Isles of the Black Sand

Pelobus

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a part of Isles of the Black Sand, by Ten.

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Ten holds sovereignty over Pelobus, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Setting

Default Location for Isles of the Black Sand

Pelobus

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Minimap

Pelobus is a part of Isles of the Black Sand.

8 Characters Here

Crow [7] A powerfull sorcerer turned lich, though he doesn't remember how. The main source of Gammon's undead troops.
General Eckhart [7] General of the Demon Lord's army
Lord Gammon [6] Demonic ruler of the Black Sand Isles
Rek [5] A berserker warrior with a battle axe.
Miu [3] "Hi there! Do you want to play with me?"
Emiko [3] "I will protect you, little cub... no matter what, I promise."
Kathleen Hare [0] An opportunist. A witch practiced in white magic, interested merely in surviving the war.
Avalon Eberhardt [0] "Fighting ability is important... handcuffs only go so far..."

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon Character Portrait: Rek

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#, as written by Ten
Image


Eckhart felt sick, as he usually did when entering the castle. As loyal as he was to the Lord of the Black Sands, something dark crawled and writhed about inside him whenever he was in the man's presence. Not that Eckhart was a perfect or even moral man under any definitions, but Gammon, the Demon Lord, took being "evil" to extremes that made even the most heartless and bloodthirsty men cringe. Inside, the castle's floor and walls were a dense black material that seemed to absorb the lighting from the braziers positioned every few feet in the hallways and took every inch of heat from within the walls as well. Stifling a shiver, his metal bound boots made heavy clinking sounds on the polished obsidian as he sauntered with more confidence than he felt, deeper into the fortress.

Arriving to his Lord's chambers and after a few solid knocks, he was finally admitted into the evil man's presence. Eckhart was a tall man, solidly built, towering over the other man in a physical sense, yet Gammon's whole demeanor and aura of authority was enough to dwarf the general. The room had one lone torch within, and as large as it was, the blackness of the decor still swallowed every inch of the light that was not necessary; details were a frivolous thing not entertained by this Lord. Still, from what he could see, the walls were sparsely decorated and a humungous bed dominated the right side of the room, banisters holding up dark, purple and blood red velvet curtains - both colors almost black in their darkened tones. A tall window sat on the left wall, with the Lord standing before it looking out at the desolate and storm cloud shadowed land beyond. It was noon when he arrived, which made Eckhart swallow thickly to realize how much darker this place would get at nighttime; a blackness so deep, it probably warped a man's sense of existence.

Turning around to greet him, eyes black as ink with red irises turned amber in the dim lighting, the Demon Lord gave him a large, illustrious smile. "General Eckhart! How good of you to answer my summons! I have a new assignment for you but before we get to the nitty gritty, how goes the war?" he spoke with the echoes of several voices speaking at once, some deep and graveled in tone and others high and womanly, all of them blending together in a monstrous harmony.

Madness filled that grin as he stared at the general fiendishly, his youthful features, well groomed with golden eyeshadow and dark eyeliner making him look almost feminine, if not for the heavy brow-ridge and large nose that dominated his face. The velvet cloak he wore draped over him, all the way to the ground, shoulders topped with spikes and large feathers, and elegant, manly hands emerging from the sleeves with long, pointed nails on each finger. His exposed stomach and chest were slender yet muscled, a thin trail of dark hair dusting above his groin, disappearing beneath his trousers, and a golden ring put through his right nipple glistened in the available light. The entire package was alluring, tempting and sensual and yet at the same time made him feel sick with fear and shame.

Without missing a beat during his quiet inspection, he answered, his deep voice, normally making other men seem girlish in comparison now seemed unnatural and bizarre when compared to the Demon's multiple voices. "We have overtaken the Gillians and the Welks and have squashed all rebellions in their territories. Our forces are moving steadily north and we should reach the capital by the Tide months, as planned, my Lord."

Stalking forward, like a large and dangerous cat, the Lord made his way closer to Eckhart, now standing merely a foot or two away, his closeness only increasing the level of intimidation and seduction radiating from his being. Looking up at the general with a wicked grin, the voices echoing from Gammon's throat asked, "And the recruits?"

There was absolute delight in his master's anticipation of this response and it was another thing that filled Eckhart with an eerie chill and made his stomach revolt in disgust. Gammon didn't use regular soldiers, instead, he infected the strongest and most able-bodied men in the newly conquered territories with his blood, turning them into shadow-monsters that never died. Gammon had difficulty trusting people and preferred to take the entire choice away from those who might abuse his generosity in letting them live. Thankfully, those who lived in the Black Sand Isles, having already declared allegiance to their Lord for several years, were absolved from this paranoid distrust. Still, the human forces on their side were dwindling as the battles raged on, and their warriors died, until Eckhart found himself mostly shouting orders to undead shadows rather than real men.

Keeping in a sigh of discontentment, Eckhart said, "We have added 60,000 more Shades to our numbers."

Gammon stuck his tongue out and bit it, smiling gleefully in triumph. With him being this close, Eckhart could now see that the Demon Lord's tongue was forked and all of his teeth were sharpened like a garwolf's. "And the Gillians are tall too," he said in approval, walking over to a dark, blackish red cabinet and pouring himself a glass of a thick, sickly green liquid and taking a tender sip. "It'll be a great advantage to add that height to our forces. Now, about why I called you here..." Walking back over to Eckhart, with glass in hand, his demeanor changed to become more hungered than before as he spoke of his new desire, the tones of his voices sounding eerie as his voice lowered. "I'm rather lonely, in this castle by myself with nobody except Shades to play with. Since I'm going to be ruling the whole world soon, I've been thinking a lot about my future. About producing progeny. Actual brood." As opposed to the shadow-clones he turned other men into and disgustingly called his "children". "Since you're right on the frontlines of newly conquered lands, I figured you were in the best position for this task."

"Sir?"

"I want you to find me a bride," the deeper echoes of his voices sounded louder than the rest as he spoke this sentence, his red eyes seeming to flare bright as freshly shed blood. "The perfect companion for your Lord. Can you do that for me, Eckhart?"

There was the sense of being admitted into his Lord's confidence, as if a lot of trust weighed on him being awarded this task and he felt honored to be chosen for it. He couldn't help it, despite the rabid, bloodthirsty light in his master's eyes. "Absolutely, my Lord. I will find only the best."

"Good." And just as simple as that, the moment was over. Gammon turned away, striding back towards the window and drinking thoughtfully from his glass, casting Eckhart out of mind, simply confident that the man would perform as expected. "Then you are dismissed. Keep moving north and continue on as planned. We will launch the attack on the capital city of those pathetic sunshine people on the eclipse during Tide Month. The frilly bastards won't know what hit them." He let out a mean chuckle, his forked tongue sticking out in excitement as he laughed at the landscape outside his window, no doubt imagining the whole world corrupted and twisted in his image.

Taking that as his cue to leave, Eckhart murmured stout agreement - love of war and bloodshed; it was one of the things he would always admire and agree with his Lord about - and turned to head for the door. As he turned the handle and opened it, the echoed voices addressed him once more and he glanced back. "Oh, and Eckhart?" Gammon purred, looking at him from over a shoulder. "Remember: I like them young."

With a shudder he couldn't contain, Eckhart nodded his assent and left the room, trying his best not to run sprinting for the castle gates like a little boy scared by the dark.

***

The sun shone high in the sky, seagulls looping and swaying overhead, like ghosts over the field of water. The massive ship rocked with the motions of the waves but by now, on the very last leg of his journey and nearly to the port which he could see in the distance, Rek had gotten used to the movement, his body automatically adjusting to the sway. The air smelt crisp and fresh, tinted with saltiness and now with other, more human smells as the harbor drew nearer. 3 months on the seas and he'd been ready to get off, bored by the endless ocean and suffocated by occupying the same spaces as the other soldiers who rode this vessel. But now as land came into view, he realized he wasn't ready for it. Fighting wars over the ocean in the lands to the west and now they were coming to more lands wrapped tightly in conflict. Against his will, his blood began to pound heavily, excited for more combat, even though he was growing wistful for the months of quiet mornings, sweat stink and drunken sea shanties.

