Loud clangs of metal boots echoed throughout the long, dark hallway. Four pairs of greaves sounded off in a rhythmical tune on the cold, stone floor. The only light came from candles, placed every three meters apart on each side of the wall. There was no window, nor would there ever be. Their eyes despised light to the point one could say it was like a natural enemy to the four men walking towards the massive wooden door on the far end. Their bulky figures didn’t allow them to walk four abreast, but in two rows of two each. Full metal armor graced their figures and long swords hung from their backs. Right under them, a small, round shield and a long dagger behind it. A long black cape covered the back of the man most front in the procession, the other three wearing red capes covering their backs. With each step they took, the grating of metal on metal and metal on stone was deafening, but for their ears, it was like music.
‘Why are we called in so late?’ said the smallest of the four. By no standard was he small, but still slightly smaller than his companions.
‘I have no idea. They don’t tend to give me much information. Just enough let me get by. You should know that by now, Stalk,’ replied the man with a strong voice. Stalk frowned at the reply, as he had hoped more would follow. The man was about to ask another question, but his companion put a fist into his ribs, making him rethink. The pain wasn’t anything special, but it served the purpose right.
‘Slain? What the hell?’ Stalk asked incredulously. ‘Why the hell did you hit me?’ The other man didn’t bother to respond and kept walking behind his two companions.
‘Shut up and follow,’ the man with the black cape ordered without breaking pace or glancing backwards.
‘One of these days,’ Stalk murmured as he started walking again, hurrying up to get back into formation. He knew his loud mouth would one day be the death of him, but he couldn’t help it. He had to talk. A lot. Just as he caught up, the three men stopped in front of the massive wooden door. Ornate carvings graced the body, spikes and all kinds of weapons the edges.
‘Don’t forget your manners,’ the black caped man advised before he pushed the massive door wide open as if it was nothing. It surely weighed over two hundred kilograms, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. Light assailed his eyes as brightness entered the lightly lit hallway. With long steps, the four entered the auditorium as one and stopped in the dead center. All four kneeled as one and bowed their head slightly towards the far end. The talking died out pretty quickly at the sight of the four large men. To both sides of the four were long benches on top of which sat a wealth of women and men, all scantily clad and involved in all kinds of activities, which they put on hold for the moment as everyone kept their mouths shut. Cups of wine were distributed among the present. Paintings and lush coloured fabric were strewn around the walls, almost looking like a carnival.
Claps broke the long silence followed by an echo of footsteps. Down the stairs at the far end of the auditorium, a lone figure emerged from the absolute darkness he was enveloped in a moment ago, followed by two others. He wore a fine silken robe, red as crimson and black, silken pants. Long white hair and a deformed face, a thin body and bulging muscles. A wicked smile on his face. The two figures to his sides wore white, satin robes hanging to their sides, revealing stunning bodies of the two dark-haired ladies.
‘Ever the sight for sore eyes these two fine ladies, right?’ the man said as he laughed, coming to a halt a mere two meters in front of the black caped man. 'Which one do you like more, Raziel? Draiana or Fraya?’ the man asked, as he squinted his eyes at the man kneeling in front of him, his head low. Raziel closed his eyes and breathed steadily, not letting the old man provoke him.
‘Good choice, Raziel. Ever the smart one among your group of vagabonds. All you are good for is ridding me of loose ends. Am i right? Raziel?’ the man asked mockingly. Raziel clenched his fist with a force that almost bent the metal out of shape. He recovered quickly, however.
‘Of course, King Lefrand. You know best,’ Raziel managed to say without sounding how he felt. The loathing and hatred seething within him would burst out one day and he would do something stupid. Something that would get him and his followers killed. However, today would not be that day, or so he hoped.
‘Right, right,’ the king said, as he turned towards his wives and squeezed a breast of each woman, drawing blood with his long, sharp nails. Both Fraya and Draiana moaned in ecstasy as he licked their blood. Raziel almost flinched by the sheer amount of disrespect shown to him and his companions and the vulgar display of power. For hundreds of years and still, every time the king played games with him. When would he finally understand that he was nothing without his subordinates?
