“Milord, my mana is running low. I'm going to have to lower the cloak soon,” Kalina informs Turok as they approach the edge of the second lowest ranked district in the city, next to the slums.
“You’ve done well enough already.” Turok ruffles her hair underneath her hood, causing her to giggle. She enjoys being useful to her master, especially when he praises her. With a wave of her twisted tree branch staff she disperses the mist she has summoned from the water in the air, which has allowed them to walk through the city unseen since first sneaking past the guards at the front gate.
“Where are we?” she asks as they come to a stop directly in front of a rather old looking bell tower.
“This is where Grange died,” he whispers while touching the door. “I can feel the last of his presence fading from within.”
Kalina cringes as she tries to imagine being in Grange’s position. She has been with Turok during the loss of many of his vassals and has helped him track down the body of each one. Some day she will fall as well and it will be her beyond a door much like this one. She has no idea how Turok will react. She has no idea how she wants him to react. “Can you open it?” she asks in an equally hushed voice.
He shakes his head. “Whoever lives here is not a normal human. An invitation is needed to pass through these doors.”
“Then how did Grange get in?” Kalina raises a confused eyebrow.
“The premises was breached.” Turok gestures to a boarded up window above them. “Someone with permission to enter shattered the aura around the building, allowing others to enter un-welcomed.”
“Do you think I can open it?” Kalina asks with a smile while twirling her staff.
“Are you sure you have enough mana left?” Turok smiles back.
“Just watch me.” Several icicles appear floating around her, drawn from the moisture in the air. With a wave of her staff she sends them crashing into the great doors in front of her. They shatter into pieces easily but more of them quickly form to take their place.
After a solid ten minutes of berating the wooden doors, they finally break open, swinging inward and cracking against the walls inside. “Well done.” Turok lifts Kalina off her feet and twirls her around. “You are by far the best vassal I have ever had.”
“If only Amon could hear you,” she snickers. “He would have more than a few reasons to disagree.”
“Who dares enter my sanctuary?” a shrill voice interrupts their celebration. “What have I done to call down this unwelcome wrath?”
“It couldn’t possibly be.” Turok’s eyes widen in disbelief.
“What? What is it, milord?” Kalina bobs on her heels impatiently.
“Is that you, abomination?” Turok’s voice rattles the walls of the structure.
“Go away, demigod,” Corvic’s voice echoes back from somewhere within. He is doing a good job of hiding his location. “I am in no mood to fight you. I was just about to go out hunting, in fact.”
“All the more reason I should be here.” Turok adopts a mocking tone. “I can't very well have you feeding on the good citizens of Glass Gate, can I?”
“There are a hundred other bloodsuckers you could be bothering. Why me?” Corvic groans. “How did you even get in here; not just my sanctuary, the whole city. How did you enter Lord Glasstien’s haven away from your kind?”
“That would be the work of my very talented vassal here.” Turok pats Kalina’s shoulder. “As to why I am here, I think you might know. There was a man slain within the confines of these walls recently. Have you any knowledge of this?”
“Oh, was he one of yours? Your vassals are getting weaker and weaker by the decade,” Corvic mocks him. Turok grits his teeth in anger. He normally prides himself on remaining calm but he values the lives and memories of all his vassals. Having an abomination such as Corvic belittling their existence is unacceptable. “Oh, did I hurt your feelings?” Corvic refuses to stop. “My you are so pathetic for a demigod.”
“Enough.” Turok slams Arma Tua into the wall of the bell tower, shaking the entire structure. “Show yourself to me or I shall destroy your sanctuary.”
“Do not worry.” Corvic appears in the lobby in front of them. “I was already planning on fighting you. Now that you know where I live I can't very well let you go.”
“I'm going to enjoy this.” Turok marches forward. Each step he takes rattles the walls of the ancient stone structure.
“You’re alone this time,” Corvic reminds him. “No Lady Ardine to call down the rain and lighting. You don’t stand a chance.”
“You think I haven’t been preparing for this moment since the last time we met?” Turok remains confident. “I had some good practice some five years ago too. Perhaps you heard how your mother perished. She was nearly as fast as you.”
“She was nothing compared to me!” Corvic’s eyes flare red. “I am a descendent of King Doryan. There is nothing in this world that compares to me.”
