The Shattered Realms: Rise of Zulguarde

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Chapter 3 Puppets on Parade



A low moan echoed through the walls and Drakar stirred from his fitful sleep. He sat up staring into the darkness. It was a voice crying out, it sounded agonized. He moved to the wall placing his ear on it and the sound grew louder. It was faint but a rhythmic clinking rose from the silence of the room. He heard the voice once more a shriek of bliss rang out from the other side of the wall.

“Papa! Oh Papa right there!” Wailed Giovanna in the adjacent room.

The pounding reached a fevered pitch and she screamed. “That's it harder! How disgraceful making your own daughter into such a lewd woman. You disgusting pig! You love being treated like trash, how pathetic. I wonder what the other nobles would think if they saw your pitiful self. So fat I had to dig for your cock. What do you have to say for yourself Papa?”

He heard the muffled replies but there were no words. Incoherent groans of pain and pleasure filled the air. A loud slap echoed and the crack of a whip lashed the darkness. Agony scurried up Drakar's spine remembering the lashing he had received. Giovanna was now cackling and the sound of the whip were coming faster and harder than before. After what seemed hours a silence fell over the room.

“How fun Papa did you like my slave play? Letting me be in control, well was it delightful?” Asked Giovanna.

“As expected of my daughter. The way you handle that whip is a form of art.”

“Why thank you I have had a lot of practice. So what is next Papa? Are we going to defile that elf bitch?”

“I have not had enough of you yet my dear. The elf can wait.”

“Me? But Papa all that whipping made me tired.”

“Just lie back and let Papa take care of everything.”

“I know better. You would crush me if I left it all to you. Honestly if I am not on top I would be worried over my safety your fat has gotten so bad lately that you look like a tub of lard. Where did my big strong Papa who was called the Black Hearted Bull go? He must be swallowed up by all this fat.”

“Very well then get on your knees where you belong.”

“That mouth of yours is the only good thing left of you, the fat has eaten everything else. Be honest when was the last time you saw your little cock?”

“Hush now girl and get to work.”

“Very well but after this I need some sleep. It is so late already.”

Giovanna became quiet and the relaxed sighs of Maxwell rose. Drakar retreated from the wall and lay on the pillows his eyes wide open. He was unsure of exactly what they had been doing but it sounded like some sort of torture. The thought that she would subject him to something like that made his scales crawl and he buried himself below the pillows. He lay there, covering his ears from the moans emanating from the next room. A small voice rattled through the air and he stared into the darkness. A tiny red glow illuminated the glass of a jar on the desk. It was Ciara she stood forlornly staring out of her prison unable to do anything. Though she talked it was muffled and sounded like squeaks. Drakar moved to grab the jar but the chain held him back. He tugged and pulled but it would not yield. Ciara was crying and he could not reach her. He sat pitifully staring at her. Hours seemed to pass when a sudden gust of air filled the room. The door burst open and there stood Daemyn.

“Drakar! We are leaving this wretched place right now.” Said the tall Dark Elf.

He quickly crossed the room and slashed down severing the chain that bound him to the pillar. Daemyn grabbed him and dragged him by the arm. One of the others broke the jar and set Ciara free. She hid in his hair wailing incessantly. Twenty Dark Elves stood in mismatched armor and their varied weapons gleamed with fresh blood. Their eyes glowed a deep dark red. The blood lust had taken them.

“Where are we going?” Asked Drakar walking on his own.

“To the Crystal Bog in the far north many Dryads and Dark Elves live there and we can seek refuge with them.” Said Daemyn.

“No I mean how are we getting out of this place?” He asked.

“While you were confined we have been working diligently and have learned the ins and outs of this accursed place. Now be quick before the guards notice we are escaping.”

They prowled through the corridors moving quietly and swiftly. The moon light showered in through one of the windows and the outside seemed surreal. Shadows danced then a strange orange glow flashed in the darkness. Fire licked the sky all around the rooftops. Drakar stared as smoke billowed up under the crescent moons. The ground shook and a terrible noise worse than thunder shattered the glass. He fell back on the floor. The dark elves wobbled but held their own. Their faces had become fearful. Screams of agony filled the wind outside and bells were ringing at a frantic pace.
Guards filled the corridor behind them raising their swords and shields. Daemyn grabbed him and leapt out the shattered window, the others followed suit quickly. The grass quivered at their arrival and the plants all around shimmered silvery. They had escaped into a back garden. Hedges crept around the walls and statues dotted the rose banks. Angry yells followed them and crossbow bolts descended. Two of the dark elves fell to the projectiles but those that remained charged forward. They rushed across the open ground and dove behind a tall hedge.

