Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Five

Petra kept training. She had six months left in school; and she planned to get every bit of use out of the facilities.

She was still no master in melee. Otan had made it clear by the end that she would need to rely on her own ability to kill things before they got close enough. A feat she could acomplish easily, her power and skill were overwhelming in combat magic. Where other students, even the more talented ones, would face a squad of practice golems and defeat three with magic and the rest with their weapons; she would demolish the squad with a single flurry of shadow bolts(enviroment allowing). In an open room or faced with a single foe she was unstoppable. If she lost the advantage of range she was still light enough on her feet to survive for as long as a half hour.

Chesi was preoccupied with preparing for life after school. She was a talented alchemist and a nearly peerless warrior, but she still wanted to do something valuable for the universe. Alid had offered her a recomendation if she chose to join the guard.

He himself was set for life. It was clear that Petra had enough of an advantage over her siblings in power and intellect that no amount of popularity would keep her off the throne. As such, he was preparing to take over for his uncle as Captain. He remained dedicated to his duties, but always cautioned Petra against completing her plan.

And rightly so.
It was three weeks until Junsrew when Naron came back to her. He said he'd worked out the kinks and was ready to give it another shot with her formula.
She chose to play it safe, and told Alid to wait outside in case something went wrong.

"Alright kiddo; I think the problem was the pattern you were using. I tried this one last night and this little shadow thing popped up for a peak. Said something about not being allowed to come out and left before I could nab him."
"Let's see it then!"

He bent over the formula and set his hands against the outmost ring. It flared to live as he did. She saw at once that in his ignorance he'd reached the result she'd desired. Hell stretched out before her, burning and rotting in its evils.

"Now to draw them up. You've been wonderful professor."
"What? Who are you drawing up now?"
"No need." The demon's voice boomed forth from behind them.

Petra vaulted the portal, which sealed to a invisble floor as she crossed it. Naron simply spun and looked up in dismay.

"Courteous enough to spare me the trouble of calling on you. Demon, you embrace your fate too willingly."
"What in the..?" Naron was still stunned as he back pedaled to the center of the room to take in the full majesty of the newly summoned power.
"No mortal; it is you who embrace your fate. Perform the final act. Kill the fool!"
"But I want a witness to my power. He will tell the world of my victory."
"Then you are already mine."

The demon stretched a single finger towards the hapless profesor.
"How is it you ordered that first death? Ah yes, DIE!"
The unseen barrier beneath them was pierced as the shades bellow sent tentacles upwards and tore him limb from limb. It was a familiar sight by now, she had killed more than once like this. Never before had she seen what was on the other end of the portals. Had she been more prone to terror, or less prepared for dealing with a demon; she'd have probably been as afraid as Naron had been only seconds earlier.

"You won't leave this room demon; Today, you die."
"Today, your purpose will be made known."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Plague of Danielland; The calm in the storm

Courtney looked out from the palace. Ruling Stormguarde was, compared to ruling any of the other major states of the universe, pretty easy. The population was diverse, but with a population consisting of 90% immortal to very longlived races people tended not to enter into any sort of persoal conflicts. Even just keeping someone's lawn mower too long could have repercussions hundreds of years later.

The Palace was a 'dark district'. Herself a Vampire, she tended to prefer the company of her own kind. They were mostly of her own coven; the Yellsdana. They had historical ties to the city older than even most of her famiy realized. The whole station had been founded by their foremother. The storm mage had built it as a private fortress, during the war she'd expanded it to house refugees. Her Father had lead them here; after Johr had killed him she'd lead the coven.

The immortals were mostly friends or servants of the storm mage. They'd been here as long as there'd been a stormguarde. The Pantheon, of which she was only the second Vampire to be a part of, had taken up residence here. Most immortals lived here, or at least had a house and some servants.

No one was really sure when the Elves had showed up. Stormguarde had been the last bastion of the living during the great war; several races had arrived then. The elves just seemed to be the only one that never left. The heavy Ley energies woven through the station probably appealed to them.

It was a good life. Even during the war no one had dared attack; Her illustrious ancestor had forged the nebula so that it provided light, air, and the most perfect defense in the universe. Ships had to be made of metal, a single bolt of lightning from the raging storm ended any threat. A few of the Wardens were assigned to identify targets and coax the storm as enemies approached. And the nature of the whole place was such that they could relocate if nessesairy.

Not that she didn't have problems. Since the coniving Lich Xandathu had struck the human colonies they'd been dealing with the repercussions. She'd dispatched two of her nephews and a squad of rangers to investigate rumors of an expansionest cult there. The Nielda of the old empire, Danielland, were ready to go to war to stop the threat; the Nielda of the new empire, Seclora, were blocking them on the grounds of an old non-intervention treaty. She'd been hoping one of the other immortals would take an intrest and deal with it. Petra would have been preferable; but she was in exile, again.

"Milady, we've just recieved word from Emperor Kvald the fifth. The entire empire has just been bombed with some sort of new plague."
"Why should I care? We all know the Nielda won't be hurt."
"It seems to be a custom tailored variety of Xandathu's plague. It acts on the blood. Seventy percent of the population is expected to succumb within the next thirty-six hours. He's going to launch a counter-offensive."
"Heaven help them all."

So much for peace. And she was just getting used to it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four

"Here are the notes professor." Petra presented Naron with a heavily doctored, but factually accurate, copy of her notes.

She had developed a reason for her research. Since the demonic plane was, theoreticly at least, more or less just like any other elemental plane; she had edited her notes to make it appear she was simply trying to summon an inhabitant of one of the elemental planes. Since the practice for any other plane would be much like summoning a demon, a practice that was well established and researched, though well guarded against, the simmilarities would be reasonable and less subject to investegation.

"Any particular element in mind Petra?"
"Well, Knarf has mentioned that water is a particularly malleable element. I was thinking I'd try with that."
"I'm no expert at this, but I believe the pattern for water is.."
He really wasn't an expert at this. Chesi, and most other Alchemists for that matter, had tattoed a formula onto her arm. It allowed her to write alchemical formulas by contact with a flat surface and used her body heat as a reagent. Petra had no need of such a mark for her alchemy; she was sufficently powerful to use magic directly to write what she needed. Naron was using chalk. Besides being easy to mess up, it required a lot of time to write out every intricacy of the pattern.

She stayed to watch. It took hours but she was determined to see this through. She passed the time by asking him questions and talking about fictional social problems. After all, it was important that he not realize just how idiotic he was being. It was also extremly amusing to watch him get flustered and erase large portions of his work as he fumbled about in befudlement.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Three

She had six months to find a suitably gullible young warlock. He'd need to be willing to do what she told him too, without realizing he was being told to do it. A demon might realize that she was working through him if he knew it.

She looked across the cafetieria. No one who'd been there for over a year would simply accept her approaching them with an idea; but a first year wouldn't have the capacity to pull it off. That left transfer students, all eight of them; Non-student visitors; who were rare and likely wouldn't have the capacity; or a teacher.

She glanced at the transfer students; they'd all placed in through heroic feats or prophecy. Simonas and Harold were prophesied somewhere; they might be dumb enough to do it. As far as visitors; most of them were nobles and none of them would fall for any atempt at trickery.
Teachers was the most interesting option. Otan had retired last year; after a long run. His replacement was delightfully ignorant of her power. Naron, a former Imperial Guard, must have gone out of his way to not know who she was. He was option one; he'd be the one to summon her demon.

"Professor Naron, can I have a word with you?"
"Sure thing miss..?"
"Petra, but everyone else call me 'the reaper'." Petra used the sweetest voice she could. She wasn't sure if she was going to be trying to seuce him, but a good impression was never a bad idea.
"So what's on your mind kid?"
'kid'? He was only like ten years older than she was. It took a great deal of restraint to not simply take him down to the arena and use him for a sacrifice.
"Well sir; I've been having problems with something I've been working on in my spare time. There's this formula.."
"This sounds like an Alchemy question. You should probably ask Mrs. Prevance."
"She hates me. Since the first day of school, she's hated me."
She knew why; Mrs. Prevance had never recovered from watching her kill that prisoner. Now that Otan was gone she was the only teacher who ever stood up to her; and that only because she was the most terrified of them all.
"Well I'm sorry to hear that. What sort of project is this?"
"Summoning, I'm working on a way to call something to me from somewhere else."
"Sounds vague, what's the problem?"
"It's not showing up."
"I don't think it wants to show up."
"And what sort of hel do you think I could be?"
"Maybe if you could repeat my experiment than I could observe and try to find out what's being done wrong."
"Alright, I'll look over your notes and we'll see what we can do this saturday. Bring them by my office tomorrow."
"Than you sir, you have no idea how important this is to me."
Idiot, how in the world did this guy become a teacher? He just walked into her plan with little hesitation.

Chapter Twenty-Two

"Are you sure you have it right?"
"Princess, It is exactly the way it was last time. Demons are not machienes; you can't just call and expect them to show up."
"Maybe we should kill something bigger this time."
"Petra my orders are to keep you safe. Just doing this much is a violation of that. Please, just go back to bed."

She sat quietly for another hour before finally returning to her bed. Chesi was a sound sleeper, so it was relatively easy to sneak out.

Why hadn't it shown? Maybe it knew it was a trap. Perhaps if she could trick someone into summoning it for her.

Petra had spent nearly three years now studying demons. Learning how they thought, how they fought, and what they sought. She was probably the universe's leading expert on shaditha. Yet she couldn't even call up a shade, let alone the full-fledged tempter that Chesi suspected to be following her. But she was determined to bring him into the open, and make and end of him.

She would be the most powerful being in the universe then; demon slayer, immortal, the physical embodiement of death. No one could order her around, and she could remake the world as she wanted too(however that was).