“You’re nothing but a pathetic mixture of impure blood and monstrous instinct,” Turok spits. “I shall prove once and for all that bloodsuckers are a mistake the world should never have known.”
“And you are nothing but a human imbued with powers he doesn’t understand,” Corvic growls. “I faced a demigod twice as worthy as you just this morning.”
“Please tell me you saved me the trouble of killing Brand,” Turok laughs.
“Milord?” Kalina gasps. It is obvious she was unaware of the rift growing between Turok and the other demigods. Whether by deliberate ignorance or blissful stupidity, she has maintained the idea that all demigods are marvelous heroes that work together. This is the first time she has ever heard Turok speak ill of one of his comrades.
Rather than telling Turok whether or not he was able to defeat Brand, Corvic vanishes from sight the same way he always does. Turok has no time to react as he reappears behind him. The demigod is completely calm though. He does not even perceive Corvic as a threat. His overconfidence is quickly punished though as a sharp blade enters the back of his neck, nearly severing his spine.
Kalina summons another gigantic icicle to drive Corvic away before casting a healing spell over her master’s wound. “What was that?” Turok groans while wiping the blood from the back of his neck.
“Do you like my toy?” Corvic appears in front of him, twirling Arma Lita by its chain.
“Where did you get that?” Turok’s eyes bulge.
“You don’t know who killed Genlock, do you?” Corvic laughs.
“Is that true? Have you killed a demigod?” Kalina is shocked. “Milord, is that even possible for a bloodsucker?”
“It is for this one,” Turok admits while taking a stance. The wound on his neck has closed up completely by now.
“I'll need to finish this quickly,” Corvic sighs while swinging Arma Lita at Turok again. His hand is shaking as he grips the chain. It seems he has not been able to repair the damage Brand did to it that morning.
“Milord, he’s weak,” Kalina realizes.
Turok deflects the scythe with his axe before responding. “He chooses to starve himself,” he explains. “He thinks it makes him faster.”
“Desperation is the great motivator,” Corvic’s voice is calm and eerie, sending shivers down Kalina’s spine. Normally she would be providing support for her master with a variety of spells but with only a small amount of mana left she is forced to simply stand back and watch. The only thing she will be able to do for her master is heal his wounds.
She watches with interest as Corvic continues to appear in random locations around the room, moving faster than the eye can follow. A small enchantment on her vision would allow her to see him better but it would take more mana than she has. “Hello. Are you enjoying the show?” Corvic knocks her hood off without even stopping as he passes her by. She is too engrossed in what she is seeing to even react.
“Leave her out of this!” Turok growls.
“Oh dear. You come and invade my home and expect me to be courteous. My, you demigods are all so rude.” Turok swings his axe at a random portion of the room, at the exact spot Corvic should be passing through. “Wow, that was close.” The bloodsucker reappears for a split second as he spins around to avoid coming into contact with the weapon’s sharp edge. “I should have known you could do that too. You and Brand are quite similar after all.”
“Do not lump me in with that pathetic excuse for Genlock’s successor,” Turok spits angrily.
“What is it they call you; the Jade Behemoth?” Corvic asks in an inquisitive tone. “What does that mean exactly? Your eyes are more like that of a leaf or grass than jade.”
“It means this.” Turok snatches the practically invisible bloodsucker out of the air and smashes him into the floor. “It means I am an unstoppable force.” He slices off Corvic’s right ear with his axe.
“I'm well aware of what your weakness is,” Corvic snickers as he vanishes, leaving his severed organ behind.
“I don’t have a weakness,” Turok bellows.
“Oh, don’t you?” Corvic reappears in front of him with the chain of Arma Lita already wrapped around Turok’s wrist. “Your Arma may phase through anything you desire but you are less versatile.”
A strange tingling feeling starts to invade Turok’s body through his bound wrist, causing his vision to blur slightly. “What is this?” he sputters while shaking his head violently, trying to regain his sight.
“It’s Genlock,” Corvic whispers. “He’s reaching out to you; can't you hear him?”
“Be silent, old fool.” Turok tugs on his arm, tightening the chain even more. “I'm trying to avenge you right now.”