Booms echoed beyond the walls and the fires raged even more. They did not have time to worry about what was happening in the city, the humans were closing in. Daemyn peered at their attackers and motioned to move. They took several steps out before retreating when a hail of bolts pelted the ground. Drakar sat realizing that they were effectively pinned down. The others looked pained several had bolts sticking out of a limb.

“What the paradise is going on out here?” Screeched Giovanna appearing from the shadows of the mansion side door clad in leather and brandishing a wicked looking whip.

Guards surrounded her. They moved as a shield. Crossbowmen were on all sides. They were trapped between her men and the tall wall behind them. Daemyn raised his sword and stepped in front of Drakar, the others followed suit. A mere fifteen against more than fifty. Giovanna approached causally and Daemyn bull rushed her. His sword slashed and she lashed out with her cord of leather. It cracked and the sword spun from his grasp, stabbing into the ground to the side. She waved again and the leather smashed into his face. Blood boiled out of the open wound and he staggered back. Crossbow bolts stabbed into the others and they crumpled over. Those that were not hit used their allies as shields.

“Is that all?” She said with disappointment. “I thought you would have put up more of a fight than that. I mean really I even lessened the guards so that you could get weapons and try to escape. This is just pitiful. Pathetic worms grovel at my feet and I will give you a swift death.”

A rustling sound rose and cries of pain filled the corridor behind her. She turned to the sounds. Three vicious Nekomar lunged from the shadows, behind them a pack of blood crazed worgs howled in hot pursuit. The nimble cat girls bounded up the stone wall and the worgs rushed forward. The beasts descended upon the men, tearing them to pieces. Giovanna lashed out making one scream in pain. Her guards hacked away at the crazed animals. The hallway echoed with commotion and Azra rushed forward followed by the beaten high elves and the remaining dark elves.

They brandished swords, cutting into several of the black and red soldiers. They pushed the humans back, slashing and weaving through their armored foes.

Giovanna cut the air with her whip and the swords fell from the reeling elves. Azra held fast lunging at her nemesis. She cut down with all her strength, knocking back the Mistress of Ebonheart. They growled at one another and started once more.

“How did you get out of your cage?”

“I strangled that fat slob and took the key. It was easy.” Smirked Azra.

“You! You killed my Papa!” She screamed slamming her plated fist into the Elf's stomach.

She reeled back coughing and wheezing. “Damn all of those drugs are still sapping my strength.”

“I will make a cup from your skull!” Raged Giovanna.

A spear stabbed into her side and Azra cut off the man's hand. She retreated blindly slashing at anything that got near. Blood poured from her side and her strength waned quickly. She collapsed before Drakar and he dragged her away. Giovanna pursued snapping her whip. Scales shattered and blood filled the air. He screamed, reeling in pain. The Nekomar dived down from above. They fell into the fray gouging out eyes and sinking their teeth into soft necks. One targeted Giovanna. The furry beast descended latching onto her face. It clawed at her, tearing and ripping. She screamed and thrashed fighting off the monster. Blades sliced through the feral creature and it fell away coughing up blood.

Giovanna clutched her face and looked towards Drakar. Her blood oozed between her fingers and she was filled with madness. Her grin made the moons jealous. She held her whip approaching him. “My own blood. You have made me bleed my own blood. It was you all along! I will make you regret opposing me. I will skin you alive!”

Her hand fell from her face and Drakar retreated in horror. Half of her face had been torn off. The muscles were exposed and blood flowed with every twitch. Giovanna rushed towards him. The ground shook and she fell mid stride. A horrendous sound rose from beyond the wall. He turned when a shadow over took them. There crouched upon the wall was a Nekomar that seemed oddly familiar. It was black with white stripes and its eyes glistened like the ocean. The beast girl flung herself down knocking Giovanna flat.

“No hurt Meowster!” Screamed the furious creature.

She bounded forward, her powerful legs driving her. She leapt through the air and kicked a knight so hard he crashed into the wall and crumpled up. She grabbed hold of Daemyn and dragged him to safety. She darted about the ground, dashing between legs and kicking upwards to cut men in two. After every attack she swiftly retreated to Drakar's side.

“Too many Meowster we must retreat.” Said the cat girl.

“Where are we going to go?” Asked Drakar.

“We must head to the square, the others are there. Maggy!” She cried.

