ray of light glinted off the white stone etched with his loves name. It was as if she had laid a ghostly hand on his shoulder in comfort. The wind whispered as if she was speaking to him from the nether, I am sorry my love My loveRemember me
A small drop of moisture fell from his sunken face. A few last tears for his love fell before he locked them away. He vowed never to shed tears again.
Eyes dry, the Forsaken stood and drew his swords. Each glowed with an otherworldly red shimmer of magical fire. He hated it, as if it was still covered with her blood. With an incredible show of strength, born of pain passion, he violently drove the blades into the fresh earth. He pressed all of his despair, all of his hate and anger into the thrust. Downward, the blades sank into the dirt until with a final grunt; his hands on each hilt, the blades forever sank deep into the earth that covered his love. He pulled his hands from the grave and stared at the holes his swords had made. He filled in the wound each blade made in the earth. No one would know that the steel tribute was there. His swords, his twins, were buried with his heart.
Hours passed while he knelt at the gravesite with his eyes locked on the ground. His thoughts drifted over the past few weeks, and the last moments he had spent with Lucia. Nights that had started on the sleepless one under the intertwined trees. It was a fitting place. The trees locked in a loving embrace that would eventually choke and kill the best in them both.
It was the middle of the night when Lucia awoke. The only light in the still darkness was the tiny flickering pinpricks of the fireflies as they danced in and among the flowers and grass. Above her, a few of the little bugs flittered through the branches of the interlocked trees, lighting up little hollows in the leaves. Her eyes shifted and peered into the darkness. She could sense him there on the fringes of her sight, standing stoic guard through the night. Giving up her attempt to get a glimpse of him, Lucia rolled over and laid her head back down on the root that was serving as her pillow. She laid there, her eyes wide open in the blackness, staring at nothing as her troubled thoughts took over; wondering what had awakened her when she was so exhausted.
She was tired. The feeling went beyond simply needing sleep. The weariness had crept into her spirit. It seemed that peace would always be on the horizon, never getting any closer to their outreached grasp. Her dreams came back to her, lovely visions that included only the two of them. She sighed, a thin feeble sound and tried to stop the large silent tears that slipped from her eyes. It all seemed hopeless.
How long she stared in the darkness the same thoughts running in circles in her mind, Lucia didnt know. The world around them was so quiet; a quietness seemingly perched on the edge of expectation. Somewhere in the darkness, the sharp crack of a dry twig snapping sounded. In the silence it was like a gunshot. Lucia shot up so fast she knocked the top of her head against the thick bark of the trees above her. Silence prevailed again. Lucia held her breath. She strained her ears for any sound in the night that would betray the source of her sudden uneasiness.
She nearly screamed when a hand was placed on her shoulder and a soothing voice whispered, Silence now, my heart. There are two of them. They know we are here. One is a hunter and it looks like she has been tracking us for a while now. Lucia held in her sigh of relief when she recognized Kopfjaggers voice in her ear. The hand was removed and she knew he would now be impossible to see even if there was light.
Alone in her shelter Lucia waited. The blackness pressed in on her. The silence unnerved her. The not knowing what was happening was excruciating. She held her breath and finally she heard something; a sharp yelp of pain, the sounds of steel connecting with steel, a muttered curse. Lucia couldnt take it, she had to know. She carefully crawled out from the trees and stood. She whispered under her breath and willed a tiny spark of flame to erupt from her fingertips.
In the mild light she could see Kopfjagger circling around a troll. Her rogue had a magical arrow bouncing above his head, making him stand out violently against the purple of pre-dawn light. Lucia cried out when the girls sword swung so close to him, the tip nicked the side of his face. It didnt seem to bother him as he again dashed behind the hunter and slashed at her back. She slumped over giving him a chance to dig his blade into her flesh. He was clearly winning the fight until he was stopped in his tracks. The blast of ice had come from the side as a mage released his ice-laden magic. The hunter backed away, lifted her bow and aimed.
Lucia didnt wait. She hurled a ball of fire at the hunter and watched in satisfaction as she dropped to the ground, dead. The mage whirled on her and she felt a deep cold sensation, a tight knot of emptiness in her chest. Lucia gasped in shock and sucked in a breath. She tried to blast the mage with fire but she couldnt, her magic was gone, and Kopfjagger couldnt get free of his icy cage. The mage turned to face Lucias protector. The mages hands glowed with balls of hissing fire and by that light, Lucia could make out the sneer on the mages face.
All that she could do was watch in horror as the huge ball crashed into Kopfjagger. The stench of charred rotting flesh slammed into her. The mage began casting again, another fireball to burn his victim. Seconds before the fire left his hands, the flames vanished as his spell was interrupted by Slather, who suddenly appeared from the left and sent a shock from the earth into the mages side. Suddenly the battle had turned in their favor. The ice binding Kopfjagger had shattered, Slather was descending on the mage, his weapon ready. Lucia could feel the power of her magic as it came back in full force. The battle was indeed over very quickly, but not the way Lucia had thought it would end.
Just as Kopfjagger was about to drive his sword into the undead mage, he slumped over in a daze as the hidden rogue sapped him of his strength. The hunter pulled herself off the ground giving up the ruse of death and blasted Slather with a scattering shot. The mage turned to Lucia and suddenly she was a sheep. No longer in control of her own actions, she wandered here and there looking for a nice mouthful of greens to nibble on.
