The village was a quiet place, not many people came there at this time of year. It was a community of farmers and hunters and some brave sea travellers and the sea did bring at least some income for the locals. Since the village was placed at the bottom of an inlet some ships would seek a safe harbour during the autumn storms and then the locals would trade furs and skins with the captains.
And as the rumours told, some also made their fortune in a far more sinister way. There were some areas along the coast which were known to be very dangerous for ships travelling north or south, and many of the worst reefs were known to have cost countless sailors their ships, their cargo and their lives as well. The worst rocks were feared, almost as if they were living beings and the local villages had to keep fire’s lit during the storms to warn the captains of the danger ahead. But some would use this to their advantage, they would build fire’s that instead of showing a safe passage would lure the unsuspecting captains straight onto the reef and then the locals could reap what the wild storms had left the day after. Because of this some captains preferred to stay far from shore along this particular stretch of the coast:
The summer months were peaceful, not much happened there and people were too busy working to care about the few travellers who visited the village, a well used road went through it and there was an Inn there. It did not have many guests but it was a nice place well known for it’s excellent kitchen and good ale. The sun had just set behind the hills and the winds carried with them the tell tale signs of autumn, the chill made people put on their cloaks and they all hurried inside to get away from the cold. It was easy to keep oneself anonymous and the two riders who had entered the village during the afternoon did take advantage of that. One of them had covered up completely when entering the inn and the other man did all the talking. Both were armed and the inn keeper was no fool, he could sense danger but he also understood that these two weren’t after anyone there. They just needed to stop for the night. He gave them a room and some food and hoped that they would leave next morning without causing any problems.
If the inn keeper had seen the face of the cloaked man he probably would have gotten the shock of a lifetime, the man was a drow. His black skin and red eyes told everyone with the gift of sight who and what he was and to most people his race was one they all feared. He had pulled his cloak off when they entered the room they had rented and he looked a bit displeased. The room was nice compared with other places they had stayed but he would have preferred something a bit more luxurious. He stroked his bald head and sighed, feeling a bit depressed. There had been little income lately, the last job they had had was one he thought was way below their dignity and reputation. His comrade searched the room quickly, he always did. Being cautious and suspicious was very important, it was how they managed to stay alive. There were no dangers there and the black haired assassin relaxed, he too looked a bit tired and sat down in a chair, closing his eyes for a second. Normally he would never allow himself to be so vulnerable but he sensed no danger there.
This place was just a stop, they would rest and feed and move on and hopefully they could make some more money soon. He too was displeased with the job they had finished. Some rich merchant had hired them to find a man who had stolen a very valuable artefact from him, an amulet said to grant the one who carried it immortality.
The artefact was off course a fake, the thief had been anything but immortal and Artemis had to grin when he thought about the fate of the unfortunate fellow. He had fled but not for long, and he quickly ended up in a ditch with a dagger in the back. It was the sort of job anyone could have done and the payment was ridiculous. He shook his head and hoped their luck would change soon, this was a miserable situation to be in. He was the best assassin in all the realms, he should be working for kings and noble men, not simple merchants.
Jarlaxle sighed and placed his feet in a chair, he didn’t like this. His usually colourful clothes were dirty, he could not wear his wide brimmed hat or eyepatch out of fear of being recognized and he missed being in charge of his group of mercenaries. And he missed playing people out against each other even more. He had no informants in this area, nobody he knew and being just a traveller was boring. He longed to return to a city, any city actually. He missed being able to control everything around him, well, things had to change soon.
He covered up again when a girl came with the food and luckily it was good, in fact surprisingly so and their mood lifted a bit. Artemis was tending to his weapons and they tried to come to an agreement about their route from this secluded place. They agreed to rest and make a decision the next morning when their heads were clear. And they prepared for the night but suddenly something caught Artemis attention.
He immediately tensed up, got on his feet and listened with keen ears. There had been some kind of racket in the distance and he felt how his instincts kicked in. They had kept him alive and he trusted them, and they screamed of danger. He walked close to the window, there was light somewhere up the small road and people were gathering. He could hear a voice shouting something and Jarlaxle was also on his feet. The elf’s red eyes were glowing and he looked a bit surprised. “What is going on?”
Artemis grabbed his cloak, if there was trouble brewing he would not be caught within this small room. “ I am going to find out, whatever it is, it is making people gather. I don’t like it!”
The drow got his cloak on too and they left the room in a hurry, Artemis had a strange feeling of urgency, why he did not know.
There were a crowd gathered at the town square and he could hear a man shouting something with a loud voice that somehow seemed unaccustomed to such activities. Artemis was well used to travelling merchants who were trying to sell different items to the population of the towns and cities they visited. Some were honest but a great deal of them were not and tried to sell things that were downright fakes if not even dangerous. He grinned, this could be interesting if this man was one of those guys, these villagers did not seem to be fools. When he came closer he slowed down, he got curious and alarmed at the same time, checked that his dagger was in place. The crowd seemed to be mesmerized by the man who stood on a crate and swung what had to be some kind of wand. A wizard? Worst even! Wizards could create disasters and he wondered if he should return to the room, there was nothing there for him. He would not risk getting involved in something unless there was something to gain from it. But the man caught his attention somehow, the guy was rather young and wore a strange robe made from patches of differently coloured fabric. And he had a weird accent Artemis could not place. Where could he be from? The assassin got a bit curious and just snarled when his companion whispered that they should turn back. He wanted to see what it was this man was doing there.
The man swung the wand again, pointed it at what had to be a cage covered with cloth and Artemis could see a small figure next to it. He thought he knew every race within the realms but he did not recognize this creature. It did not look like a danger to anyone or anything but he knew very well how looks could be deceptive. The creature was holding a rope and it was attached to the cloth covering the cage. Artemis had seen some freak shows in his time, people making a living out of displaying living creatures who were disfigured or made to look so. Was this a hoax of some kind? Or did this man possess some kind of exotic animal? To these villagers almost anything from outside of their region would be considered exotic. He shrugged and moved carefully, he wanted to see.
The wizard or whatever he was was working himself into a frenzy, his voice cracked and Artemis was finally close enough to hear what he was saying, the assassin suddenly felt how he got cold and it was not the wind that caused this. “Behold, be witness to this wonder, to this rare creature captured within the deepest pits of hell. Who here is brave enough to come closer? Be not afraid, I have her under control. She has to obey me.”
Artemis swallowed, was this man nuts? Did he really possess a demon of some sort? He knew that this was trouble and not the insignificant version, no, this spelled big trouble with huge bold letters and he cursed his curiosity. He had seen what kind of mess a demon on the loose could create and he did not believe that this man was a real wizard, he was an impostor at the best. Probably just a novice if he had any knowledge about magic at all. The man pointed at the cage and the small creature beside it looked a bit nervous but pulled the cloth away.
