Written by yours truly

Chapter 2: When darkness comes

Hi there!

I know it has been some time, actually quite a long time, since I last posted chapter 1 of this story thingy of mine and I finally decided to go on writing ^_^ So here is chapter 2 of my story (indeed still title-less). I hope you enjoy it and feedback or nice commends are always welcome!

A man clothed in black entered the stables. As he dismounted a servant led his horse away. The man couldn’t care less about the animal that damned beast had almost cost him his life. If the arrow had been aimed slightly higher it would have been him lying dead on the Than plane, where Kasch met its neighbour.
The spy had been caught a fortnight ago. It was a shame to the court. After the man had been taken into the dungeons below the mountain fortress, it had taken them only but a day to break him into submission. Amaya had her ways, especially when it came to gathering information from unwilling lips. The thought of the queen made him shiver. A vision of beauty she was, at least that was what was claimed about her, the queen was slender, tall, magnificent, courageous, daring, insane… She had claimed the throne after her father had failed in the Great War. The tale was that she had killed him one night, murdered him in his own chambers with his own sword. He had not been worthy of the power that the Great One had bestowed on him, but she would be and she had proven that in her own way.
Kasch was now more powerful than it had ever been in its prime years before the war. The army was ready for another confrontation, but something had held the queen back from giving to order for war. Now it was clear why. The spy had been one with strength; it had taken six men to capture him and the queen herself to break him. The man had been someone called a Returned in his homeland and since he had reported every activity back to his high lords, the Zelenian soldiers were now ready for an attack. There was only one catch, the Kaschan man smiled, they didn’t know when the fight was going to start.
He moved quickly now. His boots already informed the guards at the queen’s door of his presence and when he came into view they opened the doors for him, without a word he entered her chambers and bowed from the waist.
“Come on Ratri.” A sweet, welcoming voice said. He could hear the sound of fabric moving and as the woman walked towards him he felt a terrible sense of hopelessness filling his heart. It was a thing she did to all who entered her presence. It was said that it was enhanced by the Great One who was lying, waiting, while in the mean time this woman, this queen, was ruling instead. It was said she was chosen.
“Is it done? Did you put him the Than plane as I requested?”
“Yes my lady.” Ratri answered, only when he felt her hand on his shoulder he dared to rise again. Footsteps led away and he looked how the woman walked away from him.
“Now that that little piece of shit is out of my way, all can finally move on as planned.” Amaya murmured. The woman lowered herself onto the couch in front of the window. A distracted look crossed her features as she looked out of the window. A vision of blackened death greeted her, a shiver of delight made her look back at Ratri.
“The Great One will awake any day now and when she does we shall finally restore balance in our favour, brother.” She said to him, smiling at him. Had he not known of her nature he might have thought of her like he would any woman. But after all these years he could no longer see her as only his sister, he also saw her as one who bestowed death and destruction in the blink of an eye. He had seen blood running down her arms as she held the death spy’s heart. Another memory took him back to an even darker past, when she had practised arts even Kaschan magicians didn’t dare to perform. She was a danger to them all.
“I hope the Great One will aid you, sister.” He replied as he took a step into the room, towards the heavy desk standing near a high wall that was covered with books. There was a large piece of parchment on it, the letters were written in red ink. Ratri spun around, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“You told me you would never send any of us to that treacherous place.” He whispered, disbelief made his eyes gleam a pale blue.
“No,” his sister started, rising from her couch as she walked to meet him and looked him in the eyes, how they were like his own, the darkest of brown, “I said not any of us who are worthy. My spy in their midst is nothing but unworthy of life.” She said to him, folding her hands over his own. “But see it as a favour of the gods, my brother. They have no spy while we have one they would never suspect.” The glimmer in her eyes made Ratri look away from her. No, he doubted she even was the same girl he had grown up with so long ago.

“Good gracious me. I never thought this day would come.” Ottokar said. His face was now nearly as red as his hair. He was having a hard time. The man stumbled and just avoided tripping over a small rock that crossed his path and though he stepped aside, another obstacle knocked him down. Lying on his back he stared at the small sapling in front of him. “Defeated by a tree… how pathetic.” Vardan heard his friend mutter. Now it was Vardan who chuckled softly as he lowered himself until his ass met the rocky earth.
“Don’t worry. With age comes wisdom.” He said.
“You almost sound like you’re having fun, Vardan.” His friend said, this time however he didn’t seem that amused. A soft breeze stirred the leaves from the trees surrounding them. The sun caste shadows on the ground and men. Simultaneously they sighed and enjoyed the short moment of rest before they would have to move again.
After walking without a pause for two days now, both felt their muscles ache. But now that they sat down for a moment they could finally acknowledge the beauty surrounding them. They had not seen the land change around them until now. From rocky hillsides, caves and rifts pulling open the earth they had now reached a land of green and plenty, surrounded by a forest of high trees even older than the lives of both men together.
Ottokar whistled before he closed his eyes. “I can almost feel the life.” He muttered contently. “Let’s rest for a while, take a nap, eat something other than greenery… you know, I’m not a bloody rabbit.”
Vardan looked down at his friend and nodded. “You stay here, I’ll look for something to eat. There’s a stream just a few feet from here, when you want something to drink you can get your lazy ass down there yourself… perhaps we could make a fire tonight and if my mind still serves me right we shouldn’t be long from the castle.” He agreed. Without waiting for an answer from Ottokar, not that he was getting one anyway, Vardan rose and started to walk. He looked back once and nodded when he saw how his friend dozed in the sunlight. This whole thing was pretty rough for the both of them but from what he had heard from Ottokar, the man had had much to deal with before they had met in Leyna. Gradually he moved toward the tree line that separated this piece of forest land from again more mountains. Once he crossed the line of trees, that would keep him out of view from Ottokar, he stopped. His eyes wandered to the high peeks he saw not that far away. He knew the valley they crossed now would lead them to the castle. He was also well aware of the fact that behind those peeks, the death plane separated Zeleny from Kasch. So much time had passed, would it finally look different from those days? Taking another look behind, he found himself walking towards those peeks. After a time he picked up his pace and started to run.