The wall shuddered, then cracked and burst in a shower of stone. There stood a knight who towered in the night. His armor was pitch and his visor glowed dark red. Giovanna fled the moment she saw him. He stepped forward and the earth shuddered. The black knight raised his massive sword and stepped forward to confront their attackers. Bolts clinked off of his armor harmlessly and he approached the humans. His sword descended and carnage followed. With a single swipe five men were sliced in two. He stomped on the fallen and swung again. They screamed and ran from him. He pursued chopping down mercilessly. His sword split a tree and three men down the middle. Ciara stared out at the massacre ripping at his hair in terror.

“Drakar! I thought we were going to die. Who are these people? Why are they helping us?” Blubbered the pixie.

“I do not know but we have no choice but to trust them.” He replied.

“Meowster come with me. Come, come the Mistress is waiting.” Smiled the Nekomar.

Drakar nodded and the Nekomar hoisted Daemyn on her back. She led the way through the burning city. The dark knight was following behind closely with Azra draped over his shoulder. The sky was filled with clouds and lightning cracked striking into the castle upon the hill. Like ants from a mound soldiers poured out of the gates rushing down the streets. Cries of pain began to bubble up. They filled the air and drowned out even the thunder. Drakar rushed to the next corner and before him was a massacre. Fires billowed from the houses and stores. The knight bounded ahead when more humans appeared. Swords clashed as the city guard fought against the towering knight in black armor. His sword descended in a crescendo of blood and terror. Limbs were parted from their owners while others were cut in half as easily as a hot knife through butter. The humans stood no chance against the ebon figure. Crossbow bolts clinked against his armor and when he turned the red glare of his eyes pierced through his assailants. The pungent reek of blood, shit, and piss filled the air.

Music roared to life and upon a rooftop set ablaze appeared Sin. Her cloak swam in the burning wind. The mask wore a face of great dismay that bubbled into rage. She leapt down before the figure, hurling the metal box. It crashed into him with a terrible sound of gears seizing up. The music descended into grinding and howling from the contraption. Drakar held his breath, expecting Sin to be cleft in two like all the others, he looked away unable to watch someone who was so kind, even if she was weird, be ripped to pieces. Instead the black and white dressed doll yelled not as one would in a desperate fight for your life but as a mother scolding a child who broke a toy. “What in paradise are you doing? Who is this? Is there a head in that helmet because you are clearly not using it!”

The knight was taken aback by the verbal assault but soon took a knee before the puppeteer and the tiny frightening woman. “You said to kill the humans. Salt the earth so that no life may ever return. Burn and pillage, sack and despoil. I did as I was told. This is a woman who helped the master.”

“I don't care who she is. The Master takes priority. I said after we have secured the prince. This was to be our gift to him, You were to execute those he hated most, then slaughter the rest of these pathetic insects that have tormented the boy. His revenge. Now stop lollygagging.” Said a chorus of dolls.

“It is done then he has had his revenge let us leave this place. It stinks of human. Though maybe we could cook some I am hungry after being cooped up.” Said the knight rising to his feet. His mammoth weapon flung through the air pinning a crossbowman to the wall behind him. He stepped to the quivering man and tore him off of his sword, wiping the blood on the corpse as he returned to Sin's side.

“Your head is full of clouds isn't it. What do you suppose the boy will do when everyone he has ever known is butchered before his eyes for no conceivable reason? He may have had friends you know. In his eyes by now we are nothing more than gruesome monsters and will kill him like the rest! It will be like getting a demon to knit to find him again if he has escaped.” Said the doll of a long haired knight.

Drakar stared as two marionettes took on a life of their own. Their bodies grew and filled to the size of people or monsters in some cases. A woman rose from a minuscule wooden knight her hair was long braided platinum and her sapphire eyes were serpent like. A dazzling winged helmet covered her head. She wore full plate of gold and bones. A shield of silver larger than a door and a foot thick stood beside her. She stretched and cracked her knuckles, her hands had talons and segmented white scales advanced into her armor. She bowed before the puppeteer before rising again hefting a massive maul of white gold upon her shoulder. The crimson doll flashed and creaked as it shattered. There in its place stood a beautiful young woman with flowing sanguine hair. Her skin was tinted blue and appeared as ice, the fires flickered beyond her giving a strange warmth to her. The air frosted around her. She twirled and danced in her dress of crystallized blood. She scooped a partner from the floor, waltzing with the upper half of a slain guardsman. His mailed hands clinked with every move and blood trailed after them as did frozen footsteps.

“It has been so long since you let us out!” Gleefully shouted the woman in red.

“To feel the wind again, Mistress you are most kind. What is your bidding?” Asked the golden woman.