There was a gasp from the entire crowd, and Artemis could hear Jarlaxle curse in drow behind him. His voice was trembling and Artemis felt that it would be a good idea to get as far away as possible right there and then. Someone once said that it takes a killer to know a killer and this creature was deadly. He felt it with every nerve within his body. The cage was too small, whatever she was she sat there bent forward in a very uncomfortable position and Artemis first saw only the pitch black skin and thought that this man somehow had enslaved a drow female. Then he realized that this was no drow, no elf at all. He did not know what this was.
The creature was black all over, black skin, black hair and completely black eyes without even a hint of whites. She had to be tall and was clearly female cause the body was curved and elegant but she had a long tail with a tuft of hairs at the end and the feet were rather long with narrow joints. Her ankles looked more like the hocks of some animal. Long elegant hands that were beautiful in shape but she had claws instead of nails and he could hear her, by the Gods he could hear that low continuing growling that seemed more frightening than the sight itself.
“By the nine hells. What is that?!” Jarlaxles voice was low and intense and he knew the drow well enough to know that he was deeply fascinated. And he too felt fascinated, more than he ever imagined that he could. The crowd was clearly both intimidated and caught by the sight, there were whispering all around them and the man at the crate shook the wand again. The small creature reached into the back of the cage and got hold of a chain, Artemis could see that it was attached to a sort of necklace around the females slender neck. Jarlaxle whispered to him. “ That’s what’s keeping her under control, that wand is just for show!”
Artemis nodded, the small creature had opened the cage now and the wizard was yelling something no one of them understood. Artemis thought he had heard every known language within the realms but this was something he did not know at all. Jarlaxle understood his silent question and shook his head. “I don’t recognize that language either, but if he is a wizard I am a bull rothe!!”
The assassin grinned, he knew how the drow was thinking and he had realized that the man was no magician. He was too pompous and the things he did had nothing to do with real magic. The creature emerged from the cage, stretched herself with obvious pain and Artemis felt a sort of anger at the sight. Why he did not know, he should not care about this being but this strange fascination remained within his mind. She was tall, six feet or more and so incredibly elegant and beautiful and at the same time frightening. It was the same deadly beauty one might observe when watching a dragon attack, it is death but there is no way one can stop oneself from looking. She growled, snarled at the wizard who laughed and swung the wand. The smaller creature was jerking at the chain and the female moaned and clawed at the necklace.
Jarlaxle swore again. “They are torturing her, why? Why is he doing this?”
Artemis clenched the handle of his dagger in his hand, it felt safe to have steel ready. “Money, people will pay to watch her no doubt!”
The wizard yelled something at the creature, it had to be an order cause she started to move. It seemed pathetic but she tried to dance. It was like seeing a great bear being chained and forced to dance to entertain the crowd. Her long black hair was like a coat of silk around her, the tail swung slowly behind her and her moves were floating and quick, yet they were loaded with power. How could a man like that have enslaved this creature? There was something underneath this and Artemis swore to himself that he would find out what. There could be something to gain from this also for him, he was an expert at turning any situation to his advantage.
The drow stared at the creature from inside the cowl of his cloak, there was something within his glance that reminded the assassin of admiration. “See? The little one is holding the chain off the ground!”
Artemis could see that the drow was right, the small being never let the chain touch the ground. It had to be some kind of magic, perhaps the creature could break free or something if the chain touched something outside the cage, the cage was perhaps magical in itself. He had heard a lot of weird things about magic and did not really know what to expect.
The magician had taken a whip from his belt and hit the creature with it, forced her to dance faster, she yelped and they could see thick swollen stripes across her back. Artemis could feel the anger within this creature, how she longed to rip the wizard to shreds. And he did not for a second doubt that she could do exactly that.
People were tossing coins into a small box in front of the man and Jarlaxle was almost growling. He whispered to Artemis. “I bet she is worth a heck of a lot more than the few coins he can gather like this!”
Artemis agreed to that, she was obviously a rare creature since neither of the two had heard of her species and some people were willing to pay almost anything to possess such a gem. So, the wizard was either very stupid and did not understand her value or he was very smart and showed her off to make the right people aware of her. The question was if the wizard really was the one who had caught this thing, or if he was basking in the glory of someone else’s work. In that case, there could be a very angry owner somewhere, willing to pay a lot to have his pet back, and to see that the person responsible got what he deserved. Artemis could see that Jarlaxle was thinking the same thing.
The wizard raised his voice again. “Isn’t she lovely? And oh so deadly! I tracked her for days through the burning wastelands of hell, and she had to bow to my mighty magic. “
Artemis did not believe one single word, that puny guy could not have survived a single second in hell, not any of them. He knew of a very few men who could claim to have visited one of the hells and returned alive. And she was no demon, he was sure of it. She was a natural being but he started to suspect that she was from somewhere very far indeed. He watched her silently, to the naked eye she seemed to be naught but an animal ruled by instinct but he saw how she kept a keen eye on her surroundings. She was looking for a chance to escape every second and he realized that she was desperate. She was furious and ashamed and filled with despair, she did not want to bow to this human, she should not have to bow to anyone or anything. The eyes are the windows into ones soul and even though there was nothing to see within that black gaze he could feel her emotions.
The wizard whipped her again and she trembled and the rhythm of her steps got disturbed. She looked weak, meek even. Artemis sensed the deceit and he grabbed Jarlaxle, gave the drow a warning. Something was about to happen.
The female was spinning around, apparently dancing and suddenly something happened to the people closest to the creature. Artemis could see that the men looked very silly somehow, blank stares and drooping jaws, some placed their hands in front of their crotch with confused expressions. Every male within ten feet of her was clearly affected and Artemis could see that they had to be aroused somehow. He quickly pulled a piece of his cloak up in front of his mouth and nose and the drow did the same thing. Some creatures use odours to protect themselves and this had to be some kind of defence or an attempt to create a distortion. It worked, the wizard was standing on the crate grasping his private parts moaning and the small creature was trying to keep the chain lifted in the air but it was too late. She made a jump and the chain touched the ground outside the cage. There was a small bang and some sparks flew and Artemis knew that they should run, yet he could not. He had to see this, even if it spelled danger.
The female shrieked, a terrible high pitched sound that made everyone’s ears hurt. He could hear the drow moan in pain and he plugged his ears with his hands. Then she leaped, she went straight for the magician and quite literally ripped the man’s throat out with one hand. The other she used to snap the necklace and Artemis could see the small being at the end of the chain flee for his very life. But to no use. She went for it next, jumped and landed onto the creature and then she bent down and an elegant hand landed on its head and smashed it like one would break an egg. Jarlaxle was swearing in a low voice and the assassin could hear the admiration within it.
