Explained: A story about literal liquid blood and/or the ties of family.
- Bonding: Two characters share a blood oath to one another and/or there is a wedding in the story.
- Weapon: A person’s actual blood is used as a weapon and/or their family connections are used as a weapon.
- Sacrifice: There is a ritualistic sacrifice in the story and/or someone makes a sacrifice for a family member.
- Curse: The story involves a curse upon a character’s bloodline and/or a character is harmed or betrayed by a family member.
- Disease: A character has a blood-borne illness and/or a character’s family has a long line of inherited illnesses that affect the protagonist.
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Components required for Advanced entries: 2
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I Will Rise
Consciousness fades in.
I haven't dreamed since the beginning of my incarceration. Maybe the drains have taken that away from me, maybe my mind just can't be bothered to conjure up a fantasy. Whatever the reason, the dreamless sleep leaves me with two realities: the endless hours in this room and the empty blackness of unconsciousness.
I'd like to think that the latter has prepared me for death. Who knows? Could be my mind's sly way of easing me into the whole idea of never waking up. Lord knows I'm not expecting to go somewhere after I die, least not somewhere good. No one who lived a good life in a god's world would be stuck in these chains for so long.
Unless I'm just unlucky. Or being tested. Or God's too busy helping all the starving kids in Africa he doesn't feed, the soldiers he sends to war to get crippled and killed, or the dying cancer patients he cursed with their fate to begin with to pay attention to one goddamn girl being held captive in her own goddamn room by her own goddamn father. I laugh internally; it hurts my chest if I actually laugh out loud.
The machine beeps and the drain begins. Crimson blood starts to fill the tubes. During the nights the blood looks black, but a few rays of sunshine come through from between the curtains of the window behind me. His blood, as I've so often been told. Sometimes he likes to drink it in front of me, just to remind me that it's his. The asshole uses a 'World's Greatest Dad' mug to rub it in. If I don't pay him any attention, he'll say something like "Oh, don't worry, Nat, this isn't your blood. I got it from your brother!" The sick smile, complimented by the bloody mustache, is a perfect picture of how the man in front of my is only a monster in my dad's skin. He wasn't a saint before the change, but there is undoubtedly nothing where his heart used to be.
The familiar shivers come after a couple minutes. Involuntary jerks rattle my chains and I begin to sway slowly, irritating my leg. I look down at the needle, draining blood from my thigh. Blood's hard to drain from an arm when it's chained and pointed at the ceiling, so this is the best that he could come up with. Itches like hell, though, but that doesn't exactly bother him, does it?
Already bored with being awake, I look around for something to occupy my time with. My shelf of books always catch my eye; I'm not able to actually read them, but many hours in this room have been spent either trying to remember what happened in the ones I've read or imagining a story based on the titles of the ones I haven't. Posters of bands on the walls remind me of the small things I miss the most about my old life, but I take solace in knowing that the memory of the sounds these bands have come up with can't leave my head despite whatever my former father might do to me.
One specific poster always catches my eye. Ideal Zero, my favorite band. A simple picture of the band in a parking lot, the lead singer standing so confidently and surely that it sharply contrasts my awkward, dangling mass of bare skin and bones. But, as she looks at me with this unwavering, sanguine gaze, I begin to get lost in her eyes. And then she winks at me.
This isn't new. After-effects of the drains, I've tried to convince myself, though the possibility that I'm crazy isn't lost on me. I look to the ground, trying to ignore the illusions presented to me. No point in getting winked at, right?
And suddenly, a piano key is pressed.
The reverberations of this note flow through the room, hitting me hard enough that I sway on my chains. This isn't real and I know it, but it rings in my ears anyway. Hallucinations of sounds now? My former father must have drained too much this time, or my already cracked mind just got it's first fissure.
A second note is hit, pushing me further. I swing slightly forward, towards the door, before swinging back. The machine's tube is pulled back, tugging on my leg and the machine itself. I refuse to look up, and a third note knocks me even further forward. This time, when swinging back, the blood tube tugs on the machine hard enough that it is pulled slightly towards me.
