Medievia Mudslinger

September 11, 2003

The Pallida Mors for Arathusa by Atreos

Arathusa leapt forward out of the shadows and thrust her dagger into the talisar. It flung its long whip-like tentacles into the air. Though it was poisoned from the venomous dagger, it was not yet dead. Before the talisar could set upon her, my pierce struck it dead.

I had named Arathusa after the great Goddess of Love and Beauty, Arethusa. It was a name well suiting her. At that moment, however, as we sat resting in the mud pools of Shadmire, the twinkle in her eye had left, and she sat there emotionless.

After staring briefly into the distance, she jumped up, splashing mud everywhere and cried, "Dadddddy!" in a pleading manner.

"Yes Arathusa, what troubles you darling?" I asked, though I knew what was coming. I had seen that look all too many times before. She wanted something and no doubt something that would cost me an arm and a leg.

"You saw it daddy," she began. "It didn't die! I did just like you told me; it must be this stupid dagger!" She thrust her Dagger of Venom into the ground.

Teenagers, I thought, too predictable. "What about that other dagger I acquired for you? Have you tried it yet?" I asked, hoping to avoid the inevitable.

"Yeah, but..." There's always a 'but'. "It's accurate and all, but it doesn't really wound my enemies. You know what it's like to be quick, nimble and sneaky, for you were once and most men say you still are... You want your opponents to be left dead from your backstabs, right?"

"Arathusa, you can't always kill things with one hit. That's a lesson you will need to learn quickly. You're no longer in the streets of Medievia or Enara," I told her.

She looked down put and as if she was on the verge of tears. To avoid a messy scene, I quickly said, "What exactly are you looking for in a dagger sweetie? I'm sure daddy can get you one by tomorrow..." I began to wonder if all sixteen year olds were this manipulative.

I dug myself in deep there, though I didn't know it at the time. She bounced around excitedly while making up her mind.

"My one friend, he has this dagger, it's called a Pallida Mors," she said, but the rest of her chatter was incoherent, for that name brought strange memories and tales streaming into my head.

Most people knew that the Pallida Mors could be found deep within the cathedral at Sceptrum Ishachi. Few people, however, knew of what went on there... Accounts have been told of that accursed place. I recalled one such tale. It was of a young girl, by the name of Devika. Devika was sixteen years old when she disappeared from her bed at night, and no one has heard from her since. Such disappearances have become common in Sceptrum Ishachi, and Devika's own mother, Amelia, also disappeared into the depths of the church, from which she is thought to have never returned. This story was in my mind for one reason only. Devika, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Amelia, was at the time of her disappearance, the same age as Arathusa...

"Daddy?" Arathusa asked, breaking my line of thought. "Can you get me the dagger daddy, by tomorrow, like you promised?"

"Yes, Arathusa, anything for my lovely daughter." I choked these few words out, for I knew it would not be as easy as I had hoped.

The two of us made our way, using the portals within the heart of the City of Medievia, to the town of the Knights Templar. My home, our home, was there. Had I known that few people were around to aid me in my perilous journey, I would have just flown to Sceptrum Ishachi and sent my daughter here.

I glanced into the clan hall, where most members of my clan stayed while not on a journey. I found but one familiar face sitting there, sifting through a pile of maps, which no doubt led to the lairs of various dragons. He was wearing a thick mage's cloak, and beside him lay a staff and a shield made of gleaming gems on a wrought-iron base. The tooth of a ruby dragon glimmered round his neck.

I was surprised to see only Xanalus sitting round this brass-rimmed oak table, for it was a common ground for our fellow townsmen. Most people were, no doubt, on quests of their own, for such things claimed most of our clansmen's leisure hours.

"Xanalus!" I shouted to the experienced mage. He was a hero among us and a hunter of dragons. In this work he prided himself.

"Atreos, son of Arathor, how goes it?" he asked.

"Xanalus, though all fares well, I'm afraid I don't have the time to return your formalities. I'm in a predicament and must soon be on my way," I replied. "I must journey to Sceptrum Ishachi, for I am in search of a dagger. I would ask your companionship, but I can see you are busy. Thus, I would request no more of you than to watch over Arathusa in my absence."

Xanalus smiled. "Of course Atreos, I understand your need of such haste. You know I will take care of Arathusa; don't be long away," he said. I had always been able to trust my fellow clansmen, and Xanalus was no exception.

Arathusa had been standing shyly behind me the whole time I spoke. Xanalus stepped forward. "Come," he said, beckoning to Arathusa. "Let me teach you about dragons."

Arathusa smiled and leaped into one of the many oaken chairs set round the large marble table. I laughed. "I will return shortly, darling," I said to Arathusa, bowing before Xanalus. Arathusa was too focused on the wondrous, ancient maps to notice.

I walked into the street and beckoned for a firelizard who in turn brought my dragon to me. It landed before me with a gust of wind, sending a frigid chill throughout the silent town.

"Good luck Atreos," was a common shout before I left, though that day was different. Everyone was inside, as if they too were frightened of what unknown perils awaited me.