But first she'd need a pawn to summon the demon for her.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chapter Twenty-One

Otherwise, Their ninth year proceded as had those before it. Classes were attended, matches were won, injuries were recieved, and here and there people died as a result of fiddling with magic for the wrong amount of time. Whether to much, or simply not being prepared; Life at the academy was quite dangerous. To say that nothing happened would be wrong; rather, nothing important to Petra happened.

The tenth year had gone much like the nine proceeding it. Scarcely a month went by some bonehead didn't try to upset her power, or challenge her outside of TacSim. And sadly, by now most of the teachers were themselves rightfully afraid of her power. Although she had probably killed before; Petra made no secret of it now. No one tried to stop her; if you were the level of stupid it took to start a fight with her, you were going to die anyways. She just made it prompt, painful, and public.

Alid and Chesi usually tried to convince her not to. Chesi would often heal the survivors, what few there were. Alid was the only student who could get away with intervening in her fights. More people owed their lives to him than he wished to count. He was a good guard; if ever there was a threat he'd try to deal with it long before she could find out about it. And when someone really did need to be put down he'd stand aside and let her do what she did best. Love is probably to stronga term; to say that she'd come to feel a strong affection for him might be a better. But if he felt anything more than a professional obligation he didn't show it.

It was august, halfway into the semester, when the end began. Chesi climbed down the stairway that lead to Petra's lab. It was dark, as always, and smelled like rotting flesh, a dozen herbs, and singed hair. Chesi was always polite enough not to say anything, so she'd written it into Fey to hate this place.
"Petra, what happened in the labrinth last year after I blacked out?"
"I blasted the golems. Boom, little bits of golem everywhere."
"What do you mean how? With magic of course."
"I have a witness who says otherwise."
"What? We were the only ones in there."
"Not quite." A golem, the statue from the center of the room, clumsily descended the stairs. "He says it was a Shaditha. That you barely survived."
Petra muttered a curse at the stone man waiting silently beside her roommate. "Can you blame me for not saying so? What would you think if you saw a demon come to your defense?"
"I'd think something was wrong and that we should stop what we were doing and go back."
"We're immortal now Chesi. I'd don't care what the Demon wanted us to do; they don't control us. What could they possibly do to us?"
"What if they wanted us to be immortal? Wouldn't that mean it was wrong to be immortal?"
"How can it be wrong to not die?"
"I don't know, but if demons want it than it must be wrong."

"I think there might be a demon following you."
"The first day of school; I felt something from when you killed that prisoner. It's the same thing I felt when Vlad fought his demon; not Vlad's demon but something close, and nearby as well. And the way the golem felt from the demon last year; it's the same thing. It took me till now to realize it; it may not be controlling you Petra, but it's following you."
"Absurd; Demons don't follow people. They offer power..."
"Which you have had since day one because everyone knew you could and were willing to kill. Because the Demon killed the prisoner for you."
"..Or eternal youth..."
"Which we both have thanks to the fountain he saved our lives for us to get to."
"...Or love." Petra paused. If the trend the demon had been following so far was any indication that would be next.
"Chesi, do you think the demon could make Alid like me?"
"Petra Laerdsfeld how could you? He's your guard, you shouldn't even think of using a demon's powers to make him like you."
"If I'm lucky the nether lord will do it of his own accord."

Chesi just stared at her friend in perturbed shock.
"I'm kidding. If he's following me then it will save me the trouble of finding one. He wants to play with my life; he'll find out what happens to people who take me lightly."

Chapter Twenty

By the time Chesi came to Petra had managed to get her story straight. There was no chance she was telling Chesi that there was a demon helping them. She didn't fully understand it herself, and until she did there would be no mention of their foul guardian.

"What happened? Are we alive?"
"I killed them, we're alive."
"Those skeletons sure didn't help."
"They distracted them while you dealt with most of them. How's your head?"
"Sore, but I can keep going."
"Good, grab your bag."

They trudged through the halls, here and there another golem would be patrolling, or a pit would open up in front of them. It made things more interesting, but Chesi was clearly not doing as well as she insisted she was. Petra expected that there'd be another exit somewhere towards the end, so she decided that continuing inward was the best way to get out.

They finally reached the end of the maze and found its guarded treasure. A small spring coming from the rock. The lower half of the cave had filled with water. It was pretty, the light from Fey sparkling on the gently rippling pool. The walls were painted; the tale of those who built the labrinth emblazoned on it. and above the spring itself was a plaque. It read, in an archaic dialect of common; 'drink and be full of life'.

"Probably means the stuff's filled with all kinds of evil little creatures. you drink it and they start living in you; eating you from the inside."
"There are things that can overpower Nieldic blood. I don't want to play host to some parasite."
"Oh right, your mom works in that department doesn't she? We'd probably be the the least endangered by it of anybody."

~Shut up and drink the water!~
"Who was that?"
There was no reply. The cave was as empty as it had been before.
"Something tells me we should drink the water."
"Probably makes you super-strong or gives you the runs or something."
"I think it means you'll live forever. If your body is 'full of life', wouldn't that mean you'd be absent of death?"
"Immortality. Reason enough for me."
Petra conjured a mug and dipped it into the pool. That annoying, evil sounding voice Sighe in relief, then began chuckling.
"It tastes like water, water that's been in and on old rocks for a long time."
"I'll drink some too; then we should get back to school."
Chesi took the mug and drank. Then both stood up and turned around.
In front of them was the front door; open to the outside.
"Convenient. And what a wonderful and potentially significant little adventure we've had."
"Aren't you glad I convinced you to come?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chapter Nineteen

It was dark, but Petra liked it better that way. Chesi did not, but could remedy the situation. She took a small orb out of her bag; it had been enchanted it to hover beside her while providing light to their travels.
Petra hated the little thing, it was one of Chesi's early eperimentations with alchemy. She'd written it a personality and even given it quirks; she'd even named it Fey. It bounced around as they walked, doing spins and generally expressing an air of perkiness and optimism. The intent was to lighten not only the room, but the mood as well. Petra's only pleasure in the thing was the hurt whimper it gave off whenever she batted it away.

The maze was wide, tall, and empty. The entrance had been occupied by several skeletons, but the rest of the halls were untouched. Petra was quick to point out that this was likely because of the number of bodies in the first room, and lack of traps since then. Chesi chose to take it as a good sign that nothing particularly dangerous was in the maze.

It surprised neither when she was wrong. Petra was actually quite relieved to see the large golem at the end of the vaulted chamber. He was stone, etched with runes and sygils akin to those on the door. He resmbled a Nielda, or human at the least; so whoever created the place had likely been themselves humanoid. He was armed with a mace and a shield, but did not attempt to enage them.
"Maybe it's just a statue."
"A runed statue? It's a golem Chesi. Do you want to kill it or should I?"
"Couldn't you just rewrite it like you did the door?"
"I'm a necromancer, not an alchemist. I don't know the first thing about golems. I could only rewrite the door because I recognized where the password was and happened to know the rune for 'reaper'."
"If you imobilized it I could probably rewrite it."

Petra stretched out her hand again. Fey retrated into the bag as the shadows swelled under her influence. The room grew dark as they converged on the golem, locking him into place. Chesi jogged up to it and began examining it.
"I was right! It really is just a statue."
The walls receded into the floor. Just beyond the columns that remained in their absence were hundreds of golems; all a perfect but functioning match for the statue Petra had needlessly bound to the floor.
"Those aren't."

Fire erupted in the vacant sockets of the stone company aroud them. The golems shuddered to life. Petra could see bones piled against the walls behind them. shattered swords and rusted armor were crushed underfoot as the golems began to enter the room's inner ring.

"Chesi, watch my back."
Petra called upon the shadow again. It responded to her influence more slowly this time. She faced a victorious army, but she would face them with an age of their victims at her side. She felt it like a second skin, the shadow bent to her will. She lost track of her own senses through the crawling of its power; feeling through the room with dark tendrils. She found what she was looking for, the walls and their skeletal companions. She let her power flow through them, her will was their life's blood.
"Have your revenge."

It wasn't a fair fight in the least. Stone and enchanted steel against bleached bone and rusted iron, While her armies were greater in number and skill they would have no victory. The sound of Chesi's hammer against the ancient wariors was alone the cry of sucess. They were surrounded at last; nineteen remained against her. Chesi was weary, she fought hard but her stamina was lacking. Petra raised her scythe and readied it for a blow against the igneous horde. The first one charged, Chesi tried to stop it but was knocked aside unconcious. Petra swung, connected but only scratched its rune-laden skin.

Then the chamber erupted with a power not her own. She knew them, from her first day of school when they'd made her famous and feared. Tentacles, wide and rough, burst through the boundaries of the universe and lashed out at her attackers. The golems became ensnared in the web of netherworldly power. She watched as all were torn apart and their sygils and runes desecrated by the writhing foe.

She slumped to the ground beside her friend. It was one thing to fight demons, but when they came to your aid it was another thing entirely.

Chapter Eighteen

"So what's so important you had to drag me out at nine at night?"
"I found a maze of some sort under the mountains. I thought you might be up for an adventure."
"Outside, in a cave. Chesi, what part of this sounded like I might find it interesting?"
"There could be old spellbooks; or magical weaponry. If you're serious about fighting a demon you should be prepared."
Petra grunted, accepting her fate.

The entrance was a very narrow tunnel on the face of a cliff. After squeezing through Petra saw why Chesi had been so interested. There was a doorway, twice as tall as she was, and wide enough she and Chesi could have lain down in it end to end and not touched the sides. Runes and archaic symbols decorated the frame, perhaps as a means of opening it with alchemy. More likely though they were a warning; a few skeletons littered the room, and there were scratch marks on the door as though someone hadtried to claw their way in.

"Why didn't they just leave?"
"We should be careful. It's probably a trap."
On cue, the tunnel behind them sealed itself. Chesi let out a startled yelp, but was silenced as a voice spoke from the door.
"Solve the riddle and you shall not die. Best our chalenge and prove yourself worthy."