“He can't understand you,” Corvic sighs. “This is but a fragment of his mind; a remnant of the rage he felt when he perished. All he wants to do is destroy. Can you feel it; that burning sensation heating up your arm.” Turok looks down at the chain as he starts to feel a sharp pain. Sure enough Arma Lita is glowing bright orange like hot metal. “Can you feel his rage?” Corvic mocks him. “Does it hurt?”
“I'll kill you!” Turok lunges at Corvic, chopping into his shoulder with his axe.
“Ouch. I didn’t think you could move.” Corvic rears back in pain. “You really are a dangerous man, aren’t you? I shall endeavor to end your rebelliousness as soon as possible.”
“Enough!” Kalina claps her staff on the floor, filling the room with a freezing mist which cools the chain on her master’s wrist.
“Attagirl.” Turok flashes her an approving smile.
“You don’t have time to celebrate!” Corvic slices into the demigod’s side with the blade of the scythe. Kalina twirls her staff again, spreading the ice through the air until it has encompassed the bloodsucker’s arms and frozen them in place. “What is this?” He struggles fruitlessly. “What are you?”
“This is my personal sorcerer,” Turok answers proudly.
“An ice witch? No; a water sorcerer,” Corvic realizes. “Why didn’t I notice it before? Not bad, for a human.”
“Thanks, I think.” Kalina frowns at him.
“Have you ever wondered if you were on the wrong side, young lady?” Corvic smiles at her.
“Now you’re just desperate,” she snorts at him.
“I'm serious. Demigods are not the heroes you think them to be. I represent a large group of people in Glass Gate who feel as much. Perhaps I can…”
“Enough!” Kalina snaps at him. “I won't be bought by meaningless words from the likes of you. I will not betray my race.”
“You’re not the betrayer; he is.” Corvic grunts as he manages to point at Turok with his injured arm.
The demigod is slowly walking towards him with his axe in his free hand. “Kalina, mend this wound, if you can,” he requests politely.
“Sorry, milord, but it is taking everything I have just to keep this slippery creature still,” she informs him.
“I understand.” Turok nods. “I shall lift your burden shortly.” He raises his axe over his head, passing through the binding shards of ice as if they are not even there. There is a look of panic in the bloodsucker’s eyes as he wiggles his arms to no avail. The chain to Arma Lita has been slowly growing hotter again, melting through the ice encompassing it but it is not fast enough. “Any last words, vile creature?” Turok asks as he brings the axe down toward his victim’s head.
“Token!” Corvic shouts in his shrill voice.
“What?” Turok halts his blade a centimeter away from the bloodsucker’s face.
“Token? He’s here?” Kalina glances around stupidly. “Where?”
“If you want to know, then let me go,” Corvic tries to bargain.
“Not happening.” Turok raises the axe again.
“He’ll starve to death if you don’t find him soon,” Corvic sputters. “I’ve kept him confined for over two weeks now.”
“Where is he?” Kalina demands while bringing one of her floating icicles close to his right eye.
“He’s bluffing,” Turok scoffs. “He’s probably dead just like Grange.”
“Will you risk it though?” Corvic tries to guilt him. “You still have a chance to save him.”
“Milord, if he’s telling the truth then…”
“Silence!” Turok does not let Kalina finish. “I’ve lost more than a few vassals in my lifetime. What’s one more in the face of ending your reign?”
“Milord!” Kalina is shocked.
“I said silence!” he bellows at her.
“You really are every bit as pathetic as I expected,” Corvic spits. “This is where Brand surpasses you. I made one threat toward his lady vassal and he practically tore me to pieces for it. Would you even care if I ended your sorcerer right now?”
“You can't,” Turok snorts.
“But if I could, would you bargain for her life?” Corvic asks slyly.
“She knows the risk of being a vassal.” Turok holds his nose in the air pompously. “Isn't that right, Kalina?”
“Yes, sir,” her response is meek. Only a few moments ago she was imagining this very situation. She knew he would not react much differently to her death than Grange’s but she still hoped she was wrong. At least she has her answer now. Nothing stands in the way of the demigod Turok’s endless quest to slay bloodsuckers; not even the loss of his most powerful sorcerer.
“Still not interested in siding with me?” Corvic remains sly and confident.
“Shut up.” She jabs him in the eye with the tip of her icicle.
“Hey, hold up; I still have Token,” he reminds her.
“Shut up.” She repeats while driving the sharp cold spear even deeper into him.