I mounted my dragon and began a long journey to Sceptrum Ishachi. I watched as the town below grew smaller and drifted out of sight. High up, I could only roughly make out the landscape below.

The air was cool, yet clear. Far off in the distance, yet fast approaching, I saw a storm of magical lights. After some time of flying past various woodlands and mountain ranges, I made out a small secluded town, which I believed to be Sceptrum Ishachi. My mount brought me towards the grounds, gliding gracefully yet with haste.

At my destination, the beams of splendidly colored bolts of lightning were flashing above my head. As I entered the town, the story of Devika and Amelia was fresh in my mind. My blood chilled as I strolled briskly through the ghost town. I could see no one. I assumed they were all asleep, for it was already well past the setting of the evening sun. The flight had taken longer than I had hoped.

I had only been here once to my recollection, and that had been with an entourage of companions. Though I do not remember our tracks exactly, they led us deep within the church.

"Never venture this far on your own," Yanna, the leader of our group, had said, "for such evils lay ahead that you will not live to tell about should you choose not to adhere to my advice."

As much as I would have loved to adhere to that advice, I had no choice. I had to venture in. Once I gave my word, or shook hands upon an oath, I kept to it and nothing could convince me to do otherwise. I regained control of my wandering thoughts and continued my search through the village.

There it was. The brilliant cathedral of Sceptrum Ishachi stood tall before me. I admired its silent beauty, before being overcome with fear and hatred, for I knew that this holy place of the gods was stained with foul wickedness.

I pushed through the never-locked cathedral doors. Candles flickered along the sides of the cathedral, with several more gleaming brighter at the altar, yet nothing more. The cathedral was empty, still, dead... There were no sounds in this place except the thud of my long stride.

Along the straight aisle, pools of blood sifted between the crooked floorboards. Something awful had happened here, though I could not make out what.

"Hello," I said, "Is there anyone here? My name is Atreos. I come from the town of the Knights Templar... Hello?"

I don't quite recall what possessed me to call forth when I could see as clear as day that this accursed place was empty. Yet, to my surprise, I heard a reply - brief, yet urgent. "Help!" screamed a voice, distant and unknown.

"Where are you?" I screamed in reply, hoping I could save the one who had returned my call. It was to no avail. I heard nothing more for the time being. I unsheathed my Frost Reaver and ventured forward. As silently as I could, I made my way unseen to the altar of the church.

I did not remember where to go and attempted to recall my last journey to Sceptrum Ishachi as much as I could. It did not all come to mind as I hoped, yet I pieced together such as I could remember.

There were four of us at the altar that day; Yanna, Ryial, Xanalus and myself. "I do not quite know the way," said Ryial. "Does anyone?"

I shook my head. I did not know where I was, for it was my first time in Sceptrum Ishachi. Yanna stepped forward, "I know the way," she said. "I have been here many times before."

Xanalus stood silent, waiting for us to continue with our expedition. Yanna stood up, and we other three followed suit. She led us to a room to the side of the altar. It was the priest's room, and no one would normally be allowed in there.

"Why have you brought us to this place?" I asked, quite confused, for I saw no other exit except for the one that we had used to enter the room. Yanna just grinned and looked into a corner.

"Can't you see it?" she asked. She had always tried to make us figure things out for ourselves and it was much appreciated, though this had been no time for games.

She was right. I did see it. It was a gold-trimmed mirror, the sort you would find in the Royal Palace of Enara. It did not suit this room's attire, not in the least. Ryial caught me staring at it. "Ay, 'tis a rare thing to have in such a place if you asked me!"

"Indeed it is," said Yanna, and she smiled. Again, Xanalus stood there, expressionless and thoughtful. He had been doing enough thinking for the whole of us.

I walked uneasily into the reverend's office. The door was locked, yet I managed to pick the lock and make my way in. The large, crystalline, gold-trimmed mirror still hung on the back wall, out of place. I ran my fingers gently along the surface of the mirror. It rippled slightly and became a sort of silver gelatinous surface, as it swallowed my arm. My body, following the unnatural laws of the place, fell through the mirror with it.

I was suddenly struck with a cold chill, causing the hairs on my neck to stand. I wrenched my hand tighter still around the hilt of my Frost Reaver and stood up.

I looked around, but I could see very little in this dimly-lit corridor. Behind me stood the same mirror that I had fallen through. Along the corridor, blood was spattered. Someone had put up quite a fight.

As I stood, I heard a sound, a wail from below, and the clashing of battle. I stepped cautiously forward. I approached a set of winding stairs and began my way downward, with a vigilant eye for any hidden creatures in my path.

"Aaaahhh," screamed a young voice. It cut off with a sickening thud. The shrill note of the scream told me it was a boy, perhaps only slightly older than Arathusa. I could hear no more. The stench of fresh blood and death greeted me as I descended the remaining flights of stairs. The boy had died...

I was infuriated, though I knew the victim not. To hear this cruel Emperor take life so willingly sickened me. Still enraged, I paced down the long narrow corridor as the lights grew dimmer.

