Blood Oath

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Corvic and Castine

Kalina is sitting on the edge of her bed in the tallest tower of Lord Ironglave’s castle, staring out the window at the moat, when the voice of her master startles her. “Kalina, I need you down here immediately!” Turok shouts.

“It’s almost dark, milord,” she calls back. “I'm not dressed.”

“Grange is dead.” The door to the tower swings open without warning, causing Kalina to scream.

“Dead? What do you mean?” The sorcerer is more shocked by the statement than the intrusion.

“Exactly what I said,” Turok sighs. “I can feel that his life has ended.”

“What about Token?” she asks. “Is he still alive?”

“I can't tell.” Turok shakes his head. “He never did become an actual vassal of mine.”

“Then there’s still a chance,” Kalina is hopeful.

“I wouldn’t count on it.” Turok shakes his head. “They were traveling together. I doubt whatever killed one of them would spare the other.”

“Was what they were doing really so dangerous?” Kalina raises an eyebrow.

“Following Brand’s report that Wan was to be presumed dead, they were supposed to meet with Lord Glasstien for the chance of setting up a bloodsucker purge in Glass Gate. If that failed then they were supposed to send word. If we hear nothing in the next few days, then we can assume they were eliminated before they had a chance to even meet with the Grand Bishop.”

“I'm not waiting that long.” Kalina stands up on her bed while closing the curtains hanging from the canopy so she can change into her robe and cloak.

“That’s my girl.” Turok smiles proudly. “I shall accompany you. We shall discover the secrets behind the situation Wan has created in Glass Gate.” As soon as the sorcerer emerges, he hands her the staff and the jeweled gauntlets that had been resting on the weapons rack nearby. “Are you ready?” he asks while tugging on his own green cape to make sure it is comfortable.

“I will follow you anywhere, milord.” She curtsies politely before putting the hood of her cloak up to hide her brown braided hair. The shadow it casts emphasizes her ocean blue eyes. They match her water attribute perfectly.

“Fetch a driver,” Turok instructs her. “We shall travel by coach.”

“At once, milord.” She exits the room swiftly and gracefully, making almost no sound as she trots down the spiral staircase of the tower. Turok is already twirling Arma Tua in his hands. It has been over a year since he has hunted and slain anything with his own hands and he is eager to test his skills once more.

“Do we really have to do this now?” Seamus asks with a yawn. He is standing behind Corvic who is about to open the doors to a large banquet hall in a high class sector of Glass Gate. “I’ve been wandering the city since morning.”

“We are nocturnal creatures.” Corvic gestures to Row and himself. “You should know such things about your own mistress. Now try not to embarrass her further.”

“Row, tell your brother I'm not your servant,” Seamus hisses. “Tell him we grew up together in Bos Stad.”

“Technically you are my servant,” she reminds him. “Besides, we didn’t grow up together. I was already your age when we met.”

“Why exactly are we here as well?” Nuve asks with a nervous chuckle. He currently has his arm linked with Minto’s so she will not bump into anything. Her seeing eye potion has long since expired. They are both dressed in semi-formalwear given to them by Corvic, as are Row and Seamus.

“You are all servants of my beloved sister,” Corvic spouts confidently. “It would be rude of me not to invite you to our gathering as well.”

“Is this some sort of celebration?” Row asks while leaning on Corvic’s shoulder. Seamus watches with amusement as she tries to acquaint herself with a brother she has never met while struggling to control a body much larger than her normal form.

“This is a gathering of our brethren,” Corvic informs her while pushing the large double doors open, revealing five separate incredibly long tables with dozens upon dozens of people sitting on either side of each.

“All of them are bloodsuckers?” Row gasps in awe.

“Of course not,” Corvic laughs. “There are not so many of our kind left in the world let alone this city. Several of these people are humans and ghouls who have sworn their loyalty to a particular faction of bloodsuckers in the city.”

“It’s like an underground society of bloodsucker supporters.” Nuve’s mouth hangs open.