Petra looked at the door, the runes and sygils were glowing a dim blue; the only light in the room. They were signs to let it speak, and to open it.
She decided to take the direct approach.
"Let us pass or it shall be you who dies."
"Your first attempt is expended."
"Petra what are you doing?"
Petra hadn't been training for the last two years so she could reason with doors. She raised a dark sleeved arm and extended a pale finger towards the door.
"Everything that was not, must one day be naught again. Heed my voice, enchanted stones, for it spells the end of those who oppose me."
The dim light of the runes was snuffed as tendrils of shadow sprung from her hand. Their light was quenched as she rewrote the spells, and drained the driving power of the door. When they flickered back to life they cast a purple hue on the chamber.
And they did.

"The password was 'shortcake' by the way; I came through here yesterday."
"Now it's 'Reaper'."
"You take the fun out of riddles Petra."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Author's note; the descending years

I wasn't really paying attention to anyone else then. That didn't stop some of the most important things of other people's lives from happening. Kora received the first of the visions that would become 'the stone prophecies'; the first of which spared many lives in the very near future. Knarf and Kara encountered a dragon in the arena; by accident they were trying to get ahead of the game by spying out their next challenge. Knarf gave his right fore-arm and left eye to save her; she gave up her own eye to replace it in gratitude. I don't know how deep their friendship went; but for an Anatolian like Kara to give a Ga-Vok anything was, and would be for millenia, quite exceptional. Those two events set the framework for coming events.

Vlad actually dropped out of school the summer between years eight and nine. Azriak sent a shade towards the end of year eight and told him that he had four score hundred years to ready himself for a rematch. Vlad never has been the sort to waste time getting ready for things.
Kora took it hardest; the two of them had been good friends. She tried to send a letter, it ended up sitting on my desk for nearly five hundred years before I even knew what it was. She said a man who called himself 'the paymaster' had told her that he would have a Nieldic heir, and that he would know the child's mother by her depressed hair and the storm in her eyes; which would be unmistakable.

And Though I did know it at the time; I failed to truly appreciate just how much Chesi did in those years. Her uncle died during her eight year; It never even occurred to me that Chesi would have had to abdicate the heirship to have stayed at school. She pretty much gave up everything for a friend who didn't even give her the time of day most days. I never got that; Petra would never have done that for her. HE has plans, and HIS plans work out.

Chapter Seventeen

After that incident Chesi kept her peace regarding Vlad. She never openly opposed anything he did, at least not out of distrust. The two of them never really got along, but at least now they weren't openly fighting.

Alid assumed Vlad's role as second in command of the team. Petra began giving him more and more menial tasks. They kept winning, but all of the other teams began to notice that Petra was the only one with any real responsibilities in the battles. She was the captain of the number one ranked team in the school, and she was doing it with marginalized teammates.

She also began studying heavily into necromancy and summoning. She began to correct teachers during class and then demonstrate the subject principles. She stepped into the arena at the begining of her eight year and defeated the giant set before her. Many of the teachers would move out of her way in the halls rather than rsk angering her.
Her mood was as dark as the magic she practiced. The vast amount of time spent indoors, whether in the library studying or in the crypts below the school, paled her skin to a bone white. She never stopped researching new spells or practicing old favorites; even to the point of missing meals or ditching classes. TacSim was the only place she could be consistently expected to show up for. The lack of nutrition began to show; her once round visage grew gaunt. As the days passed she grew more like the nickname she'd bourne since her first week at the academy; The Reaper.

But she was not without her friends. Alid was always nearby; though his grades suffered for it. His dedication to her was something more than the obligations of a guard; though he showed no sign of reciprocating her hidden affections. Chesi too stood by her friend. She worried; the passion with which she had pursued Vlad's downfall faded as she saw Petra descend. She focused on healing and her study of demons was second only to that of her scythe-wielding roommate. And both she and Alid trained to defend their captain against the inevitable.

But Chesi went further than planning a defense. Her scouting of the mountains about the academy had revealed a labrinth beneath the tallest peak of the range. Nine miles south of the school it had an entrance. In the penultimate year of their schooling she brought her to it; in the hopes of distracting her with a new adventure.

Author's note; chapter sixteen arena floor

Hearing this story put a different perspective on things. Vlad has been an invaluable resource for the events of those years.

Alid hopped down into the arena and walked up to Vlad.
"Congratulations, you just survived an attack by a demon. How do you feel now?"
"Like I just got beat up by a demon."
"Have a swiftmend; I picked a couple up before hand in case this happened."
Vlad downed the potion and returned the guard an empty vial.

"That was a truth potion. Are you now, or have you ever been in a pact with a demon?"
Vlad kicked himself mentally. No way he should have fallen for that so easily.
"Yes, that one. I begged for my life when raiders came to our town. He offered me immortality, and power befitting it. It has been a curse."
"Course it has, he is a demon after all. What exactly is the nature of this curse?"
"I must drink blood to remain powerful, vithout it I am no more than my age vould allow."
"Thus the girlfriends; the curse is passed on of course."
"By the bite; vhen they die they become as I am. It is a horrible fate; but if I do not pass it on I am less than human."
"Does it affect Nielda?"
"No, your blood abhors all manner of curses and creatures. It vould no sooner harbor my curse than it vould any other sort of undeath. I can only nurse my strength on the races vhere there is disease."
"Very well then. Can I have my sword back?"
"Are you going to kill me?"

Alid stared at him for a while before reaching over and taking his sword out of Vlad's hands. It was tempting; and would likely solve problems for many down the road. He sheathed his sword after a elongated pause and stepped up to Vlad.
Then patted him firmly on the shoulder.
"No. If you are no threat to Nielda, and you pledge not to endanger my mistress, than to kill you would be murder. I am a guard; my people are not endangered by you and so you need not be endangered by me. See to it that it remains that way."
"Thank you. Vill you keep it a secret?"
"Of course, you only threaten humans; and they are not my ward."

The two looked up to the bleachers and saw Petra turning to leave.
"She'll hate you for this."
"For living?"
"For winning. It hurts her pride to think someone else might be stronger than her. It would have been smarter on my part to simply apply the truth potion, but then Chesi would have killed you in half a thought. She has good instincts; she knows the demon threw the fight, she knows you are entered into a pact, and she even knows your ex's share your condition. I think she knows more about it from them than from watching you."
"She is a dangerous sort of girl. I vonder if she vould be open to hearing my side of things; perhaps over a starlit dinner and a good vine."
"She'd kill you for asking. Try not to draw attention to yourself for a while; I'll try to keep Petra to do anything stupid while her ego recovers."
"Thank you my friend. I hope that everything goes vell vith your mistress."

Chapter Sixteen

Petra sat in the stadium as Chesi stormed off, her promise restraining her from continued attempts to prove her theory. Alid jumped into the ring to retrieve his weapon from Vlad.

She was left alone, brooding over her teammate's feats. He'd defeated a demon. Chesi thought it had thrown the fight, but demons were supposed to be prideful beyond the pride of any mortal. Why would a being that thought so highly of itself throw a fight?
And he'd made it look good too. All the twirling and spinning as he dodged or recovered from blows, He'd been on the defensive the whole time but it looked like he was in control of the fight.
And he'd wounded it. There'd been actual Demon's blood spilled by his blows. She was fairly certain most people couldn't so much as prick one. He'd left the tiles filthy with it.
Most importantly though; he'd banished it. That was an act of magic. She was supposed to be the one good with magic, he was just some human.

And in that she turned her thoughts on herself. 'Could I have done that?' 'Is he the better mage afterall?' Petra's mind was awash with a hail of self-doubt and wounded pride. 'Would I be able to defeat a demon if I had too?'

She looked down and saw Alid patting Vlad on the back. He was congratulating him. Vlad had managed to impress him; SHE hadn't managed to impress him. After months of trying to get him to notice her as more than just 'the princess'and here he was offering up praise to a mere human. As her emotions began turning her thoughts incoherent and her mind grew frantic with building rage, She followed after Chesi and left the arena.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chapter Fifteen

"So, how long should this take?"
"Not too long."
"Maybe if we killed a person?"

Petra recognized what happened at once. She'd done it herself, mostly by accident. The floor within the central ring of the circle was displaced as the fabric of space tore open. Beyond it she could see a fiery darkness, an abyss of scorched rock and dark power. Shades and demons could be ssen lurking around the edges of the portal. But the one who came through was already on their sideas the portal faded to a solid barrier.

"I am Azriak, why have you summoned me pathetic mortal?"
"To prove I am not you sevant."
The demon laughed loudly, his vast wings stretching in mirth. He flexed his taloned hands as he turned his attention to Vlad.
"Then you will soon learn that demons are not to be trifled with human."

{Vlad tells me the demon whispered 'Make it good' after this. It was still a hard fight for him in those days.}

The Demon lunged sweeping at him with his claws. Vlad rolled to the side and slashed at the netherworldly being. Had it not been for the angle the others saw it from his miss would have been plain to see. The demon withdrew his hand as though the wound had been true. Then quickly struck with his other hand throwing him back to the wall.
He may have been human, but Vlad was quite agile. He managed to spin in the air and rebounded at the demon from the wall. He twirled as he neared Azriak and the demon only narrowly deflected him. Vlad assumed a guarded stance facing the demon from across the stadium.
Azriak spread his silver-feathered wings and used their might to hurl himself at the young mage. His claws raked the tiles as Vlad lept back to avoid his blow. He struck again and tore stones from the wall. He growled savagely as he began stalking his small nemesis.

"So Chesi; feel satisfied he's not working with the demon now?"
"It's throwing the fight. A demon can use magic without energy; why wouldn't it have just killed him?"
"Meh, Even if it's not fighting it's hardest it's still doing pretty good."
"He's not doing so bad either. He's doing pretty good actually. Annoyingly good."

