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Collective Story: Black times in Ravensblight


Nathan Caroland
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There is an almost palatable taste at the back of my throat, the heavy rich scent of spilled blood hanging in the air, as I open my eyes slowly wondering, for a moment, just who I was and what I was doing here.

Blood lay splashed along the walls and ceilings and pooled on the floor where the vomit and dirt covered straw had not soaked up the rich crimson stain. Bodies, torn and mutilated were strewn around the room like so much discarded refuse, silent screams and masks of terror frozen on to the few bodies that still had their heads. I remembered now. They had provoked me, had made jest of me! But I showed them. I had bloody well showed them! Pick on poor Oswald would they? Thump the Hump they had said, and they had laughed as one after another began to thump my warped and distorted back with its large hump. No more! No more!

That's when I showed them though, showed them what I had become. I had a power of my own! Teeth and fur, claws and raw killing power. I showed them ... showed them good.

_______________________

As I began to slump forward my assistant caught my shoulder, holding my weight for a moment while I shook off the affects of the Seeing. I didn't like to use that spell often as it always drained me of so much and made me question just who I was, what I was doing.

I could taste blood in my mouth. As I looked around the shattered remains of the 'Wanton Wench' tavern, dried blood covering much of the ruined room, the bodies having been removed already. Sadly it didn't take with them the swarm of flies that circled in the gore.

Oswald. Thump the Hump.

I had to shake my head clear again, that isn't me, that's part of the Seeing. Moving a scared hand to the bridge of his nose he pinched it as he fought off the headache that was surely coming. Just who was I ... I ... yes, I remember now. Slowly my identity asserted itself once again.

Alister Crom. Mage of the Seventh Circle, Watch Mage for the City of Ravensblight and a damn powerful Necromancer in my own right. Dead men do tell tales.

I had to smile at my rather horrid pun as I looked a mirror that seemed to have miraculously survived any damage and found myself staring at a man well into his middle years with black hair peppered white with a clean lip and cheeks but a long beard from the chin that was pulled into a rather impressive point which held rather too much white if he though sadly. Unlike many practitioners who tended to have pallid and unhealthy figures he himself had sun bronzed skin, eyes of clear blue, and a stomach that was slowly turning towards what one could politely call a paunch. My black cloak spread across my back and was open, showing richly tailored and comfortable clothing. Not too shabby I thought.

A small cough brought me back to the moment as my assistant cleared her throat. Damn spell, always left me befuddled for a few moments, though Leisha always seemed to take good care of me during these moments.

Leisha, my assistant, student and sometimes lover was a Necromancer as well, and on her way to being a damn good one. She might look only twenty winters old, but I knew for a fact that she was well into her fortieth and had come into her power late in life. I also knew that her bargain with the Powers that granted her abilities also gave her a youthful appearance. I enjoyed the benefits of it though.

"Snap out of it Alister," Leisha snapped and flicked me on the end of my nose with a long finger, setting my nose to stinging and bringing instant tears to my eyes.

"The Powers damn you woman. That hurt!"

"Stop your whining," she said caustically.

Even to my ears it sounded like a whine and I quickly blinked back the tears before growling an oath and clearing my head. It was the Seeing, did that to a person. Smirking at me she gestured to the three men waiting on the other side of the room, the Watch Captain Brin and his two flunkies, all three looking at me expectantly.

Time to earn my pay.

"Oswald, that was the name of the killer. A hump back cripple, perhaps thirty winters aged, long unkempt hair, balding. He ... ", I paused for a moment as I looked around the room and could almost hear the screams and feel the power that was expended here. "He changed himself into a beast of sorts, what I am unsure, though it was unnaturally strong and fierce and not of a power of his own. A spell placed upon him perhaps, a talisman, something with an outside influence. The residual magic has a distinct feel to it, of rage and hate untamed. Whatever it was, it transformed this man into a creature which then created this slaughter and damage," I waved a hand lazily in a circle about me, indicating the shattered tables, claw marks gouging the floor and of course, the blood.

The Watch Captain didn't seemed pleased in the least and my next words were going to just thrill him. "I believe we have a renegade Practitioner operating within Ravensblight." Behind me I could hear Leisha mutter something derrogative.

_______________________________________________

Decided to start this thing off and have a go at it and just went with what came to me at the time. I hope you find it of some interest with which to build the rest of the story.

Next up?

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"Renegade Practitioner..." The Captain muttered mockingly shaking his head ever so slightly.