Sin stood before them and upon her shoulder was yet another doll. It had short coal hair and wore a maids' outfit of black and white. She spoke for the silent puppeteer, her voice was delicate yet a tone of mischief salted every word. “Spread out and find the Master. If any humans try to interfere get creative. Be quick about it I can sense that he is still nearby but he will be scared, be gentle. Valene check to the east. Malissa you will scour the west... for the love of Luna put that filthy thing down you have no idea where it has been!”

“I never get to have any fun!” Cried the woman in red slamming the corpse down, reducing it to a bloody pulp.

“Don't you take that tone of voice with me young lady.” Snarled the maid.

“But Faith its been more than three hundred years since the mistress has let me out. I want to play and there is nothing you can do about it!” Malissa frolicked away without a care in the world.

The little maid fumed, stomping up and down on the puppeteer's shoulder. The Nekomar bounded forward, flopping down at Sin's feet. Daemyn fell to the ground and she rolled on her back exposing her belly.

“What is it? Maeve where did you pick this up? That is a bad kitty! What have I told you about dragging back bodies?” Asked the maid, looking down at the strange creature.
Maeve scowled “But I found the Meowster!

“This is not the Master!” Raged the tiny maid. “Has your brain turned to yarn? You silly cat.”

“No this is not him, it is his friend.” Blubbered Maeve. “Maggy even helped me get him too.”

“What? So that bumbling bag of bones wasn't just rampaging as he liked?”

“He saved us. Meowster come out and play with us.” Said Maeve.

“Saved you?” Laughed Faith hysterically, holding her sides. “We both know you do not need saving.”

“But I am just a cat nyah.” Replied the shifty eyed creature.

“Sure you are.”

Drakar emerged and Maeve darted to his side happily, rubbing against his leg. He felt her frizzled hair against his hands. Maeve grinned, playfully pawing at his face. She was soft and warm. Her tail bristled and she hissed, staring past him into the darkness beyond the street set ablaze. She reared up and growled. Her back was rigid and every hair on her body stuck up. Foot steps rang out and men began to appear.

“Seems we are not too late.” Said a gruff voice from the new arrivals.

The steel covered new comers looked like knights from the castle. They appeared organized and tough. Drakar stepped away and Maeve scooted back pressing against him.

“What is a filthy Nekomar doing here? Are the monsters rampaging here as well? Well lets get to it, kill them all.” Said a knight with golden armor and a white cape.
He raised a silvery sword to Maeve. She retreated a step before biting into the back of Drakar's neck. She drug him with her like a mother cat trying to save her kitten. She was a lot stronger than she looked. Her hind legs bristled with muscle and she lunged forward through the air more than twenty yards. Silver bolts pelted down all around. The heavy thuds resounded and a strange ooze spilled from the cat girl's mouth. She reeled and floundered on the cobbled stone. The onslaught continued but she wrapped tighter and tighter around him, protecting him at her own expense.

“How bold and daring, such courage, striking down a cat and trying to slay a boy.” Said Faith as the puppeteer strode undaunted by the hail of bolts. “Valene, Magnum, Malissa the master is in peril are you done playing around yet? I suppose I should do something about this as well.”

Wings filled the sky and a roar silenced the flames all around. Valene appeared through the murk giant scaly wings adorned her back. The massive shield slammed down before Drakar and Maeve protecting them. The battle maiden hefted her maul, advancing towards the humans. Cries of terror escaped their ranks.

"I am the bringer of woe, harbinger of hunger. I am Valene, the fallen champion and I will feast on your flesh." Said the white clad woman. Her mouth unhinged and a huge slimy tongue licked her chops with bated breath.

“The Dragoness! Why is she here? I thought she was just a myth!” cried their pitiful voices.

Her jagged teeth smirked and her maw opened wide fire rushed out in an explosion of power. The knights were consumed and the night filled with their screams. She swung her maul and bodies flew away broken and shattered. The massive black knight appeared from the shadows he cleaved into a side group of humans, sheering them in half. They could not even cry out in pain. Lightning churned the sky and the maid doll rose to a stature of six feet. Thunder boomed whistling the wind through her dress and madness filled her face. Another strike cracked down into the middle of fleeing forces, rending the road asunder and raining rocks down all around. Faith laughed merrily while the storm above grew ever more vicious. Forks of death splintered the sky stabbing through the human ranks. The sound made the earth quake and all but the monsters held their heads desperately.

“Oh this looks like fun.” Said Malissa prancing in her dress. She danced, twirling and the ground froze in every direction around her.

She slide gracefully on the ice and it cascaded before her like a wave. The knights turned to run but as she glided by their feet froze. Then a creeping cold grasped up their bodies turning them into ice sculptures. She skated, picking up speed before launching herself into the air. She spun as though gravity held no say, making snowflakes drift down. Malissa landed with a crunch of ice, she bowed and all of the frozen men shattered to pieces. She was in her own little world, waving to an audience that was not there.