Another warm breeze came flowing over the railing where he stood, watching the ship's progress, blowing the loose strands of hair from his face. Most of his dirty blonde hair was tied back in a tail at the nape of his neck, but a few small portions of it were teased free by the ocean winds. Small, blue eyes always filled with a stern look, squinted in the sun, a serious frown on his lips, surrounded by a halo of facial hair that covered his chin and upper lip. At 30, he was at his prime, still attractive, although he never though of anything except war now, with a couple scars here and there that spoke of the many battles he'd been in. With broad shoulders and average height, Rek didn't look like much, but when he pulled out his axe, then it became a different story. In some countries, his nickname was "Death Angel" - "angel" for his fairer hair and good looks and "death" for the trail of slaughter he left behind everywhere he went. In other places, they called him "Mad Angel" for the madness that sometimes took over him during battle, his fear nonexistent, turning him and his blade into an unstoppable force rather than a man of flesh and blood. Either way, he had a reputation for spilling blood and not only was it something he was good at, but if Rek was honest with himself, it was something he enjoyed as well.

"I hear they're not men but demons made of pure shadow." A small group of soldiers was slowly walking towards him and he caught the end of one of the men's statements as they drew nearer. Rek rolled his eyes as this superstitious nonsense was brought up again. For 3 months, he'd had to deal with these rumors swelling like rotted meat in the sun, just blistering and getting more ridiculous by the day. "Swords swipe through them like cutting into empty air and they disintegrate when struck, only to form again in another place and keep on charging."

"And every state conquered adds another hundred thousand to their ranks."

Rek couldn't take it anymore and without turning spoke loud enough to be heard. "Bullshit. If you believe that, then it's time to let go of your mother's apron strings and actually learn to walk in the big world, boy." The man he addressed was a burly soldier, more muscle than fat but wide of girth, with his balding crown shining in the sun.

"You don't believe the stories then? It's all we hear from the men coming across the ocean. They say the army of the Black Sands is indestructible." One of the younger men spoke up and Rek had the urge to pinch the lad's cheeks for being so naive and stupid.

"Well, that's unfortunate, eh? If the battle is already lost and we're on our way to join the opposing side, then you might as well throw your weapons down now. It's not like you've ever used them before anyway."

The older man wasn't pleased by Rek's doubts and pointed a defensive finger at him. "You calling me a liar? One of my cousins saw them with his own eyes and I believe 'im! They're not human, I tell you!"

"Right," Rek said with a shake of his head. "Will you be joining the Shade Army right away, then?" The ship had docked already and they were lowering the plank, so he was ready to get off, plenty bored with this conversation and the other men's defensiveness. "Human or not, even shadows bleed. Good day, gents." He gave them a fearless smirk and sauntered away, spitting into the water as his feet touched the boardwalk.

The dock was full of activity, other ships lined up along the waterway and men busy loading and unloading goods, the air thick with smells and sounds, filling Rek's head with noise and dusting his tongue with an acrid taste. With his large battleaxe against his back and his pack under his left arm, Rek chose a direction and began walking, going in search for good food and a place to stay for the night before he headed out to join the nearest military effort. He'd see for himself these demon creatures they all said were conquering the East and then he'd cleave them with his axe until all the boogeymen were nothing but meaningless bumps in the night.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart

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Another man fell, his torso split from pelvis to shoulder from Crow's blade. Before he could hit the ground, the killer's hand shot out and grabbed the man's collar and drew him closer. To weak. He wouldn't even survive the Shade process. Sighing he pushed the man down and walked over his dying corpse. He walked across the battle field almost casually, his sword cutting down any who attempted to interfere. One man, however, held his ground, blocking each of Crow's blows.
"Oh? Not bad for a human... You'll do."

He took a step back and raised his left hand, then pointed to the man in front of him. "Hold!" He'd taught every Shade under his command this simple order. As if appearing out of thin air, a group of Shades surrounded Crow, while two grabbed the man and held him against the floor. The man thrashed, but it was all but impossible to over power even one, never the less two Shades. He sheathed his blade and drew from his coat a syringe and a vial of dark red blood. Very carefully, he drew a few drops of blood out from the vial before placing it back in his coat. He stepped up to the pinned man, syringe in hand and knelt. His and the man's eyes met, the man's wide and full of fear, Crow's grey and dead behind his skull like mask.
"Are you afraid? Do you hate that fear? Don't worry, after this, you'll never fear anything, ever again."

The man looked at him, bewildered, and would've spoken if Crow and not deftly stabbed the man between the ribs, straight into the heart. He pressed the plunger on the syringe, and watched as the dark lord's blood circulated through the man's body. He screamed in pain and writhed, his eyes sinking in and skin turning black. Next, the hair and nails fell out in bloody chunks, bones cracked and broke, and teeth fell out of the gums. Crow watched it all passively, and was even taking notes in a small leather book. According to previous turnings, if the eyes dissolved first it should be a successful transformation. He took a closer look and smiled with grim delight as the eyes withered then vanished in a haze of black smoke. The rest of the body soon followed, gathering in the air as black smoke, then coalescing into the rough shape of a man. A Shade.

Crow stood up and waved his hand, the other two shades released their new comrade.
"Welcome to Gammon's army. Serve your master well."
He scribbled something in his small leather book and shut it with a sharp snap. The book went into one of many pockets in his coat and he removed his helmet, shaking out his bone white hair as he removed the mask as well. It didn't matter if they saw his face, they would all be dead soon anyway. He looked fairly handsome for a dead man, or a dead teen in this case. He had only been seventeen when he'd died after all. He dug around in another pocket of his and pulled out a small black crystal holding what looked like a swirling cloud of black smoke. He tapped it once and watched as it glowed a deeper black. That signaled that a link had been established to his troops.
"Attention, today's quota has been met. Withdraw. Repeat. Quota has been met. Withdraw."

Each shade under his command heard this, and drew back from their opponents, then vanished. A cheer went up in the enemy ranks and they grew cocky, going in to surround the Lich. He grinned at them, and vanished in a flash of black light. He reappeared on a cliff overlooking the battle field he'd memorized before the battle began. A Shade appeared at his side to insure his protection. He shrugged and slipped off his gauntlets. They tended to interfere with his magic. Slowly he raised his hands, a red haze gathering around his body. For a moment, he levitated off the ground due to the sheer volume of magic he was gathering in this one spot. He screamed and directed this magic with his hands towards the army in the valley below. Suddenly the ground beneath them ripped apart as pillars of fire shot up to the sky, killing hundreds in a fiery inferno. Soon, none were left standing.

Crow panted lightly and reappeared in the valley, surrounded now by hundreds of charred bodies. He lifted his right hand now, a sickly green light gathering around his hand. Suddenly the same light gathered around each dead soldier, and something rose from their chests and flew to his upraised hand. Souls. Hundreds and hundreds of souls. Slowly these souls converged into the Lich's body, and he shuddered with the new found power. He was nearly done. Just one thing left to do. Now a inky black light gathered in his hands, and slowly spread to to each charred, soulless corpse. Those corpses shuddered and their eyes glowed red with malice. Sickeningly, each corpse lurched to it's feet, taking up sword and spear once more in death to serve Gammon. The Crow smiled and snapped, the shades reappearing in an instant.
"Secure this area and establish fortifications at each end of the valley. And train the new "recruits". We're far from done with this country."
With that command, he vanished in a flash of black. The whole battle had lasted about twenty minutes, and had brought five hundred shades into their ranks, along with three hundred of the undead. He appeared near Gammon's chambers, slipping his gauntlets back on when he spotted General Eckhart, the cruelest of Gammon's commanders.
"Eckhart old chum!" He pulled out a slip of paper from his leather book and proffered it to the general. "The results of the latest skirmish. I trust it will be to you like... ing." He frowned and tilted his head. That was his "My Lord has just asked something completely impossible but I'll find a way to do it anyway" face.
"What's he asked for this time?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart

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#, as written by Ten
After giving his report and receiving his new orders, Eckhart wasn't too eager to remain in the castle longer than was necessary. So, when he heard the telltale sounds of the Lich appearing in the hallway outside the Demon Lord's chambers, Eckhart restrained a cringe when his name was called. Turning to meet the undead lad's approach, he made no move to take the proffered paper, settling for a nod of acknowledgment. Even now, with the weight of his new orders settling heavily on his shoulders, he was mulling over their current battle strategies and trying to reorganize them to account for the task he'd been entrusted with. He was a warrior not a matchmaker! Although hunting for people wasn't beyond his capabilities... it was the "young" part of his orders that gave him the most discomfort and confusion. How young exactly did his Lord desire for a bride? Obviously not a child? With Gammon, he never could tell but it wasn't something he wanted to clarify lest he be forced to endure another heart-to-heart with his Lord in the form of shared libidinous fantasies.