"Liam, inform the rest of the Watch, we have a HAG in our midsts!" Captain Brin called out to his Lieutenant, while glaring at me from the side of his gaze.

"You." He pointed to his other flunky.

"Organize a team to search through this mess, I will be in the barracks if any of you should find something else of import." He whirled around to face me once more, his eyes meeting mine and repeated the phrase back again in disbelief

"Renegade Practioner..." Shaking his head as he left. No doubt back to the Barracks as he had said, probably to chortle in delight that he will once again find himself hunting some poor student of the Arts.

Slowly I turned, my senses still a bit off kilter from the Seeing, and began making my way out of this den of carnage, Liesha following behind me.

"Are you sure you're alright?" She asked.

"Yes, yes I am fine." I waved my hand loosely behind me at her.

"Hags! I tell you if times weren't as they are I would have his tongue for that insult!"

"Enough Leisha. I feel the same as you but, the fact of the matter is times are as they are. The Thinning did happen, and you and I are lucky to be alive to practice the Art at all. " Our steps slowly diminished until finally we were still, and I looked into her lovely deep eyes and continued.

"Speaking such things about Brin and the Watch in mixed populace? We could just find ourselves branded as traitors and become the next "Hags" they are hunting down." Her face went grim.

"Traitors! We are traitors! Traitors to our own kind!" Her voice slowly raised louder and louder as her anger grew.

"Enough! Enough, calm yourself my dear, this is not the time nor the place to have this discussion" I glanced around quickly.

By the gods could she have picked a more inappropriate place to spout off? The middle of Trade square? I cursed within my head, placed my arm over her shoulders and began to walk again, this time a little more briskly than before, praying that no one else paid attention to her outburst.

========================================================

Ok, thats my turn... maybe we need a seperate thread to discuss the story, so this one is just story and not convoluted with discussion and makign hard to find the story posts? Just a thought.

Next?

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Of course that was only wishful thinking. Someone did hear. Someone paid attention.

Another place. A dark place, lit by slowly burning candles and marks on the wall that glowed in a sickly green light. A smelly place, a room filled with chemicals, arcane foci and rotting body parts to be used for purposes too gruesome too speak about. A place underground, with no windows to let in the light.

A desolate place.

A figure sat hunched over an overloaden desk, cutting something out of paper. The figure was apparently dressed in rather fine evening wear that clashed with his riding boots. There was no sound, except for the hissing of the knife as it took another expertly drawn corner.

Without a warning the figure looked up. "Come in."

The words were timed perfectly with the knocking. A trapdoor in the ceiling was opened and a man in his thirties entered.

"Master Iskariot, my honest salutations. I greet thee with..."

"Shut up. No need for that drivel when we do not have guests to entertain."

"Yes, master. I bring news. I was just on the town square..."

"You are trying to tell me that that we have been found out? Man, control your face! One can read it like a book!"

"Yes, master."

"Why did you know who to eavesdrop on? The town square is not exactly an empty place."

"Master, they were practically shouting."

"Ah. We shall discuss this in the salon. I can not continue my private studies under these circumstances and there is no guest to impress. Get the ladder."

Sitting in the salon, the one refered to as "Master Iskariot" held a snifter of brandy in his hand, taking a sip ever so often, while the other man sat on a wooden chair with a large mug of ale. Master Iskariot began to speak.

"Oswald did not cross us. He is not intelligent enough for that. But he did not follow our treaty, and for that he must be punished."

This was not a question, it was a simple fact. Iskariot seemed to know it was right, and the ale-drinker was in no mood to imply that maybe one of the other customers blew it.

"Breck, you will do my will. Go."

"Yes, Master Iskariot."

Breck hated it when his master implanted the knowledge into his brain. He would have been a lot happier if he was just TOLD what to do.

He never was. His master was fond of mind games.

The knowledge was no game at all, though. The knowledge about what he would do. His master's orders filled his mind, shining like a beacon in the darkened depths of the fathomless madness of his own mind. It was a simple, animalistic order. He would do as he was told, or die trying. Breck was not sure what he would prefer. On a level that went beyond rationale thought, he felt that he wanted his master to be satisfied with his work. On a layer that was yet far deeper implanted in his self, the raging beast awaited the call. The call of the order. The order that master Iskariot gave to Breck. The order that Breck would obey.

HUNT.

KILL.

I didn't know about this, of course. But I would find out soon. Far sooner than I would have liked.

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  • 5 weeks later...