One of the onlookers shook himself out of the shock, grabbed a knife and threw it at her. It was a futile attack, very silly indeed. The knife was not made for throwing and he did not know how to throw a knife either. The weapon just hissed over her head and she spun around with an angry hiss, she snarled at the guy who shivering pulled a sword. It was a big mistake and the assassin felt like hitting himself, how could anyone be so foolish? The guy had just given himself a death sentence and it would the executed there and then. The female was on the guy faster than anyone could imagine, she quite literally shoved her clawed hand into the man’s belly, pushed it upwards and when her hand emerged again she held the man’s heart. Blood splattered everywhere and the man’s dying groans were silenced by her roar in triumph. The crowd screamed like one, several drew their weapons and Artemis knew it had started, and that it would be bad!
People were scattering like a pack of terrified rabbits but she wasn’t done. She lunged after the fleeing crowd, movements almost too fast to be seen and she was hissing like an angry cat. And she did really remind them of an angry cat, and not just any angry cat. The black colour and beauty of the beast reminded them of a certain panther. But Guen could be controlled by its master, this creature was beyond control and she went berserk. A man tried to run and she snapped his neck with one hand, another grabbed a hayfork and tried to stab at her but she ripped him open from his crotch to his chest and the man fell with a scream, entrails falling out of the huge gash. Another tried to hide behind a support beam carrying a small roof above some tethering poles. She attacked and hit straight through the pole, splinters of wood were flying through the air and she grabbed the guy by his shirt and almost pulled him through the hole. The sight was insane, it should be impossible and yet it was done. She had to be stronger than almost anything else they had encountered, and such strength within a creature of limited size was terrifying.
The two just stood there, mesmerized. She was so incredibly swift, so extremely violent and yet it was a clear plan behind her attacks. She took the ones who could get away first, before they had time to react and she did not attack those who didn’t try to fight her at first. It was just the few in the front line of people who got killed since they tried to cause her harm, she apparently had some code of honour she followed, although it was hard to see it. Artemis was grasped by a strange feeling, he was in awe. She was such an effective killer, one blow and then it was clear that she no longer cared about the victim but was eyeing the next one. She did not make very clean kills tough, there was soon a lot of blood there and the men of the village tried to organize some sort of defence now. Some had gotten weapons and one guy fired a crossbow bolt at her. She grabbed it in the air and snapped it between her fingers, snarling at the man who was fleeing. She ran after him into the darkness of a nearby shed and they could hear screams that ended abruptly and some disgusting wet sounds that made even Artemis twitch. And Jarlaxle stood there gaping, he tried to see what was happening in there using his infra vision but he saw nothing. That was, he could see the now dead body of the man but she was invisible. She was not creating any heat! The thought hit him like a lightning strike, back in the underdark such a creature would be the ultimate weapon. Invisible to his dark skinned kin.
Artemis had thought her to be an animal, killing only by the use of her own body but he was wrong. She had grabbed a sword from a dead man and now she was turned into a silent and very efficient reaper of death. She was a master with the steel, he could perhaps match her and that damned violet eyed drow was probably equal to her or even better but he had never witnessed anyone else able to use a weapon like that. And by now she was approaching the place where the two were standing and Artemis felt insecure. What should they do? If they ran she would probably follow them, it would be like trying to run from an angry bear or another kind of predator, it would just trigger the killing instinct even if they had done nothing to harm her. Jarlaxle was twitching, he wanted to flee cause he had serious doubt that even the two of them would be able to stop this nightmare of a creature. But he knew better than to run. Artemis was breathing hard, this was fighting every instinct he had but he had to remain standing, if they stood their ground she’d might understand that they weren’t the enemy.
The square was almost deserted now, only the dead remained and she had indeed did her fair share of killing within a few short minutes, it looked as if a group of orcs had massacred these men but it had been only one being and she had gotten aware of the two. She hissed, stared at them with those terrible and yet so beautiful black eyes. She did not know what to make of them, Artemis could see that. He held his breath and whispered to the drow.” Do not move, or else I fear we both may be dead!”
He did not underestimate this creature, he was perhaps a deadly assassin and the drow wasn’t that far behind him weapons wise but this female? She was beyond them both!
She walked toward them, bared her teeth, they were unbelievably white and looked like the teeth of a feline. Artemis slowly raised his hands, showed her his empty palms and the drow did the same thing with a hiss. She paused, cocked her head and stared at them, she was studying them and Artemis tried to smile, but he did not look her into her eyes. It could be interpreted as a threat and he did not want to make her attack.
He could smell her, a sweet alluring odour that seemed to be very sensual and he had to admit that he was far from blind to her beauty. That well sculpted body was enticing but he knew better than to let that disturb his thoughts. She took a few more steps toward them and he could watch her face from up close now, it was triangular in shape with strong jaws and high cheekbones. Her eyes were huge and almond shaped and slant. She had thick long eyelashes and a pair of really soft and inviting lips but he suspected that a kiss from her would be a kiss of death. She really appeared to be death incarnate and he wondered where she was from again. He doubted that she came from anywhere within the realms.
He shivered, he felt fear for the first time in a long time and at the same time a strange kind of excitement. This was a real challenge, he had not had one in a long time. This would test his skills and not the ones he was most used to rely on. She sniffed at them and stared at the drow. There was something within her expression that told him she was fascinated by his skin and Artemis realized that she perhaps thought he was of her species. Artemis grabbed hold of himself, the square was empty now but soon the villagers would gather again, ready to defend themselves and avenge their dead kin, and he did not want her to be hurt in any way. Even the best warrior can be felled by that one mistake that usually is the last one and he wanted to know more about her, in fact he wanted to know everything.
He swallowed, tried to sound soothing and calm and it wasn’t easy. His voice would usually carry a promise of violence and death and now he had to convince this creature that he was no threat. It was not what he usually did. “Do...do you understand me? Can you speak?”
She cocked her head again, the other way. Her eyes got narrow and she stared at the two again, it was very clear that she was thinking hard. She took a look around, made a grimace. Then she nodded and said something neither of them understood. Artemis made a small gasp of relief. She was no animal, she was probably just as intelligent as himself. “You are not safe her, not now.. They will be back, with bows and other weapons. You must come with us, do you understand?”
She nodded, her face a grim mask of cold determination. She dried the blood of the sword on one of the dead bodies, then she grabbed a horse blanket from a nearby shed, wrapped it around herself. It looked absurd but Artemis understood that she was far from as primitive as the wizard had tried to make her appear.
Jarlaxle made a thin smile, he stroked his bare skull and tried to appear calm but Artemis could sense the questions that were gathering within his mind. The female looked at them and it was obvious that she wanted them to lead the way. Artemis whispered. “Follow me!”