Ever the perceptive one, of course the boy would sense the General's mood. Being in the higher ranks of Gammon's forces, he also had intimate knowledge of their Lord's more unsavory habits and whims enough to inquire about it. If Eckhart was honest, the teenager made him uncomfortable. Not in the way Gammon did, but the boy's undead state inspired a sense of unease and intuitive distrust. However, fighting closely with Crow and watching him work during some of the more ruthless and bloody coastal battles, he'd come to trust the young sorcerer's instincts and admire his strengths and skills. He was an ally at the top of the ladder where Eckhart stood. Now, the question was, if Eckhart should share this burden with him or not.

Glancing warily around at the empty hallway, making sure they were alone and unobserved, General Eckhart motioned at the lad's elbow and escorted him a few yards away from the door to the Demon Lord's chambers. There were no windows in this part of the castle, the braziers positioned every few yards on the corridor walls offering a suffocated illumination against the blackness that threatened to swallow them. Standing by the light of one of these, he turned slightly away from Crow and listened to the whispers of the nervously flickering fire while he tried to pick out shapes from the shadows at the far end of the hall.

"Our Lord has given me the task of finding him a bride," he said, his smoke-weathered voice echoing loud in the hall, despite his lowered tones. Lazily removing a small box from his belt, Eckhart took a few capsules from it and slipped them under his tongue, his voice sounding distorted while he held them in place. "Apparently, he is bored with his usual playmates and cannot content himself with reproducing by spreading forth his infected brood. I'm to hunt him down a wife who can bear him flesh and blood children."

Sucking on the capsules in his mouth, intoxicated as they slowly dissolved on his tongue and numbed by their gentle chemicals in his veins, he grew more relaxed, abandoning his paranoid search of the shadows to look at his comrade. "There's plenty of room for trial and error but I get the feeling he'll delight as much in the search as in the acquisition of his goal. You're welcome to help, if you like. I could use a young man's opinion when it comes to... taste. Light knows the years have favored me with experience but I no longer have a palate for the youthful or the innocent."

Even through his drugged haze, a shudder rippled through him for a moment and he twisted his lips in brief distaste. He could quibble and waffle all he liked about the revolting concept of a teen-bride but the truth of the matter, what really disturbed him: anyone they chose, whether they were old or young, or even if they were chosen or not, were doomed to be sacrificed to the savage, lustful will of his Lord. They would be consumed within that man's tainted embrace, forced to fulfill every dark desire and eventually give birth to abominations destined to rule.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

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He sighed and withdrew the paper upon Eckhart's nod. He never seemed to bother to read his reports, though in all fairness his hand writing was fairly atrocious. Perhaps he'd spent to long reading the scrawled letters of many a magical tome, and had subconsciously decided that was what writing was supposed to look like? On that note, did he still have a subconscious? He frowned and pondered the question momentarily. Technically, his brain was dead, kept alive only by magic, along with the rest of him. Did that mean that his mind was also kept alive by the magic? Perhaps this seeming lapse of actual brain function was responsible for his lost memories? It was definitely a possibility. Hastily he drew out a second black leather bound book, this one worn with age and dog eared. He dug into one of his pockets and drew out a quil and opened the book. He was all out of pages. He "tsk"d and gripped the corner of the back cover, as if to turn a page. Suddenly a blank page appeared between his fingers, on which he scawled "Brain is dead, so memories are also dead?" On the other page were things along the lines of, "Mind erased by creator" "Gammon's doing. Conspiracy" "Don't want to remember." The last one was underlined several times.

He snapped the book shut and returned his belongings to their respective pockets. Lot's of things could be said about Crow. Amongst them, along with being an incredibly talented sorcerer and being dead, was this. He had LOTS of pockets. Some of them even held objects much larger than should be possible, thanks to his spacial magic. Once that was done, he looked back to Eckhart. He looked... well, human. Perfectly normal human being, with human needs and such what not. Working for the most powerful source of evil to ever surface on the face of this planet. He had to confess, the man was a tactical genius, his overwhelming knowledge of warfare nearly matched Crow's knowledge of magic. Separately, the two of them were extremely powerful generals, but together, like their time fighting the coastal battles, they were nearly invincible. Eckhart's expert tactical knowledge combined with Crow's powerful magic, both destructive and spacial, meant that they could strike at an enemies weakest point as soon as it appeared, and maneuver troops in whatever manner was required.

He frowned slightly as Eckhart cast his gaze about the hall. Crow had very few emotions left, but he was concerned for the larger man's mind. His constant paranoia made him a minor liability, but it was well worth the trade off. He followed the man slightly away from their lords chambers and stood near one of many large braziers. He stood a little ways further than Eckhart from the fire. As powerful as he was, his skin was still quite fragile and burned shockingly easily, which is why he wore such thick clothes. Then Eckhart spoke, dropping what would be equivalent to, say, a Lord of Vermillion's Canon, easily the most powerful spell in terms of sheer destructive power he'd read about so far.
"Our Lord has given me the task of finding him a bride. Apparently, he is bored with his usual playmates and cannot content himself with reproducing by spreading forth his infected brood. I'm to hunt him down a wife who can bear him flesh and blood children."

Crow would've turned pale if it were possible, but he lacked the color to do so in the first place. "A.. Bride!? A wife for the Dark Lord and soon conqueror of the Kingdom of Light?!" He took a deep breath, though it really wasn't necessary since he didn't have a working pair of lungs, and leaned against the black wall. He thought quietly to himself for a few seconds. Well, in a way it made sense. What did most kings do when they conquered a country? They married one of the local nobles to help calm the people. Though in this case, he highly doubted that would happen. Likely, entire cities would take up torches and pitchforks, but to someone like Gammon, it only made it more... what was the word? Fun? Perhaps.

"There's plenty of room for trial and error but I get the feeling he'll delight as much in the search as in the acquisition of his goal. You're welcome to help, if you like. I could use a young man's opinion when it comes to... taste. Light knows the years have favored me with experience but I no longer have a palate for the youthful or the innocent."

Crow nearly choked, trying to hold back laughter. He couldn't contain it though, and burst out laughing. "Y-Young man? I'm thirty seven! Well, seventeen for twenty years." He tilted his head and frowned again. "Well technically I'm twenty, since I don't remember ever being alive." He scratched his chin, though he didn't know why. It wasn't itchy or anything. He'd never had an itch for these past twenty years since his nerve endings were dead too. Maybe a habit from carried on with his reanimated body? He pushed the thought aside. His not-life seemed to teem with technicalities. "As for taste... I've never really put much thought into the matter. I suppose I'll just have to go ask him." With that, he turned back to the dark lord's chambers and knocked as hard as he dared without breaking his hand. He disliked how fragile his undead body was. he'd have to see if Gammon had anything to help with that while he was talking with him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emiko Character Portrait: Miu

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#, as written by Gladis
They were everywhere. Flames, the sound of terrified woman crying out into the night, the quiet and haunting echoes of sobbing children, the voices of men who tried to protect their families… but for nothing. They would all face defeat this night and the village which had been there for over three hundred years would crumble to the ground, as though it was nothing and disappear from the pages of history. Blood would be shed; innocent men, woman and even children would be brutally and ruthlessly killed.

There weren’t meant to be any survivors that night.

And yet Emiko and Miu made it.

Dawn had arrived and the inferno from the night before was totally gone. However, smoke was still rising to the chimney and a heavy haze had laid itself over the ruins. The stench of death and rot had already started settling over the village. The bodies of the slayed were everywhere; no one had been spared. No woman, no children, not even the animals. Everything had been eradicated, everything was gone and dead. It was a terrible sight indeed, especially for a child.