“Aw over already?” Cried Malissa, stomping on the red ice. “They don't make humans like they used to. I at the least wanted an encore.”

“Ah shut it princess. We have meat at last, nice and cooked. Want it burned or seared?” Laughed Valene, ripping a smoking leg off of one the slain men.

“I don't care meat is meat.” Declared Magnum feasting beside the scaled woman.

Drakar stared at the fiends from behind the tower shield. They gossiped and roared together as though killing so many people was nothing uncommon. He turned his gaze to the listless creature who had saved him. Green liquid bubbled from her wounds, it seemed agitated. The rods of metal slid out of her flesh and fell to the ground. The entirety of her form dissolved, becoming a puddle of malachite goo. Slowly her body solidified returning to its former self. Her moist eyes met his and a gentle smile spread across her face. Maeve said. “Meowster is safe.”

“What are you?” He asked.

She grinned toothily, “I am just a cat nyah.”

He stared at her not understanding exactly what happened. Clearly Maeve was not a Nekomar as she seemed to claim. He realized that someone was watching him and he looked up into the deep blue eyes of the puppeteer. She had crouched beside him silently, watching him. Her warm hand rubbed his back. The mask wore a gentle smile and she began humming. Sin's arms embraced him in a tight yet delicate hug. Though she was silent he could feel what she was saying. There, there Drakar let it all out, you will feel better after. Don't worry I am here, I will not leave you. He felt that she truly cared.

Sin straightened her back and walked a few steps away from him she held up her hands to the sky. She stood in silence while the others made their way over to her. From her hands darkness crept out in a mist. It bubbled and rolled away from her, washing over the dead scattered all around. Fingers twitched, mouths gaped, limbs flailed, and the dead stirred once more. Their bodies reattached themselves becoming whole once more. They staggered and groaned, crawling if they had no legs.

“What have you done?” Cried Drakar, staring out over the sea of writhing limbs and shambling corpses.

Faith replied patting him gently. “No need to worry the Mistress is just putting them to good use.”

“But they were dead. How can they get back up?”

“No need to worry Master they are simply puppets, zombies. They will distract our enemies while we escape.”

“This is strange how did she do that?”

“Magic.” Replied Faith as though this much was nothing at all.

Drakar stumbled and fell onto the stone road. His stomach emptied and he retched coughing while the maid pat him on the back. He saw all those that he remembered, whether they took care of him or chased him it didn't matter all of them shambled by with eyes blank. The dark elves, dryads, humans, high elves, and even the three nekomar were among the shambling mob. They were all gone, they were standing here but there was nothing inside. They were empty shells. He fell into a fit of shivers and cried uncontrollably. Sin pat him with her warm hands and lifted him onto her back. Her mask smiled and azure hair descended into his face. He lay against her blubbering.

Hours drifted by while the Puppeteer carried him on her back. They had left Tar behind. The fires had consumed everything, leaving nothing but ashes. The undead horde had marched to the south west along the road. The dirt path before Drakar meandered on into the rising sun and a new dawn had risen. With the advent of the sun he could truly see his saviors. They were beaming between one another and their gazes fell on him regularly. Malissa, the Ice Princess would shyly glance his way before darting off to chase small furry animals or butterflies, the animals fled in terror from her. Faith, the Maid Witch smiled mischievously and she spoke for Sin as they traveled. Valene, the Dragoness boldly led the way, flicking her forked tongue at him with a grin. Magnum, Life Bane never showed his face but through his visor his glowing eyes were always watching Drakar from the back of their procession. Maeve frolicked about without a care in the world.

“Why did you save me?” Asked Drakar.

“Because you are the Master.” Simply said Faith looking at the sky.

“Why am I the master?”

“It is your destiny. You are one of the last remaining children of the Shewolf.”

“Wait, you do not mean the Shewolf do you?”

“Mistress Shewolf is the Demigoddess of the Shadow Realm and Queen of the Devils.” Replied Faith.

“Then you know where my mother is? You are taking me to her?” Smiled Drakar but it soon fell away as everyone shook their heads.

“Unfortunately she is lost. Cursed by the humans, she lost her powers and now we can no longer find her. We will be raising you.”

“Why would the humans curse her?”

“You should know why. They abhor and disdain those that are different. The Devils have fought the Humans since the Realms were created. The sun has always lusted after the moons after all.”

“What do you mean?”