The demon howled as Vlad connected a blow to his calf. Vlad was flung back as Azriak's wings spread in pain. The demon bellowed and hurled several small bolts of demonic energy at his foe. They were dodged easily. Vlad used the momentum of his dodge to roll beneath the fallen angel; cutting him deeply across the thigh.
"Unworthy whelp! Feel my pain."
Azriak unleashed a mass of whirrling power against the Mage before him. Vlad used all his strength and speed to avoid it's ravaging destruction. When the demonic storm subsided he found himself upon the demon's shoulder.
"Begone from this place demon; I am no pathetic weakling to bend to your will."

He plunged the sword into Azriak's brow. The demon howled as the portal below him unsealed and he was dragged down by those still trapped within.
"This won't be the last time, Vlad of Earth. Some day I shall repay you for every wound of this day."

And the portal sealed itself. Were it not for the damaged walls and floor it could never have been deduced that Azriak had even been there at all.
"Proof enough for you?" Vlad panted.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Author's note, behind the scenes between chapters fouteen and fifteen

Dante told me this one too. Apparently he was there for most of the critical points in Petra's life. HE really does a lot of thinking ahead. It would really get the Shaditha's goat to know how much they play into his plans.

I told you before I didn't want to brag about what I did to stop Califrax earlier in her life. Partly that's because I've never taken much pride it my ability to kick snot out of things; partly it's because there's really nothing interesting about fighting a demon when you already know the outcome. I knew how it would turn out; so all the thrill of the fight was gone.

When I arrived I already knew it was neither a Near Death nor an actual death. The first clue was the bouncy little rabbit soul. Now I understand how Alid couldn't have known just how obnoxious those things are; but if you have to make a sacrifice it should always be on a non-panicky animal. Had there not already been demons involved, they would have ignored it as a bunch of dumb kids trying to screw with higher powers. That's if they'd even noticed at all.

Califrax was in the stadium. He was in the bleachers.
On the floor, with Vlad was another demon; Azriak. The two were debating what they should do. Since they were there representing their own targets they were unable to reach an agreement on how to react.

Califrax hoped that by sending a shade, and thus revealing Vlad he could embitter Petra, make her distrustful of others and more vulnerable to his whispers apart from the influence of her friends.
Azriak had made a pact with Vlad and knew that he could accomplish great individual terror through the curse he'd left on him. He wanted to simply destroy them.

I knew how things needed to turn out and; though it's hardly a good act, I intervened. I showed my self and offered them a third choice.
"Azriak, your curse would linger on the human with or without your presence. Califrax, Petra would not be embittered against her friends by betrayal. Instead, have Azriak appear. Vlad will remain concealed, and by allowing Vlad to defeat him he will make her jealous of his perceived power. She won't rest until she can repeat the feat; and that will be the means of your corruption."

You have every right to be angry. It may have been necessary but that doesn't mean it didn't cause pain. Just understand that had I not done what I did, things would be far worse than they were.

Compared to what Petra did; that was downright saintly of him. Didn't stop me from kicking him out of my living room.

Chapter Fourteen

Alid lead them to the arena. Otan had introduced them to it last year; it was used to test student's ability to defend themselves against the greater creatures of the universe.

"Petra, could you provide us with some concealment against passers-by? This is a very dangerous procedure."
"Permanent or temporary?"
"Either, and a new floor would be good; maybe some railings."

Petra loved the oppurtunity to exercise her power. Anyone could throw up a tarp or a fog to cover their activities, Petra liked to take it the extra mile, or twenty.
She stretched a pale hand from under her black cloak, and let the magic flow. Stones formed and fell into place. Dirt churned from the ground and formed mortar beneath the stones. Every piece moved to it's place, and a dome grew over the arena.
"Good enough?"
"Overkill; wonderful, but overkill."
"Wait till you see the inside."

It was even better inside. Marble railings, and patterned tile floor; Petra had made the arena into a minor work of art. The school seal was formed by the colored tiles, a scroll and a staff on green. It was a bit of a shame to do what he'd planned in so beautiful a place.

"Chesi, do you know 'the formula of the five points' or 'the central field of M'gac'?"
"I know lots of Alchemical formulas, but I've never heard of either of those. I know each of the seven fields of M'gac, and I know the six point symbol. Would those be helpful?"
"No. But be ready to use fields five or six, and memorize the formulas I'm about to use. They may be useful in the future, what with your fascination with finding demons."

Alid drew his sword and began tracing a patern around the floor of the arena. He traced an intricate star shape, then stopped long enough for Chesi to commit it to memory. He then drew a circle around it, and a second within it. Between the lines of each patern were etched runes and words of great magical power.
"Petra, can you Necormancy us a sacrifice; something small preferably. A rabbit, or a dove maybe."
Petra gestured and a rabbit hopped into exsistance.

Alid drew the small creature to himself.
"This works best with the sacrifice of a sentient, so forgive me if it takes a while. Vlad, kill this rabbit in the center of the room and recite the incantation 'nomed, denommus ot em yb doolb'."
"And then can I go, vill you stop making you vild accusations if I prove I am not a demon?"
"Only if it's decisive."
"Fine, yes."

Vlad unsheathed his sword and took the rabbit from Alid.
"How do we know if it worked?"
"Oh, there will be a response. If he's already involved with demons they'll only send a shade."
"And if not?"
"Chesi, place the fifth field around Petra. Then inscribe your hammer with field six. The central field is there to keep our visitor from escaping; it'll be up to us to send him home."
"What will happen if he's not involved with demons already?"
"Then one will involve itself."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Chapter Thirteen

School trudged on. Little of true significance occured between the holiday following Petra's first year and her seventh year. They fought, and won; they studied and became more skilled with magic. Petra became known across the school as being a brilliant tactician and merciless adversary. Chesi and Vlad kept a distance between them; both having a clear intrest in each other yet unwilling to so much as have a conversation. And Alid stayed nearby, always there with a blade or a dropped textbook when it was needed.

It would be Chesi who finally broke the peace.

"Vlad may be connected to a demon."
"What's this now?"
"I think Vlad has a shadithic pact. In seven years a human would have shown some sign of aging. What's more, have you ever met any of his ex-girlfriends?"
"Yea, I think I killed her though."
"Actually I did, she was charging you and she had a sword." Alid drew two fingers across his neck, "Clean decapitation; didn't even stain the carpet."
"That's the other thing; I've never seen him bleed."
"Chesi; if he were dead we'd know it. I've seen zombies before; there's no denying it when you see one. Your blood gets boiling and everything in you wants it dead, again."
"When I see him, that's exactly how I feel."
"Chesi, that's called sexual tension. It means you need to let your hair down more often."
"It means he's undead and may well be in league with a darker power, and I'll prove it."
"Do so, by all means. And if he isn't.."
"He is!"

Chesi was rarely this loud about anything. At the very least it was worth finding out just what it was betwen the two of them.

"Yes Captain, vhat can I do for you?"
"Chesi thinks you may be undead. I'm going to cut your leg off, wait five minutes, and see how much truth their is to it."
"I'm kidding, we're just going to cut your pinky off. I'll get Kora to sew it back on if you bleed longer than a minute."
"Is this how you test if someone s alive?"
"I'd accept your continued conversation, but Chesi insists on making sure."
"Absolutely not. This is barbaric, an outrage."
Alid held up Vlad's left pinky.
"Vlad, How's your hand feel?"
"Like a dragon is biting it; but it hurts far more to think you vould even for a moment harbor the idea that I could be undead. Vait, vhere is my pinky?"
At which point he just began staring dumbfounded at the oozing stump.

"Well Chesi; he seems alive. He's reacting oddly I'll admit, but the dead don't bleed."
"Demons Petra! They wouldn't make it so obvious."
Chesi unslung her hammer and faced Vlad.
"You have one minute to tell me where and when you were born, your parent's names, and why every girlfriend you've ever had has tried to either kill or seduce me."
"Earth, Yuri and Nessana, and what buisness is it of mine what my former girlfriends do?"
"Apparently not enough!"
"Calm down Chesi; if their was a demon involved it would have taken the time to know such things; they aren't stupid after all. There's a simple way of knowing, and I know who knows."
"Show us. Vlad, I'm afraid we're bringing you with us for now."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chapter Twelve

The summer went almost without consequence. There was an assassination attempt against Petra, but between her and Chesi the ambitious youth had been subdued. He now sat in a cell muttering incoherently about the shaditha and death. He must have been quite arrogant, he seemed to believe that Petra could only have beaten him because she was possessed. To which she replied, 'possessed of sheer awesome maybe.'

At the academy life went on as it had the prior year. Otan continued teaching his class; Gnogg, sadly enough, also taught intermediate casting. In place of natural magic they had the choice of potions and herbs; sprites and shrines, or alchemy. Chesi took alchemy, Petra followed suit.

Alchemy was more or less magic for those who are no good at casting. Chesi excelled at it; a good memory and a little skill were all that alchemy required. Petra was mostly just bored; she could accomplish most of the same effects with her casting faster and more spectacularly. Nevertheless, she did find that alchemy could be applied within TacSim; and she used it rather effectively against her enemies. Alchemical etchings that could detonate in the presence of enemy mages or larger ones that could stop thousands of arrows or even stop armies in their tracks.

Vlad took potions; as did the others, with the exception of Kora, Kara and Knarf(who had been absent for their first match on account of a fever). Kora wasn't much good with sprites, but she was growing more mystically oriented and a lot of the rituals around the shrines seemed to appeal to her. Kara disapproved, but she tended to disapprove of things in general.

Chesi was distant that year. She'd been uneasy since the assassination attempt over the summer. She also seemed to develop this minor obsession with Vlad's origins. She was still amicable, but not nearly as much as in the past. Less cheerful, more cautious and reluctant to act.

And so went the second year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Author's note; tome one side note

This is one of the notes from the apendicies of the 'Epic of Petra'. The original author included notes such as this that were relevant to characters not Petra herself. The first note was already shown; the Headmaster and Mrs. Prevance's conversation. These are the second two notes; offered chronologically.