‘Why are we here, my king?’ Raziel inquiredwith a loud voice, drawing eyes on himself from everyone present, including the king, who stopped indulging himself with his wives' blood.
‘Oh, right. I almost forgot,’ he realized, as he hit his forehead, palm out in mock remembrance. The two women covered themselves partially up and turned around towards the throne where they had been sitting earlier with the king.
‘There is a situation with Treflid,’ the king started again. ‘Supposedly they are working on a secret project that could turn the tide on us.’
‘A secret project?’ Raziel repeated, surprised. A sly smile appeared on the king’s face as he approached Raziel again.
‘Yes, Raziel. They are said to have developed a way to produce artificial light. Imagine that. Artificial light during a night raid or a night war. Blinding us during mid battle.’ The king’s face went blank as he slowly tilted Raziel’s face up to look him in the eyes. ‘Take care of it, dog,’ the king ordered and slapped Raziel’s face. Stalk was about to jump up and attack the king as Slain put his hand on his companion’s hand, squeezing it tightly. Both men endured the disrespect shown to their leader and themselves.
‘When do I leave?’ Raziel finally managed to say through gritted teeth.
‘In the morning. Instructions will be awaiting you. Now leave. I have other matters to attend to,’ the king commanded, turning his back towards the four still kneeling.
Four pairs of gauntlets slammed into the hard stone, acknowledging their order. As one they stood up, turned towards the door and strode out. Raziel slammed the door harder behind him than intended, but nothing he could do about it now. The shame, the hatred, the lust for his king’s blood was overwhelming. It was all he could do not to give in and go back inside, kill him, the two queens and the other snakes that didn’t deserve to live. Ruining the kingdom and the lives of everyone Raziel cared for, the snakes and the hydra in their midst. Three heads in one. The king and his queens. The same echoes sounded all around them as the four returned from where they had come, their coven. No one spoke a word until they finally exited the kilometer long corridor and breathed in fresh air.
‘The guts!’ Stalk roared out in anger, hitting his chest multiple times, then turning towards Slain, grabbing him by his neck. ‘Why did you stop me! I should have killed that miserable excuse of a king! Did you see what he did to us? To Raziel!?’ A hand on his shoulder calmed Stalk, as he knew it was Raziel’s. He turned towards his leader, his friend, his brother in arms and cried,‘Why are you letting them do this to us, to yourself!’
‘I...’ Raziel started to say but wandered off with his gaze, not able to look his friend in the eyes. He let go of his shoulder and turned his back towards his friends. ‘The time will come, trust in me. Just a while longer,’ he said, as he started walking into the dark, cold night. ‘Be prepared in the morning. Let everyone know about the raid,’ he added as he ran off.
‘What the hell is he thinking,’ Stalk said to no one in particular. 'He is the God of war, but still, going off alone into the night. At a time like this no less!’
‘Be silent. He needs some time to cool down, fool,’ Sentil said, finally breaking his silence that night. He was never good with words, so he tended to keep out of arguments and any useless chatter. Rather, he let his weapons speak for him.
‘Who are you calling a fool, idiot?’ Stalk replied, angrily, shaking his fist in the larger man’s face. Sentil just waved him off and turned away. Slain followed him with Stalk a few meters behind them, still angry.
‘You do know that this feels not right, Sentil?’ Slain said, as he caught up with Sentil. His question was met with silence of approval and a slight nod.
‘The question is, what do we do about it?’ Sentil replied, breaking the silence after a good hundred meters. ‘If we knew what was in store for us, we could somehow prepare, but i have no idea what will happen once we get where we are supposed to go. For all we know, it’s a trap and our own armies will be arrayed against us.’
‘I know. The not knowing is killing me. Something fishy is being set up, and i don’t like it one bit. If it was just us, I wouldn’t care, but Raziel? He doesn’t deserve anything that will likely happen there,’ Slain replied.