“Stay yourself, ghoul hunter,” Corvic warns him.

“He won't do anything without my permission,” Seamus assures him. Corvic wrinkles his nose; not to say he doesn’t believe Seamus but to show he still disapproves of him having any control over anything. He is a servant of his sister and should not be allowed to command servants of his own.

“Welcome, Corvic!” A rather large man in a formal red and blue uniform with a curly beard that becomes his mustache approaches the entrance to greet them.

“Sir Castine?” Nuve’s eyes bulge.

“Ah, I don’t think we’ve had the good fortune to meet, young sir.” Castine reaches for Nuve’s unoccupied sleeve, only to find no arm inside. “Well, that is interesting, isn’t it?” he is only slightly disturbed.

“You serve as one of Lord Glasstien’s head knights.” Nuve gawks at him. “What could you possibly be doing at a gathering like this?”

“Control yourself, lad,” Castine laughs. “Has no one explained what our group is to you? We are supporters of bloodsuckers. I myself have two half ghoul children. I'm working to make the world more accepting of them. Is that wrong in your eyes? Why are you here if you do not agree with our cause?”

“Are you insinuating that you held relations with a woman turned ghoul?” Nuve’s expression reflects absolute appall.

“How dare you?” Castine swipes at him angrily only to have Minto pull Nuve aside on instinct. Despite being blind she is usually fully aware of her surroundings. Nuve sighs with relief as he remembers that he is not the only human here tonight who despises ghouls outright.

“That’s enough, all of you,” Corvic snaps. “I will not have you embarrassing me or my sister tonight.”

“Your sister?” Castine turns to look at Minto. Corvic grabs his chin and directs his stare at Row instead. “Ah, that’s more like it.” Castine takes the bloodsucker’s hand and kisses the back of her white glove. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Lady Ironglave.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” She curtsies for him, causing Seamus to roll his eyes. He knows his mistress is of royal blood but he has never actually cared for the formalities of nobles. In fact, it surprises him that the creatures he once deemed uncivilized and monstrous would abide by the codes of nobility at all. Again he is left wondering if everything he knows about bloodsuckers is in fact wrong.

“Come, come, sit.” Castine leads Row to one of the tables by the hand. He seats himself at the very end while instructing several of the other guests to slide down in order to make room for three humans one side and two bloodsuckers on the other.

“We are most grateful for your invitation.” Corvic bows politely before sitting down. Several people of servant class appear with plates and food for Seamus, Nuve, Minto and Sir Castine. Obviously nothing but water is brought for either Row or Corvic.

“I would offer you any of my loyal followers if I thought you’d want them,” Castine assures Corvic. “I hear that your kind likes to feed from one servant repeatedly though.” He eyes Seamus as he says this. Corvic scowls at him as well.

“He really doesn’t like me, does he?” he whispers to Nuve.

“What was your first clue?” Nuve mocks him.

“I can't say I’d be pleased to meet the man courting my sister either,” Minto mutters.

Seamus is caught off guard by her statement. “I'm not…”

“Oh, I'm sorry, I simply assumed…” Minto is immediately apologetic.

“Don’t worry about him,” Nuve stops her. “He is what we normal people call sick. He has convinced himself that the lady bloodsucker has earned his loyalty somehow and betrayed humanity in the process.”

“How scandalous,” Minto gasps.

“Quit putting strange ideas in her head,” Seamus hisses at him.

“Oh, sorry, milord.” Nuve dips his head. Seamus can't tell if he is mocking him or not.

“How did you end up as his vassal?” Minto is curious.

“I’d rather not speak of it,” Nuve sighs. He is still annoyed at the fact that he must obey someone he considers a traitor to humanity. The fact that he is eating dinner in a banquet hall surrounded by multiple people with the same ideology makes him even more uneasy.

Even blind Minto is more than capable of sensing her escort’s discomfort. She rubs the back of his neck and shoulders the same way she did when they first met. She may not know much but all of the men she has ever serviced have told her that she is excellent with her hands. It is all she can think to do for him. She obviously still feels bad about poisoning him.

