The new morning is hellishly cold, to the point where you think yourself freezing to death.
Your limbs are stiff and unresponsive, unwilling to move, forcing you to curl up on your mat of furs and breathe deeply, blowing onto your hands, warming yourself to the point of functionality.
You finally are able to stand, rubbing your arms, your knees shaking.
It is just before afternoon, you had overslept it would seem, the pyre of inhuman filth has fully burned, nothing but shriveled, curled corpses and charred bones. The occasional ember flickers and smoked; otherwise it has finished its work.
You hurriedly dress yourself, getting your blood flowing through movement, a quick breakfast of jerky and trail rations fills your belly, a swig from your canteen to wash it all down, and then you mount Staugr after finishing your packing. You’ve much trail to cover.
The winding forest pathways feel almost endless in how they meander through the woodlands. Every turn looks the same as the last, a small narrow trail made out of an old and dried creek bed, your only point of guidance is to follow it, knowing that at some point it will lead to the ocean beyond the forest. So it is that you ignore most of the branching paths that lead up out of the creek and into the forest beyond.
One of the branching pathways, a seemingly well-traveled one, catches your attention. A signpost fallen into disrepair leans against the slope. It is fallen over and beginning to be overtaken with moss and vines. It has been the first actual sign you have seen along the rout you wander, and for it to be so old is interesting.
Curiosity overtakes you, hopping down from Staugr you brush the vines and moss away from the face of the sign; Despite appearance it is not old, if anything it is a newer work with defined edges and no sign of rot. It is written in the native tongue, but the writing has been smeared over in paint.
If not the letters, you can understand the intent. You cock your head and think, just what this could this be? A grin forms over your face at the thought that this could be a path to the lair of some wicked and vile beast, something worth destroying for the sake of your glory and your quest.
You mount up, Staugr climbs the embankment and the forest closes in around you, suddenly suffocating and dense. You have to duck your head more than once, branches reaching out to swipe at you. You can make out the faded trenches of cartwheels in the ground, and trodden hoof prints, but they are overgrown now with weeds and grass and forest foliage and detritus.
There is not enough to preclude this as an ancient trail, but it is disused enough to begin the process of becoming one. You have to dismount at some point, the trail ahead becoming all too dense overhead, threatening to scrape away your head should you stay mounted. You take Staugr’s reigns and lead him from on foot, Staugr himself having to duck under branches that reach out with clawed twigs and curled leaves. You cannot shake the feeling of being observed by the forest surrounding you. Each step you take has the grace of a trespasser in forbidden lands.
You find your hand shifting down to the pommel of your mace and Staugr’s ears are perked and alert as your own. You don’t know if you will be able to turn him around in time to run should this prove disastrous, after all, this has the distinct air of the unnatural to it. The pathway becomes nearly impossible to proceed through, your are forced to use your longsword to hack your way through, after a few dozen swings, you can begin to see the end of the trail, and the foliage at last opens up to the sight of a village- rotting and overgrown.
You arrive at the outskirts of it. Behind walls made of lashed together logs eight or ten feet high, you can spy the peaked tops of arched roofs. You lead Staugr around the palisade, finally coming before the clearly dilapidated entrance gates- ajar and moldering with vines and creepers. You are on edge, your keen senses on high alert; you keep vigilant with a hand on the haft of your mace at all times.
There are many things here that do not quantify together; there is a disparity between the amount of foliage and forest life, and the relative youth of the human made structures. You brush away a swath of vines and moss that has grown over the iron banding that holds the logs that make up the outer walls of the inner village.
These are not old works; you see no rust or corrosion, yet they are overwhelmed with the detritus of the forest. This would not be enough to alert you all that much, the greater unease that you feel comes from that unearthly feeling of being observed from every direction. You click your tongue twice and let go of Staugr’s reigns, you draw your mace and shield, twirling your wrist as you do so and loosening your muscles.
As you enter the settlement, you take stock of its unique state that shows a lack of disrepair but an abundance of overgrowth. It must have been a fledgling settlement, just under twenty cabins, each a single story, with a church or chapel taking up the center of the walled in settlement. You have to stop and stare for a moment, every building from stables to cabins to chapel are coated in a fine layer of greenery, creepers spiral up the sides of buildings like veins, moss beds like skin, and bright green grasses like hair.
It is as if you are standing in the midst of some biological city constructed purely out of flower and root. You delve deeper into the settlement, your destination being the overrun chapel that has sprouted thousands of verdant purple flowers along its surface and upwards. Standing before it and on closer inspection, it is clear that it is the center of the green corruption. Sprouting through the roof is an ancient oak tree, its branches expanding outwards like an organic roof.