“He really will die.” Corvic is struggling to withstand the pain.
“Shut your filthy bloodsucker mouth!” she screams at the top of her lungs. “You are in no position to bargain. I'll find Token on my own if I have to. This is the end for you. You are going to die here.” Corvic’s remaining eye darts around the room, searching for any means of escape. The chain on Turok’s wrists has finally managed to melt through the ice around it but he has no way to command it without the use of his trapped hands.
After taking a deep breath he closes his remaining eye while trying to focus on the weapon. It is Arma Lita; the chain scythe used by the late demigod Genlock, an item that could move like an extension of the Red Warrior’s body, sometimes moving by his will rather than his hand. Corvic may not be Genlock but there is enough of the deceased demigod’s mind left inside the weapon to make up for it.
Turok jerks his hand away in pain as the hot chain raises into the air. “Not possible,” he gasps as Arma Lita slashes the icicle in front of Corvic’s face into pieces. “Kalina!” he shouts at his vassal. Obediently she summons more ice to reinforce Corvic’s prison. Unfortunately he is not using his body to control the scythe. It appears to be moving on its own. It hacks away at the summoned icicles repeatedly as it tries to free the bloodsucker but it is no use.
Kalina is reinforcing the ice faster than Arma Lita can destroy it. Having run out of mana to power her spells she is relying on her own life force. It is a deadly trick she learned from her former master when she was only an apprentice. Everything in the world can be transmuted into useable mana if necessary. The easiest thing to use is her very life essence though. In a sense she can feed off of her own energy just like a bloodsucker feeding on a human.
Corvic’s panicked expression has returned. It seems this mad sorcerer really does intend to kill him even at the cost of her own life. With no other options available he exercises his last resort. Turok and Kalina watch in absolute astonishment as Arma Lita slices through the bloodsucker’s own limbs in order to free him. In less than a second he has vanished in his normal manner, leaving both his arms and legs behind.
“No!” Turok lunges at the space where he was a moment ago. “He can't do this. He can't escape. It’s not fair.”
“Who does that?” Kalina is sickened to her stomach.
“Where did he go? He can't have gotten far.” Turok begins to search the room, clearing the ice out of his path with his axe.
“What does it matter, he’s no threat to us now.” Kalina falls to her knees while trying to catch her breath.
“He’s always a danger!” Turok shouts at her. “We can't let him escape. He’s just going to come back more powerful.”
“He’s a bleeding torso!” Kalina shrieks even louder than her master. “It’s over, Turok. We’ve won. Just let it go.”
“I will not let it go!” he refuses. “I have been waiting for this for years. He is the pinnacle of everything wrong with the bloodsucker race. He does not get to escape. Nothing is worth letting him go; not my life, not your life and definitely not Token’s life.”
“Token!” Kalina’s eyes shoot open as she rises to her feet shakily. “He must be in this place somewhere.”
“Forget him. Help me search for Corvic.” Turok opens a random door on the other side of the room, revealing a set of stairs leading both up into the bell tower and down into a cellar.
“You go up,” Kalina urges him. Turok does not wait as he sprints up the stairs. Kalina stumbles over her own dissipating icicles as she manages to walk across the room. She very nearly slips and falls as she shuffles down the stairs.
At the bottom it is pitch black with no light to speak of. Cautiously she strikes a match and sets the end of her twisted branch staff ablaze. Immediately it illuminates the dungeon she has just entered. It is exactly that, an arrangement of cells and cages filling an entire cellar like a prison. There are several lone figures occupying the barred chambers. Some of them appear to be human while others are obviously animals of different sorts including ghouls. The entire area seems dedicated towards furthering research for an abstract plot designed by none other than Corvic himself.
Kalina’s mouth hangs open in horror as she scans the cells for any signs of life. A good portion of the occupants seem to have already perished. Finally, at the very end of the first wall she finds what she is looking for. “Token.” She drops to her knees in front of the cell.
“Wha… who?” the raggedy guard captain opens his eyes to stare at her. “Huh? Kalina? What are you doing here?” he is surprised.
“We came because of Grange,” she answers honestly. “What happened to you? Where is he?”
“Dead.” He hangs his head shamefully. Kalina rattles the lock of the cell while trying not to look at the skinny figure that was once the noble Token.