A spooky silence had swept across the Floralia Village since the soldiers left and now only sound which could be heard was the crows feeding of the dead bodies on the ground. Still, it was better than the total silence which had been there before the crows arrived. It had been so silent, Emiko’s ears almost hurt because of it. She was used to having sounds around her all the time; if it wasn’t the laughter of children playing outside or the voices and noises of the people going on about their everyday life’s, or the sound of the dogs or hens, then it was her mother singing for her, or her father giving her and her siblings their normal lessons. At night she would hear the insects outside, the constant distant melody they sang, just like the birds during the day. Yes, there had always been life in this village… and now it was gone. Everything was just… gone.

A sudden sneeze, however, broke this uncomfortable silence. All the while, Emiko and her younger sister, Miu, had been cowering under their parent’s bed. They’d been lucky, because the soldiers passing through hadn’t noticed them. Even as one went into the house to see if anyone was there, the only one they had found was Emiko’s and Miu’s mother. Quickly, Emiko shut her eyes as the images of what the man had done to their poor mama flashed back through her mind. She had seen it all, and it made her feel sick to the stomach. Miu hadn’t seen, Emiko would not ever have let her younger sister experience anything like that, not even in a situation like this… so Emiko had just placed her hand over her sister’s eyes and waited until it all was over. It didn’t matter now anymore, though… because their mother was gone, dead.

Feeling so sick she thought she would throw up, Emiko looked horrified as Miu sneezed. Even if the soldiers seemed to have been gone for hours by then, the sisters still did not dare making a sound as they made their way through the destruction, stepping over dead bodies and fallen facades. The sister’s clothes were torn and their faces were dirty. Emiko’s shoulder length, pale hair was tangled totally out of order, something which would never had happened on a normal occasion. The young girl always made sure to take good care of her hair, as well as her sisters. That was what her mother and older sister had thought her, after all.

Another lump formed in her throat and she fought hard to keep back tears. She couldn’t cry, she wasn’t allowed to cry. Not with Miu there… she had to stay calm and collected, she needed to stay strong for her sister. She hadn’t cried all night, so why should she cry now?

Miu gently pulled her sisters sleeve, looking up at her in concern. “Miki?” she asked in a tiny voice. It was thick with emotion and it was obvious that Miu had cried recently. If it had been in fear or because the child knew what was going on… Emiko wasn’t quite sure of. “I-is it over now?” the younger girl asked, her voice barely more than a whisper. Her silvery white, long hair bounced slightly in the air as she glanced up at her sister. “W-will everything be alright again? Will we find m-mama and papa and Ki-Ki and Meio a-and Rashi now?” she continued, almost pleading for her sister to say yes. At least those were the emotions that flashed through her electric blue eyes.

Emiko hesitated, not wanting to lie to her sister. “I-I don’t know, Miu…” she said quietly, giving Miu’s hand a gentle squeeze as she glanced out over the chaos spreading out around them. The village would never be the same again.

“This is so sad…” Miu whispered quietly as she set her eyes on one of the corpses. She tightened her grip of her elder sister’s hand and gulped, tears filling her eyes once more. “I-I want to go home,” she whispered, her voice slightly choked with a sob, “I-I want to go home to mama now…”

Emiko bit her lip. She wanted to go home to her parents and siblings too. All she wanted was to go back home to them, and for everything to return to normal. Drawing a deep breath, she crouched down in front of her sister and gazed up at her with her strange, amber eyes. “Miu, listen to me now… we can’t go back home, don’t you remember what mama told us, Miu?” she asked, forcing her voice to remain calm and soothing, despite herself.

Miu hesitated, her tears growing larger and larger and her sobs louder by the second. She looked as though she tried to remember, but honestly couldn’t think clearly for the moment.

Emiko hugged her gently, pulling the six year old child close to her and gently running her fingers through her hair. “Do you remember, Miu?” she asked in a whisper as she pulled back and gently wiped her sister’s cheek with her thumb.

Miu’s sobs calmed ever so slightly and she tried to speak, starting to nod. “G-go… you have to go, as soon as… it all is…over…” Miu quoted her mother’s words.

Emiko nodded her head, smiling at Miu weakly, reassuringly. “Exactly…” she said softly, “so that means we have to go, no? She told us not to worry about her, didn’t she? So we have to do as mama tells us, right?” the silver haired girl asked her younger sister, who once again burst into tears but now more quietly than before. Miu's nodded her head slightly in agreement, but remained silent for a long while as they walked, just walking beside Emiko and focusing not to fall over corpses or other hindrances in the way.

Then, after a while... she suddenly stopped. Emiko did the same, slightly confused as she tilted her head. She watched Miu carefulky as the child started speaking, grasping hold of Emiko's arm and clinging to it. “Y-you will protect me, right? Always?” Miu asked tearfully, her expression as well as voice filled with fear of what the future may hold.

Without hesitation, Emiko gave a firm nod. “Always…” she said gently before giving Miu a gentle pat on the head. This wasn’t just something she was saying in order to make her younger sister calm down. This was a vow, something she swore to do, not just for Miu, but for herself too. She would do everything to protect the only one she had left. She would never let her sister come to harm. And one day, she would take revenge on those stealing her home, her family and the rest of her people from her.

“I promise…”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon Character Portrait: Rek

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#, as written by Ten
Ah, yes, of course. With the sorcerer's youthful looks, Eckhart often forgot that the undead boy was not actually a boy anymore. It wasn't like Crow acted particularly youthful or immature in the way one would expect from a pup sitting in his position. He was missing the over-excitability of an eager to please bootlick and the brash arrogance of a punk too big for his britches. There was confidence there but also the power and strength to back it up, not to mention a melancholy and brooding air befitting a man with several years of battle and bloodletting under his belt. The General had just fallen prey to the misleading packaging.

"My mistake," Eckhart murmured noncommittally. He was so lost to the apothecary's cocktail he'd ingested, he was unperturbed by the lad's burst of laughter, shrugging it off with an apathetic head tilt.
As he was turning to leave, he commented breezily, "You do that. After you're done, come find me at the Atropa Belladonna. We'll regroup and plan our next strategy on Pelobus, particularly in regards to this new hunt." And maybe he could even get the Lich to transport him back to the mainland. Heaven knew he wasn't eager to go by ship again but he would if he had to.
Having said all he wanted to say and feeling pressured by the looming darkness seeping from the Demon Lord's chambers, Eckhart took a hurried stride out of the castle. Through the twisting, winding corridors and down hundreds of steps, while faint echoed moans drifted through the walls, following him from hidden and buried rooms, Eckhart finally found himself outside. Like he'd been holding his breath through the entire fortress, air exploded from his lungs and he took in great heaving gulps of afternoon air.

Unlike the mainland of Pelobus, noon on the Black Sand Isles was indistinguishable from the morning and afternoon. The sky was always in a constant state of threat no matter what time of day, overcast with graying, tumbling clouds that hid the twin suns from view. Not even the nights were clear, growing impossibly dark beneath rumbling red and purple storm clouds, the only illumination coming from a few lightning bolts stabbing at the horizon.
As a result, everything was colored with gray tones, diluted and gloomy. Even so, there wasn't much color on the Isles to begin with. The animals were black. The waters were black. The trees were twisted and black. And of course, the ground was black. Stones and metals dug from the earth, although strong and efficient for their purposes of fortification and arms, all reached the surface with black and gray coloring. There were no colorful flowers on the Isles, so all arts and tapestries were made with grayscale dyes, depicting high-contrast scenes in black and white relief.
Having grown up here, Eckhart wouldn't have it any other way. The sunlight and rainbow colors of the mainland sickened him and caused him headaches. Their fruits and flowers caused stomachaches with their strong scents and sweet tastes and all of their art was useless, gaudy trash. Even so, the General was eager to return, if only to continue his campaign of violence across the countryside. Because the only color he liked more than silver and black was the red of freshly spilled blood.

Walking through the town sloping down the hillside that the castle was built upon, Eckhart made his way to the Atropa Belladonna. A tavern and brothel that was well-known for it's beautiful and alluring Black Isle women, the wooden sign hanging above the door displayed the name wrapped in the twisted vines of a Deadly Nightshade flower and a pair of alluring, feminine eyes beneath it. Employing the best of the best, they were the type to chill a man's veins even as they warmed the blood. They were seducers of Death himself and women to die for. It was his favorite place to visit whenever he returned to the main island.