You enter, shield at the ready and body tensed. You are reminded of the churches of Teloth by this pale imitation. Architecturally it is not so dissimilar, in design, but smaller in scale. Pews are sat in their places, now beds of moss that maintain the shape of pews. You make your way down the isle; towards the alter- the disturbing fact that it seems pristine is not lost on you. Looking upwards you see that the church has been built around the great oak, a hole in the ceiling has been carved our around the great tree.
You cock your head to the side, you narrow your eyes, and this reeks of paganism. There is a stone alter, carved out what appears to be marble or granite. There is scripture at rest upon it, an old hardback book encrusted in what you can only call tree bark. Your gauntleted hands reach out and open the book, or it would perhaps be more appropriate to call it a bible.
You can make out the text clearly enough, pages upon pages of scripture that you cannot understand in the slightest. There is one design that is reoccurring however; it is the design of a beautiful woman being born from a massive flower, her arms outstretched above a mass of people beneath her.
You recognize the woman immediately for what she is, you have read of her kind, she is an Allurane. Your jaw clenches, you’ve heard far too many stories of these vile creatures. Of the Inhumans, these monsters are some of the most base and vile.
The Grand Kingdom of Syran, The Conclave of Monarch, The Halcion League. These three were some of the greatest kingdoms of man that had followed the Lords of the Black Mountain in war against the Titans and their spawn, and continued to follow the example of the Black Mountain even after the Hellion Advent.
These three kingdoms were shining examples of low humanity. They were all destroyed by the Allurane, infiltrated and subverted, turned against themselves and destroyed, their entire populations consumed.
The lords of the black mountain decreed vengeance upon the Alurane, and the First son of the King rode out with his Knights and Sought to eradicate the species from existence. He was unsuccessful, the vile plant women were subversive and reclusive, it was no easy task to find them, and to destroy them entirely, they must be incinerated so they do not grow back again. You now know exactly what has happened here.
It is just like the tragedy of the Noble Halcion League, tricked into worshiping a monster that took on the guise of one of their lesser deities, and when the time was right, it spread its poison.
You shut the book and toss it across the chapel, thoroughly disgusted. You turn your attention now to the great oak behind you. You open one of your pouches and remove both flint and steel. You know what must be done.
The bark before you splits open like a mouth, and six vines as thick as your wrist whip out, and lash themselves over your armor. You are ripped off your feet and dragged into the cloying darkness.
You struggle against crushing force that threatens to break you in half, alarm and terror rips through your body, but as soon as it began it has ended- you hit a spongy, slick surface that seems to writhe upon contact. You roll onto your back and spring to your feet, almost losing your footing.
You are bathed in a soft illumination from every direction. Illumination ripples throughout a spherical cavern, as your eyes quickly adjust; the details become all the more clear to you. You are beneath the ancient oak, you look behind you and can see the light of the surface, from where the bark had split and pulled you inwards.
Should you wish it, you know that you could climb your way to the surface. You would only do so once your task at hand is finished, of course. The massive petals of an oversized rosebud fold outwards, they glow a dull red color.
They unfurl to reveal a human figure, connected to the flower and the roots that sprout from it from the waist down. It is a woman, a beast, her skin a pale green, with vines like pink coral wrapping up over her figure, cupping he breasts and framing her face- hair like blades of grass falls over her shoulders, her ears are longer than those of an elves. She opens her eyes- white orbs like that of the moon stare back at you.
She glows with a dusky light, clouds of illumination seem to waft off of her like glowing spores. They spread throughout the chamber, pulsing sacks of translucent gel hang from the walls, encapsulated by swaths of vines and silica, they beat in time with an unseen heart.
You reach for your mace-
You reach for your longsword-
You reach for your claymore-
You have no weapons- stripped of your person by thieving roots and vines controlled by the flowery enchantress before you. She smiles, a demure smirk of self assured authority. She Speaks. “It has been so long, since I last laid eyes upon a scion of Teloth.” She speaks the language of Teloth. “Tell me, how fares the exiled whore you call your princess?”
You scream your anger at the blaspheme, you make it almost four steps before the floor erupts beneath you, and thick, constricting roots coil around your limbs and ensnare you, lifting you clear off the ground. You struggle and twist, trying to free yourself from the entrapment, it is useless. “Ah, yes, just as rapturous as I remember your kind to be.” She rests her head on her palm, leaning forwards, her mannerisms mocking in tone and pitch.
You curse this bitch, growling, snarling through your helm, the plant-bitch has the audacity to laugh and wave away your blandishments with a roll of her eyes.
“Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but I really do not have the patience for the rantings of such filthy creatures.” Her vines rise before you, from the ground and down from the ceiling, they whip outwards and cover your body, they crawl beneath your armor and over its straps and latches, piece by piece, as your try to resist, your are stripped of your clothing and mantle.
“Tell me, have you come across any of my sisters? I would like to know if any more of my kind have taken root within the area. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to have a meaningful conversation with a creature of superior origin. Having to stoop down to the level of filth like you, having to use a language of words and such, it’s demeaning.”
Your armor clatters to the ground, your body is lain bare, and you can feel nothing but true disgust as vines creep over your exposed skin, wrap around your breasts and over your ass like demented bondage straps. You try to bite at one of the roots, you are instead whipped across the face.
“Enough of that, little ant.” The Allurane snaps.
You spit at her, her face curls in disgust, she flips her bangs back over her shoulder, haughty, arrogant, domineering. You are distracted away from the abomination before you, as one of the sacks pulsates and throbs. The Allurane moans allowed before you, hands cupping her breasts as the vines construct around the sack and begin to squeeze, fluid draining out from the sack and into vines that your eyes trace back to the flower at the base of the plant woman.
“Pardon me,” She giggles. “It’s rude to speak while eating, but I can hardly now help myself after fasting for so long. Though, I must admit, these peasant humans hardly make for a filling meal. The roots around the sack draw away, retreating back into the wall, the shriveled thing rips open and to your horror a withered human shape, curled upon itself tumbles to the floor, drained of life it is more like a desiccated corpse left to turn to dust in the sands of a desert.
It is still moving. It twitches, spasms, a feeble wheezing sound.
Death finally takes it when a root lashes out and knocks it into the shadows at the edges of the chamber, your eyes widen, as you can make out more of the corpses, piled together in their dozens.
“That one I should have let grow a bit more.” The Allurane laments. “A year or more, and it might have been suitable, the humans here are hardly worth feeding on, did you know that I tricked them into thinking that I was their god?” She grins. “I would have thought that it would have been harder to fool your species as time wore on, but you humans only ever disappoint.”
Your smirk, she seems so proud of herself, yet her race is on the verge of extinction.
She scowls back. “We’ll see ourselves at the height of power once again, we’ll have you humans worshiping us as is only proper before long. “Unlike your false gods, we do not make mistakes.”
You snarl your anger overwhelming you, you decry her blaspheme. She has the gal to laugh in your face. “Oh, yes, don’t think the world has forgotten how your idiot lords were betrayed by their very own-
You scream, and she can only laugh back at you.
“You’ve been fun for long enough, Promise me that you’ll make a better meal, more than these base creatures.” She waves.
More movement below you, you strain your neck and manage to glance down as an abomination uncurls itself from beneath the giant rose, a long, sinuous, glistening tentacle that rises up to meet you. “Actually, maybe I’m being too hasty.” Your legs are wrenched apart, forced to spread.
“Instead of food, maybe you would be better as a seed bearer. This forest is already mostly empty by this point…” You feel vines curl up your thighs, reaching for your sacredness. “You should relax. This will be painful at first. But it will be quick. That pesky brain of yours, it needs to be fixed.” She’s smiling again, this whole thing a game for her. The vine around your neck twitches, rising up in front of you, from its tip, small, silvery tendrils wriggle out, and it shifts, your stomach lurches at the sight.
The silvery spindles of silica prod against your ear, you try to jerk your head away, but the vines hold you tight. You lock eyes with this flower-whore. She’s smiling. She’s watching you struggle, like a child toys with ants, lording over you, she does not fear you in the slightest. She thinks she’s better than you.
“Before you go, maybe you’d like to know a little secret.” She whispers, holding her hand up to her mouth like she’s some sort of conspirator. “This village, its people, before I converted them, they worshiped your old lords.” She smiles and winks.
You’ve felt rage before, you are no stranger to anger, and wrath is your byword for normalcy.
This fire, this fire that overtakes you now, you doubt that you will ever feel anything quite so pure as it’s like again.
You are of Teloth. You have been blooded- a child who threw herself into the blooding-pits of the Royal House Knights, besting dozens of other children in fights to the death in order to be the one chosen for the right of ascension, you were one of those victorious few and you were given the honor of Rebirth: you partook in the blood of your new mother, and with it inside you, you changed. Your ancestry, the blood of the black mountain- dormant and cold in your veins, was ignited as you drank deep from you new mother.