Dante told me about this years later. It's a shame no one had told me then or things would have been different; but such is fate.
This was one of those times. A near Death experience; the poor kid would be traumatized for the rest of his life.
I arrived to see Her strike him. She wasn't even aware that a shade was the real power behind Her blow, all that mattered to her was beating him for some percieved wrong. The Califrax was behind her, laughing. It pained me that nothing should be done about him, but it wasn't his time.
I could see the boy's soul now, the shade simply pushed it into the open and filled the void it left. I wasn't the only one who saw it though, the other girl; Nielda certainly, but more like the Nielda of my day than of this one; she too saw it.
Well I thought she did anyways, turns out some Nielda have this ability to sense demonic power. What with the shade possesing the boy's body everything in her was probably screaming for action. She brought her hammer to his knees and crippled him; Everyone else's shock was palpable. Among other things it is very hard to break Nieldic bones; bend them perhaps, but to shatter them takes a lot of power. She propped his body against the wall and recited a sort of rhyme. It was an old one, it took me a moment to remember the Nieldic Excorsist's Cant. Califrax began to charge her as the shade and the boy's soul switched places.

I won't brag about stopping him, In the end it really wasn't me. I realized that it wasn't the boy's near Death experience, it was hers. So I delivered the message I was sent with.
"When you have spent all, and none can cull the flowing of your life. HE walks the land of the Human's birth as one of them. A mere touch of HIS robe and even the wounds of a demon's horn can be healed."

Shame it took her so long to remember, sometimes Nielda can be just as forgetful as Humans. But I suppose He has his ways.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And that spring several future rulers watched the stars

"Tell us Vlad, where is this place you're taking us?"
"Ah, Kora; it is my homevorld. Lovely little marble in space, blue and green, vith a hundred shades of brown."
"Sounds nice, why did you only invite us?"
"Kara, don't spoil this. How often do we get a chance to visit people's homes with an invitation?"
"Vhy vould you need an invitation? Could you not simly valk right in?"
"If you were trying to rob or kill them maybe. It's not polite to enter someone's house uninvited."
"I see."


"Here ve are. My palace of vonders in the mountains of the east."
"It's lovely Vlad, simply...Kara put that back!"
"Pub hut bah?" Kara muttered through a mouthful of gold coins.
"Take them. Gold is to me as vater."

Kora followed their host around the regal fortress with awe. Kara tried to see how much she could fit into her blouse without it showing. It was indeed a wonderful palace, with vaulted ceilings and inlaid columns. And not a guard or servant to be seen.

They arrived at the balcony. Kara looked down at the little town below; thinking of the wonderous things she could buy with her newly aquired wealth.
Kora looked up to the sky in the west.
"Vlad, have you ever seen a star as beautiful as that one?"
He stroked her arm gently, "I see on more beautiful still."
"We should see how close we can get to it." Kora continued, ignoring her companion's advances. "A star like that can't possibly mean nothing. They say that when a king is born there will be a bright star over him, shining brightly with his power. If that's true than the king under that star must be even more of a king than all of the other kings in the universe."
"I bet he's loaded. We should visit."
Vlad sighed, this was not going the way he'd hoped. "I suppose if you vish to see it, ve can go and visit this newborn king of yours."


"I think we should give them something. It would be wierd for a couple of young travellers to show up uninvited and empty handed"
"King should have money. Have some of...I suppose it's his really."
"And spices; Babies smell like, Well babies. I picked up some Spices in town; they can cover up the smell in that critical part of his life."
"Vhat spices did you get?"
"Murry and Frank's incense."
"You mean Myrrh and Frankincense? Those are funeral dressings!"
"Oh! I just picked them cause they smell nice. Do you think they'll be offended?"
"We'll just give them some extra gold and hope they don't notice."

Vlad told me about this later, much later. I always figured that there had to be some good explanation for his fear of crosses; I suspect he felt bad about the lack of thought they put into birthday presents. Kora's prophecy did start forming around this point; Must have gotten a glimpse of the future in His presence. Kara must have had a bit of her sister's gift too; Sight of a cross had as crippling an effect on her as it does on Vlad, only she cried instead of just freezing up. I find it ironic that out of the whole team; I, the one who served him longest and most directly, am the only one to have never actually met him while he was alive.

Kinda sucks really; even Dante made the time to meet him.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nieldic naming conventions

Might as well start where I did. Nielda itself is a word derived from the people's own conventions. Niel was the name of a major deity; in reality he was a powerful Dryad. Niel was attributed having taught the Nielda how to build walls and canals; the staples of early Nieldic archeitecture. By the time of the Junlaerd Niel himself was long dead, but he was revered as the high god of the generally accepted pantheon. The Nielda considred him their spiritual father, the one who first initiated civilization. Thus the sufix, 'da'.

The Nielda divide people up primarily by parental status. Until you have children you are Da, child. Mulda is son; Felda daughter. Once you have children you become Dair, parent; Muldair being father and in turn Feldair is mother. That particular set of names tends to confuse humans who find themselves in the vicinity of Nielda. Many a traveller has mistakenly confused the two. Dadair is grandparent, translating roughly as, one whose child is a parent; feldafeldair being you maternal grandmother; muldamuldair being a paternal grandfather, and so on. Beyond that the Nielda simply refer to relatives as 'eldair' which means more or less exactly like the word it resembles. Siblings are 'dan', muldan or feldan. uncles and aunts are 'feldairmuldan or feldairfeldan' or conversly if on the father's side. There is little mistaking how a relative is related to you.

It should be pointed out now that all Nieldic linguistic notes refer to so called 'high Nieldic'; the language in which magic is spoken and which Nielda use to confuse other races. Day to day affairs have been conducted in Common, an internationaized variety of English, since first contact with humans was made in the 4300s(Nieldic standard of course). Even most Nielda find it to cmbersome for daily use.

Felda, and Mulda are still used frequently for names though; primarily by the nobility, and upper classes of Nieldic society. Gansfeld(muld) would be the daughter(son) of a lord, lord being the rank of nobility at which political power exsists. Since there are no less than a hundred such lords the 'Gan' is usually substituted for the world of origin.
Gan translates as chief or leader; lord is just the modern translation.
You may have noticed a name, Spielgan, used. The name means 'war chief' or 'battle leader'; but is used more often as 'captain'. Their are two seperate, at times intertwining, Spielgan families. The Anatolian Spielgans are low nobility, and are loyal followers of the local Stone family. The Imperial Spielgans are the semi-hereditary captains of the guard; A position they have managed to hold through constant vigilance and consistently good politics.

Another useful word is 'Hoval'. It translates as house, but is used as clan. The most freqeuent use is in the formal introduction of a noble. Ah du Petra, felda du hoval laerd, is the example I'll use. The common translation is 'I am Petra, daughter of the Imperial House'. Though it translates in meaning as 'I'm Petra Laerdsfeld, submit to me or I'll destroy you and everything you hold dear' since that is the main thing a member of the Imperial family expects when introducing themselves to a non-noble. Laerd is king, but the Nielda use it interchangably with emperor.

The last two words you should know are 'Shaditha' and 'Zink' as well as the latter's derivatives. The first translates as demon, although it is the root of the common word shade. It refers to both the demons themselves and to the brand of magic they use. It is never spoken, always either muttered cautiously or cryed angrily; depending on the circumstances.
The second word, 'Zink' refers to the Nieldic embodiement of death. She is maternal and compassionate. She is also the only member of the Nieldic pantheon with no historical origin. The verbed form is 'Zikat', it is a word with magical bonds to prevent its use as a death command; though a powerful magic user can override those bonds. This particular set of words is used very cautiously, For reasons that shall be seen.

Historical Note

The last pair of short stories concerns a figure who is important primarily for who he is connected to. Were it not for those connections he might have been rather more important.

Yuri Sveldana's name itself is one of those connections. His first name was given to him by his father; it was his uncle's name. That name is human; his surname is Nieldic and as such follows Nieldic custom. Svel is the name his mother used, mostly when she didn't want to be known. Da, is the Nieldic suffix indicating 'child of' in names it's usually accompanied by either the feminine 'fel' or the masculine 'mul'; the discussion of these terms could take several paragraphs, so I'll spare you. Na is the most critical element though; it's a rare suffix in names and quite unfortunate for anyone who bears it. The use of 'na' in a surname indicates that his mother does not care for him; unwanted or the mother was lost at childbirth, to the Nielda it makes little difference as both indicate the mother's weakness.

His mother would be a delicate subject for his entire life; they never did reconcile. She regretted it her entire life, particularly in her later years. He died without meeting her directly.
His father was the top vampire. The count himself; though much reformed by the time of his son's conception. He spent the later half of his life attempting to convince the vampires, a disorder he himself had begun, to adopt a more peaceful lifestyle. It was a relatively fruitless measure but several covens did accept the so called 'Draculaic conventions'. These conventions revolved around self-control, and interdependence on the local mortal population. Where the population was hostile; animal blood could be substituted for that of Humans, Jaguans, Harakai, Pythans or Ga-Vok. Nieldic and Gravagan blood are unsuitable for vampiric needs for different reasons; Nieldic blood treats Vampires as undead and destroys them with haste while preventing infection, and Gravagan blood is of a completely different elemental build. Count Dracula was by all accounts, a good father and excellent role-model.

Yuri was related to the future rulers of Gasca and Tara. Queen Masne of Tara; despite ruling over the most Lycanthropic world in all history; always considered her cousin(on her father's side) welcome at court and his Nieldic blood(unique among vampires) protected him against the local werewolves. His Aunt Niste, and her heir his Half-cousin Bisnon, were less friendly but more obliged to help. His mother had, as has been said, been responsible for placing her on the Gascan throne in multiple ways.