As the meal drags on, Seamus and Nuve talk with each other and Corvic about many things, including bloodsuckers, demigods, vassals, territories, siblings, families and wars. Upon occasion Sir Castine takes a break from stuffing his face to address the banquet hall as a whole or to simply talk with a select few of his obviously more prestigious guests.

After the meal is long over, several of the guests rise to leave while others simply rearrange their chairs to face a large stage at the opposite end of the room from the entrance. It seems that some sort of entertainment has been prepared in the form of dancers both male and female dressed in colorfully extravagant clothing ranging from silk veils to flowing capes and three cornered hats with feathers protruding from them.

“Wow,” Row gasps in awe as she stares at the performers with twinkling eyes. Seamus is reminded of the fact that she has spent the majority of her life locked away in a castle and the rest hiding in the small outpost town of Bos Stad. Of course, he spent his entire life there, making this just as unique a scene for him as well. It reminds him of the traveling carnivals that came to Bos Stad upon occasion, though none of them were as meticulously coordinated as this.

“What’s going on?” Minto tugs on Nuve’s sleeve.

“I'll describe it to you,” he offers while leaning his head on her shoulder so he can whisper to her without disturbing anyone else. A smile spreads across Minto’s face as she feels his warm breath in her ear. Nuve is definitely the only person she has ever met who would even think of entertaining the desires of a prostitute. He is quite a unique character indeed.

Seamus is more interested in watching the many expressions shifting over Row’s face than the actual performance. He finds himself just as obsessively mystified by her as the day they met, though he is not sure if that is actually what he felt. He still only remembers the event from her point of view.

He is simultaneously drawn back to the conversation he had with her that morning outside their house. After pushing her patience with him to the limits she had been just about to admit something important before the sudden remembrance of his mother had interrupted them.

What was she on the verge of telling him? Was she going agree to be his fiancée; or was she perhaps going to tell him he should follow Nuve to a brothel without her. No matter how desperately he wants to know the answer, now is not the time to ask her.

“There, wasn’t that magnificent?” Castine claps for the performers as they disappear behind the stage.

“Quite the unique event, I'll say.” Corvic tries to hide his interest. He almost seems like a young boy pretending to be more mature than he is. Of course he is over the age of fifty though.

“They performed for Lord Glasstien himself last year,” Castine continues to brag. “I just knew they’d be perfect for the occasion.”

“So they have no idea who we are?” Corvic asks cautiously.

“Not in the slightest,” Castine laughs. “They are merely here for the sake of moral. Once they receive their pay, they can be on their way and we can begin to discuss business.”

“Ah, so you do mean to act soon, do you not?” Corvic’s voice becomes more serious.

“Act?” Seamus is immediately on guard. “What exactly are you planning to enact?”

Corvic takes a deep breath before continuing to speak to Sir Castine, choosing to ignore Seamus entirely. “I'm going to be completely honest with you; I do not care in the slightest what becomes of Glass Gate. I am merely playing my part in this revolution in order to gain support for my own cause.”

“Revolution? Cause?” Seamus’s eyes bulge. He has no idea what is being said.

“I understand completely, Corvic,” Castine laughs while shaking his hand to convey trust. “You strive to recover your father’s territory from the thieving demigod Turok. In order to do that you need an army of bloodsucker supporters; an army I have. Unfortunately I can not waste time and energy liberating a territory I will hold no claim toward when I haven’t even taken over Glass Gate.”

“Wait, you plan to revolt against Lord Glasstien?” Nuve interrupts.

“Lady Ironglave, order your servant to keep his servant quiet,” Castine growls at Row.

“Do not presume to tell me what to do,” she attempts to sound superior to him.

“So help me, Rowleen, sister or not, you will learn your place.” Corvic makes a fist. Row glares at him angrily before nodding at Nuve who falls silent obediently. Seamus is beginning to see some of the sibling rivalry he suspected should exist between a brother and sister who have never met before.