Pain scoured your body, ripping your nerves apart and scalding your mind. Your heart looked to burst until all the pain, all the fire that burned down your throat, centered inside of you, forming a core just below your belly, condensing into a ball of power.
After your blooding, you grew, you changed, no longer a meager girl of eight years you became a warrior. Within five years you had mastered the fire inside of you- calling upon it, channeling the heat into furious strength, agility, and healing. You could crack boulders with your hands, you could sprint three miles in under a minute, and grievous wounds closed in just seconds.
This fire was the core power of any and all of the Teloth Royal House Knights. It let them ascend beyond humanity, and become shadows of the legends that founded the Black Mountain Kingdom. Y
ou are the true descendants of the Black Mountain, not the cold, emberless things that inhabited the world outside of the Burning plains, you of Teloth still knew the power of your heritage, still recognized the worship of the Old Lords, and were commanded by the very daughter of the Lords.
This fire, this power, this Grace inside of you, is a reflection of your devotion to the Princess, to the Black Mountain, to a true humans superiority over the beasts of the world. This creature, this wretch, this weed thought herself better than that. She thought that the legacy of Teloth and its children to be worthless, she thought that you had no power.
You have Power. You have more power than she could ever hope to experience.
She will suffer you now.
She will suffer in measure to the pain you will now endure.
You call up your grace, you focus in on the ball of fire that centers itself in your womb, and it burns. Heat unlike anything you’ve felt since the day of your inception rips into your soul and sets your veins ablaze.
Pain, agony, a mind-shattering anguish that turns your vision red and white scars across your soul like the endless lashes of a whip made of burning strands of metal across your nakedness.
Your veins burst into pathways of luminescence, burning bright as if a sun was trapped within you. Blazing heat comes along with it, steam billows off of your skin, your restraints- the vines wrapped around you sizzle and snap, some even breaking out into conflagrations. You twist, and your restraints groan and snap as hysterical strength ripples along your body in waves.
Within seconds you are dropping to the ground, holy golden light flaring from your eyes. The Weed before you, she is not smiling anymore.
There is fear in her eyes.
The world is your garden. She is a shrub, a blemish. A weed.
The cavern erupts into violent contractions as roots and vines erupt from the walls, ceiling, floor, they lunge for you, intent on running you through. They cannot so much as even touch you.
You spin, twist, twirl and leap, the snaking tendrils passing within mere inches of your flesh as you calmly wade your way through the storm- your eyes focused with glaring wrath upon the pale green whore.
Each step you take leaves a smoldering footprint, each thin vine that tries to reach you is repelled or incinerated, the air shifts around you with a shimmering haze of heat.
Snarling, you finally come to grip the whore around the neck with your hands. Your touch scalds her. You wont kill her quickly, no. You will take your time with this and you will see that she knows who and what you are. She’d be nothing more than grass trimmings by the time you were done with her.
She had begged you to spare her in the end. You had humored her, listening to her pleas as you stood over her, your victory assured; you simply wanted to hear her beg for mercy, you wanted to hear her scream.
The settlers, you tried to free them.
You are not without heart, not without some degree of compassion. As you tore them from their pods the true horror of their condition became known to you. Silica strands like roots fed through their skin and into their bodies, sapping them of strength until they had become withered things with limbs like twigs and skin like the crust of stale bread.
Comatose and so weak that they could barley even breathe by their own power; they could only mutely twitch in your hands as you struggled to think of some way of saving them. Three died before you shed your gauntlets and called upon the grace of the Princess and endowed a fraction of your strength upon them.
From there you tried to ferry them one by one up to the surface, into the light of the afternoon, each time you did so, they would again expire in your arms, only several living long enough to see the sun once more, if it was the burden of housing a portion of your power that killed them, or that they had become so weak that even the warmth of their own sun had become too much to bare, you do not know. After the twelfth one to die despite your best efforts, you reduced your role to that of merciful executioner, quickly, and painlessly ending the suffering of those that were left.
Ten more died by your blade through their heart, quick and painless. You set the village ablaze after intoning prayers for each of them. They may not be of Teloth, they may not be guided by the light of the Princess, but you know that these cast off children of the black mountain- ancient home of all mankind, could still find their way to the light of the old lords so long as you sent them on that path with the proper words of parting.
You put everything to the torch; you watched the tree burn and the moss encrusted cabins along with it. You stayed until you were absolutely sure that every single blade of grass was purified with fire. The whole ordeal has left a filthy taste in your mouth. The fire and smoke may indeed purify the settlement of taint, but it did not change the fact that this had been allowed to happen for so long in the first place.