Yuri and Vestine married after school. It was a happy and fruitful marriage. She chose the mortal life, he was quite distraught at her death and threw himself into his father's work. Most of their children followed him in his work. By his death in 7893(Nieldic standard) his descendants were numerous enough to form a coven of their own. They would take a human variation of their father's name as the name of their coven; Yellsdana.

His most illustrious descendant is Courtney Yellsdana. She was one of the coven's rare daywalkers during the frostbourne war. Following the death of it's ruler/creator, and her defeat of the demon responsible for the war, she became Countess Courtney Demonsbane, the ruler of Stormguarde; a city built onto a series of asteroids and planetoids within the Witch's Nebula. A position she holds to this day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Short Story; Slayer's prize

Credits; Petra,
"Good afternoon students."
"Good afternoon Miss Zinksfeld."
"I have a special challenge for you today."

The handful of students that made up the Slayers Club stilled. Professor Zinksfeld's challenges were the sort of things that even most students would see only in movies. She did them annually, and with no discernible pattern. The only thing that was certain was that who ever won would be getting something truly amazing. Last time the reward had been a ring with the power to create and activate alchemical patterns without the use of magical energy; a feat most teachers still insisted was impossible. This time would surely be as good, if not better.

"Today you will hunt the most dangerous of all mortl beasts. A creature that considers itself so intelligent and powerful that it deems even dragons below it's intrest. They are quite common, but without careful attention they are easily ignored."
She sat down at her desk and began reading over homework assignments.

Yuri looked around cautiously, the way she had been speaking there should be more. Yet she had stopped. It was dramatic, and on purpose. Someone would have to ask the question. Masne kicked that particular grenade his way.

"Miss Zinksfeld, Yuri wanted to ask you something."
"I know; What is this masterful beast?"
"Well? What is it?"
"That's the challenge, find the beast, and convince it to come here of it's own accord. I could hardly ask you to defeat so magnificent an animal."

A riddle? Weren't they supposed to be learning to slay powerful creatures, and defeat mighty beings? The class sighed and everyone went to his friends to discuss strategy.

"What do we have to go on? Vestine, observations."
"It's prideful, strong and very smart; more so than a dragon on all counts."
"Common, probably not hard to find. Something we see every day, but don't even think twice about."
"Could be a Nielda, it's no secret we're better than dragons in every way; and there's certainly no shortage of us around here. Miss Zinksfeld, Is it a Nielda?"
"No, but good guess. You can go down to the library now, that was your guess."

A short stream of curses flowed as she left.
"As a matter of fact, why don't you all go to the library. I happen to know there's one there."
Everyone rushed to the library, a chance to see one of whatver it was was worth spending time in the dusty room.
And it was a large room too. Shelves stacked three high, with as many as nine rows of books to a shelf. Miss Zinksfeld had said that every book yet written was in the library, and she'd written a few herself. You could get lost in here if you didn't know how the filing system worked. Vestine had shown them that, back when they'd first joined the club.

"So, what do you think we're looking for?"
"Somewhere high, if it's prideful it probably likes to look down at things."
"The rafters then?"

Vestine had already begun climbing. She knew the library the way he knew the crypt. It was her retreat, she felt safe here. The books listened, sometimes litteraly, when she spoke, and if she didn't want to be found she wouldn't be. Yuri was careful when climbing. Not for safety, but because the temptation to claw to the top, or to simply fly. He wanted to reveal himself on his terms, with words.

"See anything?"
"Books, shelves, the most beautiful girl I've ever met, and that broken chair over there is a good sign Masne is nearby."
"Do you think she'd help if we asked?"
"She'd certainly order us around if we asked."
She laughed. It was a soft laugh; not harsh like Masne's, or mischievous like the twins. It reminded him of his father's laugh; his real laugh, not the grandiose laugh he used when he ensnared some hapless adventurer. He loved that laugh.

"You knew Charlotte was a vampire didn't you?"
"Back in the cafetieria, you reacted strongly to the news; you get quiet when you're surprised. How did you know?"

Which evidence should he use? The makeup, the clothes, the way she smiled, the way she avoided Masne, there were just so many reasons. But the real reason was the one he didn't want to say; it was the right answer, but it was also the dangerous one.

"Vestine, We've known each other for three years now right?"
"Yes, and last night was our three month aniversary."
"And you know all about Masne's..curse?"
"She's a Lycan, I've seen her transform. Wolf, It's genetic though."
"You've heard us joke around about it, right?"
"Yes, you said you'd kick her mutt earlier."
"You were listening?"
"Guard training, I hear everything."
"How much do you know?"
"Why don't you tell me and find out?"
"I'm a vampire. The only Nieldic vamipre in exsistance to my knowledge."
"Masne talks in her sleep. She's secretly afraid of you; don't tell her though she'd kill us both if she thought we knew."
"It doesn't bother you?"
"At any given moment I could probably kill you."
"But you wouldn't, you don't want to kill me."
She lay down on the rafter, facing out over the stacks.
"Besides, we both know I'd beat you."
"Your father knows too, doesn't he?"
"The guards have a registry. Believe me, my dating you peeves him to no end. It makes him question how monstrous the monsters he hunts really are."
"And you're not worried even a little?"
"No more than I was before I knew. I was more worried you were a cultist or a necromancer, or even just a complex enchantment holding up a black leather outfit and some bandanas. A vampire makes sense. Besides, that whole 'not entering places without an invitation' thing makes my dad a little less uneasy about letting me date at all."
"You mean as a..."
She nodded.
"It's actually just manners. Dad insisted on it as a policy, not sporting to just barge into a sleeping human's house and kill the whole family in their sleep. If I really wanted too I could still do it."
"But you won't. I didn't want to go out with you because you're a vampire; I date you because I like you. You're nice, and smart, and somewhere under all that black I bet there's a fairly attractive body."

The two of them sat for a while. The rafters were secluded, and whatever Masne might think about spending time with others; it was nice to just be together.

"What do you think Miss Zinksfeld wants anyways?"
~A cat.~
"Why do you think that?"
"Why do I think what?"
"A cat."
"I didn't say cat. Do you think that's the answer?"
A brown and red striped cat climbed onto the rafter between them. It began grooming itself, all while ignoring them.
"You? A cat, why would she want a cat?"
~Because we're perfect. Who wouldn't want a cat? We're smarter, more deadly, and far better looking than any of you bipeds.~
"Yea, that's pride. And it's certainly easy to forget you're there."
~You're the son of pets softly at night and storm in the eyes; I think you'd make a suitable escort. Take me back to watches elsewhere; I'm hungry.~
"He says we should take him to Miss Zinksfeld."
"Does he really now. I didn't know vampires could talk to cats."
"It's telepathic, All that purring is just because he likes the way you're scratching his chin."

"I see you've brought Freud back. Thank you Yuri, now just stand over here."
She tapped her heal against the floor. A rush of magic flowed through the symbols drawn there. The rest of the club appeared.
"Students, Yuri has retrieved the creature."
Everyone looked around, expecting to see a great spiked reptile or mammal with fiery claws.
"I'm holding him. Students, this is Freud. Freud is a representative of the proudest, most self-praising species in all the universe; the household cat. He may look insigificant, but under that adorable fur is a mind keener than a dragon's. He has a simple yet deadly set up weaponry, with which he is as dangerous for his size as are most men are with a sword. You might be wondering why I have brought so seemingly unimportant a creature to a session of what is usually the most advanced group in the school, the answer is simple. I wanted to remind you that for all the once-in-a-liftime things out there, never forget the things you see everyday. For they are no less important, and no less marvelous."
Masne piped up, determined to see something unique.
"What's the prize?"
"I think he's already got as much as most men could ask for. Slayers, dismissed."

The class filed out of the room, disapointed both at their own performance and the challenge itself.
"Vestine, Yuri, stay a moment."
"Yes Miss Zinksfeld?"
"Did the two of you have a good chat up in the rafters?"
"Did the cat tell you that?"
"No, my mother built the library while she was here. I know how to see through it's eyes, and hear through it's ears. It's how I knew Alid was there."
"You were eavesdropping on us?"
"Yes, When Masne and her new beau weren't distracting me."
"I didn't need to know."
"Neither did I. The things he plans to do to her make me feel a little better about what she plans to do to him."
"Even worse."
"The library is a surprisingly complex place. It has For the dark minded, it is dark and a place to hide one's acts. For the good it is a place of solitude. For me, it reminds me of my mother."
"Your mother liked to read?"
"To write, and she hated the library. It represented the darkest part of her life. A part of her life she passed to me, and which I ended. And this is its result."
She held out a sword. The blade was black, a true black, one that didn't even shine with reflected light. The magic upon it was akin to that upon his father, and to a lesser extent all vampires. Yet it was alive, not merely vibrant with magic, but it had the feel of life in it.
"This sword is enchanted for you. It is forged of three elements; Bloodstone, Shadestone, and petrified wood. The shade I slew the year you were born, I've been using it since. The wood is taken from the pyre of a saint dear to my mother and I; I preserved it with the aid of your father, who had kept it at my mother's wishes. The blood is from soemone who wishes to be forgiven; a powerful mage who regrets her one mistake.
It will sate your thirst, and demand none of its own. Your strength, speed, and perception will improve int its presence. And it's blade will deal death to the undying as easily as to mere mortals; even unto a fellow vampire, or a Lycan."
Professor Zinksfeld sat back down at her desk.
"It'd even kill me if you could deliver the blow. Or your mother, if that's what you really wanted."
"Thank you Professor. What do you want for it?"
"She was young, and afraid. She had her whole life ahead of her and was afraid of being tied down. The wind is meant to blow free she said. She regrets it now; leaving you was your mother's only act of cowardice. It's a pity really; the bravest woman in the universe was petrified at the mere thought of you."
"My mother?"
"She finished school here only about thirty years ago; I was just starting off as a teacher then. She met your father while hunting him. He is quite charming when he wants to be; my mother had told him what I tell you now. The storm mage will be known by her hair."
"What should I look for?"
"Oh believe me, there is no other hair like it in all the universe. Just remember not to forget those around you. Vestine and you have something here; something that can be a lot if you're willing to work for it. Your mother has an eternity to reconcile with you; your father went thousands of years before you were born, they can live without you. Make the best use of this lifetime. Notice the cats; Dragons come and go, but cats are always there."
"You lost me."
"Sorry I got exsistential and my metaphors started mixing. Vestine, you should probably just get him to bite you; it'll make things easier in the long run. Don't obsess over your mother; it never got me anywhere. And be nice to cats, because they are more annoying to have as enemies than dragons."
"Thanks for the sword, I'll use it carefully."

