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Not only did Margonites now had realizations of self, there seemed to be contenders for the void that Abaddon had left behind. What better exemplified the ego was there than the pursuit of a god's throne? Eventually, Varesh knew that she would need to get involved with these factions now that she had to start all over to build her own empire—perhaps having a lot to catch up. Pondering on this, she realized how cold and lonesome this place really was.
It had been a long time—and she wasn't sure if there ever was such a time—when when she did not have an kingdom under her rule. One of her earliest memories, one she always recall with much fondness and relied on for strength when she was unsure, was when as a small child she was brought to that open window in the main tower of the Fortress of Jahai overlooking Jahai Bluffs. Visiting the fortress for the first time with her parents, she wasn't familiar with the place and did not particularly liked the scolding heat inside, but despite that what followed she remembered well. The men escorting her all were veiled in red, she remembered. Although it had been customary over time, she never liked being around, let alone being served, by veiled men. As a child they made her nervous, and as an adult they raised her suspicion. But some traditions were not worth breaking; a ruler at times had to submit to the whims of the ruled to sustain their loyalty.

She looked out the window onto the landscape below. As far as she could discern with her eyes, she saw soldiers lined up in a large grid that spanned across the bluffs. She remembered how their dark armor so completely coated the ground that she didn't even see any trace of the dry dirt that one normally saw; instead it was a sea of soldiers, each equally spaced from one another, all the while covering the entire land with its gentle slopes and valleys. From her point of view, it was as if the earth itself was made of soldiers. They all stood motionless, frozen in their salute to her from all directions.

"All these men are of Kourna, Varesh," one of the faceless men explained to her. "One day, you will rule Kourna as so many great Ossa leaders have done."

"They will do what I ask of them?" she asked of the man.

"With no reservations," she remembered the man saying blandly. “You will be leader of Kourna--" he paused, "and more--beyond your dreams.” She remembered how her heartbeat pulsed and the intense flow of blood through her body as she savored the power that was yet hers. All the world stood still waiting for her. “But you must strive through different hardships to emerge victorious, Varesh. It will be difficult, but you must desire it. And you shall rule.” She never found out who that man was when she eventually assumed the Kournan throne. But his words she remembered clearly:

She must desire, and she will rule.

A greenish canvas spread as far as the corner of her eyes could see, peppered with dark soft masses throughout. It took her a moment to recognize the new skyline of the Realm. Sure enough, the perpetual red moon glowed to her right, occasionally peering through the dark cloud formations to cast a similarly reddish hue onto the various rocks and brittle dry formations that sprung from the ground, reminding her of dried branches of dead trees. She wondered if this place ever had live plants, or if the imagery were chosen especially to evoke the feeling of death and loneliness. Staring up at the sky, she realized that she had been lying on her back sleeping. Turning to the side to ease getting up, she reached for her spear. Just then she heard a loud explosion. She must have been awakened by a previous one just like it, she realized. Quickly picking up the spear and readying herself in a defensive stance, she looked around to see if she had company. The red vines covering the ground were blinding to the eyes, especially when reflecting the eerie glow of the equally red moon. She concentrated, and her eyes quickly adjusted to the landscape. Noticing nothing, she slowly stood taller to see if she could spot the source of the explosions.

To the South she saw at a long distant flashes of fire, followed by the sound of explosions. From the distance the moving silhouettes seemed like a group of black insects were fighting with the unmistakably purplish glow of Margonites. The dark forms of the insects steadily grew larger as the purplish glow grew dimmer and smaller. The Margonites were losing.

She didn't feel a particularly urgency to join the fight, not knowing whether the group of Margonites were friendly. As she approached slowly, it was clear that the black insects were spawns of the Tormented creatures that frequently plagued her as she roamed the land. The group of Margonites clearly lacked leadership and directions, as she could see how the Tormented creatures were left uninterrupted as they spawned more of themselves as time went by. Normally she would stayed uninvolved just to observe the fighting. But she had the feeling that the Margonites before her didn't have much longer to live despite their valiant attempt to fight against the odds.