The people of that village were fooled into serving that creature, believing its promise of food and shelter to be without deception. They were naïve enough to believe it. You will not chastise the dead any further than that, the blame for such a tragedy also lies in the allowance for tolerance to infiltrate into the hearts of mankind in these lands. Tolerance could not be allowed to fester, otherwise settlements like the one set ablaze just now, will continue to happen in one way or another.
Teloth is strong because it asserts the dominance of mankind. The Inhumans are hunted down and purged, the loyal children of the black mountain had already learned the folly of tolerance once before long ago, and they would not do so again. And in due course, they would return to the lands of their birthright and reclaim it for all time. Perhaps, you would even live to see that day. Perhaps…
A fishing village, set next to a lake that no doubt filtered into the ocean. It is unguarded by walls or by fortifications, save for a few meager fences made for cattle rather than combat. The town curves around the lake, piers building off the shore with small rowboats and barges moored to it.
You can see several already out upon the surface, yet you see no lines out. Moving into the village proper you are given a taste of their community. The huts and shacks have their doors unlocked and windows unbarred, you pass several roadside taverns with intriguing scents wafting out from their open entrances.
You are half tempted to stop and rest for the remainder of the day, and continue on your way at first light tomorrow. You decline to do so; instead deciding to press on until nightfall and making camp wherever you may choose along the path you ride. You expect it to be a cold night but that will be no bother. You have endured worse. You haven’t seen many villagers that much is striking to you.
You would expect them to be bustling along the shoreline at this time in the day, right before evening, supposedly that was the ‘magic hour’ for all fishermen. If anything, the village is exceptionally silent.
You feel concern rise in your gut, you look back over your shoulder, in the far distance, rising up from among the trees, you can still make out a spiraling, curling, black column of smoke ascending into the sky.
You are pulled back to the present, by the sound of children laughing. It is the sound of life that you did not know you needed. Along the edge of the lake, running over silt and coarse sand with leather wrapped feet, are children, ankle deep they sprint madly through the loam, chasing one another in a game of tag. You stare for a moment, resting your hands and calling Staugr to a halt.
They do not notice you, so engrossed in their activates they are. It is better this way. You glance casually over their features, the humans of these lands still mildly exotic by your standards, lacking in the deep honey tan and lean musculature that the men and women of Teloth cultivated through long hours under the golden sun.
These folks were of a far paler sort, like you, almost as if they too had taken the blood of Daughter Bellona. They didn’t have the eyes to denounce that- your own electric gold orbs denoting you of that heritage, the humans of these lands possessing more mercurial colors like green and blue, with longer hair and pectoral fins girding their forearms-
-You do a double take- clawed limbs, fins and sharp teeth, pale eyes, and ashen skin fill your vision. You see one, slapping the surface of the water and creating a rainbow spray that the two other children laugh and clap at joyously. The one with the fins, the amphibian dorsal tail, your mind races, you flick through countless names before you arrive at a correct guess.
You lean back in the saddle slightly, looking away and breathing deeply of the evening air to clear your mind. You take a closer look at the cabins around you, made of logs and river mud.
Reeds make up the roofs of most of them, and you cannot see a single scrap of steel or copper, any tools are of stone or iron. This is an exceedingly poor or isolated community. The clothes of the children are more rags than anything else. Patchwork pieces of animal leather dried in the sun and stitched together with plant fibers.
Then there is the prepubescent River Crawler, the Sahugain, you gaze close at her, dressed only in a loincloth of woven reeds and purely innocent, an ignorant and stupid beast delighting in simple games with two human children, much like how a puppy would bark and yip at the feet of its master, wanting to play fetch or how it would roll onto its back for belly rubs.
You feel the weight of your mace, stoic and bloodstained on your hip.
The children and the inhuman creature continue to splash each other in the shallow waters of the lake, the sun is beginning its descent, the waters would cool soon, and they would go their separate ways.
You tap the haft of your mace with your index finger, your gauntlet making a soft Tinking sound with each light tap.
Your mind festers over the thought of continuing on and allowing this to continue. You have some knowledge of the beasts of these lands, you have a surface understanding of their natures and dispositions, it is limited knowledge but you know you can place a name correctly without worry of misrepresenting.
Sahuagin in the tongue of these men, but River Crawler in the more fitting words of Teloth, are aquatic inland creatures that make their homes in lakes, swamps, and deep flowing rivers.
They prey upon fish, toads, and low-creatures that drink near the waters edge. They are supposedly amicable enough, only becoming more assertive when in pursuit of a human to mate with.