“Lord Solar god of the Material realm has longed for Lady Luna Goddess of the Shadow Realm since the moons were created. He started the ancient Lunar Wars to claim her, sending his human minions to sack and despoil the Shadow Realm. The Devils though proud and haughty, long lived and vastly more powerful were out numbered hundreds to one. It was a desperate affair but Lady Luna's twin brother Lord Magus sent his Ascended to aid them. Together they repelled the invaders and drove them back into their own realm. This was but the first of many wars that the humans started. For now we shall leave it at that. I will be teaching you in the near future so do not worry.” Said Faith with a courteous smile.

“So I see. How are all of you connected to Sin?” Replied Drakar.

“Sin is a powerful Necromancer who serves the Goddess of Death, Sintress. She has great powers and has saved each of us from death's door now we serve her. Sin and Shewolf were best friends so it is only natural that she would be concerned for the well being of her children. Though we were too late to save the others. The humans have somehow been able to find them far faster than we anticipated.”

“Then we have to find my brothers and sisters, before it is too late.”

Faith shook her head and her eyes were down. “We have already failed. You are the last. Originally there were twenty others when we first arrived two thousand years ago but each time we pinpointed their location the Solar Knights beat us there and purged the child. It seems Lord Solar was spying on us. Though now he cannot see since we have shrouded ourselves from his eyes with magic.”

“Wait two thousand years ago? I am only eight years old how long ago did Shewolf go missing?”

“Two thousand years ago of course. Originally we came to investigate what had happened to her. As for how you got here we have no idea. Same for the other children all of you should have been safe and sound in the Shadow Realm growing up to be great dark lords and following in your mother's foot steps but someone or something scattered you across the Realms. If I had to point a finger it would be at the Ascended. They have been very supportive of the humans lately.”

“The Ascended?”

“Yes they are what the humans call angels. Though they look pretty and they wield vast powers. They have betrayed us. In all likelihood it is they who cursed Shewolf.”

“Then they killed my brothers and sisters, cursed my mother and tried to kill me as well. What could they want? Then the Ascended are the true enemy?”

“No they are more of observers than anything else. They stick to their own realm. It is the humans we must worry about. We are a threat to them because we resist. So naturally they wish to destroy us.”

“I will never forgive them. Because of them I have no home and my family and friends were slaughtered.” Replied Drakar.

“Do not worry we will protect you Master.” Said Valene and the others. Sin nodded with a smile.

Drakar was set down. He stretched his legs and ran up beside Valene. She glanced at him before her predatory eyes went back to surveying the path ahead. Her scaled hand plopped down on his head ruffling the hair while she looked on. Valene pulled a small wagon with the two incapacitated elves on it. The sun was high over head beating down on the troupe. Magnum seemed to be having trouble with the heat. His odor was growing worse by the minute it was so foul the flowers were wilting when he passed. It was the stench of death. The others did not seem to notice likely being used to the smell by now but Drakar could only squint and try to stay downwind of him, which was hard since the wind was blowing with them.

“Why does Magnum smell so bad?” Finally said Drakar covering his face with his ripped shirt.

Magnum bowed and removed his helmet but this only made it worse. His head was a dull yellow skull with rotting chunks of hair stuck in spots. A jagged gash appeared on the top, apparently his cause of death. The man was literally a walking, rotting corpse. He was an Undead. He hungered for flesh even though he could neither digest it nor taste it, his latest feast was already beginning to putrefy within his dark broiling hot armor.

“I am sorry Master sometimes I forget after all I have no nose. I will refrain from eating on our journey.” Humbly said the tall knight.

“I did not realize you were actually dead. I mean everyone else seems to be alive and well.”

“Master do not mind that old bag of bones.” Giggled Malissa, handing a frozen flower to Drakar. “He has always been stinky. I remember when I first met him Faith was yelling at me to be polite since I kept kicking him and trying to light him on fire, or freeze him so that he would stop smelling so icky. I like pretty things like flowers and fountains of blood. I also like cute and cuddly things like bunnies and kitties. They are so warm and soft and I just want to snuggle with them all day long. I hug and squeeze them until their little brains pop out of their eyes. They always struggle so much but that just makes me want to hug them even tighter! They kick and scream but that is how I know that they love me and I love them so I hug them even tighter. But eventually they stop moving no matter if I shake them or throw them up in the air and catch them that is when I know that they don't love me anymore.”

Drakar edged away from Malissa whose face seemed sad but this only caught her attention she grinned, getting ready to hug him but Valene pulled her away. She pouted and fought for a moment being held up by her head above the ground. She was shaken violently enough that one would think her head would come off. Her body twisted and she wriggled before she broke free and glomped onto Valene's leg. She squeezed and hugged all the while being ignored. The Dragoness marched onward with a perpetual frown upon her face and every step jolted the Ice Princess her visage was of pure bliss.