Jumping high up, partly to survey the field of battle and also to take note of where the spawner were, Varesh started her battle cry.

“Call of Sacrifice”

The vulnerable spawners were quickly taken down, granting her and the Margonites a few moments of peace when the incessant spawing of new creatures was halted. As she landed, the other Tormented creatures started toward her. Good. She had successfully diverted their attention to her. Seeing that they left the other Margonites and began to surround her, she knelt down to prepare the next attack when the creatures were sufficiently close to her.

“Frost Vortex”

Above her, the air began to suck inwards and drew in tiny dust from the surrounding and quickly to form a slim shard of diamond crystal that floated in the air. It never failed to distract the unprepared, Varesh thought. And sure enough, the Tormented creatures halted and stared at the crystal in confusion. Soon enough, blasts of intense cold shocked through their bodies. As was a natural response, they started to back off. The movement, of course, only served to circulate the freezing blood to the rest of their bodies. And predictably, they were now as good as frozen. Methodically and efficiently, Varesh swung her spear to cut open the fleshing creatures to let the freezing gust take care of the rest. For the more resilient melee creatures, a thrust through the headpiece aimed at just underneath the carapace would suffice. With a dance-like motion, almost elegant had one observed from a distance, she moved through the frozen creatures with ease, leaving impaled and torn bodies of the dead in her wake.

The other Margonites stopped and watched. If they had them, she imagined their mouths would now be dropped in amazement. Just then she spotted a line of new spawners started in the back. It was a predictable reaction to the sudden reduction of their numbers. Her internal clock suggested that she still had some time left from the vortex to finish off the front flank, and judging from the distance between her and the spawners, not to mention the number of creatures in between, she would not make it in time to disable the spawners from conjuring another line.

“Might as well help out instead of standing there,” she said as she readied another shout.

“Enemies Must Die!”

The Margonites reacted immediate to the call and rushed to the back line and started on disposing the vulnerable spawners. They should be more than adequate for the spawners, she thought as she resumed cutting down the creatures before her. At times she almost missed her trusty scythe.

There was a middle flank that did not rush in like the rest, she noticed, Odd that they weren't attacking her either. They stood there motionless, as if waiting for instructions. With the last of the front flank disposed of, she readied her stance to face the remaining creatures that had been watching her all this time.

She had power over them in the past, and she was curious. So she let out another cry, only this time focused on the creatures.

“Enemies Must Die!”

A number of the creatures immediately turned on the others and started attacking. However, the numbers were fewer than she expected; the rest of the creatures started to defend themselves from the attacking ones. Some soon stopped and started toward her.

Either her powers over the creatures waned or these creatures had slowly somehow developed a countering ability. She remembered being able to command Margonites and Tormented creatures alike, but the effectiveness of her shouts now were inconsistent at best. This proved intriguing, and she was eager to leave one alive to study it. This meant that she had the luxury to train her battle skills with the others. And that she did. Her spear continued to slice through the shells of the creatures as if they were cloth, bursting the blood vessels underneath that spewed the red liquid that coated everything red. Shrieks of pain and agony escape the creatures' mouth as she tore them up. They came at her unrelentingly, and she was more than happy to work through them.

As she was totally engaged in these creatures, a sudden dull pain registered on her back. The next thing she realized was her body slamming on the ground. The impact jolted her head, and her mask too slammed on the ground and momentarily shifted out of place and obstructed her eyes. Annoyed, she quickly got up swinging and immediately felt a sharp pain in her chest when her spear contacted the creature nearest her. Sensing no other direct contact with her, it had to be a hex put on her. Very well. Hex this.

“Earth Vortex”

A dust cloud started to form and grew larger and more intense around her. While Varesh knelt down and rested to wait out the hex put on her, the whirlpool of dust and boulders spun relentlessly, ever increasing in strength, all the while smashing the creatures within the area, knocking down and crushing the fallen.

While resting, she then realized that she was bleeding in the back. It was difficult to tell with this body, but she noticed the glowing purplish liquid collecting on the ground. And when she focused, a lingering pain was there, struggling to bypass her adrenaline to reach her mind. Whether she actually felt the pain or not, this was a wound that needed to be tended to soon.