A closer inspection of the lakeside village shows no sign of discord or corruption, just a poor fishing hamlet that lives alongside a colony of River Crawler’s. You look around you again, as if you looked long enough, an answer would appear before you.
Is such a thing a sin? You have already had to end the lives of humans this day on account of their capture at the hands of a sinful predatory beast. River Crawlers are not like the Ladies of the Flowers, they harbor no ill intent, their lives are simple and their natures just as equally simple.
They do not require the blood of humans to feed them, they hunt for their meals and are satisfied with such simple crop. There is no danger here for you to eradicate, you need to just move on.
You grunt and kick Staugr onward, leaving the children to their lakeside game. You shake your head and do what you can to distract yourself, gazing up at the clouds and looking for shapes, or observing your surroundings in more detail. Picking out individual facets of iconography from signs, or looking at the various kinds of boats moored to piers just off the lakeshore.
You ride past the humble stonework chapel, and any hope you had of simply passing through this village breaks apart from a simple glance to your right, and past the open willow doors of the pagan church.
You pull back on Staugrs’ reigns and stare.
Marriage is a sacred rite.
In Teloth, it is the most single important event that can ever take place, it is so momentous, that even the Holy Princess Herself and Her children will be in attendance to even the most lowborn of weddings. It is because a wedding is not just the simple joining of two individuals in glorious matrimony; it is in fact the joining of two bloodlines into one.
Two entire families, from the oldest grandparent, to the youngest child, must consent to the joining. There can be no room for dissent or else the bonding would be flawed. It can take years just to ensure that all members of a family are satisfied with the other family.
You’ve been told, that marriage in these lands was still practiced, but by no means was it as stringent, focusing more on the happiness of the two individuals that are to be married, rather than the extended family, the only consent needed from any of them being the immediate parents.
Gathered under the shadow of a statue of a pagan deity upon the pulpit, you see a Marriage, but it is wrong. Your head feels light and you are in danger of falling from the saddle. You lean forwards; wrap an arm around Stagur to steady yourself as you tear off your helmet, letting it fall. You clasp a hand over your mouth, holding back vomit.
Marriage, is a powerfully sacred rite originating from the Black Mountain itself, somberly passed down through the generations, through all clans of humanity, it is the act of joining two souls together, two families into one family. It is an occasion of joy and celebration. It is a divine event, but more so than that, it is a Human rite.
Your eyes feel as if they could blister, so disgusting and base is the sight that offends you. By an alter, hand in hand, one dressed in white the other matching, is man and monster, acting in the mockery of a Marriage, corrupted by the foul hands of the Inhumans who will go to any length to sully that which is so cherished. You have to stop this; you can’t allow this to go forwards.
You dismount, nearly falling as you do so. The sound of your boots on the churches flagstone steps catches the attention of all, on one side of the isle, you see humans, young and old, on the other, your stomach lurches at the sight of inhuman features castigating your eyes. Again you feel queasy, your breath coming in a prolonged groan as you force the bile back down.
All eyes are on you, the armored outsider in the midst of the procession. You can only make out cursory similarities to a Telothian wedding ceremony, but they are similar enough: Twin isles for both families, an archway for the bride and groom to stand under, decorated in the closes approximation these people had for Snowcrsytal lilies, a holy witness to consecrate the marriage, and to each betrothed, a retinue of servants bearing the dowries, tributes, family lineage, and above all the legal scripture and customs, to the other family as offerings. It is all so similar, but so very reduced in nature.
That would not matter normally, had it not been for the inhuman party present.
The silence spans onward for nearly a minute, wide eyes looking up and back at you, You can read their expressions well enough, the questions on them, the demand for answers, ‘Who are you’ ‘Why are you here’ ‘What do you want’ you can imagine all manner of those sorts of questions being asked as several speak up.
You struggle for the words at first, you don’t know what to say first, your mind is mixed between anger and disgust, and so you just start to shout. You point at the Bride, the Sahugain dressed in in a delicate gown of sewn together white flower petals, she clasps her hand over her husbands.
You point at her, and you shout your anger and disgust, you make vocal just what it is that you think of this procession. You are shouting at the top of your lungs, but within seconds your voice falters and you grow silent.
You are shouting in Telothian. A language that these people do not know, the confusion on their faces, the uncertain fear of the yelling armored outlander in their midst tells you that much. T
he cruel feeling of dread sinks lower into your gut. You look around you. “Can you understand me?” You ask. “Does anyone here know the words of Teloth?” You repeat this over and over as you desperately scrape your memory for the words that the Masters tried to teach you of this lands vocabulary.