A few blocks after leaving the Trade Square Leisha pulled away from Alister’s arm.

“I’m fine. You can let me go now.” she said flatly. He dropped his arm from her shoulders and they stopped only long enough to exchange a glance before she continued on her way alone down the street that would take her back to her flat. She knew him well enough to know he would return to his office to write out his findings and then spend most of the night awake in his ponderings, and would not need her assistance any further tonight.

“Damn it! I need to control myself better! Too many things will change if he finds out my secret.” She cursed herself mentally. “I shouldn’t have lost it back there in the square and ranted so loudly like that. Oh, well, nothing to be done for it now. It seems nobody took note of it anyway.”

Upon reaching her apartment, she divested herself of her longcoat and stopped to admire herself in the hallway mirror. Thanks to The Powers she still retained a supple youthful body with fine amber-colored hair that fell in waves past her shoulders without a single trace of gray. The black evening gown she wore tonight looked striking on her, although her plans for this evening were cut short when she received the emergency mindtouch from Alister to meet him at the Wanton Wench inn. So much for her plans.

She leaned closer to the mirror and looked into her own dark eyes, a brown so dark as to almost appear black, and wondered again just who it was lying behind them. She was never sure anymore, ever since her “accident”. She had discovered her power much later than was considered normal, most practitioners started noting signs of their abilities in their early teens and then could find a teacher, but she was well into her latter twenties when her power started showing itself. In such a rush to get “caught up” with her peers, she tried learning as fast as she could and took needless chances. Once, shortly after becoming Alister’s assistant, she arrived at a crime scene before he did, and already knowing that he would be a while, attempted a Seeing herself. Something went wrong. Something of the psyche she touched during the seeing didn’t clear from her mind afterward like it was supposed to.

She still remembered the scene, a murder victim without a single mark on his body, but died with a look of sheer terror remaining frozen on his face. In her Seeing, she briefly became a woman named Raewin whose mind was dark and cunning and took a great pleasure in mentally torturing this man to death. Horrified, Leisha tried to end the Seeing but found she couldn’t. It was like walking in to a cobweb, and when she tried backing out, the web strands turned stronger than steel. The mental fight to end the spell made her lose consciousness and she came to with the realization that Raewin was still there, in the back of her mind, whispering to her.

Leisha had always held the belief that Practitioners were special and that the Thinning should never have happened, but now those faint whisperings played on her beliefs and fears, and her angers. Telling her Practitioners weren’t just special, but superior. Making her more reckless and her temper lash out more and more. Of course, she never said a word of her Seeing attempt to Alister, having recovered enough of her wits by the time he arrived to appear more or less normal. She was afraid that if he ever found out about Raewin, he would label her a renegade. She couldn’t have that happen. Not if she could help it.

“Damn it, Raewin, can’t you leave me alone for once.” She cursed again. She needed to concentrate on this new case. Alister will have expected her to do some of her own research on this Oswald person, who was a hunchback, a cripple, and apparently a werebeast with a bad temper.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raewin softly laughing…..

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  • 1 year later...

I climbed the steps of the small building that served as both home and office and stopped at the front door. After a quick check revealed that none of the sentry spells had been broken, I entered.

I hung my cloak on the peg just inside the door and leaned against the wall. I turned and gazed into the mirror. I am Alister Crom, I mentally repeated. I am. The Seeing, although a familiar spell to me for winters untold, had been more difficult to control than usual tonight. Once I was confident that I was myself once again, I moved away from the mirror and walked towards my office.

I made my way down the long hall, passed the room on the right that served as a social area for greeting guests and clients. A few feet farther down, to my left, was the short hallway to the kitchen/dining area. Some may have felt the need for a large dining room complete with crystal chandeliers, but I saw no use for them. I preferred more intimate settings. At the end of the hall, just in front of the stairs to the second floor, I opened the door to my right that led into my office. I lighted a candle and eased into the large overstuffed leather chair beside the fireplace where a low fire still burned.

As I gazed into the glowing embers, my mind once again went over the night’s events. There was something that bothered me, ate at me, even though I could not place it exactly. Something had been at work with the murderer Oswald

(Thump the Hump Thump the Hump)

something far darker than a normal renegade Practitioner.

A slaughter had been planned, that much I knew; however, I had the feeling that the ‘Wanton Wench’ had not been the place intended for it. Something I had touched inside Oswald during the Seeing told me that. It was also what had told me that it had not been his own power.

==========================================================================

Duende made do it! :laugh:

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