The Queen of Hearts, also known as Alice, controls the pocket dimension known as “Wonderland”. All who return from there are completely insane. I believe there is powerful magic at work there, befitting for a Demon Queen. I would love to research the area, but the risk is too great.
–Greg’s journal pg 46. He is leaving the notes as a trail for someone, but who? Are we ahead or behind them?
Warm Hearts, Closed Hearts
“Why are you hunting this vampire?”
For the three hours we’ve been trudging our way through this wet snow, and Raven has yet to say a word to say a single word in conversation. Now I don’t mind the strong and silent type, most of the boys back in my squad were like that, but I don’t know a single thing about this person besides the fact that they’re hunting a vampire. Oh, and that almost every aspect about them creeps me out. I swear if this person hadn’t helped me, I would peg them as some sort of demon.
“When the night is quietest you can hear the muffled screams of despair as her guards hunt down any human foolish enough to not find shelter behind locked doors and barred windows. They bring their catch back to her keep where they are chained up and raped, many lack the constitution to survive the ordeal.”
“The city guard won’t do anything about it?”
“They are the city guard.”
“Wonderful. Will we have any support once inside?”
“No, and the longer it takes us to get there the more allies she’ll have. Every full moon the Countess marches every resident to her courtyard. There she chooses thirteen women and fills their souls with demonic energy until they are fully corrupted into succubi. The succubi then call out their lovers and make a public display of corrupting them. All who try to run or fight also suffer the same fate”, Raven’s whispering voice fades into the wind.
If the Order had caught wind of anything that approached this level of heresy, a kill team would have been sent immediately. The Order doesn’t exist anymore though. Am I the only one left? What can a single Hero do against an empire?
Fight. Fight with my body until I can no longer function. Fight with my mind until I can no longer think. When my body lays broken, my mind shattered, and the demons think they have won, fight with my spirit and call down the purifying flames of the Chief Goddess to raise me to heaven.
That is what it means to be a Hero.
“Why have you not disposed of your hunter yet?”
My stomach feels like it was impaled by a rusty spear. How could I kill her? She was my closest friend, my guardian angel. I tried. I tried with all my heart, but when the time for the final blow came, I looked into her eyes. Though her wings were now tainted black and her armor warped into a grotesque shadow of its former self, her eyes remained the same. Her deep blue eyes, far more precious than any sapphire, still contained a shadow of herself and it begged me to forgive her. They cried for me to hold her close and tell her everything would be alright. They begged me to save her.
“Do not feel required to answer Banished One.”
We continue in silence for hours.
The crunching of snow echoing off the walls that seemed to reach past the heavens combined with the sun’s dying rays bouncing off gargantuan icicles gave me the feeling of being in a claustrophobic crystal cave. The narrow pass must act like a wind tunnel because these howling winds are ferocious and deafening. I can hardly keep my eyes open and I fear the winds will rip my clothes from my body. What is really getting to me is the cold. It is a cold that is piercing my heart.
“Do you feel it Banished One? This is the chill of solitude.”
“What in the hells is that supposed to mean? Do you always speak so vaguely?”
“A Glacie approaches.”
Now that is something I can understand. A fight will warm these chilled bones nice and right! I unsheathe my foot and a half dagger. The double edge dagger wasn’t forged for any special purpose, it had no planned destiny, and it wasn’t even made for the order. I bought this dagger while on vacation in the southern isle because it felt wrong to not always have a weapon on me.
Minutes pass as we wait for the ice demon show herself. Raven seems relaxed, unnaturally relaxed. Does she not intend to fight? She doesn’t even draw her sword. A chill that not even the freezing winds can produce pierces through my chest.
Through the snowy winds emerges the demon. Her lithe form easily maneuvers through the deep snow as if it were nothing more than a cloud. She cocks her head in confusion when seeing Raven.
“Leave us be child of the ice, you have absorbed enough energy to sustain yourself.”
Why is Raven conversing with the beast? It is a monster so thus it must die. I charge forward through the shin deep snow, a brief war cry escapes my upturned lips. I feel the renewed vigor in my bones, the thrill of the fight, the desire to live. I thrust forward, my blade piercing through the air and is easily deflected off the ice that formed on wrist.
“Banished One please cease this at once, fighting in these conditions will only sap you of even more strength.”
