Chapter 3: Path To Darkness
The air is dry and stale. Uskium is like this year around though, even during Fayou, the snow that falls is dry and joyless. Still, this place is as close to home as Ra’venna can get. It’s a day or twos ride, by Flersybara, to Etrien. It’s far from her childhood home right outside the capital, but some part of Etrien is better than no part.
She’s exhausted. Two days on a flying ship surrounded by unsavory creatures is enough to steal anyone’s peace of mind. The flight back from Glitai felt longer, perhaps it was the kill that weighed on her making the time seem longer. It’s hard to tell anymore. A kill is a kill. She has nothing to feel guilty about, both parties were despicable creatures and she got paid. If you play the game of power you must be prepared to die.
The cart rolls over a bump in the road jostling Ra’venna. She throws her arm out to keep from hitting the side. The driver mumbles a series of fearful apologies she pays not mind to. As they ascend the hill Ra’venna’s house comes into view.
The green light of Phebo and the golden light of Solus beam down on her. Ra’venna tugs the hood further over her head to block out the sunlight.
The driver slows to a stop at the start of the dirt path leading to her house. The locals refuse to go any closer. They are terrified of the house and of her. As long as they don’t bother her, Ra’venna pays them no mind. She jumps over the side of the cart, landing on her feet. Her cloak dances around her. She places a few, gold coins in the trembling Banshee’s hand.
She crosses the half-dead yard to the edge of the cliff her house rests on. Beneath her the waves slam up against the jagged rocks. The wind assaults her, blowing her hood off her head. Her hair flies in every direction. Ra’venna tucks the front strands behind her ears. She closes her eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling of the wind, the freedom. In the wind there are no restrictions, nothing to hinder or trap her. A smile spreads across her face.
She opens her eyes and heads in the direction of her house. The house is made of blue Etrien clay. It will stand for a thousand years. The house is one floor with a tower rising from the back and rooms bulging from the main body. The walls are thick and as smooth as silk. Small square windows dot the outside, but the view inside is obstructed by deep purple curtains. Ra’venna pushes the wooden door open.
Ra’venna discards her worn clothes and steps into the cold bath. The large, square tub allows plenty of room for her wings. She slides down, submerging herself completely. How peaceful it is, submerged in silence. How empty. Ra’venna frowns at the thought. Emptiness should not bother her. She is a mercenary, a survivor. She needs no one. She isn’t worthy of anyone, only the empty darkness, and eventually a brutal death that will be celebrated by many and only mourned by those who would hire her. Perhaps, mourn is not the word, but inconvenienced. She is an inconvenience. An empty inconvenience, condemned to darkness.
She remerges with a gasp when her need for air becomes dire. The water clings to her dark skin seeping into the lighter skin of her scars. She runs the rag over her body washing away the dirt and the stain of her crime with it.
Ra’venna steps out of the water. She pulls the towel lying on the bench beside the tub and wraps it around herself. She gathers her nightclothes laid out on the bench. She slips on her undergarments, then thin, loose fitting pants and a matching shirt. Ra’venna pulls her dripping hair from inside her shirt.
Ra’venna ascends the tower steps and open the balcony door. She steps out; the night air passes through the thin fabric of her clothing to kiss her flesh. It’s a pleasant chill on her otherwise stiff body. She lies down on the clay floor and tucks her hands under her head.
She stares up at the empty abyss, dotted with millions of tiny lights. Her eyes find Tevata’s four moons first: Dyxtrix, the green moon, Igmos, the blue moon, Chayone, the red moon, and Tevata’s self-illuminating, silver moon-Infinitus. She drinks up the night sky. It has seemed like an eternity since she has been able to properly enjoy a night.
Ra’venna connects the stars like dots in her mind until they form the constellation Indri. Named for the legendary Fairy queen, it depicts her wielding a sword.
Ra’venna own wings lie fanned out behind her. There’s a slight pressure in the center of her spine where her wings meld with the flesh of her back. It’s familiar and to a degree, soothing. Her wings are the same shades as her hair and eyes, a combination of deep, dark violet, and a calming, captivating violet. They don’t end in a fine, sharp line, but are curved and twisted like vines, the ends meld with the intricate webs and lines that fill her wings.