"Why didn't I just say that, it would have been so much easier."
~It's your mother, Watches Elsewhere, you secretly wish...~
"I may need a more modern psychiatrist just to deal with the level of crazy you're making me Herr Doctor Kitten."

Short Story; Yuri

Credits; Petra,

"Who's that in the wierd outfit?"
"Yuri, they say he's got some kind of skin condition."
"I hear he's a vampire."
"That's silly, there's no such things as vampires."
"Is so! My grandmother killed one once."

Yuri Sveldana was actually pretty normal looking; per his people's conception of normal at least. Black leather was always in vogue, whatever the other students said to the contrary. As were sunglasses; although even he'd admit the black handkerchiefs covering his hair, mouth, ears, and forehead probably did look out of place in the midst of the simple hairstyles and illusion spells that the other students wore. For his people, this was downright classy for outdoor wear.

"Mr. Sveldana, how's your father doing?"
"He's visiting Professor Igor this week. He should be back on saturday."
"Minion problems?"
Yuri shrugged, "I'm sure there's some isolated mountain village wishing they'd go away that's for sure."
"Tell him I said hi."
"Alright Professor Zinksfeld. Anything special planned for class today?"
"Only for my best students; If you've got any fight in you, bring it."

Yuri sat down; the cafetieria at the academy was larger than it had been in his father's day, but the social air of the place hadn't diminished. He sat by his cousins; no one dared cross them, so he was safe from unwanted questions.

"Hello Yuri." the twins called from the end of the table. Masne stared at him for a while from across the table for several minutes before speaking.
"Did you?"
"No, she's in detention."
"Drat, I was looking forward to a good stake 'n bake."
"And yet you never so much as give me an off glance."
"You're blood; Mum would disown me if I so much as touched you funny."
"What's this about Mum?"
Malley, his oldest cousin had just arrived at the table. He was the popular one. Looks, strength, and the lack of mind to match; he had everything most humans looked for in a leader. He made great bait for the hunt.
"I was just telling Yuri how much Mummy loves her sweet little Malley-cakes."

Masne would be the noble. They all knew it. She was smarter, faster, and able to show complete disdain for anyone no matter how much she cared about them. It was distancing for most, but the Tarans didn't want a personal noble. The Tarans wanted a noble who could mind her own buisness and control herself three nights out of the week. In that regard, she was perfect. In twenty-eight years she had a full moon-to-accidental attack ratio of zero; she always killed, and she always meant to. In some sick way, the Nielda could respect that. A Nielda would always take a clever war cirminal over an accidental hero to lead them; luck was unreliable, evil was persistent. It had lead them to sevral wars that, while frivoulous, were quite easily, and profitably, won.

"Than her letter came! Did she send any choclate this time?"
"Yes, you've already eaten it."
"Really? I don't remember anything before charms today. We must be practicing memory modification again."
The twins laughed; it was an old trick. It was sad how often he fell for it, but they seemed to love it every time.

The twins were Jessrel and Jarel; due to an unfortunate attempt at time travel they were 17 and 25 respectively. They were the perfect audience for Malley's stupidity and Masne's day-to-day cruelties. They'd only been in school for a year now, but both showed promise at illusions and summoning. Masne had commented privately that she might keep them around as the fun aunt and uncle once she became queen.

Malley wandered off to a group of the more popular human girls. The twins kept chuckling as they watched him.
"So what did you do then?"
"It was a date Mas, we went to the movie and then I took her home."
"That's boring; Did you at least kiss?"
"No, you know how hard it is to control myself. Don't you remember Hanna?"
"Of course I do, I never forget a good juicy stake. And I had to move a few things around to make room for her femur in the stash."
"Shh! Someone died Masne, you shouldn't joke about that sort of thing."
"I enjoyed it. I hear most of your kind do it all the time."
"Well I'm not them. Dad's been working to try and change that. I can't go and make him look bad like that."
"I do it to mum all the time."
The twins giggled.
"Aunt Mavei makes herself look bad. There's a reason the people consider someone as disdainful and violent as you a better leader than her."
"Your completly right, Mum's a terrible ruler. She's an even worse wife, and I can't figure out how she became queen in the first place."
"Only child."
"That's a terrible reason to be the best candidate for heir. Someone should have made Grandfather..."
"Kept birds."
"Oh right. In that context I have nothing to live up to then do I?"
"Aunt Niste."
"Dad says we can't talk to her."
"She's the leader you should live up too."
"Dad says she'd have never made it without your mother."

His mother, Dad spoke glowingly of her whenever asked; everyone did. He'd never met her, she'd left days after he was born. Under duress, in the form of a pit trap with stakes, he'd admitted that had it been up to her he'd have never been born. He'd never met her, and it seemed like she never wanted to meet him. Yet no one else could come up with any personality flaws. She was independant, brilliant, even the teachers said she was the most powerful person they'd ever met; most of them did anyways, Professor Zinksfeld insisted that she could beat his mother in a fight. And she was brave, she'd turned against her father to save the empire; setting Aunt Niste on the Sprite's throne. She'd abdicated the heirship to do it. He hoped to meet her one day and find out why she'd abbandoned him.

"Don't try to be my mother. I have few enough frinds as it is."
"I'm... well you shouldn't have lead me to it. I'm a victim of your conversational contrivances."
"Apology accepted."
"I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"

Vestine Spielgan was Yuri's date of the previous night. They'd been seeing each other for several months. Masne insisted that she wanted more than a nice evening out of the relationship by now, but Yuri was fine with how things were; especially considering his own condition.
"Hello Vesti, how was the movie?"
"Lovely milady, Yuri took me to see Nightfang. It was much better than the trailers made it look."
"Glad to hear it. What was it about?"
"Oh you know, boy meets girl, girl hunts boy, boy dies, and they undie happily until my father finds them a month later in an ruined old castle. I saw him in the credits"
"Never would have guessed Charlotte was a vampire, she was always so loud and obnoxious."
"Does explain where Rick went though. You two do anything else?"
"Yuri walked me home, we talked for a while."
"One of these days I'm going to make the two of you watch a real date."
"You have one on friday don't you?"
"Yes, the moon is expected to make friday very romantic."
"Masne, I'm not fixing your bike if you destroy it again."
"Relax Vesti, We're taking his car. I'll see you saturday morning and there will be no physical or anecdotal evidence; just like every...well most of the time at least."
"Well I have to go get ready for Slayers Club; see you then sweetheart."
"Bring your sword, Professor Zinksfeld implied fitghing today."

"Are you going to tell her?"
"Not if I don't have to. Think about what her father does for a living?"
"Yea, think about what your father does for a living? Who do you think is in more danger here, you or her?"
"I suppose you're right. I just don't want to ruin a good thing."
"And I don't want you getting between me and a tasty hunk of hunk; doesn't stop you from trying. Tell her by friday or I'll bite you."
"And I'd bite you right back Mas; And we both know which of us barks, and which of us bites."
"I suppose you just want me to.."
"Tuck your tail between your legs and leave it to my sound judgement? Really Mas, it would be a waste without the twin's attention."
"Friday, or I'll bat your belfry."
"And I'll scratch behind your ear. Fine, I'll tell her after Slayers."
"I want to watch."
"If you do I'll kick your mutt."
"Drat, you win this time. But one day I shall have the last thematicly targeted joke; then we shall see who is truly down with the count."

They began walking towards Slayers Club.
"I honestly hope it's Vestine. She's a nice girl and the two of you are so cute together."
"I thought you were supposed to be cold-blooded about this sort of thing?"
"You would know all about that wouldn't you?"
"Enough with the jokes! You've made your point."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chapter Eleven

Victories came quickly. Petra and her team soon had a team rating equal to that of most third year teams. In only six months they were known across the school as one of the most formidable forces in the game.

Lessons continued for that time with no consequence. The first break was nearing, and Petra was looking forward to having a more challenging fight with some of the generals and nobles. Vlad was going home also; although he still wouldn't say where that was. Alid was taking a job over the holidays, his family wasn't nobility and even with the government subsidies tuition wasn't cheap. Everyone else was nobility, even if most were of low rank; they would winter with family.

Chesi promised to visit. It wasn't an idle promise, she rarely made them. Her father spent most of his time at court, so it would be a simple matter for her to tag along.

"Good morning Mom. Glad to see you could make it."
"I always have time for my daughter."
"Shall we go then?"
"Actually, there's a student here I need to talk to. It's a matter of national significance. You wouldn't happen to know an Alid, would you?"
"He's on my team actually, one of my liuetenants. He said he had a job over the holidays."
"That's what I need to talk to him about."
"He's working for you?"

An elderly man appeared behind and slightly to the empress's left. He wore a brown cloak, with a silver fringe and walked with an iron cane. His hair was bleached by time, and wrinkles spread across his visage. Yet for his age he was clearly still strong, and age had added to his strength wisdom.
"Captain Spielgan, a pleasure to see you again."
"Your highness, you have met your future voaldasten?"
"Your bodyguard sweetheart. Aelfred was mine before I became empress; if you become empress, than young Alid would be your captain."
"Really? I always wondered how that worked."
"The guardianship relies on trust. A friendship and mutual reliance must be established early so that the captain's loyalty can be personal rather than by buisness alone."
"That sounds like a spouse to me."
"It has happened before. Most guards have enough respect for their wards to keep their relationship within suitable boundaries."