“See, see no matter how hard I hug Valy she always kicks and struggles, sometimes she screams too that is when I know that she really likes it. I remember the first time I met Valy. She was a big angry dragon that loved to hug people who came into her castle. Puppets was talking with Valy about stuff that doesn't matter so I was bored, but then I grabbed her tail. She loved that, thrashing so hard and hitting me against the walls. So I hugged her even harder. She liked that so much she put me in her mouth. That is where she puts people that she really likes. Valy bit me and chewed on me but then I hugged her tongue. Then, then she blew fire all over me! I was so warm I could just feel her love. But then she spit me out and every time I tried to hug her she would fly away. How mean right? Even though I know she likes it. That went on for a while a few years I think I am not very good at keeping track of time. but I would always get her while she was sleeping. I would hug her neck so much that she would really struggle, she likes that. Then one day I came and hugged her but she didn't move at all no matter how hard I hugged her so I went and got Puppets. Then she became like me and now I get to hug her all the time and that is why I love Valy.”

Valene grumbled lowly, then she shook her leg in an attempt to dislodge the parasite that had attached itself to her. She stepped away from the cart. She crouched, flexing her immense leg muscles then she kicked off of the ground rising high into the sky. She was merely a dot among the clouds. Faith pulled Drakar back about ten paces petting him lightly. The wind whistled as the dot grew larger. Her great wings formed an ark and she dove straight towards the ground. Valene wrestled Melissa into position directly below her. The two slammed into the ground, dust shot up billowing out of the crater. A shadow emerged, it was Valene and there was no longer something unsightly attached to her leg, it was now latched onto her back crossing its arms below her plated breasts. Malissa laughed crushing the Dragoness in her embrace. The frown grew into a pained expression but Valene was quiet, seemingly resigned to being a hug pillow.

“How was Malissa not affected?” Asked Drakar.

Faith replied, “Malissa's body is made of enchanted Ice. The crystallized soul of an Ice Elemental was molded into that shape while it was still in a liquid state and Malissa was placed within it. She is nearly indestructible and feels no pain.”

“I do not understand what is an Elemental?”

“Elementals are the dominate race of the Fire Realm they come in varied shapes and compositions.” Explained Faith. “Each Elemental is born from a certain nature whether it be fire, ice, water, earth, wind, light, and darkness. They were born from chaos and to it they shall return. They serve Mistress Moltaer goddess of fire, passion, chaos, and war. Moltaer's first born child is Diva, the Destroyer. Diva is the Demigod of the fire realm and is considered the strongest of all the Demigods. Her wrath and ire are so terrible the world buckles around her when she fights. Mountains and great gorges will form, volcanoes will erupt, hurricanes and blizzards will cover the skies, great waves of water will crash down upon her foes this is because she was formed from all of the elements. However because Diva is so strong she rarely gets serious, she has not left the fire realm since the Second Lunar War and the sundering of the third moon. The Fire realm is continually ripping itself apart while the elements fight for supremacy. Elementals are our allies though that will not stop them from picking fights. They are strong because they ceaselessly fight one another. As such no one dares to attack the Fire Realm.”

“She sounds scary.”

“We likely will not go to the Fire Realm though if things become dire here then we might have to go. Do not worry Diva is actually a very kind being if you can gain her trust, if you are strong she will accept you but if you are weak she will crush you.”

“How can I fight someone who tears the world apart at will?” Asked Drakar nervously.

“You will not have to, she would make you fight one of her generals. They are considerably weaker than she is. Though they are strong if you use their counter element they are weak. For instance the Fire child Aideen and the Earth child Gaia are weak to water. The only two elements that you would have to worry about are Light and Darkness they have no counter and can only be stalemated by their opposite. Lucilla the Light child and Keaira the Dark child are twins born into being at the same time. They share a rivalry and fight over the affection of their mother, though they rarely fight one another in person due to how destructive their powers are. These two are the only children you should fear if we go to the fire realm. As I said though do not worry about the Elementals, for now worry about our immediate future.”

Elementals sounded terrifying, were they really that strong? If Faith says they are it must be true. Definitely an opponent Drakar never wanted to fight. There was still so much he do not know about the realms. He realized just how ignorant he was. He knew nothing but what Bel and the others taught him, yet their knowledge seemed pitiful and insignificant compared to the bottomless fountain who called herself Faith. He resolved to learn more. He wanted to be stronger so that no one could ever hurt him or the ones he loved again.