My mind goes numb at the sight for a moment, devout of explanation before I shake my head and look at the bottom of the machine. It's on top of a small, wheeled cart, and with the tube so securely taped to my leg it must have been moved by the energy of my pull. Stunned by this, I look up at the Ideal Zero poster. The woman winks at me again before looking at her band mates, who are all now gathered around her with their instruments. She nods to them and a man standing in front of a piano begins to play, accompanied by another man with a guitar.
The waves of sound surround me, energizing me. Wrapping my feet around the tube until there is no slack, I pull with all of my newly-given might as the woman begins to sing.
I am shaking
My whole body's aching
Inside and out
The cart rolls to me, stopping before my legs. Pulling them above the top of the machine, I push myself up and stand for the first time since being placed in these chains. The woman continues.
Now I'm questioning
But you won't take me down
The last line feeds my body, my will, more than I could have hoped for. Looking up to the ceiling, I see the single pin that's been hammered into it, keeping my chains in place. I've never had the energy to push it down, to try and loosen it, but now I feel more awake than I ever have, in this life or the one before the shackles. The chorus hits as I jump off of the cart, pushing my body down and backwards as hard as I can.
Who do you think you are
Who knew that you
Would take things so far
And try to deny
Me of my innocence
But I will rise
And hold my head up high
Expecting my body to hit the floor with a loud, hard thud, I'm surprised by the cushioned fall. Dust clouds surround me, a greeting from the bed I haven't laid in for so long. I couldn't fall asleep if I wanted to, but the song pulls me back up anyway.
I am shaking
I am breaking
I've been lead astray
My trust was swept away
But I won't take the blame
No, oh no
The shackles are still attached to my wrists, but the rest of the chains drag on the floor as I shamble over to the door. Pushing the machine out of the way, my hand touches the doorknob and turns.
Who do you think you are
Who knew that you
Would take things so far
And try to deny
Me of my innocence
But I will rise
And hold my head up high
My father stands on the other side, frowning. "I thought you were grounded, Nat." And suddenly he grabs me, throwing my small body across the room and back onto my bed. Hitting the bed frame, the pain my back feels is accompanied by the sting of the needle being pulled out of my leg. A steady stream of blood begins to flow as he angrily picks up the end of my chains. "I guess I'll just have to go ahead and homeschool you. First lesson, kiddo: don't piss off daddy."
Walking menacingly towards me, fists balled up, the monster wearing my father's skin is as stunned as I am when a faint voice calls from the other end of the hall, behind the door to my brother's room. "You're not our father!"
The monster turns around, yelling across the house. "You shut your fucking mouth, Brett! Don't make me come down there!" As he looks back to me, my former father sees the blood coming from my leg, tossing the rest of the chain onto the bed and grabbing at my thigh. I barely hear him mutter something about his blood being wasted when the song, having been absent since the monster found me trying to escape, returns in full force.
I will rise
I will rise
I will rise
Raising my other leg, I kick the monster's face as hard as I can. He flies off of the bed, but quickly recovers. I scramble back against my window, feeling a ray of the sun's light hit the back of my neck through the curtains. Hit with the realization that I have the strongest weapon possible at my disposal, I push the curtains apart. The singer continues.
Who do you think you are
When the light doesn't come for me, I look back at the window. Most of it is covered in boards. The monster laughs. "Yeah, I did a bit of home improvement. Didn't think you'd mind not having the view anymore." Cackling, he strolls to the doorway before turning around and smiling at me. "I'll be right back after I beat your brother. Now don't you go anywhere, Nat, or I'll fucking kill you. Got it?"
Who knew that you
Would take things so far
With the sudden knowledge that my brother really is alive, I'm unwilling to let him get hurt anymore by this beast. Trying to come up with some way to stop him, my hoarse voice calls out to the monster. "This isn't your blood!"
He slowly turns back around. "What did you just say?"