The pigeon scratching’s that you pithily ignored in favor of training your sword arm in preparation for your quest are now so terribly distant and faded. You tear off your helmet and point to your eyes, the features that mark out your origin, all that you receive are questioning stares and growing murmurs.
There is a sense of anger that is growing in the crowd as strong men on both sides of the isle begin to stand and make their way towards you, intent on evicting you from this procession.
None move quicker than the other, the claymore on your back, the mace and longsword on your hip, your armor and stature, no one wants to be the first to confront you. You fret and whine, grabbing fistfuls of your hair you shake your head and grit your teeth, squeezing your eyes shut as you try to wake up from this evil dream.
This cannot be part of your quest.
This must not be part of your quest.
To ask this of you is far too much for you to bear.
You pull at your hair, nearly ripping tufts of it out, your face red from shouting and your teeth aching, blood runs from you bit lip. It’s no use, these people; they know nothing of your words, of your pleading, of your demand that this farce be called off and the beasts sent back into the lake. How could they know?
They are simple peasant bumpkins with no real understanding of the wider world, but in that same vein is yourself- who willingly knows knowing of their world and their language, and had willfully chosen not to do so.
Your fists shake, you hesitate, and with painful circumstance you drop to one knee.
You hold back the tears. Your breath is heavy. What happens next- you will take full responsibility for.
You draw your longsword and plunge its tip into the stone floor several inches with ease. You lean your forehead against the pommel. You have no choice.
You cannot just leave, you cannot stand by and let the Rite of Marriage given to mankind from the lords own hands be tainted without interceding. You will bear the guilt of what you must now do in order to purify the sacrament.
Innocent and Ignorant blood will be spilt, but it must be done if the rite is to remain pure. The Lords of the black mountain will know their own. You will beg forgiveness after this task is done and subject yourself to penance.
Human blood will yet again be shed this day, but you will see it bleed so that the rot is flushed out. You finish muttering your agonized prayers and stand; you place your helmet back upon your head, and flick down the visor.
The gathered humans and inhumans stand frozen in fear- an inkling of what is about to occur filling their hearts with dread. You can’t bring y0urrself to look and the humans amongst the inhumans.
You ready yourself and rise. You will do all that it takes to make this quick. There is no other way. You don’t want to do this. You are supposed to be one of Teloth’s champions, a hero of humanity, you are not supposed to be humanities executioner.
You cut across the bridesmaid with a single clean swing, her upper torso separates from the rest of her body before she is clear of the church, and you drive the tip of your sword through the face of the flower girl who thought to hide under a table. You want to leave her, she is a human child, but doctrine of purification dictates that she too must die.
She was part of this heresy, and that is enough to demand that she pays in blood. You grit your teeth and finish the kill with your eyes closed and head turned away, you shake as you feel the resistance through your blade.
You want to vomit.
You pull and flick- the blood flies clear, you had been counting- only two are left. The Bride and Groom. They had jumped through the stone window; they are running for the forest. Two more must die, and then this can be done. You vault through after them, your boots hit the ground and you are running.
You whistle, a single sharp note- Staugr comes galloping, matching your pace you grab a javelin from your saddle and whistle twice more, he breaks off. You only need one. You jump, pivot, turn, and extend your arm and throw. The javelin arcs through the dusk sky.
Your aim is true, the javelin cored through the brides lower back, and into the dirt, pinning her in place with a lethal wound, you have plenty of time now to catch up at as a sedate a pace as you desire.
The groom reacts instinctively, bending the haft of the impaled javelin and cracking it over his knee. He pulls his lover off the length, it is painful, but it will get them moving again.
He knows that running would do him no good. He takes the spear end of the javelin out of the dirt, and turns to face you, standing before his beloved. You so desperately want to stop, you want to turn around and walk away.
He is in love; he wishes to marry the inhuman creature you had just put a javelin through. She is writhing on the ground in pain. You hit her liver, the amount of blood pouring out tells you as much, she will not live for much longer, he too must know it, and instead of running he is going to stand his ground and fight and die.
He is in love, and because of it, he has to die. You rip your claymore out from its sheath and with a burst of heat you cleave through his skull, killing him instantly.
You step over the still warm corpse that hits the ground and the wide blade of your claymore pierces the heart of the bride, and it is done. You can feel the wetness of the blood spilled across your armor, seeping through the chainmail and through the cloth to stick to your skin.
You are alone now. Standing in a charnel field, blood splatters the ground and stains the finest rags these peasants could afford. This was supposed to be a happy, joyous occasion celebrating the conjoining of two families in mutual love and friendship, so as to prosper forwards into a brighter tomorrow.