Deciding to take a moment to relax and soothe his nerves, he entered the establishment through the front door, gently fingering his gauntlets off.
****


After the General started walking away, there was a second's pause when Crow finished knocking before the doors gracefully swung open to admit him. The room was the same as the General left it, with Gammon still enjoying his drink while standing at the window. With the opening of the doors, he turned and approached them with a predatory look of madness in his black and red eyes. Upon seeing who was standing there, the expression dissolved to a more friendly one, the threat and madness hidden beneath a veil of seductive charm instead.

"Ah, Crow!" his multiple voices said with welcoming appraisal. "I was just about to summon you." He paused to let his leering gaze travel down the Lich's body before sweeping back up to his face. Tilting his head curiously, he asked, "How are things? Memory still giving you issues?" Gammon must have been going for a sympathetic tone but the creeping malice in some of his deeper voices and the taunting smirk he quickly hid behind his glass, while taking a sip, took away the impact of whatever emotional support he attempted to give. Not that he didn't like Crow, as he most clearly did but just like any other being both sentient and not, the undead sorcerer was a toy in the Demon Lord's eyes and Gammon loved to play.

"You've actually caught me right in the middle of my playtime," Gammon's voices purred, even as he leaned forward a little bit into Crow's personal space. "I hope you won't mind if I torture someone while we talk..." As he spoke those words, a shadow door bled from the wall by the bed and from it appeared a couple of Shades hauling a woman in restraints, chaining her to the floor in the middle of the room. The woman was in her middle summers with stern features yet attractive eyes and the telltale peach skin of someone who'd lived all their life in the presence of the sunlight to warm their days. Even here in the upper-most towers of the Demon Lord's castle, the woman did not scream or cry, holding herself firm and quiet, her features stony and proud.

"So, tell me what's on your mind," Gammon said, giving his attention over to Crow for the moment as he prepared his tools on a cart that the Shades had brought with them.

****


Even after their month-long journey across the sea, not many of the men on the ship were willing to join Pelobus's forces once they heard more about the forces attacking from the Isles of the Black Sand. It was all the rumors they'd heard confirmed and more, whispers of a sorcerer boy, scarred and masked who ate the souls of men and led legions of the walking dead. The cowards were beside themselves. Rek's comrades were planning on joining forces to help security in towns and cities that hadn't been attacked yet. Because of the efficiency of the opposing forces, there weren't a lot of refugees but they were going to help with the relocation of citizens on the run as well. Rek's plans, on the other hand, hadn't changed since day one: he was going to find a military outpost getting the most recent action and situate himself right on the frontlines. He'd come here to protect the Kingdom of Light and that was what he was going to do.

Buying himself a horse, he traveled southeast inland with enough food in his pack to last him a couple of days. Sadly, he was pretty much out of money at the moment but hopefully once he joined the Pelobus army, he'd start making some of it back. Enough to take care of himself at least.

On his warhorse, a surly, copper mount named Eb, he rode across countryside during the morning, coming to a large wood near midday. Rek spared himself no comfort, stopping only when he felt it was necessary and pushing the horse to cross the distance as fast as it was reasonably able. Eventually, as the sun made it's descent, he had to concede to the fact that he would need to rest and it'd be easier to care for his horse if he made preparations while there was still light in the sky. Slowing the horse to a canter, Rek put his nose to the wind and frowned warily at the smell of burning wood on the air.

So far, he hadn't passed very many villages or sign of enemy activity, even as he got close to the settlement he'd been told about. Still, he couldn't ignore the very distinct smell of burnt flesh and what it foretold over the next ridge. Bringing Eb to a halt in a small wood, Rek dismounted and tied the horse to a tree. Proceeding on foot, he removed his battleaxe from over his shoulder and held it between his hands as he stalked through the trees. Holding it firm and flexing his fingers on it, he felt the familiar tingle and restlessness that often overtook him when he ran into battle.

Even so, the pent up energy and adrenaline coursing through him came to a deflated stop as he came through the brush. Spread out before him was a sorry story of death and senseless destruction. The air was choked with the smell of the dead and the sounds of carrion birds and flies, buzzing madly in suffocating swarms over the charred remains of these poor people. Rek was not a stranger to death and although he felt sorrow, he immediately distanced himself from the horror of the gruesome nature of what surrounded him. Putting his axe away in the holster on his back, he ambled through the blackened village, his keen eyes searching for any clues as to what had transpired here. If these people had been attacked, did that mean there wasn't any Light forces keeping the enemy back? How had the Black Isles men made it through? And why would they destroy the village so completely? What was it they were trying to achieve by this utter madness and indiscriminate slaughter?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

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Image


He waited silently for a few seconds until the doors swung forward silently on perfectly oiled hinges. While the hinges upon the Dark Lord's door were perfectly silent, others seemed almost to be designed to create the most ominous of noises. He stepped into the suffocatingly lightless room, well it would be to most humans where as Crow found it perfectly suitable. He found most things to be perfectly suitable. Negative forty degrees? Perfectly suitable. Complete lack of light by which to see? Perfectly suitable. He shook the thoughts from his head when Gammon spoke, first appearing hostile but then friendly as he realized it was Crow. Crow nodded to the man in respect, one of the few human emotions he still seemed to have, then sighed as the man swept his lecherous gaze up and down his dead body. Disgust was one of the many emotions he no longer felt, so few of the Dark Lord's quirks troubled him. After all, how could one be disgusted by something when they were just about as disgusting as a corpse? More or less exactly in Crow's case.

"Glad to be of such convenience my Lord." Even his voice sounded dead and hollow. "If you're referring to the war effort, everything is moving ahead of schedule. As for my personal health... Well I'm still dead, so not to bad." At this, the woman in chains eyes widened, but only for a moment. Obviously she hadn't expected one of Gammon's generals, the Lich himself no less, to appear so... young. At Gammon's quip concerning his memory, Crow drew out his black leather book and quickly underlined "Gammon's doing. Conspiracy." and replaced the book. Gammon probably knew everything he had in that book, but it mattered little. To him, it was likely a game. "Little trouble, seeing as I have none my Lord."

Crow stood as still as a stone as Gammon entered his "personal space" and told him of his "playtime". "I don't mind, so long as you don't make to much of a mess my Lord. The last one took a solid week to get out of the carpets." He frowned and inspected the floor. "Actually, there still seem to be few bits left." He knelt down and picked up what appeared to be... A molar. He shrugged and placed it in a pocket, depositing it directly into a box in his chambers, containing a number of various "samples".

"Just a few things to report." He snapped his fingers and a clip-board appeared in his hands, along with a quill. "The Shading process has been nearly perfected. Whereas two months ago it required nearly four ounces of blood to turn a Shade, testing completed exactly five minutes ago confirmed that the process can be done successfully using only three drops of blood." He actually smiled as he said that. It had been a huge project, involving countless "volunteers", gallons of blood and weeks of effort. The final product however had been well worth it.
"We can now create up to fifty shades with the same amount of blood it would take to create one just two months ago."

He turned to the next page on his clipboard and continued. "Also, our previous battle was a complete success. Five hundred shades were created, along with three hundred undead. They are fortifying the valley as we speak." One of the shades clapped for a few seconds before realizing no one else was clapping, then let its hands drop. A newly turned one apparently, tended to hold onto some of their human habits and emotions for around a week or so. "In other news, my Death Day is coming up." He waved his hand in the air once or twice, party hats appearing on the heads of those in the room, including the shades and the chained woman, much to her befuddlement. They were, of course, black. There was confetti too, in the shape of little white skulls. They vanished when they touched the floor, almost like snow flakes did when they landed on your finger.
"You're invited of course. I think Eckhart said something about getting me something he called... "hammered", but I don't really think it sounded all to pleasant." He frowned and looked at the hand he'd knocked with. There were tiny indentations on his knuckles where muscle should be. "Not with my body as fragile as this anyway."