After the chaos that dominated the grand hall for the remaining of the day, it ended when one man rose. A wave of will washed over the gathered Returned. “Will you be silent!” a strong voice commanded. “This will be enough. I will not hear any more about this matter. It has been decided that the powers all of you gained during the Corcoran War should be bound to protect yourselves.” With a heavy sigh the man sat down. All who regarded him could see his fatigue. “Though most of you are still young, I was already old when the first war between the nations started. This is the only way we can preserve the power needed in the later fight.”
“Are you telling us that you’ve seen another fight, Master?” one of the younger Returned asked softly.
“Yes, another fight will again redden the green fields of Zeleny. For a second time the Great One from Kasch will rise. All those still alive that day will need the strength you hundreds will set aside today.”

With no further protest, all gathered surrendered to the will of the high lords. Their power would be bound until at last released again when the time was right. The blood rage of the Returned would be taken away, that what they had gained during the war, all left would be the power they had possessed before it started.
One voice started the chant, soon it was followed by more voices. When all had joined, eyes closed, breaths deepened and minds joined to be as one. A feeling of unity surged through Vardan while at the same time a constant anger left his body. From that day the red in his eyes would disappear until it would one day return… so that he would be able to kill again with frightening skill.

The plane stretched out beneath him. Standing at the edge of a cliff, Vardan could see the curve of the earth. There was great nothingness in front of him, only dust and dry earth.
It had changed since the last time the old warrior had seen the Than plane, as it was known to the Kaschans. This time however there were no bodies to litter the plane with death and there were no creatures from hell to feed from the remains of those who had died. No beings crafted from black magic roamed the plane this time.
Vardan started to climb down the cliff, slowly so that he would not fall. His hands and feet were automatically looking for the best places to hold onto. The climb wasn’t hard, he had made it before though he remembered only fragments of it, much of what he remembered from the end of the war were no more than fragments from greater events. One thing he always recounted; the always present anger in his heart.
Once he stepped onto the cracked earth he could see more clearly what he had not been able to see from above. Not far away from him, something was hidden away from view. A feeling started to nag at him when he stepped forward. There was something amiss, he was sure of it, it just didn’t feel right. The thing out of sight was hidden with magic and for but a moment Vardan halted then closed his eyes so he could focus on the thing he found in front of him. His senses surrounded whatever was obscured from his view. A sharp intake of breath followed, his eyes open wide Vardan looked at what lay before him after he had broken the shield with magic.
“Ottokar.” His Inner voice called to his friend. At once there was a response.
“What is it? Where are you?” Ottokar asked, Vardan could feel the uncertainty from his friend even from this far away.
“You need to go to the castle, now. Tell them to wait with the meet until I arrive.”
“Why?!”
“Just do as I say!” Vardan’s emotions were like thunder and his friend stopped the questions.
With the communication ended, Vardan approached what had been revealed after the barrier had come crashing down.
Before him was the torn up body from one he had known only vaguely, but one of his own none the less. How could the high ones have been so stupid? So ignorant?! He wondered furiously. Before him was a Returned, his heart pulled free from his body, his torso covered in deep slashes… the intestines were pulled out and lay in a way that could only mean one thing; another war was coming for certain. This was the way Kasch called for war.

“Mistress.” A servant hurried into the chamber of his queen. His breath shallow, his eyes white.
“What?” the woman snapped. Fury came from her as her eyes flashed red.
“The.. The… high lords have called a meet, mistress.”
“And….”
The servant swallowed and went to his knees. “The body has been found.”
When no answer came, the man dared to look up at his queen. A twisted grin lined her lips. Sudden laughter made him shrink with fear.
“Wonderful, excellent! By whom?” she asked.
“The one called Vardan, mistress.”
At once the expression darkened and before the poor man knew what happened to him, a dagger ripped his throat open. Nothing happened the first couple of seconds. Then blood started to flow and when the body hit the floor the queen screamed her rage.
Another servant came running quick. “Get that filth away from here. Call upon the Great One! She cannot make me wait any longer!” The servant hurried away, when finally out of sight the woman opened a small cabinet. “You should have been dead.” She whispered. In the cabinet lay a number of things, mostly small items she had gathered from the victims she’d made during a war. A feeling if fury passed through her as she slammed the small doors close, in her hand she held a small object she had once obtain from a certain warrior. One she had for long thought to be very dead.
She smashed the item onto the floor, with a scattering sound the pottery broke. As Amaya looked at it she felt a pang inside of her. How could this be? Had she been tricked? Was she being mocked, made fun of? No, the Great One had told the queen herself, the warrior had been dead among the victims of the final slaughter… but he had survived more than just that, he had not perished when most men would have.

Far away, Vardan knelt on his hands and knees, trying to regain breath he had suddenly lost. For a moment there was nothing until something wavered before him. The vista in front of him changed and he appeared to be inside a room.
A desk near a high wall covered with books, a couch near the window, a tapestry hung from the other wall, next to the bed. A voice spoke, one he barely remembered but haunted him nevertheless. “How can this be?” he heard a woman say. She didn’t come into view however and he found himself in no position to move. This was only a projection, he noted. When trying to force away the power that took hold of him, he heard a laugh.
“Just know I will come for you, and this time… It will be your end. Lover.”

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