They made their way back to the Inn through the back alleys and since it was late they got back to the room without anyone actually seeing them. But it was just a matter of time before someone remembered the strangers and came to investigate. Artemis closed the door and turned around, looked at the creature. She stood in the middle of the room, now she looked tired and the rage was gone from her face. She looked more confused than anything else and Artemis sat down in a chair, very slowly and he never looked away from her face even once. He did not trust her, not a bit. She was too dangerous for them to allow any mistakes.
Jarlaxle grabbed a plate from the table, there was a little food left from their meal and he placed it in front of her, staring at her with curiosity and awe. She dropped the sword on the floor, threw herself over the food and ate with a very distinct lack of decent table manners. She tried to shove everything into her mouth at the same time and almost choked before she spat some of it out again with a cough and slowed down. She was surely starved and Artemis could see that her hands were trembling and she made growling sounds while stuffing her mouth. The wizard couldn’t have been feeding her at all. When the food was gone she looked like a mess with pieces of stew and bread smeared around her face, she burped and dried of her face with her arm before she turned her gaze at the two again. She said something but neither of them understood and she sighed and got the long black hair out of her face. She seemed very human at the moment but at the same time the inhuman features were striking.
Artemis pointed at himself and the drow, said their names and she raised her eyebrows, smiled. By all gods, she really was amazingly beautiful. “Cherin”
Her voice was soft and he tried to smile back, his face felt stiff and unnatural. “Is that your name? Cherin?”
She pulled the blanket closer around herself, sighed and nodded. Jarlaxle was staring at her still, he looked like he really didn’t believe his own eyes. Artemis tried to think, tried to come up with a plan. The villagers would off course be looking for her, they would be furious and he did not want them to find either of them there. Jarlaxle shrugged, crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What do we do? Leave? In that case we must leave now!”
Artemis growled, he felt confused. This was not a situation he liked, here he had no allies, no knowledge and nobody he could rely on. He knew nothing of the road ahead and there had been no other horses in the stables except the two they had arrived on and they had been exhausted. If they rode away from the village now the animals would only make a few miles before they would drop dead. And being out there in the wilderness on foot was not very tempting. “Let me think, there has to be something we can do!”
The female crossed her long legs, her tail swung slowly and she made a strange gesture, as if to suggest someone standing next to her. One tall and one even taller figure. “Adraste? Bogdhan?” Artemis stared at the female.” Never heard those names before, friends of yours?”
She did not seem to understand him and he sighed. How could they cooperate if they could not communicate? He had no idea what they should do, some part of him wanted to leave her there, after all it was none of their business what happened to this creature but a something new had stirred inside of him, they could not leave her! Even if they couldn’t make any profit or gain any advantages by keeping her safe they just had to. She was perfection. Cherin sighed and looked a bit like a sulking kid, whatever she was, she was apparently very young, maybe even not in her full power. Artemis could not imagine what she’d then turn into.
As the three tried to make a plan the surviving villagers had gathered and some brave men had moved back into the square. They were heavily armed and very nervous, they did not want to share the fate of their dead comrades. The sight that met them was sickening, torn bodies and blood and gore and a couple of the men turned around and retched. These were peaceful men and even those of them who weren’t were not accustomed to such slaughter. The being responsible for this was gone, and one guy went over to the wizards body. The man had dropped where he stood and his face still had a terrible expression of fear and pain. He still had the wand in his hand and the villager bent down and picked it out of the corpse’s stiff hand. He looked at it, it looked a bit fake, like something one would make to impress others who possess no real knowledge of how a real wand should look. There were too many gems on it, it seemed as if the one who made it had been very fond of exaggerations.
He stood there and wondered if the gems could be real, they sure looked real and in that case the darn thing was valuable even if it proved to be just an ornamental staff and nothing more. An older and more experienced man saw what he was doing, shouted to him. “ Hey, don’t touch the wizards wand, you’ll never know what might happen. You’d might raise the dead or something like that by accident, or summon the wraiths of those drowned by the storms. Drop it!”
The villagers were superstitious, it was just natural since they weren’t all that educated and the man dropped the wand as if he had touched a poisonous snake or something. It hit the ground with a soft thud, barely audible but for a second there was a weird silence, as if time itself stood still. Nobody seemed to notice and they kept looking for the weird creature which had slain so many of their friends and family. A couple remembered seeing two strangers and they were not among the dead. If they had not fled in panic they still had to be there somewhere and maybe they had seen where the creature went? The villagers would surely find out.
If anyone had been upon the moor outside the village they would have seen a rather sinister sight, there was a strange sound and the wind died down within a small area. A smell of sulphur could be felt and a piece of the air itself seemed to turn into something solid, like a mirror shaped disk of nothingness. There was a buzzing in the air and two shapes appeared through the disk, two riders who’d have made any onlooker run and seek shelter. They both wore thick cloaks and carried weapons. The smallest rider rode a giant silver grey stallion apparently able to outrun just about any ordinary horse. The other rider on the other hand rode a steed of some species unknown to anyone, it looked a bit like a horse and was both terrifying and beautiful, pitch black and almost seven feet tall. The head was long and elegant but the eyes were those of a cat and the animal had fangs. And it had hooves on its front legs and cloven ones on the back legs. It might remind any onlooker of a unicorn but it had no horn and it was much more massive than any unicorn. And there was a strange chill in the air around the beast, as if it created cold.
The riders dropped their cowls, stared at the lights in the distance. The first rider was a woman, blond and very lovely but her eyes were those of a hardened warrior. She was tougher than anyone could imagine and she sighed and stared at the lights with narrow eyes. “She is here!”
Her voice was soft but also very determined. The man next to her nodded, he petted the weird animal on the long curved neck and touched the hilts of his two blades with an almost loving motion. “Yes, she is. I just pray that nothing’s happened.”
The woman stood in her stirrups, listened. “Sorry, can you hear that?”
He nodded, sighed. “ I do, shit!”
There was shouting and flickering torchlight, it did not look good at all.
The man dropped his cloak, attached it to the back of his saddle and pulled of his light armour and shirt. He was incredibly well built, an athlete no doubt and both strong and fast. His features told of some elven blood but there was also something else within the mix and his face was both masculine and pretty at the same time. His hair had a weird colour, like polished bronze and he was rather pale. The grey eyes were sharp like those of a wild animal and he stretched and moved his swords so he could reach them within seconds. The woman looked at him, there was questions within her face. “Is that really needed? “
He nodded. “Unfortunately, I sense strong magic down there. I fear something very bad has happened and I do not like to take any chances.“
She sighed, spurred her horse. “ Then be careful, and remember, you do not need to kill everyone you see, at least not until we know more.”
He just grinned, a terrible cold smile and his pale skin turned completely white while the grey eyes suddenly looked like polished metal and strange black shapes started to move across his skin like living tribal tattoos. “ We ride straight in, and we ride in hard! “
She nodded and pulled her own sword, he was maybe deadly but she could most certainly also cause some serious carnage and if they had to kill to obtain what was taken from them, they would.