It has been stained by carnage and sacrilege, tainted by the inhuman fiends who have beguiled these humans with charms and lies. You stare down at the cause of all of this, a corpse bleeding out on the ground.
You draw back and stab your blade through the body of the bride-to-be once again, blood squelches out of the new wound. You stab again. Again. Again. You stab and hack and cut and cleave until the body is not even humanoid anymore, an unrecognizable pile of broken bone and chewed up meat and cloth.
You grunt as you continue to butcher the carcass, hacking, slicing, pounding with the flat of your blade until you are digging deep into earth, flinging up clods of dirt and stone as you begin to scream your anger at the torn up remains of this harlot who had forced your hand so cruelly- forced your hand, yes, you were forced to do this, this was not a choice this was a requirement, divine mandate, this isn’t your fault- cant be your fault-
You spin around and lash out, kicking at the earth, screaming, flinging your claymore across the field so that it lands amongst the other corpses, corpses that include those children that you passed on the way in, children, kids, young-ones, you had to kill them too–
You tear off your helmet, you throw it as hard as you can, you fall to the ground, you grab fistfuls of your hair and whine, keening and screeching at the heavens as you kick your legs and thrash about like as spastic loon. Tears run down your cheeks and you begin to hiccup and sob between your pained shrieks of anger and guilt.
You didn’t want this-
You didn’t want this-
You didn’t want this-
You didn’t want this at all.
This wasn’t supposed to be how it is- this isn’t supposed to be the path of a Champion, you are supposed to be vanquishing great beasts and besting stalwart foes- you are not supposed to be the executioner of weddings between deluded men and treacherous whores, you are not supposed to be the last rite to a consumed populace of the ignorant who have been brainwashed by a sentient weed!
Where is the glory in all of this? Where is the honor? Is it hiding beneath a rock? Set under the tongue of one of the ring bearer boy’s decapitated head? Perhaps it’s tucked into the robes of that bisected priest? You stomp over to the charnel grounds.
Dragging the groom by the leg, his blood leaving a trail behind him. You grab your claymore and sheathe it, you pick up your helmet and slam it back onto your head, you pull out your mace and start smashing down the cabins.
You will need wood.
It’s time to build a pyre.
You have calmed down somewhat. Your throat aches still from your screaming. You are knelt before your claymore, your devotional necklace depicting the third saint and first commander of the Princess’ guard; it’s hung around the hilt of your claymore.
You whisper your prayers as the pyre burns bright, the heat washing over you and cooking the blood to your armor. You have tossed the bodies of the River Crawlers back into the lake, their corpses turning the shoreline red with. You have reason to believe that there are more of them in the area.
This may perhaps teach them to stay out of the affairs of humans. You have no desire to stay behind and wait for them to investigate so that you can kill them all. Your stomach is sick; this entire forest makes you feel ill. You have no desire to linger here more than what is necessary.
This is a dark memory that will plague you for long enough as it is. You say the final prayers to start the path of the human souls onto the way of the Black Mountain. You return your devotionals to around your neck and sheath your claymore.
You spit in the direction of the lake and grunt, cursing and growling. Staugr is waiting for you. He is quickly becoming the light of your life, your only link to Teloth. You mount up and stalk into the forest, the light of the Pyre burning behind you in the night, casting its embers upwards and away. You don’t look back because you do not wish to see this place again.
You know that you will see it again, in your dreams.
In your nightmares.
Over and over and over.
You travel aside the river for an hours time before you are tired enough to come to a stop. You throw down your sleeping mat of furs and do not make a fire. It will be cold tonight as you strip out of your armor and clothing; even your undergarments are tossed aside. You will sleep in the nude, and without blanket. This will be the start of your penance in some small measure.
There are rocks beneath your furs as you lie down. Good. You stare upwards; clouds occlude the stars. The lords have seen your slaughter; they are disappointed with your actions but are not angry. You know all too well that you should have listened more to the masters of language back in Teloth.
If you could have spoken fluently and with eloquence, you may have been able to show those Humans the light, and turn them away from their sacrilege. Instead, you shirked your chance to learn, and had to resort to the slaughter by blade in an effort to save their immortal souls from damnation.
It was no excuse. You turn over, and lay your head on your arm. This will not happen again. You will do whatever it takes to learn the tongue of this land. No more humans shall fall to your blade, simply because they are misguided, and cannot hear your words of wisdom.
Beast blood will be the only blood you now spill. No matter the difficulties such an oath will make for you.
You grip your devotionals, and mutter a prayer and an oath.
Thunder rumbles in the distance.
Night wears on.