"Leave him to me," I had said, as I wiped the fresh blood from my dagger. I was more than able to sneak undetected along the corridor and hide in the shadows.

"You cannot fight this fiend alone," Yanna replied, glancing to and fro. "As much as we all wish you could, you can't."

"Watch me," I said. I jumped to my feet and, quick as the morning wind, I charged into the cavernous room at the end of the corridor. I was fast, and thrust my dagger into the back of this so-called Emperor.

He turned around, as if ignoring the pain and laughed. "Shall I claim your life, mortal?" he mocked. It infuriated me, and that was my biggest mistake. Fighting out of anger and hatred would not help me.

He slashed me thrice and left me with gaping wounds. "Ah," I screamed, "Help!" It was seldom that I admitted when I was wrong.

Before I fell before Emperor Ishachus' blade, Xanalus, Ryial, and Yanna charged without hesitation to my aid. I found myself being dragged from the cavern as they held him off.

As I realized my thoughts had drifted again, I composed myself briefly and ran toward the end of the cavern. The need of stealth was long-since passed. I ran through the stone doors screaming, "Vengeance!" The stone doors sprung open, and the Emperor stood before me.

Before I had time to react, he unsheathed his dagger. With utmost skill, he sent my massive Frost Reaver flying from my hands across the room.

"Hast thou come back to finish what you and your companions started?" the Emperor demanded with a laugh. "Thou dost not stand tall enough yet to face me, mortal!"

"I have come back, foul beast, and I will slay you!" I screamed as I dove across the room, recovering my sword.

"Gruaah!" screamed the Emperor as he lunged at me with his dagger. I parried his attack, but it was only the beginning. Doing what I could to avoid the corpse lying limp on the ground, I moved as quickly as I could to dodge his attacks.

Weakened from his previous assailant, the Emperor could not be at his full strength. I could see the wounds that spells had left, yet he seemed to ignore them and pressed me back. I soon tired of parrying and dodging his blows, even as he seemed to gain vigor from my distress.

"Foolish boy!" he screamed as he left a hideous gash on my right shoulder. "Flee and I may let you live still. Stay and you will die!"

He raised his blade in the air, and its cold glimmer blinded me. Then I realized thet he wielded the weapon I sought, the Pallida Mors.

Bleeding profusely, I asked "Ugh, why did you lead us to this doom Yanna. That abomination was too powerful for us!"

"You're alive, Atreos," she replied, "and 'twas it not for your foolish cockiness, we would not have been so easily tossed aside. I do not mean to harm your courage, yet we are still in training, Atreos. We are not the strongest of men and women..."

"I... I know, I'm sorry," I said. "But one day, I will defeat this scum. Not for what he has done to me, or any of us, but for what he does to the peoples of Sceptrum Ishachi!"

"You will Atreos, but not today," said Xanalus. Ryial nodded in agreement.

As if he too remembered the incident and how much pain we had caused him, Emperor Ishachus continued to attack with full vigor. I dropped the heavy Frost Reaver to the cavern floor, hearing its echoing, metallic ring. I could not wield it with so many wounds. I was too weak...

I fled the room and attempted to stop the bleeding lacerations. Surely the Emperor could not keep up this battle for much longer. In a desperate attempt to finish him before I lost my life, I drew a hidden dagger from my hip.

I glanced inside the room once more to see the Emperor turning back to his victim. Oh, how confident he was that he'd seen me off! My wounds were numerous, but I could still move. I crept forward from the darkness and thrust my dagger into his back with my remaining strength.

No sound left his mouth. I removed the dagger slowly from his back and he fell to the ground, motionless. I kicked his corpse with all the might remaining in my body.

"That's for my companions," I said. "That's for the people of Sceptrum Ishachi."

I collapsed to my knees and looked over at the dead mage. I had assumed correctly; he was no older than Arathusa, and he had fought until his death. A matching emblem on his robe and staff showed me that he was a citizen of Sceptrum Ishachi, one who had fought only to keep his people safe...

"Your life, 'twas not thrown away," I said. "Your battle was not in vain. I leave you now in the hands of the gods. Rest in peace, fair child." This peace was worth fighting for, I thought as I closed his eyes, even if it would only be temporary.

A single tear rolled down my cheek, splashing into a pool of thick blood on the ground. I walked to the corpse of the Emperor and grabbed my trophy - Arathusa's trophy. The blade glimmered with a pale blue aura and lit the cold, damp room. I sheathed it, grabbed my Frost Reaver with two hands and lurched out of the room, walking back along the dark corridor.

I left the church and saw that dawn had broken through on the horizon. The beautiful, luminous sun cast an orange light throughout the sky, as if rejoicing at the defeat of the evil presence. The village of Sceptrum Ishachi was free to live again, even if only for a short while...

"Oh praise be to the gods that you're alive sir, are you all right?" asked a young woman, noticing my bloodstained attire.

I smiled. "I'm fine," I replied, gazing towards my home, toward my daughter. "Just fine..."


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