“Back to the matter at hand, I can't possibly help you win back Iron Grove without first receiving your help liberating Glass Gate,” Castine turns his attention back to Corvic.

“Glass Gate is enormous, Sir Castine,” Corvic sighs. “You would need twice the force you now possess and the entire support of its ailing people before you could even attempt a revolution. I don’t see how I am supposed to help.”

“We spoke about this months ago, my dear Corvic.” A mischievous grin has spread across Castine’s face. “We need only garner support from Lord Sliverbane of the next territory.”

“Lord Sliverbane is on his deathbed,” Corvic scoffs.

“Then we shall seek the support of his remaining son, Louwits.” Castine seems to have already planned farther ahead.

“And what do you need me for?” Corvic pretends to yawn.

“Do not play coy with me, vile creature.” Castine reaches across the table grabbing him by the collar. Instinctively Seamus rolls up his sleeve, revealing Arma Scov wrapped around his arm. “Do it,” Castine taunts him. “Everyone in this building answers to me. Kill me and you’ll never see the light of day again.”

“Put it away,” Corvic orders Seamus calmly. Reluctantly he rolls his sleeve back down while scowling. He is now completely on guard. All of his potential trust in Castine has vanished. “What is it you want of me?” Corvic repeats.

“Do not take me for a fool.” Castine finally releases Corvic’s collar. “I know who you are and where you have been. I know you were present in Sliver Bay five years ago at the time of Lord Sliverbane’s first son Melwits’s passing. I know you were good friends with him and his younger brother Louwits. Most of all, I know that you know what Louwits wants from me in exchange for his help overthrowing Glass Gate.”

“Then give him any of those harlots sitting out there.” Corvic waves his hand at another one of the long tables uninterestedly.

“He doesn’t want a dirty blooded wretch!” Castine slams his fist against the table. “He wants the blood of King Doryan. He wants a lord’s daughter as his bride. And not just any lord’s daughter; she must be a bloodsucker too.” Nuve glances at Seamus who is trembling with rage. He can recall his new demigod master mentioning the term royal bloodsucker just before they entered the city. Is that perhaps what Row is?

“What do you say?” Castine is leering at Corvic who is trying to maintain a calm appearance.

When he turns around to speak with his sister, he comes face to face with Seamus instead. “Don’t you dare!” he spits angrily. “I'll cut you down where you stand if you even think of selling her.” He once again lifts his sleeve.

“I’ve been meaning to ask about that.” Corvic leans down to examine the elegant silver wire. “The great masters really were amazing, weren’t they,” he sighs.

“Would you like to feel its sting?” Seamus threatens him.

“I’ve also been wondering why you even serve my sister,” Corvic continues to avoid the important topic at hand.

“That’s none of your business.” Seamus unravels a small amount of wire.

“Is it money?” Corvic asks in an inquisitive voice. “Is it fear?” he changes his question when he receives no answer. “Is it love?” His eyes narrow angrily. “You should know, I do not plan on letting my sister consort with the likes of you. Even if you weren’t a lowly human, you reek of demigod. I don’t know how many of them you’ve killed, and I'll congratulate you right now on your miraculous accomplishment, but it changes nothing. Even without Sir Castine’s request, marrying Rowleen to another royal bloodsucker is in everyone’s best interest.”

“Another bloodsucker?” Nuve slams his palms down on the table. “Are you saying that Lord Sliverbane’s son Louwits is also a bloodsucker?”

“If I recall correctly, both of Lord Sliverbane’s sons were born of the same concubine,” Castine mutters.

“Enough.” Seamus lets go of Arma Scov, letting it spring out and surround Corvic. Of course the royal bloodsucker is faster, disappearing from sight in his signature fashion and reappearing behind Seamus with one hand already on Row’s shoulder.

Castine is suddenly shaking as he stares in awe at the silver wire. “What did he just say? Did you say this boy has killed a demigod; more than one for that matter? Is he really even human?”