‘All we can do, and will do now, is to prepare for the worst. Get everyone to prepare for the morning, to make the add ons to the shields, to prepare the extra provisions. He may be immortal, but we aren’t.’
A figure stepped out from the absolute darkness as the massive door closed behind the four men who just left the auditorium. Their features were mostly hidden behind the cowl and cape they had on. With a grace out of the world, the slender figure walked towards the king and threw back the hood that had covered their head, revealing long, pointy ears and a pretty face. Long white hair fell down the woman’s back as it unfurled itself from the knot it had once been. A sly smile painted itself on the woman’s face as she bowed deeply towards the vampire king, Lefrand, revealing a deep insight into her chest.
‘King Lefrand. I assume that everything will go on as planned?’ the elven woman asked.
‘Why yes, it will, my dear. How about you come closer so I can have a nibble of your… skin?’ Lefrand replied, licking his lips. Elven blood was raw power for vampires and a forbidden aphrodisiac. The elven woman stepped back a few steps, narrowly evading the vampire king's embrace as he tried to catch her. Annoyance was written all over his face as she managed to evade him. A sly smile graced her face for seeing through his every move.
‘Shouldn’t we stick to the topic, my king?’ the woman asked. Lefrand waved her off and walked towards his throne, slowly.
‘You know what to do. Take care of them. Take a thousand with you, even though you won’t need that many. Let us be on the safe side this time. They are formidable, the lot.’
‘Very well, my king. It will be as you command,’ the elven woman obeyedand turned towards the shadows.
‘By the way, Sylvana, would you be so nice as to bring me his head when everything is over?’ he asked. The woman stopped in her tracks, rage seething from her very pores as she turned around to face the king.
‘I asked you nicely not to mention my name when around others, didn’t i?’ she almost yelled, her face rage incarnate.
‘Oops. It must have slipped my mind. Please forgive this old man, won’t you? I am so old, after all,’ he said and roared out in laughter, a chorus of laughter following his own. Enraged, Sylvana stepped into the shadows and disappeared from their presence. She would get even with him one day already, he could count on that.
Just as she breached the darkness of the night, drops of rain greeted her skin, cooling her down. She climbed up a tree and hid in its darkness. The scene still embedded in her eyes as he mocked her and called her by her first name. How dared he. Her name was sacred and no mere mortal, or in this case, vampire be he a king or not, dare say it. She would already get back at him but how? She didn’t know yet, but she would, one way or the other. For the last three hours she had been sitting in the tree, crying, cursing and trying to find a way out. Why would she have to do this? There was no need to slaughter an entire settlement.How would she justify over five thousand souls on her conscience? The old, the young, men and women, infants.
She stared at the scars she had been gifted. Dozens of scars graced her stomach and chest, another hundred her back. For ages she had been the pawn and play-toy to the king. A gift from her father and mother to the wicked creature called Lefrand so they could buy themselves off. If they were still alive, she would have killed them herself. Rage filled her anew but quickly disappeared without a trace. Slowly, she traced the worst scar of all. The child that had been ripped out of her womb and killed in front of her, reminding her of her place. She dropped to the ground and started weeping like a little child. Her unborn hadn’t wronged anyone. Why did it have to die along with the only man she had loved? The wounds were still fresh after a hundred years of pain. His face. She couldn’t remember it anymore. How had he looked like? Hadn’t he been blond? Tall and muscular? No, that was someone else, right? She slumped to the floor, lying there in her own tears, naked and cold. She wanted this life to end. Yes, maybe she should let Raziel kill her at the ambush so she couldfinally leave this wretched world.
An owl hooted, announcing itself. Sylvana looked up, her gaze distant. A hollow expression marring her beautiful face. A sly smile replaced the death stare. Yes, she just had a great idea. Enlightenment. She knows how she will end all of this without having to die. Now if only she will have enough time to set it up. She will have to make do. The night is still young, but time flies. She stood up and looked at the moon, bright and round. Such a delightful image. Tonight the night is dark and so are her thoughts.
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