Ryorata once told her that her wings are a masterpiece unrivaled, that no piece of art could hope to equate to their beauty.
She hasn’t thought of him for a long time. And she can’t afford to. Ryorata made his choices and Ra’venna has made hers. She won’t live in the past. That will kill her quicker than any blade ever could.
Ra’venna bathes in the starlight, until her eyes fall shut of their own accord.
She is waken by the harsh sunlight beaming down on her. She opens her eyes and squints. She groans as she stands up. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep outside. Ra’venna slips inside shutting the door behind her.
Ra’venna spends most of the day in her home library; a long room in the west side of her home. The room is plain and devoid of furniture with the exception of the bookshelves and a heavily cushioned, reading chair. She curls in the chair, located in front of the sprawling window, clothed in her pajamas with a book in her hands.
It’s late in the afternoon when there’s a timid knock on her door. Ra’venna freezes. She sets her book down and gathers her Setan black steel sais. Setan black steel is among the strongest. It can slice through solid rock as if it is a parchment, but it is renowned for it’s ability to shatter other weaponry. She tucks them into the hemline of her pants and goes to the door.
Nothing prepares Ra’venna for what she finds on the other side of the door. Instead of a Banshee she finds a boy-no older than twenty-donning a ridiculous, red tunic. It bears the Quvania crest which consists of a silver dragon surrounded by orange flames with a golden sun above. The boy trembles in her presence.
Never has one been so bold as to come to her door for fear she may strike them dead right there. They deliver a message to a desperate soul that lives at the base of her cliff and that brave soul carries it to her door and is paid handsomely in return.
Anger flares up inside Ra’venna. It beats at her insides demanding to be released. Ra’venna keeps control though. She pushes the rage down as far as possible.
“What are you doing here?” She hisses, in Dragese, the language of Dragons.
The boy opens his mouth to speak, but fear consumes his words. Ra’venna tightens her grip on the door until it begins to splinter. Within her veins her power shifts and fluxes, begging to be released, begging to destroy. She wants to give in, to grab the boy’s throat and feed her power into him, to watch him turn to ash, to nothing. She inhales sharply, chasing the violent daydream from her mind.
The Royal Messenger clears his throat. “His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Terdar Shalquim of the Quvanian Empire, the Empire of the Suns, requests a meeting with The Dark Duchess, The Nether Fairy.” He bellows. Ra’venna’s eyes narrow and whatever burst of courage allowed him to speak vanishes.
“Why?” She demands through gritted teeth.
“I-I don’t know. I am but a messenger.” He chokes out. She’s tempted to kill him outright, but she can’t deny her curiosity is peaked. She smirks darkly.
“Fine. Tell your beloved prince I shall be there in three days’ time.” The messenger opens his mouth to protest, but Ra’venna slams the door his face.
Prince Terdar Shalquim, son of Emperor Solus Shalquim and Empress Apollonis Shalquim, two tyrants raging a conquest across the world. They are two of the most powerful Dragons in the world and two of the cruelest. They are responsible for the deaths of thousands, including Ra’venna’s family. She has dreamt so frequently of ending their lives with her bare hands.
What could Terdar want? No one knows of her origins, at least no one that would speak of it. She has no desire to fight off an empire. It would be a...hindrance.
If Terdar wants to hire her to kill someone that would be interesting. She will go to see the prince and what he wants.
Ra’venna steps off the ship, pulling her hood further over her head. Beneath her cloak she’s wearing a purple shirt with sleeves that brush her elbows and overtop a brown, leather breastplate belted over her left shoulder. There’s a slit in the back that allows for her wings. Her legs are covered in black pants. She’s wearing boots that match her belted breastplate. Wrapped around her wrists are silver cuffs with carved fairy wings. Her braided, violet hair hangs off to the side held together by a silver clasp in the shape of fairy wings.