“We know that. How did he die?” she asks while blowing on the lock, which promptly freezes solid with her breath.
“You really are amazing,” he manages to chuckle before his serious expression returns. “I killed him,” he admits.
“What?” Kalina nearly falls backwards. “Do you mean you failed to protect him?”
“No. I mean I stabbed him through and through with Arma Lita.” He is too dehydrated to muster any tears but he looks as if he would like nothing more than to cry. Kalina shatters the frozen lock with the unburned side of her staff and forces the door to the cell open by leaning her entire weight against it. She is too exhausted to do anything else. In fact, as soon as it swings open she collapses onto Token’s lap. “What’s wrong with you?” he asks while sweeping her braids out of her eyes.
“It’s okay, Token,” she whispers. “I forgive you.”
“I don’t want your forgiveness. What’s wrong? Is Turok here? What about Corvic?”
“He’s gone,” she informs him while dragging herself up into a sitting position, leaning against the wall of the cell for support.
“What’s wrong with you?” Token repeats.
She stares at him as she starts to tremble. “I'm scared,” she suddenly admits.
“Scared of what? You’re the most powerful sorcerer I know. There is nothing you can't handle.”
“I'm scared of dying,” she spouts. “I'm scared of dying alone like Grange and Amon. I'm scared that one day none of us will be left but Turok will live on. I'm scared that he’ll forget us like disposable tools. I'm scared that humans mean nothing to our master. I'm afraid that everything Corvic just said about demigods is true.”
“You have to understand that they don’t see life the way we do,” Token sighs. “They are over two hundred years old. Their lives before becoming demigods are long over. Everyone they knew is dead; their wives, their parents, their friends, everyone.”
“That doesn’t make it okay.” Kalina hides her face in her hands.
“I know.” Token lifts her chin so they are staring into each other’s eyes. “I'm not making excuses for them; I'm simply saying that it’s true. We mean nothing to them. We are a footnote in their lifetime. You are not the first sorcerer to swear loyalty to Turok and you will not be the last.”
“I hate that about you.” Tears are streaming down her face; tears that he can’t match. “I hate that you seem to know everything. I hate that you are so honest all the time. I hate that you’re so cruel.”
“I know.” He whispers while pressing his forehead to hers. “Thank you for coming for me. I know no one else ever would.”
“Of course I came for you.” She kisses his dry and cracked lips, letting her cold breath encompass his mouth. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. You are the only reason I continue trying so hard to survive. Nothing else in this world means anything anymore.” Slowly she lowers her head into his lap as she passes out from exhaustion. He strokes her hair while leaning back against the bars of the cell. He is too weak to stand by himself. All he can do is wait for her to recover enough to wake up again.
This is not the first time he has seen her like this; pushing herself too hard and letting her mana run dangerously low. The first time he ever saw her, she was creating a massive water tunnel around the drawbridge he was guarding. Both of them came terribly close to death that night. They did not meet face to face until he went to a medicinal tent in Massmede only to find her waiting outside while the healer tried to keep Grange from becoming a ghoul.
After arguing for several minutes about the damage they had nearly caused each other, they traded information about the fleeing knight and bloodsucker. Afterward, he became the guard captain for the castle now occupied by Turok, giving them multiple chances to meet. Over time distain for each other melted away into understanding. Soon they were meeting as often as possible to talk about everything and nothing.
It was not until the night of the summit several months ago that they actually admitted their feelings for one another. Kalina was feeling incredibly disillusioned about her former role model Lady Ardine. She sought comfort and support from her closest friend amongst the guards of the castle. After a night of drinking with Grange she was unable to climb the stairs to her tower, which resulted in the three of them camping outside near a fire.
The following day the way all three of them treated each other had changed. Token and Kalina were now definitely enamored with one another and Grange had become the only person privy to their secret. He never held it against them though.
When the task of traveling to Glass Gate was assigned to Grange by Turok, the fact that Token would be going with him was almost without question. Kalina would have loved nothing more than to have begged to come with them but it would have left Turok without a strong enough vassal to accompany him if he so needed.She wishes she had ignored her master’s calling and chased after them now though. She does not care in the slightest for her oath to Turok anymore. All she wants are the peaceful days she spent with Token and Grange back. Of course, she will not know freedom from her master’s orders until the day either she or he dies and her death is much more likely than his.