As she attempted to stand up once more, she felt a heavy weight on her shoulders. Furthermore, she found it difficult to move with such heavy burdens now on her back as well. Another hex, she thought. She knew this one well; it was a common one inflicted on her when she was training as a Dervish. With this impaired ability to move, she was momentarily confined within her own vortex since she herself wouldn't be able to go far in that whirlpool of unrelenting boulders smashing into everything in their way. Momentarily thus confined, she looked around and saw a few creatures standing just beyond the vertex looking at her.

They must be the ones hexing her. Strange that they stayed back away from the vortex. It was a level of intelligence and discipline that she had not seen from these creatures before. Thankfully, looking around she saw the other Margonites finishing up some lingering creatures. They could be useful here.

“Enemies Must Die!”

As expected, the Margonites now all converged onto the few creatures that were out of her reach. They were lightly armored casters, no doubt, as they fell quite easily to the advancing Margonites. With the hex casters slain, she was finally freed to move about. Just at this time, the vortex had died down, leaving crushed shells and bodies around her.

Disappointing that she was not able to instruct the Margonites to leave one alive. Now walking around surveying the creatures around her, she noticed the streak of fluid she left behind.

“Let me heal you,” said one of the Margonites. And soon her back felt stiff and tingling for a moment as the pain subsided.

She turned to them and noted only three Margonites were left standing. Two casters, with one just healing her, and one holding a scythe.

“Thank you for coming to our aid,” said the healer as the others nodded.

It was rare to hear this from a Margonite, she remembered. They were helpful to each other during a fight, to be sure. But the recognition of—let alone acknowledgement of—gratitude? This was new, indeed. Still, she wondered where their loyalty was.

“Praise Abaddon,” she said while keeping her attention on their reaction.

“Yes,” responded the other caster as it levitated. “We praise you equally, for you have saved us.”

“Concurred,” said the first caster. “It is of your discretion, savior.” He nodded. “But if you would lead us, we are yours.”

“Abaddon has abandoned us despite our pleas,” said the last of the three. “We are alone now.” With that, he knelt down. “Our lives are yours. Lead and we will follow.”

Varesh had listened to the three while focusing on a dark shadow on a ledge not far from where they were. It was not a natural shadow--not one of a dead tree or rock. And twice she thought she saw a flash of red, as if it were a reflection of the blood moon from that direction. Moonlight reflecting off the tip of a blade or a sharp carapace, perhaps? Was it just a sign of a clumsy surveyor, or was it a taunt fueled by conceit? Something was watching her. Even with her enhanced vision she could not clearly make out the shadow. And soon it, as if realizing that she was looking back at it, slowly ducked down and disappeared behind one of the boulders around. It did not exhibit a sign of panic or surprise after noticing the mutual eye contact; it simply retreated as if it had gotten all the information that it deemed useful.

The location was too far, Varesh assessed. And she would need to perform quite a climb before reaching where that shadow was. And whoever or whatever it was, it would have long left by the time she got there.

Varesh focused back onto the three Margonites before her. She didn't know what to make of the three. But if the recent scrimmage had showed anything, it was that she needed help. Loyalty was not an issue unless she decided to trust them. And they would have ample time to prove themselves to her.

“I am Varesh Ossa. And I will lead you.”

Updated 17-12-2008 at 01:47 by Qin Li (Grammar and spelling; general editing now that I'm awake.)



  1. Qin Li's Avatar
    Greetings, readers. Lytha just let me know that my blog's comment section was disabled. Seems like it was set that way when the new format came up, and I just didn't know about it. I followed the directions and enabled it now. Sorry for any inconvenience this caused. Thank you, Lytha.
  2. Lytha's Avatar
    Yay, now we can comment.

    I just wanted to drop in and say how much I liked this snippet. For some reasons, it enchants me even more than Qin Li's Journey did. Language and action progress are quite eye-catching for my taste.

    This snippet made me want to read more about it. :)

    Updated 17-12-2008 at 09:44 by Lytha