In the village someone had come to the conclusion that the strangers had to be at the Inn, it was the natural place to start looking and Artemis and Jarlaxle had heard people approaching the place. Swiftly they had abandoned the room and sought shelter in the attic, there was a small room there with a window and they tried to avoid detection. Cherin seemed to be confused but she followed them and the three could just hope that the villagers wouldn’t search the entire Inn. Artemis was also deeply confused by his own actions, normally he would consider giving these people what they wanted but he could not. And he knew that the drow agreed in that. Cherin could be a terrible weapon within the right hands, or even a valuable friend to whoever took the job of teaching her their language. With someone like her by their side they would be almost invincible.
But he could not see her as a thing, an asset or even a valuable object. He could not sell her to someone, or make her into something she wasn’t. He had seen so much death and violence in his life and caused a lot of it himself, and yet he felt almost humble when watching this creature. She was something he wasn’t, something he never could be. She was pure. There was no doubt within her when she fought, no plans or schemes. All there was was the fight for survival or vengeance. He admired that.
Jarlaxle peeked out the small window, there was torches burning outside and the drow looked concerned. “They are pretty pissed off! I don’t like this at all.”
Artemis just growled and had his weapons ready, he had never imagined he would serve as a body guard to anyone but he was ready to do whatever it took to keep her safe. Cherin had brought the sword she took from the dead guy and she hissed, the strange eyes were almost burning and he could see how tense she was. She was ready to fight once more. He just hoped that it wouldn’t be needed. The drow suddenly twitched and gasped, stared out through the window with huge eyes and Artemis could hear a sound in the distant. Screams, wild terrified screams and the men outside the Inn and those who were searching the rooms rushed out. Artemis looked out, he saw something that made him swear and wish they had been somewhere else.
A strange eerie glow seemed to spread among the houses, together with a dense blanket of mist that spread like soft cotton over the ground. And within that mist they could see figures, dark twisted shapes moving in a very stiff and unnatural way. Cherin sniffed the air, then she growled and her eyes got wide and she bared her teeth. The drow swallowed, he had never seen anything like that, he knew that the dead could arise, his people knew of magic that could make it happen but only one corpse at a time and at a terrible cost for the one responsible for the spell used. This was several cadavers and there was some kind of sinister determination in the way they moved forward. Artemis felt sick to his core, how did you fight something like that? How did one kill the undead? And why had they showed up now?
The villagers were in a state of panic, they did not believe their own eyes and some men moved in to fight. They cut some limbs and took some heads but the walking corpses did just continue to advance. This were apparently the remains of dead sailors, the bodies looked bloated and there were seaweed and such hanging from them. Empty eyes stared at the living with the envy of the long dead longing for their heat and life and soon a battle had begun. And it was not one fought by any rules. Cherin stood in the window and watched, she looked eager and at the same time worried. Artemis could understand her, if someone cut one of the dead in half both halves would continue fighting and several villagers were already wounded or dead. Jarlaxle moaned, he looked almost petrified. “ I have never thought I would have to fight the dead!”
Artemis bit his teeth together. “ We might have to, when they are finished with the villagers we will be next I fear. “
The drow swore. “ I never thought I would say this but I almost wish we had a high priestess here now, one with enough power to stop these....wraiths!”
Artemis just shook his head, he knew very well what the drow was referring too and he did not agree. The drow could have their spider worship for themselves. Screams and terrible hollow roars filled the air together with the clash of steel and a sickening wet noise when the dead bodies moved. There was something within him that told him he should get down there and fight, that it was the only honourable thing to do. At least he would face death face to face.
Cherin sniffed, she said something sharp and Jarlaxle left the small room, looked down through the stair and came back with a grim look upon his face. “ That’s it, the house is on fire. Someone has forgotten a burning candle or something. We have to leave now!”
Artemis closed his eyes for a second, then he gathered himself. He was just as clever as anyone else, there had to be a way out of this. “Fine, the back door. There is a chance we might be able to get away unnoticed.”
The drow scowled. “ Don’t bet on it!”
They got down to the first floor, smoke filled the rooms and made it almost impossible to breathe and they found their way to the back door with their chests burning and tearfilled eyes. Jarlaxle had real problems, his eyes could see heat and the fire was just too much for him. He just followed them out the door with his eyes shut. The back alley was empty and Artemis made a small sigh of relief but he was soon disappointed. Several dark figures appeared within the mist, heading for them, and it was a dead end. They would have to fight their way out and Artemis drew his swords with a swift move, forced himself to calm down and think of nothing but his skills. He could not doubt himself now, not for a second.
The first of the undead came racing toward them and the three had to move, the hideous things were faster than one could anticipate and the empty eyes and strange will behind their approach would have made other people hesitate. These three did not, Artemis had his swords ready and came in low, he went for the legs of the first attacker and the drow used his weapon with a masters precision. And Cherin roared and threw herself into the battle, teeth bared and claws ready, and she did shock the others. They had seen her fight earlier that night but it had been nothing compared with what they now saw. She was like a fleeting black shadow, a sinister ghost of some kind and she ripped the walking corpses to shreds with a speed that was phenomenal. Bodyparts were raining around them and the sight was downright grotesque. And she was constantly growling, the noise seemed utterly unnatural coming from such a slender creature but it only added to her savage appearance.
The dead kept coming, aiming straight for anyone alive and the three fought their way out of the back alley, they had to find somewhere a bit safer. The villagers saw them now but they also saw that the creature they had been seeking actually were helping them and they also saw that one of the two strangers were a drow. But this night the dead were walking and they had witnessed a wizard getting killed by his own very deadly pet so what the hey, one more horror didn’t matter that much. All they cared about now was how to stay alive and keep the seemingly unending flood of dead corpses at bay. Artemis roared some orders to the men who still stood upright, they were not warriors and they needed some advice. Neither of them had received any training and the fear made them weak and doubtful. Jarlaxle was constantly swearing in drow and fighting with both rage and strength and Artemis was quick and lethal too but it did not help a bit. No matter how many of the attackers they chopped down the corpses kept coming back for more. Even limbs that had been severed would try to grab hold of them and Cherin was jumping around in amazing leaps and protecting the fighters from such nasty surprises.
Jarlaxle was panting, he did seriously doubt that they would see another sunrise. “ How many of these stinking cadavers are there really?”
Artemis cut down a particularly ugly one with a mighty swing of his swords. “These coastal villages has a bad reputation for reaping the storms if you know what I mean? It’s probably the remains of all those who has drowned because of this activity, could be a heck of a lot of them I fear!”
