Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Prey : IV

And kill we did. We found them camped sloppily around a drake nest they had wrecked and rebuilt to suit themselves. They’d thrown the eggs over the cliff for sport, and had eaten the sire and dam drake, of course. To this day I have never felt more hate for others of my kind than I did at that moment.

I was shocked to see the thin Vampire that had tried to first claim me—the night my village was taken—standing in the center of the camp.

“He lives!” I hissed, feeling sweat drop down my neck.

“Yes. He fought Bandra outside your hut, and was wounded. He fled the scene. Then Worgon came for you.” The stranger’s voice was impassive.

“Bandra? The female, with the purple eyes?”


“I think she wanted to keep me from that skarkrix’s touch,” I said, spitting the expletive and getting ready to charge the Vampire called Norwion. A firm hand restrained me.

“Bandra died in that fight. She was very skilled, but Norwion has made deals that allow him access to powerful dark magic. Bandra would be very sorry to see you waste your new life on an idiotic and amateur battle maneuver.”

I paused, noticing a new tone in his voice.

“You knew her, Bandra?”

“Like I said. Your intuition is very strong.”

I felt a pang of jealousy rise high in my breast. It was the way he said her name. I wondered if he had turned her, too, had made her, as he made me. I wondered if he thought she was more beautiful. She was certainly more womanly, more experienced. I recalled her quick kill of Aklua, and raged at her in my mind. Then I recalled her raspy, throaty voice challenging Norwion as he sought to violate me, and felt as though I should do honor to her.

“It is right to be confused,” he said, his voice rich and warm in my ear.

“You know nothing of what I feel,” I whispered hotly in the darkness, hating him again.

“If only that were true,” he replied. Something cold and star-shaped was pressed into my palm. I looked down to see it glint softly in the moonlight.

“If you can just aim a bit better than in practice, you can avenge Bandra as well as punish Norwion for his ugly opportunism and bloated desires.”

I aimed a bit better than in practice. Then I watched as my dark stranger dispatched twenty or so rebel vampires with a single spell. His words echoed across the cliffs, dark and guttural and melodic at the same time, and they fell. Some to dust, some to blood, some to piles of rotting flesh. Some he just cut down with the sword, or his dagger. My job was to stay hidden behind the rocks and to watch for any intruders ambushing our ambush. I was ecstatic at my kill, and still ambivalent about the Bandra issue, and my thoughts wandered for a moment.

Suddenly I realized that five new vampires had entered the fray from behind him and that the fatigue of casting several spells now showed on his face. The lead Vampire had all kinds of bright paint and bones and shell in his hair and was incredibly large. The other four were smaller, darker, and clad in colored leather. I watched as the stranger turned, his white hair whipping around in the moonlight like quicksilver. He caught the leader across the abdomen with the dark sword, and the magic in the blade caused the painted Vampire’s skin to start to disintegrate. But the Vampire spat out some words, and the disintegration slowed enough for him to lunge forward and connect with a blow from a double-bladed weapon. The other Vampires moved to flank the stranger, who was circling back towards a boulder with a superficial cut across his chest and eyes glowing molten gold. I knew it was my duty and time to act.

Springing from behind the rocks, I ran lightly across the uneven terrain whooping at the top of my lungs. As the Vampires startled and turned, I flung my own daggers at two of their throats. One missed by a mile, but the other struck home. Silver glinted in a spurt of blood as a blue-leather-clad vampire fell to the ground. The other, clad in red, growled and charged me. From the corner of my eye I saw the stranger move like shadowed smoke to the left, appearing next to a Vampire in black leather. The stranger’s dagger found a home in that rebel’s temple, the point protruding form the opposite side. The stranger yanked it back out as the body fell to the ground.

The red Vampire was not inexperienced. One of the important lessons I had learned was to assess an enemy thoroughly and well. This rebel moved like liquid and used the rocks and shadows to her advantage. I was terrified. I did not want to draw my sword as we were about to be fighting in close, awkward quarters and I wasn’t very skilled with the longer blade yet. But my dagger seemed woefully inadequate against her long claws, bared fangs, and painful-looking many-bladed gauntlets. I backed away, seeing in the distance the stranger take down the last leather-clad Vampire with a sword through the ribs, while dodging a lethal blow from the huge painted leader.

I stumbled, moving backwards from the red Vampire, caught myself through discipline and switched my dagger to the other hand. Another lesson had been don’t over or underestimate yourself. I tried to meditate on the fact that I had just killed Norwion, a powerful magic-user, with a borrowed throwing star. I felt the empty air of the ravine behind me and knew I was close to the edge of the cliff. I had lost sight of the stranger behind the boulder, and the red Vampire leapt up on top of the last outcropping that separated us.

The moonlight shone on her garish outfit and I saw she had lots of jewels adorning her person, likely from raids on human caravans.

“You!” I called out, “I had not expected to see you again,” I let my dagger arm fall as though relaxing. The red Vampire hesitated, sinking lower into her crouch instead of leaping for my throat. I smiled a huge, innocent smile.