"Other than that, there's just the matter of your bride to be." He turned to a blank page and pulled out a quill, apparently to take notes. "Eckhart and I don't err... Really know your tastes my Lord. If you could clarify what we should be looking for, I'm sure it would speed up the search significantly." He sat down, a chair appearing behind him to catch him as he did. He could've simply pulled up a chair and sat in that, but magic was like a muscle. The more you used it, the more powerful it became. So he tended to use magic for just about everything, all to grow his power to even greater heights.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rek Character Portrait: Emiko Character Portrait: Miu

0.00 INK

#, as written by Gladis
ImageMiu clung to her elder sisters hand, dried tears glimmer on her cheeks, though her mood had become slightly more positive than before. They had not yet quite gotten out of the village, and Emiko was still afraid they might run into some remaining soldiers, in which case they would have no chance. However, other than the corpses everywhere and the creatures feeding of them... the village truly seemed deserted, dead. Even if the image was a horrible one, Miu wouldn't let it bother her, though. She had the image of how the village had been before the raiding fresh in her mind, and Emiko had the feeling that was how Miu still tried to see it.

"Sis," the little snowy haired girl started in a quiet voice, glancing up at Emiko again, "Sis... will we ever come back here?" she asked, her voice barely audible and Emiko could hear hidden pain and sorrow in it. Just as it was evident in her younger sisters voice, it was evident in her expression and especially in her electric blue eyes. They were like big, sad pools of crystals... so fulled with sorrow it could have reduced even the most rough necked of men to tears.

The elder of the two gulped and gave her younger sisters hand a gentle squeeze before sighing, averting Miu's gaze. "I can't know for sure, Miu..." she said quietly, shaking her head, "maybe... one day. If we do, I guess it will have to be our job to restore the village, no?" she smiled down at her sister weakly and Miu's expression instantly shifted from heartbreakingly sad to simply... well... still sad but a bit less.

"Yes!" Miu agreed with a nod of her head and a small grin tugging the corners of her lips, "then we can make everything as pretty as it was, and plant beautiful flowers eeeeeeveeeeeeerywhere!" she said happily, giggling at the thought ad she hugged Emiko, making them come to a halt once more. "And everyone can be happy, mama and papa too!" the child continued.

Emiko laughed softly, sadly, and gently hugged her sister back, carefully running her fingers through Miu's hair. It sounded wonderful, but she was unsure it that ever would happen. When her sister mentioned their parents, Emiko's expression saddened even worse. She had the feeling Miu didn't quite understand that their parents were gone, they they wouldn't be coming back no matter how hard the two of them tried. It all was gone... and there was nothing they could do about it. She didn't want to make her sister sad now again when she had found a little happiness, so she just smiled weakly and said nothing for quite a while.

"Yes, maybe that is true... maybe not... who knows, little cub?" she asked softly, a warm and soothing, almost motherly tone in her voice. It didn't a all fit the age of her appearance, since it somehow was so... mature. "Now, lets going, shall we? We will need to find something to eat... and a shelter for the night," she said gently as Miu nodded her head.

"Uh-huh!" the child agreed cheerfully, started to skip on slightly ahead and humming happily to herself.

Emiko couldn't help but smile slightly as she followed her sister.

By the time Emiko suddenly heard the noise of a movement not very far away, they had almost reached the exit of the village. Because of their inheriting, white foxes had enhanced senses such as hearing and seeing in the dark- as well as an enhanced nose and reflexes. However, in turn they were fragile, even more so than a human, which often put them at a disadvantage no matter what.

Automatically, Emiko sprinted over to her sister and grasped hold of her shoulder with one hand, so that she would come to a halt, while placing her other hand on the hilt of he sword. Even if she wasn't amazing with a sword, she was good enough to protect Miu, at least for a while, if a battle should ever arise. However, if she could she wished to avoid this as good as possible. She hated fighting and she hated bloodshed. She hated everything having to do with unnecessary violence. In the end, it would bring nothing but despair to anyone.

Emiko pulled her younger sister up to herself, holding her protectively as she scanned the area carefully, he eyes narrowed in thought and her amber eyes almost burning with anticipation. She quickly pulled her sister around the corner of the remains of a house as the sound of footsteps came closer, holding her breath and placing her hand over Miu's mouth so she wouldn't be able to make any sound. Luckily, Miu did not question this and simply silently went with her sister, although she looked ever so slightly confused about what was going on.

Pressing herself against the wall and gesturing for Miu to do the same beside her, she finally let go of her younger sister and waited a moment before glancing around the corner.

It was a man, most likely a soldier of some sort... but he did not look like be belonged to those who had raided the village. Letting out a tiny sigh of relief, Emiko still did not feel comfortable meeting any stranger who did not belong to the fox village. Humans simply were strange beings... and those outside her village were supposed to be even more so. Or, at least that was what she had been thought. If she could trust the words of their village elder or not, she couldn't know for sure.

ImageEverything shattered as Miu suddenly squealed in delight and ran out from their hideout. Not far away from the soldier, there was a tiny fox cub stumbling his way along the path. It had been custom to live in harmony with the both the normal foxes and arctic foxes who thrived around the mountain and forest area in which the village was situated in, so it was not usual for the foxes to come down there- some even lived with the families. This seemed to be another survivor of the massacre... but now he was giving them misfortune, or at least that was what Emiko thought as she hurried after her sister.

"Miu, come back!" she said, her voice still soft but somewhat sharper than before. There was no chance the man wouldn't notice them now, but it didn't matter.

Miu blinked and carefully picked the fox cub up, glancing at her sister as she cuddled it. That was just how tame the foxes of the village were. "Look, sis... isn't he adorable?" Miu asked with a small grin.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: Lord Gammon Character Portrait: Rek

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Image


Although Gammon was interested and even amused by meetings with Crow, it didn't dissuade him from his current activity of bringing misery and pain to the woman chained to the floor.Even so, while in the middle of drawing an esoteric symbol on her stomach with a knife, he paused when the party hat appeared on his head. Giving it a small flick of his bloodied finger, he gave Crow a smirk over his shoulder. After putting the finishing touches on the symbol etched into his victim's flesh, the lines began to glow with an inner light. If Crow recognized the symbol at all, he'd know that it's purpose was to prolong the life of the one wearing it, no matter how fatal their wounds were.

Gammon had used the symbol multiple times to keep his playthings alive right up to the point where they were just a soupy mess of parts on the floor. Also, the little lines and circles drawn to the right of it were intended to amplify the woman's pain and keep her conscious through everything the Demon Lord planned to do to her. As of yet, other than a few odd looks shot in Crow's direction and a few grimaces while getting cut by her torturer, the woman's demeanor and stony silence had yet to break. That was okay though. Gammon liked a victim with strength of will. It made things more enjoyable when he had to fight for every scream he dragged from their throats.

When the Lich brought up Eckhart and the task he'd been given, Gammon took a moment to stand and return to his cart of tools. Facing Crow, he smiled and his multiple voices said in impassioned tones, "All good news, my friend. I always love to hear about the progress of the war. I cannot tell you how it fills me with pleasure to know that the Shades are being produced more efficiently. I knew you were the one to be trusted with leading that effort and getting the kinks of the process worked out.

"As for your other concerns..." Gammon's voices slowed as he thought to himself, a small, naughty smile appearing on his lips as he once again turned to his victim. Walking in a circle around her, he waved a knife in the air as he spoke, stopping occasionally to administer cuts to her thighs and arms. All the while, his voices, blending male and female tones together, remained conversational.

"I am aware of your Death Day arriving soon. In fact, I've scheduled you a banquet on that night to celebrate. We'll hold it right here in the castle and I've invited the entire citizenry of the Black Sand Isles to attend. It shall be a gloriously morbid party, with a gift required upon entry to the hall." Of course, attendance would be mandatory by threat of death but the Demon Lord overlooked that fact. Gammon paused, lost in fond musings for a moment, licking his lips as his voices crooned softly, "I remember when you first came to me... watching you work... seeing what you could do to a battlefield..."

Snapping out of it, the hazy look vanished from the Demon's red and black eyes, in a blink replaced with that shrewd madness once more. "My gift of course will be the best of all and I know you will love it the most. Eckhart, with all of his camaraderie and 'good times' won't be able to compete." Was that a hint of jealousy? Honestly, who knew?