The drow said something less than polite and hacked the top of the head off a smaller corpse with strange fin like arms and teeth like a shark. “Shit, where is a real wizard when you need one?!”
The villagers fought with desperation and all the courage they possessed but the tide was not turning, more and more undead showed up and it did not look good at all. Some managed to raise a kind of barricade made from a few overturned carriages and waterbarrels and other loose items but it wasn’t enough. These attackers did not care about their own safety, they felt no pain nor fear and they hungered for the life and warmth of the villagers. And they also wanted revenge, it was rather obvious. Some houses were on fire now and the fires threw a strange almost eerie light over the scene. Blood and fire and the shadow like figure that was dancing through the crowd like feathers blown by the wind. Artemis realized that this could be the end, he did not see any way out of this. He had fought enemies few other living beings could have survived meeting but this was beyond even his skills. Not even an army of elvish warriors could have done anything to stop these wraiths. Only magic could do the trick.
And then everything changed within two heartbeats. There was a shrill scream of some kind and Cherin answered it with a cry of joy and relief. And a huge dark figure raced into the crowd of undead like an avalanche. From the other side of the square a loud yell could be heard and another figure appeared. A woman on a grey horse and she was glowing in a strange blue colour and she swung a sword like a champion. And everyone of the undead she came near fell to never again raise. The drow whispered something, staring at the dark figure and Artemis had to stare too. The figure was a huge man on a strange animal that seemed to fight just as much as the rider and he was so pale and strange and there was as if the creatures near him froze. The villagers did not know what to believe, was this just another new danger?
Cherin cheered and got renewed energy. She hacked away at the undead with amazing speed and Artemis could barely believe his own eyes. The man on the black animal jumped from its back, started spinning around slashing out with two swords and the dead stayed dead when he had cut them. He was so incredibly fast, so amazingly elegant and at the same time like a force of nature. Unstoppable and merciless. Artemis could see that one of the swords looked rather normal, a slim one edged blade of good steel, the other on the other hand was peculiar. It had two edges, was shaped into a hook shape at the end and the upper edge was serrated, like a saw. Artemis felt a chill run down his spine, such a weapon could cause terrible injuries and this man was using it with ease. The assassin had barely seen anything like it ever.
The woman on the grey horse plowed her way through the crowd, the corpses just fell and lay there and Cherin grinned and sliced down a few more, just for show. After just a few minutes the battle was over, there was no more wraiths left and the villagers stood there in shock. The woman stopped her horse, stared at them. Then she sighed and shook her head. “Right, who touched that bloody wand? Ah nevermind, what’s done is done. Now good people, go home, tend to your wounded and don’t remember this night. But know that similar things will happen again, unless you stop running ships onto the reefs!”
The villagers fell silent for a few seconds, then they all turned and left without even saying a word, their eyes were almost empty like they were sleep walking. Artemis understood that the woman had used some kind of magic to control the crowd, he felt a bit uneasy at the thought. Cherin was grinning and jumping with joy.” Adraste! Bogdhan!”
The two smiled at her and Jarlaxle was staring at the man. He seemed to have tattoos but they were moving and he also noticed that the guy wasn’t breathing! The drow feared that this was something similar to his people’s most hideous spells and remembered the sad destiny of a friend he once had lost. The huge black animal came back to its master and purred like a cat before it began gnawing at one of the dead bodies. The sight made Artemis almost retch!
The assassin tried to remain calm, to keep his cools and look undisturbed by what had just happened but it was not easy. Cherin was saying something to the two riders and they nodded and the man gave her a big hug. She looked as happy as a kid when it’s favourite uncle is visiting. Artemis felt almost jealous for a second, why he did not know. The woman looked at him and the drow. “So, Cherin says you helped her? We are grateful for that.”
Artemis filled his lungs, tried to sound like he was in control. “Yes, and who the hell are you? And what is she?”
The man had gone over to the remains of the wizard and the small creature, he shook the cage and there was a loud snarling sound. His eyes looked like mirrors, shining metal and cold death and Adraste sighed. “ So, that was his fate, how well deserved! He could flee but not from his own darn stupidity!”
Jarlaxle crossed his arms across his chest, he still looked at the strange man with both fear and a bit of admiration. The skills the guy had shown them was nothing short of amazing. He sighed, he had always been proud of his nice abs, this guy made him look puny! “How about an explanation please? We just almost got butchered by a stinking horde of cadavers, I think we deserve to know what in the nine hells we’ve gotten ourselves into!!”
The woman smiled, she did not seem to care about the fact that the man who spoke to her was a drow, perhaps she did not know anything about his race? “ Off course, we are Adraste and Bogdhan, our world is not this one but this I guess you already has guessed. We have come to find Cherin who was kidnapped by a stupid and very power mad wizard.“
Artemis nodded, another world? The idea was new to him but it somehow seemed just natural. “The dead wizard here?”
Adraste shook her head, her cold pale beauty was tantalizing and yet frightening. Like she was no creature of light but something created within endless shadows and eternal cold. “No, we killed that son of an ogre, this is his very unfortunate apprentice. He managed to escape through a dimensional gate before we could get to her, and he ended up here off all places. Well, she is safe now, and we managed to avoid an utter disaster.“
Artemis sighed. “ Ah, I would not call it that, these dead will still be here tomorrow and the villagers will remember everything too. And many has died, for nothing! “
She turned around, stared straight into his eyes and he felt himself go cold all over. She could see him, see who he really was, his every dream and every fear, every thing he had ever done, every thought he had made, every moment of his life. She smiled, a slow almost vicious smile. “You know naught of disasters mortal. Be glad this is your world, in ours you would have been just one among many.”
The drow looked nervous. “What is she? She is ...she is so.. perfect!”
Bogdhan petted Cherin on her shoulder and she grinned and purred, she looked absolutely happy and Artemis felt that his heart somehow sank within his chest. There was no way she would stay with them, and why would she? But she was... He could not find the words.
Bogdhan smiled, the strange metal look disappeared from his eyes and his colour became more natural, the black signs were gone too, his skin was perfect now and he looked a bit like an elf but he was taller and more muscular than most elven males would become even with hard training. He was handsome, in fact very so but there was still something unnatural about him and the drow had relaxed visibly when he no longer looked like some kind of spirit wraith. “She is of a very rare and very feared species known only within a few worlds. They are our companions, the ones who seek out our targets and lead us to them. “
Adraste smiled, her teeth were very white and the smile was not a reassuring one. “We hunt evil, of all sorts. We seek out the creatures created by darkness and forgotten magic and destroy them and sometimes you cannot fight fire unless you use a fire even greater. Goodness might be the antidote against evil but unfortunately not always. Sometimes only a similar force might bring victory.”