Quvania-‘The Empire of the Suns’, ‘The Land of Dragons’-a kingdom that once represented prosperity and strength, a pillar of Dragon power. Now the name strikes fear into the hearts of all who hear it. The cruel Dragons that rule it are among the most hated creatures alive, for some they serve as the embodiment of all that is evil.
That is too easy-to make them into something more than mortal. They are creatures. They were born. They have weaknesses. They can die. Ra’venna intends to be the one to deliver them that death.
Ra’venna approaches the palace gates and the guards standing outside them. Before she reaches the gates a noble signals the guards to open them. It appears Terdar has sent one of his henchmen for her; a stocky, overdressed, Water Dragon whose blue hair is beginning to thin. He approaches her.
“I am Lord Haemir.” He introduces with a sly smile. His voice bears the accent of his land. Ra’venna narrows her eyes. “Prince Terdar has sent me to escort you.”
Ra’venna steps forward. The Dragon’s grip on his sword tightens. She raises a brow. She could slash open his throat before he drew his blade. She smirks.
“We better go then, would hate to keep his Royal Highness waiting.” She sneers in perfect Dragese. He turns and leads the way, nodding to the guards as they pass through the gates.
Ra’venna is led through the palace hallways by Lord Haemir. He must hold quite the position of power to have such free reign in the palace. He stops in front of grand, double doors marked with silver suns. Lord Haemir knocks once on the door. A voice grants entry. He opens the door and holds it until Ra’venna crosses the threshold.
She finds herself in a meeting room of some sort that has only a table spanning nearly the length of the room with more than a dozen chairs. At the head of the table seated in a chair that resembles a throne is the Crown Prince. He has his legs crossed and his chin resting on his hand. He’s wearing a white tunic and pants embellished with silver thread. His hair is as white as his clothing and his eyes a radiant golden. The younger prince has inherited his mother’s element of Light.
Ra’venna moves across the floor with an elegance and grace that confirms her to be of noble birth. One can only wonder how she went from that to the most feared mercenary on Tevata. Ra’venna circles around the table before carefully resting her hands on the back of one of the chairs.
Her purple eyes sparkle with amusement as she sets her sights on the prince. She can’t help but think of the irony of the situation. She wants him dead, yet here she is possible accepting a contract from him.
What would her family think of her?
She discards the thought.
Terdar breaks eye contact with Ra’venna. “Leave us,” he dismisses Lord Haemir with a wave. The Lord bows to Prince Terdar and leaves.
Terdar returns his attention to the mercenary, standing before him. “It is considered respectful to bow before a prince.” Ra’venna scoffs.
“I bow before no one.” He frowns. “Why did you summon me?” Ra’venna demands.
“I want your...loyalty.” He says, as if searching for the right word.
“My loyalty can’t be bought-” she smirks, “-but my skill can.” The prince returns the smirk.
“I need someone...taken care of.” Ra’venna blinks, waiting for him to continue. “My brother, Helioson.” She was expecting him to want her to kill a noble, not his brother.
“The Silver Prince. You want him dead. That’s not very brotherly of you.” She mocks. He narrows his eyes in what, Ra’venna guesses, is meant to be a warning. “Why do you want him dead?” She inquires.
The prince’s eyes darken. “I do not think that is any of your concern.” He barks. Ra’venna takes a step closer to him.
“If I am going to take the life I want the reason. If you are worried about discretion I can assure you it will not leave this room.” The prince falls silent.
“You will not speak of it. Ever.” He orders. Ra’venna dips her head.
“I hold more secrets than spymasters.” She assures him. Her cloak conceals the deviousness in her eyes.
“It is no secret my brother is the favored prince. I am only Crown Prince because he ran away and my parents cannot leave the throne without an appointed heir. I want the throne. I deserve it and I will not give it up. I haven’t had to worry about him, but lately I have heard rumors and I cannot risk it.” His jaw clenches and his fists tighten.
“Rumors of what?” She presses.
“His return.” The room falls silent.
Ra’venna counts five heartbeats.
“I’ll take the contract.”
It appears she will get to kill a Shalquim after all.