“What is your name?” she said quickly.

“You don’t remember me! But how could I forget you—everyone talks of your beauty. I told Norwion I wanted to grow up to be just like you.”

“Norwion is a fool.”

“Yes he is,” I said, “He told me you were past your prime.” The red Vampire’s mouth dropped and her skin paled.

“Now he’s dead,” I continued, “Good riddance, I say.” Her eyes narrowed. I felt sweat rolling down my back, it seemed icy cold. I strained to hear the stranger’s fight, but couldn’t focus.

“You are a pretty little liar. You attacked with that abomination in black,” the red Vampire hissed.

“I did, but he forced me. He’s a rogue. He wanted me for himself, and so he hoped Bandra would win in that fight with Norwion.” I cast around in my head for threads of a story to weave into a distraction for the red vampire. She looked as though she might speak, so I charged ahead in my lie.

“It was good for you though, because he told me Norwion secretly loved Bandra. Norwion only tried to bed me because the rogue loves me and they hate each other but Norwion really loved Bandra but Bandra loved the rogue and Norwion was jealous because the rogue was bigger and handsomer than he but also because he saw you look at the rogue once very lustfully, he said, and the rogue told me himself you were prettiest of you and Bandra but that Bandra and Norwion had a love-hate union so it was no use so after all you ended up being third choice and Bandra was killed by Norwion who loved her in secret and Bandra died loving the rogue and the rogue loves only me and I definitely did not love Norwion, but I do admire your jewelry.”

I had spoken all of this in about thirty seconds.

“Pretty little liar, in light of your story, then, it will not matter if I slay you.”

“I had hoped you would not conclude that,” I said. The red Vampire smiled, almost apologetically, and in that moment I nearly liked her. Then a sword ran her heart through from behind, and she did not even have time to blink. She died instantly, her sneering smile still on her face.

The stranger rolled her body under the boulder and began cleaning his sword with another lacey handkerchief. I wondered how many he had, squirreled away in various places. He didn’t seem to have even broken a sweat. His breathing was even, calm and normal. I, on the other hand, was disheveled and damp. I looked down and was aghast to find out my loincloth had twisted during the fight. I furiously yanked it back and hoped my discomfort didn’t show. To no avail.

“It is beyond ridiculous to have the pretense of modesty when we lie together every night,” he said flatly.

My cheeks burned hotter than my battle rage, and I was glad it was the middle of the night and that moonlight made everything look pale and composed.

“How long were you there, waiting to kill her?” I demanded.

“Long enough,” he said, sheathing his sword and looking up at me. His hair was out of place and blew across his forehead in the dry wind. His eyes were silvery-gold in the cool light. I wiped my dagger on the scrap of fabric that was my tunic, even though it had not seen any action. I stuck it in my thigh scabbard with emphasis.

“Long enough to what, comb your hair into place before dispatching her?” I goaded him.

“Long enough to hear you prattle lies and nonsense like an Azorius schoolgirl instead of doing the honorable and attempting to win a fair fight.”

I had no idea what an Azorius was but I did know that my rage burned white hot at his words, and I wanted to strangle him with my naked fingers.

“Stabbing someone in the back is certainly very honorable, Master. Like Master like Apprentice, I suppose.”

I turned away. I rearranged my hair as best I could with my hands and pressed my fingertips to my temples to blot the sweat, then discreetly to the corners of my eyes to check my tears. I started walking towards our camp, refusing to think about what he’d said or the look on his face when I said what I’d said.

I listened for his footsteps to tell me he was following me, but they didn’t come. I walked all the way back alone, to our pitiful makeshift home, and went to sleep starving, under my misery of a cloak that I had taken from the poor cloth of an enemy, and clutching my dagger, because it was all I had.

Sometime after that but still hours before dawn I awoke to the scent of fresh kill, and my thirst had to be slaked. There was a goblin corpse lying in front of me. I lunged eagerly for it, then hesitated.

“Don’t worry, he was very old. He wished to pass,” said a deep voice from the shadows. My hunger trumped my anger and shame and I fed. I drank until I was satiated and realized the corpse was entirely drained.

“Did you feed yet?” I asked the darkness.

“No. But I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry—I think I ate it all.”

“Don’t be sorry. Eat what you can, when you can.” His voice was a gloomy, matter-of-fact monotone. I sighed without realizing I was, and turned to go back to sleep. The ground seemed lumpy and uninviting. I shifted, trying to get comfortable. Finally I sat up.

“Did you sleep yet?” I said to the same patch of darkness.

“No. I’m fine.”

“What are you doing?” A soft warm breeze, full of the scent of spicy earth characteristic of Zendikar, carried my words across to him, into the shadows.

“Combing my hair. What else would I be doing?” he snapped.

I hesitated, then giggled. I couldn’t stop giggling. I put my head down in the moss and snorted into the mass of vines that was serving as my pillow. I had to hold my stomach to keep from bellowing with laughter. I shook until my eyes watered. Finally I fell asleep, and for the first time had no nightmares of the events leading up to the end of my human days.

No comments:

Post a Comment