What is Raven saying? Do they not understand that all monsters must be purged? Then I will show them through action! A snarl smears itself across my face. How many men has this demon stolen in this pass alone? I slash across her collar which is easily parried by her wrist again as expected, but it left her left side open. I follow through with a right knee into the opening, sending the demon stumbling backwards in shock.
Something is wrong, my leg feels as if it was drained completely of energy. It almost feels like ice has encased it and looking down only confirms it is fine. The Glacie though, it looks different. She stares at me with a vacant look on her face, but it isn’t the look of someone who was knocked down in a fight. It’s the look of… is she blushing? A sickly smiles spreads across her lips as she stands.
“Your warmth is something special. Give me more human!”
She charges at me faster than should be possible with all this snow and bats away my dagger thrust. I stumble backwards to avoid a grab, but before I can regain my balance her other hand grabs my chestplate and pushes me to the ground. As soon my back hits the ground I feel all my strength immediately drain away; I can’t even raise my head. I am helpless as I feel a pressure mount on top of me, frozen hands trailing across my chestplate.
“So this is the ‘male warmth’ my friends spoke of… It is addicting. I want all your warmth!” I can feel her breath against my neck. Her face is almost an inch from mine, cold blue eyes filled with the flames of desire.
A thunderous bang louder than anything I’ve heard before erupts just behind me and the wall in front simultaneously explodes into dozens of fragments leaving a crater the size of a man. The Glacie throws herself off me, entering some sort of battle stance. Raven steps forward into my field of view pointing an oddly shaped wooden handle with a metal barrel at the ice demon.
My ears are ringing and I can’t really focus on the world around me, but I think Raven and the Glacie are talking.
“HE WILL BE MINE!”
Time slows. The Glacie dives towards me, her eyes fixated on me, oblivious to all but me. Raven’s finger twitches and the metal barrel erupts like a thunder strike, and then I’m suddenly covered in something warm.
The smell hits me immediately. Iron. I look down and see red everywhere. Most of my body along with the ground around me, and the wall in front are covered in blood. The body, or what remained, of the Glacie are strewn about. The hunks of flesh steam in the winter air, melting the surrounding snow.
What the fuck was that? I look back at Raven and that thing she was holding is gone. Was it ever really there? A powerful spell could replicate this effect, but that noise- my ears are still ringing.
Raven kneels down by my head, “It is rude of you to force someone to take care of you twice so quickly, do you have no shame? I expect a similar heartless acknowledgement of my effort when you have recovered.”
Raven picks me up and slings me over their shoulder with unnatural ease. Their hands are smaller than they first appeared. My feet drag across the snow, Raven’s small frame being too short to prevent that from happening. For hours Raven carries me with my face bouncing against their chest to my annoyance.
I lose track of time, but eventually I feel the harsh winds die down and the darkness and chill of the night retreat from a warmth and light of a camp fire. Raven lays me down on something soft, a bed roll, next to the fire. I roll my head to the side to face the warmth, and sitting their drinking tea as if nothing strange is happening is a damned Yuki-onna.
“My my, I didn’t expect to see you here Eli- excuse me, Hunter. What brings you to my warm little slice of the north? Oh don’t tell me, someone King or bandit lord is oppressing the people again, right?”
I can’t see Raven’s eyes through their mask, but the aura of rage being emitted from the blood covered hunter focused on the demon felt like a hand pressing down against my chest. Why hasn’t Raven killed the demon yet? What are they waiting for?
“Who is this demon? Why do you let her speak to you this way?” I try to get to my feet and draw me knife, but Raven pushes me back down.
“You must rest Banished One. You have already been infected by a cold, you must rest less you be too sick to function tomorrow.”
“What are you talking-“, they put their finger to my lips to silence me.
“I see, I see. You’ve caught yourself a fierce one-“, Raven’s bastard sword is against the demon’s throat before she could finish the thought. “So he isn’t…?”
This sounds very bad. I had a feeling Raven wasn’t a normal human, and it sounds like they have a history of catching people. Possibly a bounty hunter? I am duty bound to slay the vampire, but after that I am leaving this person. I haven’t been to town in a very long time, but I’m certain there is a bounty on my head. Raven will probably try to turn me in after I help with the vampire.
“Look at him hunter, he is putting everything together already. Have you really told him nothing? He will be dangerous once he regains his strength. He should sleep, yes?”
Raven takes a long look at me then nods their head. I try to get up, try to arm myself, but my strength is draining. My eyes are heavy. The softness of the bedroll invites me and I cannot resist.
“Now my Queen, why did…”
Queen? How could Raven…