“Not anymore,” Seamus answers as his eyes flicker silver. Corvic is forced to vanish again as Seamus’s arm stretches toward him, taking the shape of a sharp spear by use of Wan’s power.

“Nice trick.” Corvic reappears in the center of the table. “I can recognize the Silver Shape Shifter. Tell me, who else have you killed.”

“You shouldn’t have asked.” Seamus is almost smiling as the horns made of shards from Arma Venture protrude from his forehead once again. His eyes glow yellow as practically everyone sitting at the table Corvic is standing on falls under his control.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Corvic chuckles nervously before vanishing again. He reappears a moment later a few feet away, falling to the floor as one of the controlled guests latches onto his leg and pulls him down. It appears he was not fast enough this time. Soon the rest of the controlled guests begin to swarm on him, pinning him to the floor with their combined weight.

“Stop this at once,” Castine begs in a panicked voice. “You’ll injure my wonderful supporters.”

“Do you know what Lodar was doing when I killed him?” Seamus asks in a thundering voice as he climbs onto the same table where Corvic stood a moment ago in order to tower above him. “He was amassing an army large enough to drive Turok from Iron Grove. That’s right; I now hold the power of the only demigod strong enough to win back your father’s territory. Maybe if you beg me to help you, I'll consider it.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Corvic spits before finally managing to vanish from underneath the prison of bodies, leaving them to topple over each other pathetically. “You can't hold a candle to Lodar and you never will. He had two hundred years of practice.”

“And yet I still killed him,” Seamus cackles.

Corvic appears behind him and stabs him in the back of the neck, all the way through to the front, with a knife from the table. “Sleep well, human boy,” he whispers while pushing Seamus forward onto the pile tussling bodies still on the floor.

Seamus starts to cough and sputter as his eyes turn from yellow to silver again. The hole in throat closes up as fast as he can make it but he has already lost control of the bloodsucker supporters beneath him. They immediately pull him down to the floor and proceed to punch, stab and kick him with everything they have. “I can't believe you’re still alive.” Corvic lets out an impressed whistle.

Suddenly the side of his face explodes in a cloud of black smoke. Nuve has just tossed one of his black powder pouches at him with a lit fuse. Corvic screams while grabbing the side of his face. The raw flesh underneath his skin is fully visible. “You’ll pay for that!” his voice is even higher pitched than normal in all of its feminine elegance.

Nuve pushes Minto aside as he draws a small blade from his belt, which he promptly stabs into the side of Corvic’s shoulder when the bloodsucker lunges at him. Just as Corvic starts to vanish again, he twists the knife, preventing him from escaping. Corvic digs his fingernails into Nuve’s arm and drags them down to his hand, leaving red streaks of blood and torn flesh. Finally the ghoul hunter releases the blade, allowing the bloodsucker to vanish into thin air once more.

The echoing of Corvic’s voice can be heard through the rafters of the building as he seems to have disappeared to the roof outside. “You handle them, Castine,” he screams. “I'm done.”

“Does that mean we won?” Minto asks hopefully?

“That depends.” Castine turns a sly eye toward Row who has not moved at all. She is staring at Seamus as he struggles to crawl across the floor away from his attackers. “Might I ask what your decision is?” Castine cups his hands gleefully.

“Let me think about it,” she mutters almost inaudibly.

“What?” Seamus stands up, knocking several people over in the process. His wounds quickly heal before the silver in his eyes fades. He climbs across the table, coming to a stop directly in front of his mistress’s face. “You don’t have to marry this Louwits fellow,” he assures her. “I will defend you.”

“It’s not an attack from a demigod, Seamus,” she shouts at him in a shrill voice, eliciting silence from all onlookers. “What am I doing with my life? I'm sick of running, Seamus. I'm sick of living like this. What if this is my purpose? What if I'm meant to help my brother avenge our mother and father?”

“You don’t have any obligations to him,” Seamus argues. “You only just met him today,” he reminds her.

“Corvic is a marvelous example of an ideal bloodsucker,” she whispers. “He’s everything I aspire to be. If I can help him in any way, then I will.”