Artemis tried to smile, his face felt stiff. These were dangerous beings, the most dangerous beings he had ever encountered. The drow stood there, eyes to the ground, he did not dare look at Adraste and Artemis knew why. Her power and appearance reminded the mercenary of a matron mother. This female demanded respect and obedience, and she anticipated it as a natural right of hers.
Artemis had shed rivers of blood in his time, he had killed again and again and yet he was a mere amateur compared with Bogdhan. He could see oceans of blood within this strange man’s gaze and suddenly he was very glad indeed that this was his world and not the one that had given birth to such killers as this being.
Bogdhan looked at him with a calm stare, he smiled. “I see you wonder about me, let me explain!” He placed the swords within the sheaths again and dried some goo off his hands, like it was nothing to even think about. “ I am what’s known in our world as a seeker. Seekers are hated creatures, feared by everyone and the most terrible of all weapons.”
Artemis looked a bit shocked. “ Fighting for who?”
Adraste broke into the conversation. “Understand this, within our realm there has been a war going on for centuries. Both sides has mighty weapons and use a lot of magic, the seekers are needed unfortunately, they were the good sides answer to our enemies attacks. “
Jarlaxle looked as if he did not believe his own ears.” They are the good guys?”
Bogdhan nodded, there was something sad within his eyes. “Believe it or not, but yes. A seeker is primarily a warrior who’s soul has been removed, he is only a thing, a mindless beast with only one goal in sight, to kill! If someone sees a seeker they are most likely to kill him, even if that might mean their own destruction. “
Artemis cleared his throat, still feeling cold. “Why? You are not soulless? “
Bogdhan nodded. “ That’s right, I am different. You see, the process of creating a seeker is terrible, it includes torture of a kind you can barely imagine and most don’t survive it. Only the strongest can make it and believe me, death is salvation compared with their fate. I was chosen to become a seeker because of my skills, and because I was a half breed. They did not see me as valuable but I had fooled them. I was no half breed, there were three races within me, my grandmother was a shadow walker, a shape shifter. And her blood in me saved me. I died and was dead for a while but I woke up again and brought with me quite a lot of gifts from the other side. That is why I am like I am, I am walking on both sides of life and it is both a blessing and a curse.”
Adraste smiled at him, the smile was loving. “ Heaven would not have him and in hell they feared him, so I got him back, enhanced and more powerful than ever!”
Jarlaxle did not know what to say. “ Uh..so.. what do the seekers do.. really? Why are they so feared if they are on the good side?”
Adraste sighed. “ Because they kill people on the good side, a lot of them too. The enemy released a plague, a terrible disease who turns those infected into something like the ones we just fought. And it is very contagious, if one person within a village is infected then soon they all are and the disease has no symptoms until it breaks loose and turns everyone into almost unstoppable killing machines. And those they kill will rise again as similar and so it spreads like fire on a dry plain.“
Bogdhan sighed, there was deep sorrow within his eyes. “ So if there is suspicion of infection within a village everyone has to die before the plague appears. Everyone! Every man woman and child, from the oldest to the newborn. The seekers travel in groups and they slaughter every living soul within those villages, without mercy and without regret. That is why their souls are removed, no one can do something like that again and again without eventually going mad. “
The drow gasped and Artemis felt sick all of a sudden. Killing entire villages? Just like that? It was not anything he could imagine! At least he had known the names of most of his victims and there had been a real reason why he had killed them. To kill just in case someone would get sick was incomprehensible to him, there was no honour in it, no challenge, just plain slaughter. “Then they are beasts”
Bogdhan nodded, the sadness lingered within his eyes and Adraste smiled. “ He was the only one who did the cleaning jobs by himself, he never travelled with the others since he’s still got a mind and a consciousness. They called him the black dragon, there was just as little left after him as after a dragon attack.”
Artemis did not believe it. “ Entire villages? No way, they must have fought for their lives, and you are only one man!”
Bogdhan did not seem to be insulted by his words, he just smiled that narrow sad smile. “ Yes, they would fight, but I always finished the job. I am quick and I bring a clean death, I cause no suffering. Remember, I walk on both sides. I cannot be killed by anything from either side!”
Jarlaxle hissed, he seemed to be rather uncomfortable with the thought. “ How practical!”
His voice was dry and Adraste grinned. “ Very indeed, now the plague is almost gone but there is still plenty of work to be done. The enemy has loads and loads of other tricks up their sleeves. So we won’t get bored any time soon I’d reckon!”
Her smile was almost vicious and Artemis knew that he never had met anyone fighting for the good forces who so much fitted the description of someone from the other side. But he could understand that it was needed. The strange black animal was finished eating and Bogdhan made a grimace. “Korrun, you could at least have chosen a fresh one, you’ll stink for days” He petted the creature on the neck and Cherin giggled. She seemed like a very cute and innocent little girl all of a sudden, there was nothing about her personality that told of her recent killing spree, or the joy she had taken in it.
Jarlaxle stared at Adraste. “ I can clearly see that he does have some..unusual talents...but what about you? “
She just grinned again, seemed to be counting the number of dead villagers around them. “I was born with the gift of healing, but also with the gift of what is known as wild magic. It is magic without a focus, and for someone who possess that type of power anything is basically possible.”
Artemis frowned. “ Yeah right, anything?”
She nodded with a smile. “Anything, I will fix this unfortunate situation you see. No need for these villagers to remember what’s happened. That Cherin killed a few of them was very unfortunate but she would have spared them had they not tried to attack her. She can be a bit unpredictable when she is in a defence mode. She has a lot to learn yet, but it will come in time. “
The drow looked like he didn’t really understand. “Fix it? How?”
Adraste lifted her brows in an almost merry grimace. “ Easy, I’ll make it all go away. “
She closed her eyes and Artemis suddenly had a feeling that the world was spinning in front of him. The corpses were gone, both the dead sailors and the villagers and the fires that had been burning was gone too. The village was peaceful, like nothing had happened. Adraste opened her eyes again and the assassin could not help but wonder what she could achieve, what she could do for the likes of him. And she would have been competition, bad competition. Imagine that, just think about someone and they seize to exist? No need for skills like his own any more. It made him freeze along his spine.
She grinned again, a very pleased smile that made her incredibly beautiful. “Tomorrow they will wake up and this night never happened, the dead will be forgotten like they never lived and they will know naught of us nor Cherin. And that leads us to the next problem, you two! “
Artemis tensed over immediately, he was ready to fight. She saw his reaction and smiled again. “Don’t worry, like I mentioned, we are grateful. You are in no danger, believe me. But I will give you a choice though, if you like to I will remove also your memory of this night. It will be as if nothing ever happened. “
The drow swallowed, Artemis could see from his grimace that he didn’t like the idea of having someone tampering with his mind, and he didn’t like the idea either. It made him cringe! He looked her straight into the eyes. “No, no way! I have seen bad things before, it won’t give me nightmares if that’s what you fear!”