Coming back around his victim to stand in front of the Lich, Gammon stopped and reached out a hand to softly pet the sorcerer's hand and fingers, ever so gentle but with a lingering touch. "I have just the thing for your little 'delicacy' problem. However, just because I love you Crow, doesn't mean you get presents for free." That leer was back, with another sweeping gaze that licked at hidden places beneath the Lich's robe with a small glow igniting in those red eyes. Without another word he swooped away to the far side of the room to where a cabinet stood beside the bed. Hidden from view, he manipulated a hidden latch and through thamaturgic workings, he opened the double doors before reaching within.

Turning gracefully on his heel, he returned to where Crow sat, the cabinet closing by itself with a soft "whoosh" and a click. Standing in front of Crow with a coquettish grin, Gammon said, "I have an ointment that will revitalize your skin, repair damaged tissue and create a bit of flexibility and resistance. Nothing extraordinary, mind you, just what you'd expect from anyone living. It needs to be used regularly to keep working consistently." Brandishing a small bottle at the Lich, Gammon held it out and bit his own tongue with malicious, playful glee. "That amount is enough to cover your entire... beautiful 17 year old body and it will work for an entire week.

"I will make you a deal, my little dead bird. I will continue to supply you with this concoction that will keep your body in fit fighting condition just like a real live boy, but if you successfully complete the quest to bring me a bride, I will tell you how to make it. As it stands, I've put a lot of work into binding the ingredients, so, I doubt you'll figure it out on your own." Through that adoring smile, the leer flickered with a small flash of paranoia but was gone in a calming sigh in the next. "But you're nothing if not patient and loyal, so, I probably shouldn't have bothered."

Clapping his hands once, the Demon Lord rubbed his palms together and walked with a restless air towards the bed, pacing back again as he broached the new topic. This was something he felt truly passionate about and he jumped right into talking about it without any hesitation - his victim lay forgotten on the floor, barely bleeding. "The woman I desire is to be young and beautiful. I'm not looking for beauty enhanced by makeups or fancy trinkets. I'm not looking for one ounce of beauty or one aspect of beauty - someone who 'only looks good in a certain light'. I want ethereal beauty. Angelic, fair, soul-wrenching beauty that will still the heart of this dark Lord. I want purity, untouchable, uncorrupted, innocence in mind, body and spirit. I've searched the Isles and all these women have been under the rule of darkness for far too long. They're tainted by it, covered in the filth flung from off my cape.

"This is someone you will have to find somewhere on Pelobus. The Kingdom of Light, with their fair-haired maidens and blue-eyed girls are bound to have somebody who fits the bill. Among the hundreds and thousands living in the mainland, I know you will find her. You and Eckhart, together will find me the perfect young girl to be my bride. She will be a queen, the perfect union between the light and the dark." With the last, he gestured to himself and came to a slow, languid stop. Giving Crow an illustrious smile, he raised an eyebrow and asked, "Is that all?" Obviously, he was done talking about this and was eager to get back to... the still living and wriggling business on his floor.

*****


Crows cawed angrily at one another, fighting for dominance over the feast spread out before them. The breeze drifted between what was left of scorched walls and fences, carrying smoke from the dimming fires still burning - and the scent of spilled blood and cooked flesh with it. Rek grimaced silently to himself and looked beyond the buildings to the mountain ash and evergreens surrounding him. It was just a peaceful mountain village. There were no notable fortifications on the border and from his brief inspection, it looked like they were very earth-centric with farming and gardening tools abandoned during the panic.

There were plenty of things Rek had done that he wasn't proud of in his life. He'd fought in civil wars to the West, quashed rebellions for the Sun King and even killed tribal savages in the mountainous Dead Lands to the north for territory and greed. When he flew into his berserker rages and let the battle-lust take over him, he didn't always stop and think about who was friend and who was foe before slashing down with his terrible axe. But never had he raised a hand to woman or child. It just didn't make sense.

Rather than continuing to mull over the ethical questions of this war and the enemy he was going to be fighting, Rek finally decided to leave. As he sauntered away, he stopped as the body of one of the fallen caught his eye. It was untouched by the carrion eaters and didn't seem damaged by the fire but Rek couldn't be certain. The teeth had fallen out as if rotted right out of the skull and parts of the flesh were torn and bubbled, exposing muscle beneath. But what caught Rek's attention and inspired his doubts about the fire being responsible was the eyes... A viscous coal black liquid oozed out of the orifices, congealing in the empty sockets and flowing down the cheeks in thick rivulets. What could have possibly done this? And why did the animals stay away? Not even flies swarmed the open sores and wounds like they did on the others.

That was when a noise suddenly grabbed Rek's attention, forcing him to spin around in a defensive posture. With his hand halfway up to grabbing his battleaxe from the holster on his back, Rek stopped when his eyes fell on the young girl and the fox in the middle of the path near him. A beautiful child of fair hair, his breath got caught in his throat when he saw her eyes, the clarity of the azure pools striking him right to the core of his being. She was soon joined by another girl who seemed older but both of them were of indeterminable age - all children were qualified as 'young things' in Rek's book. She too held the beauty of the other and although his immediate assumption was that they were related, he couldn't know for sure. Then again, about 6 seconds later, he really couldn't be bothered to care.

Stepping forth with a relaxed and calm gait, Rek cleared his throat and stopped a few paces from them. "Do not be afraid, younglings," he said in a neutral voice. "Where are your parents?" He winced internally, feeling at once shamefaced for his insensitive question. Clearing his throat again and pressing his fist to his lips, he looked away from them awkwardly before continuing, trying to save face. "Is this your village? Who did this? Speak up!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Crow Character Portrait: General Eckhart Character Portrait: Lord Gammon

0.00 INK

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He listened patiently to his dark lord after having given his reports, flipping through the pages once of twice to make sure he'd covered everything. He smiled quite happily, and quite eerily, when he was praised concerning his efforts in the shading process. While Gammon had the kind of smile that made women concerned for their maidenhood, men too at that, Crow had the kind of smile that made the leaves fall off trees and small children cry. He stood from his conjured chair and bowed deeply, making a small flourish with the long flap of his tooled leather coat, the upraised leather giving the illusion of intricate feathers. His other hand went up to keep the party hat from falling. "I shall do my utmost to ensure this praise was deserved my Lord." He eyed the intricate rune the dark Lord carved into the woman's flesh. An impressive display of his arcane knowledge, the kind of knowledge Crow had spent the past eighteen years under Gammon's command trying to learn.

He straightened as his Death day was mentioned, straightening his coat as he did. Since he had no recollection of his life, he had no idea when his Birthday was, so his Death day was a sort of backwards version of the former. Instead of celebrating the day he'd been born, they now celebrated the day of his death. To Crow, it was no secret that Gammon was slightly jealous of Eckhart. After all, Crow was obligated to spend the majority of his time both on and off the island with the man. This put Crow in a somewhat... precarious position. "I'm.. Uncertain what to say. Thank you my Lord! I'm certain whatever you've prepared will be more than perfect. It will certainly be more than I am deserving of." Secretly though, the idea of a banquet sat ill in his mind. After all, he didn't have a sense of taste! The only reason he ate was to ensure he had enough proteins and nutrients to maintain his muscles and skin. Things like wine, chocolates and other such delicacies held no value in his eyes. He ate expertly balanced meals using only salt as a seasoning, and even at that he only salted his food to maintain a healthy sodium level. As for this gift he spoke of... Knowing Gammon, it could be any of a hundred things. Only one way to find out, and that was to wait a week for his Death day.

Apparently Gammon had heard him mention the current fragile state of his body, because he brought the subject back up and pet his hand like one would a small and fragile cat. While he was incapable of disgust, the dark Lords touch and his leer combined stirred up something in his deep well of emotions. What was it? Ah, discomfort. After letting go of his hand, Gammon glided over to a cabinet in the corner of the room, which was of course black, just like everything else in Gammon's chambers, and opened it up, after about forty seconds of flipping secret levers and turning small knobs hidden in the woodwork. He returned holding a small vial filled with a strange liquid. Apparently it was some sort of rejuvenating ointment, created to make Crow's body like that of one still living. Upon hearing that, he all but snatched the small vial from the Dark Lord and began his inspection of the fluid. How was something like that possible? Perhaps something the lines of a youth potion, but specifically altered to bring something closer to a state it previously held? Knowing the extent of Gammon's magic, it could be done. "Very interesting... I accept your deal, on one condition. Please refrain from calling me beautiful, it's highly... irregular." The chained woman had the audacity to smirk at that, and Crow's all seeing eyes took note of this, quickly decided upon the proper response, and executed it.