“If you say so Faith.” Said Drakar, thinking things over. “Where are we going anyway?”

“For now we will be heading north. Our final destination is our base of operations in the foot hills of the Slag Ridge. It is a nice place secluded from the humans, there are many non humans that live in the area. To the south of it is the Shadow Song Forest, to the west is the Crystal Bog, and to the east are the Razor Grass Meadows. The entire area is actually surrounded by the Slag Ridge which makes a valley in the middle, there are several entrances but all are on the southern edge and all lead into the Shadow Song Forest. I have a map here if you would like to see.”

Faith held out a map letting the sun illuminate it. It was a large wrinkled canvas that had seen many years of use, burns and rips dotted the sides there was even a puncture mark near the middle. A glowing dot appeared on the surface near the middle of the landmass. Mountains were drawn to the right and a forest seemed to be up above from the dot. There was something written but Drakar could not read the language so it simply looked like scribbles to him.

“What is this dot?” Asked Drakar pointing to the green sphere on the paper.

“That is where we are. Maps are magic you see. As we move it will move with us. This is a map of this continent. We are currently on Khar Mar the western most continent in the material Realm. This place has the least human influence in the realm since it is mostly secluded. Originally it was inhabited solely by the Mar races and Centaur, but Humans overpowered them and enslaved most that were not secluded. Though I say least there are still many humans here but it is not nearly as over run as the middle continent known as Dawn Spire, which is the strongest nation of humans and has the Phoenix King as its ruler. The Phoenix King is the Demigod of the humans. He is very powerful and even if killed he will reincarnate upon death. He is a fanatic of Lord Solar and our arch enemy. Those were some of his men that tried to kill you earlier. He is definitely a foe that is both tenacious and absurdly strong. We do not have the forces to defeat him which is why we are hiding here so far away from him.”

“Wait we are hiding from the humans? I thought all of you were really strong?”

“We are but regrettably we are out numbered, cut off from reinforcements for the time being, and out matched if we were to fight the Templar that act as the Lion King's personal guard we would lose. The only reason we have not been hunted down is because of our concealing magic. This is why we are retreating to our haven. We need to regroup with our allies and figure out how to prolong this struggle.”

“Prolong? Why don't we just leave? Go to the Shadow Realm for instance.”

“Our objective is to keep the Humans here in the Material Realm so that another Lunar War does not occur. If they have an enemy attacking their home the Humans cannot mass and launch another crusade. We must kill as many as possible if left unchecked they breed quickly and after a hundred years their numbers will increase ten fold. Due to our meddling over these long years we have somehow kept them in check. Though humans are generally weak by themselves they are like ants get enough of them together and they can drag down even some of the most powerful of foes. As is they are still the most populous race in all the realms out numbering every other race combined five to one at the moment. If left alone they will become a wave of destruction that will wash over the realms. In the capital city of Dawn Spire alone there are more than thirty million humans strong.”

“How many is a million? I have never heard that word before.”

“Well lets see how high can you count?” smiled Faith.

“Twenty.”

“So I see. Imagine ten, now imagine ten tens. Now you have one hundred now make there be ten more hundreds. That is one thousand, add ten more thousands and you have ten thousand. Now add ten more ten thousands. That is one hundred thousand, ten more of those is a million. Did I lose you?”

Drakar nodded. “You lost me after a thousand.”

“That is fine. I will teach you later how to read and write, and of course numbers. Do not feel bad it is something that must be learned.”

“Thank you.” Murmured Drakar.

Faith bowed to him. “But of course Master I am here to teach you, it is my purpose.”

“If there are so many humans why would they attack other realms?”

“They are greedy and hold nothing but the sun sacred. They believe anything under the sun belongs to them as a birthright. They subjugate non humans and turn them into slaves to work their fields, fodder for their wars, and even for their entertainment. They are such filthy creatures we must purge them before they can spread further. That is why we must not let them have their way.” All of those gathered nodded in agreement to what Faith said.

Valene turned with a grin. “The road ahead will be long and treacherous but once we are safely past the Shadow Song Forest we will be able to relax more. Rest for now Master we will handle everything.”

Drakar nodded to the scaled woman, she turned and knelt before him, offering her back. Malissa glared from the side before darting off to chase Maeve, her cheeks puffed up with jealousy. He shimmied into position wrapping his arms around her neck and nestling his legs under her armpits. Her back was vast and covered in a soft pelt from some beast. It was old and well worn but it was the most comfortable thing Drakar had ever felt. He snuggled against her platinum braids and she stood, advancing forward.

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