She laughed and Bogdhan smiled too. He still seemed a bit sinister, the assassin could not really trust him, he knew that this man could explode into action so fast not even his sharp reflexes would give him a chance.
“I know it won’t. I know you Artemis, I know your type even better. You are like this blade, sharp and deadly, focused and in control. You think that this is the only way to be, cause it is the only way you have been able to survive. But steel may become brittle, it may break and then there is nothing. It is useless, to be thrown away and forgotten. Some may remember you the day you no longer are among the living, but only as an enemy. And you will be forgotten soon enough.”
Artemis swallowed, she stared into his soul again, he didn’t want her to! She saw too much, told him too many things he didn’t want to confess even to himself. She cocked her head, there was cold determination within those sapphire eyes. She was relentless, vicious, she never backed down and he knew that spending time with her would be like spending time in some kind of purgatory. There would be nothing left afterwards, no secrets and no strength. Her presence would rip his soul apart, show him his deepest fears and weakness. And some strange part of him wanted her to, wanted her to cleanse him, leave him as another person, reborn through torment and pain. He shivered, dared not look upon her face again.
“If being with people who care and to care about them in return is strength then your life is a lie right? To love all that is cold and hard and deadly may seem like a good strategy but remember this, no man is an island. Even you have a soul Artemis, and that is more valuable than you can imagine. I have seen what happens to those who have lost theirs. I have been there at their death bed, seen their soul return at the moment of death and seen their anguish when they realize what they have done. Those moments of agony is something that will eat at one’s mind unless one has my strength, and I do not wish that upon any living creature. You are almost a seeker Artemis, almost on the way to becoming like they are, a tool and nothing more. A weapon to send to whatever location needed and good at doing what you do. But still you are just a tool, for sale like a whore in a back alley. And the day when your skills fade what then? Oh I know you have had that thought, I can see it within your eyes. You fear that don’t you?”
She walked closer to him and he felt trapped, like there was no way to go. He dared not reveal his fear to anyone, not even to Jarlaxle.
“There is one solution to this assassin, grow! Be more than you are right now. You have potential, but don’t let the past bind you unto a path that only will lead you toward destruction. Cause it will. Either by the hands of others or ultimately by your own.”
She grinned, the smile was so darn pretty and yet ugly. There was no hiding from her honesty, her truth. Sweat was flowing down his back and he clenched his teeth together until his jaws hurt.
She turned to the drow, he looked as if he was ready to run for it and she took a couple of steps and touched his chin almost lovingly. Then she said something in drow and the mercenary seemed to shrink a bit before Artemis very eyes, he looked terrified. It was obvious that what she had told him was something he most certainly didn’t want to hear.
Bogdhan grabbed the reins of his weird steed and Cherin said something cheerful. Then she went over to Artemis, placed her hands on his shoulder and leaned forward, kissed him gently and yet passionately and he froze and just stood there like he had been turned into stone. The feeling of her lips, of her smell and the touch was almost more than he could take. He had never felt anything like it, it was like every dream he’d ever had melded into one, every desire and every need burning like wildfire within his soul. What would he not have given to have her there with him? She could be his salvation, his guide toward a new life, a new version of himself. He realized that he had been running his hands through her silky hair and it felt so amazing. His mind screamed to him, she isn’t even human, but it didn’t matter. Tears filled his eyes, she was a Goddess, and she could never be his. He was not worthy of her, could never be worthy of her.
Bogdhan grinned. “ She likes you you know, if things had been different she would have stayed but it’s impossible. She won’t be safe in this world, there are too many dangers of which she is unaware. But one day we’ll might return. “
Artemis stared at the pale man with hope in his eyes. “ Really?”
Adraste nodded. “Yes, I sense that we one day will. And I will show you our gratitude.”
She grabbed something from a pocket and placed it in his hand, it looked a bit like a coin but there was nothing printed on it, it was just a disk of shiny metal. “If you ever end up in a mess that’s gone over your head, hold this and think of us and if we can we will help.”
He stared at the coin, it felt heavy and warm and he could sense the magic within it. “ I will remember, and.. thank you!”
Adraste smiled, a gentle smile this time. “ Remember what I have told you. We have to go before we disturb too much on this plane, but we will remember you both.”
She got in the saddle of her horse again and Bogdhan also mounted his steed, Cherin jumped onto the animals back behind him with amazing agility. Artemis could only stare at her. She blinked at him, blew a kiss and he wanted to shout to her and beg her to stay. Bogdhan said something in a strange language and the air started to shiver. Adraste waved at them. “ Don’t look so sad, you fought well this night, remember that. We’ll meet again! “
There was a flash of light and they were gone, like they never had been there. Artemis just stared at the place where they had been and felt utterly confused and bewildered. He could not focus his thoughts, they were spinning around like angry bees and he moaned and felt dizzy. The drow grabbed him by the arm, pulled him out of the street and into the Inn. There were no signs of the fire and everything was quiet. They sat down at a table and stared at each other. Neither spoke, they both had enough with their own thoughts there and then. Jarlaxle looked a bit bitter, perhaps even scared and Artemis would have liked to know what the cause was but he did not ask. If the drow wanted him to know he would tell, otherwise he would keep his mouth shut.
They just sat there, staring into the table, too overcome with feelings to be able to do anything. Artemis leaned forward, hid his face within his hands and the drow looked at him with concern. He cleared his throat. “ Are you all right?”
The assassin shook his head, the drow had never seen him like this, ever. The way he had looked at Cherin, the strange glimpse within his eyes`? If he hadn’t known better he would have thought that the assassin had fallen in love. Artemis felt how something threatened to choke him, he did not know what to say or what to do any more. “ I.. no, I’m not! I... “
He stared helplessly down into the table, his hands were shivering ever so slightly. “She was perfect, just... perfect! More than anything else!”
He gasped. “How can anything ever be the same again? I have witnessed something no mortal ever should and I fear I have lost my soul. Nothing will ever compare with her, nothing!”
The drow made a strange grimace. Yep, the assassin had fallen in love, head over heels or so it seemed. And what now? He petted the black haired man gently on his arm. “ Then remember her as that, perfection. And see it as a chance to gain a new ideal. “
Artemis did not answer, he just kept staring down and Jarlaxle sighed and kept his mouth shut. The assassin would probably turn also this into an obsession if he knew him right, and he did. But perhaps this new obsession would be for the better? He could only hope. The two men just sat there within the dark room until the suns rays slowly told of a new day. Then they went to their room and went to bed, but Artemis could not really sleep. All he could see was her, and when his fatigue finally overcame him her face was all he saw and her name what he whispered in his sleep. Someday they would meet again, now that was his dream and his goal, and one he would not forget, ever.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, NuredhelWrite a Review