He drew from a small but intricately patterned pocket what appeared to be a small, perfectly clear crystal. They were an item of Crow's creation called "Records". They varied in size, but all held the same purpose. They stored information, withdrawn from countless sources, whether it be a book, someones voice, a specific spell or even someones mind. He took the Record, rolling it gently between his fingers before pressing it against the woman's forehead. At first nothing happened, but suddenly the woman's eyes filled with shock and the Record slowly turned a deep black, images flashing briefly across its surface. He withdrew the Record and returned to his chair, watching the Record for a small while before tossing it to Gammon. "A gift for a gift. A complete Record of this woman's hopes and fears. I trust you know exactly how to use it."

He took complete notes of his Dark Lord's desires regarding his bride to be. Essentially, it sounded like the polar opposite of Gammon himself. Night and Day, Light and Dark. To the romantic that was still somewhere in Crow, buried under an immense pile of hatred and skepticism, it sounded beautiful and perfect. To the realist, which rested ontop of said pile, it sounded all around like a bad idea. Not that he could tell Gammon that, nor even imply it. "I believe that is indeed all my Lord. He stood up and waved a hand, the chair vanishing as he did. "Thank you for your time. I'll let you return to your... playtime." He bowed elegantly and turned, vanishing with a flash of black and the sound of flapping wings. All that remained to prove he'd even been in the room was a small black feather that fell where he'd been standing.

He reappeared in a small corner of his own chambers which had been set aside for his teleportation. The rest of the large room was... Well, odd. While Gammon's chambers had been an elegant black, Crow's room was filled with various colors. Strange plants sat under magic lamps which provided a controlled amount of artificial sunlight. Shelves upon shelves of books spanned across each wall, bound in various colored leathers. A complete human skeleton stood in one corner, held together with thin metal wires. Stuffed birds and reptiles and mammals and other... undefined things hung from the ceiling or sat ontop of shelves. Strange chemicals bubbled in strangely shaped beakers ontop of desk against a far wall. All in all, it was the chambers of a sorcerer. A well funded sorcerer at that.

He placed the vial on his favorite desk, carved from ebony wood, and stared at the shelves upon shelves of books, formulating a plan in his head. He jotted his ideas up in the air, where they stayed and glowed with a green light. He drew diagrams and formulas until he was satisfied. Yes, this could be done... and it would be much more efficient. He climbed a small ladder against his bookshelf and started pulling out books, which floated in the air next to him. First was the Necronomicon, followed by A Complete study of the human body, and finished off with A Study of Theoretical Enchantments. He sat at his desk and flipped through said books until he found what he needed. But if the enchantment failed, the ointment would be destroyed... Better do some test runs first.

He prepared three variations of the enchantment known as Never Ending Bottle, one from the book, one he vaguely remembered from around seven years ago, and one based off the book, but with certain elements he believed would work better. Done correctly, the enchanted container will never run out of whatever fluid is contained within. He filled three beakers with water and placed the enchantments on each. The first was... almost right, but instead of never running out of liquid he now never ran out of beaker. He cast a dispell before it got to out of hand. The second failed miserably. The water had become wine an expensive red wine. He shrugged and corked it, no point in wasting it. The third was less obvious. It looked no different than before. Experimentally, he took it to the open window and poured the water out, and kept pouring. He waited about half a minute, but he was still pouring by then so he decided that the third had been a success. He removed the text from replaced it with his successful enchantment, a small black star in the top right corner marking it as a success. Replicating it on the ointment vial was a simple task, and pouring the ointment into another vial revealed that it had been successful. There were now two vials of ointment.

Next he recreated the human sweat gland system with one twist. It would secrete the ointment at a slow rate and keep his skin and muscles as healthy as any living person for as long as the vial remained intact. But for now, he removed his clothes and placed them on a chair, then rubbed the ointment into his skin. He gasped at the nearly instantaneous results, his muscles firming up and his skin becoming more elastic and healthy. Even his hair felt better! He slipped his clothes back on and looked in a mirror. He looked... alive. Pale as the moon but alive! He grinned and flexed his muscles. They were more firm and defined and... well beautiful. He laughed and thought about telling Gammon he call him beautiful as much as he wanted, but that was probably a bad idea. He corked the second vial and placed it in a secret compartment of his desk before going into his teleportation corner. In a flash of black and the sound of flapping wings he was gone.

He appeared outside the Atropa Belladonna, sighing slightly. He... disliked this establishment. It felt like the women here made a game of seeing if they could get a rise out of him. He shook his head and slipped inside, sitting down at a bench and toying with his new fingers. A "waitress" placed a glass of clear water in front of him and winked, leaning down a little to far to show off her bosom before sauntering away. He sighed and sipped the water. His lack of desire for carnal pleasure was a game to them, despite him being one of Gammon's generals. But what could he do? They were, after all, indiscriminately doing their jobs. He saw Eckhart and waved him over, placing the never ending wine beaker on the table in front of him. "A failed enchantment, but I prefer not to waste useful things. Consider it a gift."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rek Character Portrait: Emiko Character Portrait: Miu

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#, as written by Gladis
Image"Very..." Emiko said, although she did not seem to quite hear hear what she said as she stepped between the man and her sister, just in case. He looked strong, and like Emiko had thought when she first saw him, she didn't think she would be able to keep up against him for very long. Either way she hated battle and would prefer to avoid it if possible. Although practicing a type of martial arts was common in the village of the white foxes, it was all done for self defense in a pinch or for the honor of the family; most did it because they considered it fun. But no one ever got seriously hurt when they sparred... bloodshed, then again, was an entirely different matter, and Emiko despised even the thought of it. At least, when done without reason. Foxes hunted other creatures and devoured them, but they still possessed respect for their mother nature. That made that kind of bloodshed an entirely different matter. Or at least that was what Emiko had been thought.

As Emiko suddenly stepped in front of Miu, she blinked, first then noticing the man. While still holding the fox Miu peered at him from behind her sister, curiosity and a slight glint of fear sparkling on her electric blue eyes. She couldn't quite understand what he was saying, for in Miu's opinion he was speaking a strange language. However, she could catch one or another of the words; realizing he was using the common tongue. Although it was truly rare a white fox would leave the village, it was custom the children were thought the common tongue, despite them usually using another, ancient language. It was far softer and more lyrical the the common tongue, giving it a mysterious but beautiful, melodically tone.

Emiko made a small, polite bow, letting go of the hilt of her sword although she kept her guard, ready to draw it any moment, if she had to.

"Forgive my sisters rudeness, sir," she said gently in common tongue before straightening up again, "we are not used to... strangers in our village," she said, never raising her voice much even once. No matter what, she always spoke in a soft, quiet tone. She did speak properly and clearly, so everyone would understand her if they listened... but she never spoke very loudly. She spoke with a slight accent which made even the simple common tongue sound melodic in a way. Never having used it much, other than during her lessons, this was... good training for her.

"Where are your parents?"

Miu could see Emiko tense slightly at that question, and even if the little girl didn't understand exactly what he said, she had the feeling it was a rather personal question- or at least one that touched Emiko deeply. She had managed to keep her composure so far, so not many thing would manage to break her, Miu decided. She wasn't going to break now either... but the right words could probably hurt her.

"Gone," Emiko replied simply; something edging towards great emotional turmoil flashed through her amber eyes, but she quickly tried to mentally shake off that feeling, hoping he hadn't noticed. If she couldn't control her feelings and focus, how should she then be able to control her sister? It would be impossible, obviously.

"Is this your village? Who did this? Speak up!"

Emiko didn't like the tone he used towards her. Not at all. It was nothing like how a white fox would have spoken to even a stranger, and the common tongue made it sound even... rougher? Even so Emiko wouldn't tell him that. She had learned to be polite in all matters and would act as such. She simply nodded her head at his first question, otherwise remaining silent. It was not that she couldn't speak, but she was a quiet girl and would not speak unless she had to.

"Who did this?" she said softly, quietly, "I do not know... soldiers, they were soldiers...but some...were not human..."