The three enemies turned their attention to Slather as he came out of his pain-induced wanderings caused by the hunters shot. Three on one, Slather stood his ground. He called down lightning that raced from one to the other to the third. He threw down four wooden objects covered with runes, symbols and paintings of strange looking animals and people. One in each of the four directions, they surrounded him and filled him with power of fire, earth, air and water. The totem of fire immediately quivered and a wave of flames touched and burned the mage, hunter and rogue as they teamed up on him. He shocked the mage again, stopping him once again from casting a searing ball of fire at him. He fought hard and yet was vastly out numbered. He was soon out of strength as his wounds from arrows, slashes and magic overcame his will. Just as Kopfjagger regained his strength and Lucia was herself again, Slather dropped to the ground, his life at an end.
The mage chuckled at Lucia when she finally stood on her feet and her hands began to glow. Seconds later she was a sheep again. The group, mage, hunter and rogue, turned to Kopfjagger and attacked him next. Ice snared his feet, the arrow returned over his head and the rogue circled behind him to sink his dagger into his back, sapping him once more. A thick shank of rope was produced while Kopfjagger was unable to fight. His hands were fastened behind his back as he leaned over in a daze. The rogue removed Kopfjaggers twin swords of fire, looked them over and then fastened them on his waist along with his own.
When Lucia was herself again she did the only thing that could save her now, she ran. As soon as the hands of the mage began to glow she countered his spell, blinked fast and landed 30 feet away from them. She ran as fast as she could. Glancing over her shoulder she gasped. The rogue was sprinting after her, almost catching her. She screamed and stayed his movements with a circle of ice. He growled at her in frustration as she blinked again. She was so far ahead of him she began to feel a little bit safer. She began looking for a place to hide when she remembered the hunter. She couldnt hide! The hunter would just track her down. What did she know of hiding her trail? As if Lucia called her forth with her thoughts, the hunter was suddenly behind her. Lucia heard a series of tiny screams and shrieked in pain as fragments of a scatter shot pierced her flesh like pins stabbing into her arms and face.
She was so dazed from the tiny little wounds all over her exposed flesh that she whirled around for a couple seconds. By the time the stings faded and she came to her senses it was too late. She was surrounded by the rogue, his dagger unsheathed, the mage, his spells ready to cast, and the hunter, her bow drawn and aimed.
Lucia slumped in defeat. Her spirits fell as the rope wound around her wrists and she was led back to Kopfjagger. She glanced once behind her as they were both led away and stifled a sob when her eyes caught a glimpse of the prone body of Slather, still lying where he fell.
The group of bounty hunters pulled Lucia and Kopfjagger along, chuckling and laughing amongst themselves, talking of the big reward when they returned to the Undercity with their prey. They didnt bother looking back, but if they had they would have seen the bright circle of light that surrounded the body of the shaman. It ebbed with the power of his spirit. Tiny specks whirled in the ring of and a column of gold shot down the center of it and landed on the dead troll. It lasted only a moment and then abruptly faded away. All was still again until just as the sun broke the horizon, in the grayness of dawn before the light painted the sky, the shaman drew a breath as the life that was restored to him by his own spirit filled his body. Alive but weak from his ordeal in the nether and the resurrection of his own self, Slather pulled himself up and prepared to follow the group of five headed for the Undercity. Three enemies and two captured friends moved swiftly with a Troll watching every move.
The rain had settled into a dreary mist and still the cloaked figure knelt at the side of the grave. He found it a fitting place for him. All around him lay the dead, like him, un-breathing corpses. Unlike him they had found their peace, their misery had ended with the ending of their lives. He was a corpse that walked. A withered shell that was doomed to lose everything that had meaning to him. It filled him with self loathing and hate. He was denied life, denied love and was even denied peace in death for even that seemed denied to him.
Each time his spirit released from his body, he was forced back into the rotted shell that he had honed into a killing machine. For a moment he was blinded with malice but soon that faded and once again he stared at the gleaming white tombstone in front of him.
LUCIA ADELLE GUSTIPE
Loving Mother of Two
Mage of the Third Order
May she forever rest in Peace.
It said so little of the woman he had come to know. It failed to mention her love of flowers and herbs. It passed by her kindness and courage, her beauty and sense of adventure. The words were meaningless trivial drivel that could be read on any number of grave markers that surrounded him. Cold and impersonal, they didnt convey the true nature of the person buried beneath them, the strengths and weaknesses.
His memory was patchy on most things, but she burned bright in it still. He supposed as the years went by he would begin to forget her smile, her charming ways, her idiotic bright ideas, her fondness of sheeping things, and especially the things that she had made he feel, love for one. Yes, he would forget all about that. He wanted to forget didnt he?
And yet on his finger were the rings, three now. Two were shabby, one dented and dull no distinctive color to it at all, the other almost identical and the third a bright shiny gold. It barely fit on his finger, resting tightly on a section of fleshless bone. It had belonged to her and now he wore it. He knew that it too would fade and discolor as the time wore on it, just as his memories of her were bound to fade..
In the background he heard the last rumble of distant thunder as the storm faded further away. No sun dared peak from the gray clouds yet, it stayed hidden as if afraid of his wrath. This day reminded him of the cold morning that he had failed to keep Lucia safe, reminded him of their capture and its end result that now faced him with stark harshness; the polished bone white of a tombstone.