“But…” Seamus stares at her with a dumbfounded expression.

“I’ve made my decision.” She crosses her arms. “You will abide by it, won't you?” she asks cautiously.

Seamus glances at Nuve and Minto in turn before looking back at her. Slowly he climbs down from the table and lowers himself to one knee like a knight and bows his head. “I will follow you anywhere, my mistress,” his response is obviously forced.

“Thank you.” She pats his head.

“Excellent, excellent.” Castine wrings his hands nefariously. “I will send word to his lordship Louwits Sliverbane immediately. We will have our response within a few weeks, at which time you should receive an escort to Sliver Bay. We shall sell your house and pay off your debt as soon as you leave. Until then, feel free to relax. No point in trying to find a job if you won't be staying long, right?” His expression is the only cheerful one.

Minto is perfectly capable of reading the mood in the air and her frown reflects it, matching Nuve’s and Seamus’s perfectly. Row is the only one trying to smile. In her mind she has just found her purpose in life. No more running and hiding with nothing to look forward to but her next meal and her inevitable death. For once she will be useful to someone who needs her.

“Finally; we made it,” Gall sighs with relief as he spots the high walls of Glass Gate. “How are you feeling, milord?” He turns to look at his master. Brand looks terribly shaken. A day ago he had been in what remained of Quess, searching for the deceased body of his comrade, Husk. When they found him it was obvious that he had been crushed by his own Arma; something that seemed to terrify Brand. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has never even so much as held Arma Lita.

“Are we going in through the front?” Prain asks her father. She is trying to shift his focus from their ill master.

“We may actually be able to.” Gall nods approvingly. “I do not believe Lord Glasstien or any of his followers have been made aware of your appearance, milord. None of them would recognize you as Genlock’s replacement without prior cause.”

“So we’re going in?” Prain asks excitedly. She has never set foot in a city as large as Glass Gate before.

“Calm yourself, foolish girl,” her father scolds her. “We are here to acquire medicine for our master.”

“No amount of medicinal herb will calm the pain in my bones,” Brand mutters under his breath. “I will not rest until I have avenged my fallen brethren.”

“Imagine if all bloodsuckers were as vengeful as you,” Prain sighs.

“Silence,” Gall snaps at her.

“Wait, what do you mean by that?” Brand is intrigued.

“You hardly even knew Husk and I don’t think you ever met Lodar.” Prain shrugs. “Why are you so obsessed with the idea of avenging them? What if the remaining bloodsuckers in the world all banded together to eliminate the nine? Would you even stand a chance?”

Gall is livid with anger. “One more word out of you, child, and I'll…”

“She’s right,” Brand interrupts him. “What am I doing? I met Husk and Wan once near Palinthia. Why do the demigods feel such a sense of loyalty to one another?”

“You don’t feel loyal to Turok, do you?” Prain asks while leaning toward Brand so she can see his eyes underneath his stringy black bangs.

“You know I don’t.” He scowls.

“You don’t need to let your connection control you.” She stretches her arm between their horses to pat his shoulder. “You were human once, remember?” she asks in a hopeful voice.

“Milord,” Gall interrupts them. He is obviously struggling not to begin berating his daughter again. “I feel it is my responsibility to remind you of the burden you carry. Your life is no longer your own anymore. You don’t have the luxury of doing nothing.”

“Thank you.” Brand nods. Prain shoots her father a fierce glare, which he returns menacingly. He is beginning to think it was a mistake to let her take on the role of vassal to Brand. She seems more interested in diminishing his stature as a demigod than helping him on his inherited crusade. “To Glass Gate,” Brand shouts proudly as his horse gallops forward.

“To Glass Gate,” Gall repeats while kicking his steed in the ribs to spur it forward.

“Aye, to Glass Gate,” Prain tries to mask her obvious excitement. Despite having just lost a pivotal argument with her father over Brand’s future she can't help but remain overjoyed at the thought of finally getting to see the inside of the legendary city.
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