"Alid! When did you plan to tell me you were a guard?"
"When did you plan to tell me you were a member of the imperial family?"
"Point taken. Alright Captain, but you owe me a good round for this."
"And you owe me a rematch for that dam trick you pulled last time."
"Which I owed you for the sprite trap you used."
"Aelfred, did you pull a Lady Jessrel on my daughter?"
"It's completly legal Tania, as Lady Jessrel proved."
"Tsk tsk captain, that's a harsh play to make against one with so little education in the matter."
"I doubt I'd be able to play it again, Eh kid?"
"Yea, falling for it twice would embarassing. How is Jessrel?"
"Loopy. She hasn't recovered from that bout with the warlock last year."
"Shame, she had that Gascan innovative spirit."

A sort of collective sigh went up as the palace dwelers remembered past games and encounters.

"Oh and mother, Chesi Rhinslagan, Pinn's daughter, will be visiting over the holidays."
"Then you've met the future lady of Arden? We've never actually met, what's she like?"
"Self-conscious but cheerful; she works hard, thinks deep, and has a stout hammer when you need it."
"Switch for a claymore and she'd be her father."
"Not nearly as good a commander though. You usually comand her Alid, what would you say?"
"She'd make a great guard if she wasn't nobility. She's not a leader, but she's motivated, loyal, and capable."
"Shame, I hear her brother's pretty good though."
"Your majesty, I have met Prince Fiesul. He is the man his father thought he was a hundred and twenty years ago. A paladin if I've ever met one."
"Aelfred, you have met several."
"Most of them were Rhinsladers, I think it's the spirit of Pinn's father caried on in his people."

"Alright, I'm bored now. Guards, ready the ship."
"Don't be rude Petra; we were having a lovely conversation."
"The little devil's right. You have a confrence with Lord Nost over the proposed fermented beverage regulation on the Ninth, and then Lady Jessrel insisted on speaking to you concerning the succession. Lord Sod, I mean Jod, wants to make the case for assigning the munitions contract to Anatolia. And my wife informs me that she has to talk to you urgently about a water supply issue resolved about fifteen years ago; can't imagine why it's urgent but she was very insistent. We really must be going your Majesty."
"This, Petra, is what you can look forward to from a bodyguard. Aren't you glad live in times where a bodyguard's job description doesn't even include actually guarding you?"
"Tania, I guard you from the only enemy you've ever let beat you; poor time management."
"Don't grow old Petra, it takes forever."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chapter Ten

"Alright Young lads and ladies; ready for your first match together?"
"Who are we fighting?"
"Sarque, His team is third place; second year. I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle."
"Very well than. Let's see the map and take our places."

Central River, not the good kind either. It ran from their position to hers, it would force the battle to be waged by two seperate armies with a limited capacity to communicate. At the center of the map was a town with two bridges, on on each end of town. They both joined an island in the center, that island would be the ideal command point, especialy with the preexsisting stone fort there. The fiercest fighting was intended to be there. The side of the map on her left flank was rocky, there seemed to be a quarry towards the center. On the other side was a forest, and parallel to the Quarry was a lumber camp. So siege weaponry and defenses were both options, the difficulty would be in getting the ammunition to the weapons, or supports to the walls; controlling the bridges would mean controlling he fort which would make having the weapons or defenses pointless.
So she built her army with that in mind; swordsmen, who could be utilised for working the quarry or lumber mill as well as in any other manual labor she needed, archers to defend or attack walls, and a few units of cavalry for fast responses. She left out spearmen all together, it was a bit risky if they focused on cavalry.

"Alid and Chesi, left flank; capture the quarry. Kora and Kara, leave your armies here at the camp and scout the town in better detail, see if you can get the people to either leave or join us. Vlad, right flank; control the lumber mill. Hotchkis, Marlen, Lind, Gahtre, and I will advance wait for Kora and Kara to return with intel."
"Yes sir!"
"Sure thing captain."
"What if Vlad needs help?"
"We're dividing between river banks. Lind, Marlen, and I will be on the right side to help Vlad; Hotchkis and Gahtre will be ready to support Alid and Chesi."

"Petra, are you sure about this? I don't know if I'm ready to command yet."
"Chesi, I know. Alid's team was best in the fleet last year, just listen to him and you'll be fine."
"Should I deploy myself to the field?"
"Yes, Alid's no good in a fight; practice has shown that. You on the other hand are probably the best fighter on the team. Think of it as being his bodyguard; he does the asignment, you keep him safe while he does."
"Ok, If you say so."

Petra wanted to include her friend, and Chesi was happy to be included; but both knew that she was the weak link in the team. It was an all-star team, but she was still the weak link.

The Enemy was Sarque. Petra had done some research; he wasn't the best, but the best didn't spend their time playing teams from lower years. That said, he was about a half a win away from tying the second place team; this match actually did matter to them.
He liked playing defense, and a siege would put him on the upper hand. Worse still, since he was on a higher rated team than she was, he'd not only picked this map from a list, he'd have picked his own starting point. He'd be starting on the island, with his subordinates most likely in the town.
His second-in-comand was his twin sister Saress; she was the one to worry about. Sarque was a defender, he had a team of defenders, but Saress was the one on the fields. All kinds of nasty gossip was circling about her various alleged activities, but everyone agreed that she was one of the more promising necromancers in the school. This despite the fact that necromancy wasn't actually available as a class until year four. Losing troops in battle with her would bolster her troops, and for her men death was only inconvenient. Petra had worked out a plan for that issue; a solution that would work out very nicely for everyone involved.

"I'm ready."
"Aye sir."
"Let the match commence."

He was in the fort, as were six of his other teammates. One was in the quarry, a second in the lumber mill, and Saress was gunning it for the local graveyard; just outside the quarry. Petra was annoyed to discover that the map's scale was considerably greater than she realised. It was nightfall by the time Vlad was in position to assault the lumber mill, and Saress had left her initial troops to guard the quarry as she and her new horde of undead moved north to a second graveyard outside a town on the far end of the map. Alid and Chesi had managed to move into the mountains above the quarry and were preparing to launch a morning assault.
Vlad did not wait. Even with men still tired from a day's march, he assaulted the mill. It was dark, and his adversary was expecting him to adhere to the Nieldic tradition of not attacking the night of a march. The result was a lot of blood; almost all of it theirs. Vlad reported that the enemy had spent the whole day stockpiling wood, and must have been as tired as his own men. How he could even tell where the enemy had been between the night, lack of campfires, and heavy foliage she had no idea.
Alid's morning assault was if anything, more succesful still. His force, along with Chesi's, woke the enemy with a rain of arrows, then hit both flanks with percise timing. He promptly set Chesi to defense and began operating the quarry.

Kora and Kara reported back the next day. The people were enfuriated by Saress's disrespect for heir ancestors; any support Sarque had before that disolved the second the first skeletal warrior emerged. Her defeat could be used to garner support not only from the central city, but from all the nearby towns as well. She could likely double her force if she could defeat Saress. Petra initiated phase two.

"Kora, Kara, lure Saress into the quarry. Have your men ready to flank her forces.
Vlad, I'm sending Lind to hold the mill. Send the stockpile you have here and we'll construct a bridge. Take your men and spread word to the towns about Saress, get them to agree to help once we beat her."
"As you vish Captain."

"What about the rest of us?"
"Hold positions until the bridge is finished. I'll have further orders then."

Sarque and his men hadn't budged since the match began. Kara said she'd spotted a few of their commanders in one of the bars. Petra knew that even with Saress gone it would still be a very time consuming undertaking to defeat them.

Saress now had an undead horde larger than the combined forces of the rest of her team. She'd likely have more, but a necromancer had limits. Push your will too far and you'd not only lose control or have stupid minions; you'd rot your own mind and end up no better than the dead you controlled. Saress's comander was likely at those limits, her personal combat capablities would have fallen to their lowest point.
The effect was probably affecting her too. The simulators used to control commanders had been programed to interfere with the players mind if their avatar's mind would have been impaired. Kara and Kora pulled her in with little effort, a few fireballs drew her attention. The oppurtunity to kill commanders was to easy to pass up, and the whole horde drove straight at the quarry; with Saress herself at the rear.
Petra sprang her trap, Chesi and Alid's men were positioned to stop the charge, and Kara and Kora locked them in the long canyon that lead to the front of the quarry. It was suicidal to fight so much larger a force, but Petra was counting on their realising that. As expected, Chesi moved up to Kora's side of the ridge, and hunted Saress's commander down. With as much focus as it took to control an army that size in battle, it was no surprise that Chesi caught her unaware. A single blow of her hammer and the battle was finished. Without their commander the undead were helpless.
Sarque reacted now. The Fortress defenses were mobilized. The outer wall of the city was a bustle of soldiers constructing defenses. The streets were a flury of messengers and guards.

"Phase three in effect. Alid, is the amuunition ready?"
"Yes Ma'am."
"Vlad, have the people agreed?"
"Yes captain."
Kara, tell the towns on the left; Kora, take right. Have them assemble out of range before the main gates. Gahtre, assemble weapons, and Marlen do the same; bring them before your respective gates. Hotchkis, take comand of the quarry. Chesi and Alid move to the assembly point on the left bank and prepare defenses; Vlad and I shall do the same on the right."
"Sure thing Petra."
"What do we do once we've told the townsfolk?"
"Get into the city, tell them to stay in their homes. Then get the gates open if you can."

It wouldn't be an easy fight. If the gates were opened, they'd storm the city. If not, they'd build trebuchets and crush the fortress. The supplies would be unreachable, and siege would be much faster. She sent a messenger to Lind to have send wood around to the assmebly points. Even if they did take the gates chances were the fortress would be taken only with the aid of catapults.

It was a good battle.