I smile, knowing that I struck a nerve. Wiping my middle finger where the needle was pulled from my leg, I hold it up for him to see and smile with a confidence that matches the singer. "This isn't your fucking blood." The singer cheers me on.
And try to deny
Me of my innocence
My brother hears me, knowing that I grabbed our former father's attention to stop the monster from coming after him. As he screams my name, his voice as hoarse as mine, I wonder if he understands what I'm planning.
The monster begins running at full speed, giving me barely enough time to get on one knee before he pounces over the foot of the bed. Grabbing the monster by the shirt and kicking myself back into the boarded up window, I see a moment of fear in his eyes as we crash through the wood and glass, flying outside using his momentum.
But I will rise
And hold my head up high
The sounds of the chorus' end are accompanied by many others in that moment. Brett screaming my name. The shattering of glass. The cracking of wood. My former father's cries as he burns in the sunlight. The sizzling of his skin beginning to cook. The moment shouldn't be nearly as long as it is.
Hopefully someone will notice the naked dead girl lying in the front yard. Maybe they'll hear Brett screaming her name. Who knows? I could even wake up. Not that I'd want to.
The singer somehow has enough time to finisher her song before I slip away, still in the air, my eyes closing as the beast falling with me turns to dust.
I will rise
I will rise
I will rise
Knights came riding on black horses,
they torched the buildings in the square,
they slaughtered every man and woman,
they held their swords in the air.
The townsfolk had little in common,
but there was a value that they shared,
they all were killed in the carnage,
not a single soul was spared.
Their corpses rest together,
under a mound of bloodied earth,
their shallow graves are worthless,
less than any man is worth.
The knights now chant their anthems,
of the sacrifice of human blood,
they stand singing on the tomb,
the tomb of men, made of mud.
Their blood still stains the pavement,
their cries still echo in the sky,
they yielded in the end,
but they were all afraid to die.
I GAVE YOU BLOOD
My blood relations are all gone. The pack is the only family I have left. Every hour is devoted to them; they are my everything. I would lay down my life for any of them, and unfortunately, I did.
I am but a shadow of the man I once was. I have judged and killed my own kind. By no means am I human, that is just my shell; I am shifter. Let me start at the beginning, when I was a naÔve boy of fourteen. At that age, I had three best friends: Ceelia Ortiz, the neighborhood girl my parents helped raise, and Jacob and Eliza Ozera, the children of my parent’s best friends. My mother had always wanted more children, but was barren. You could say I was a fluke. She had emotionally adopted these three children, and treated them as they were her own. I had always wondered why my parents had never legally adopted another child, until the night before my fifteenth birthday.
I had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for the past few days, and after dinner had fallen asleep. What awoke me was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced in my entire life. My entire body was burning with what I assumed to be the fever working its way out and I was aching with pains far beyond any flu. For hours, I lay there in agony, not saying a word; my bones felt like they were breaking so I looked under my shirt. At that moment, my ribs cracked and reformed, and I watched as my organs , and replaced themselves. The sight and sound of it made me pass out, both from pain and visual. When I awoke, I was no longer a human, I was a wolf. When I tried calling out for my parents it came out in a pitiful howl. Not knowing what to do, I ran out of my window, crashing through it.
I stayed out all night because I had no idea how to transform back, and wasn’t sure I would be welcome even if I could. One thing I didn’t mention earlier was that while my mother loved my friends like they were her own, she simply couldn’t stand me. My father told me it was a broken heart that made my mother so withdrawn, but what kind of a mother doesn’t love her own child, especially when I was the only blood-born child she had? For awhile I struggled outside, all these new sights, scents, and sounds surrounded me, overwhelmed me. I got lost in them, and they took me to the forest not far from my suburban home. I stayed there and hunted, my first kill was a small bird that I almost climbed a tree trying to catch.
The next morning, I climbed timidly in through my window. To my surprise, both my mother and my father had been impatiently awaiting my return. Their jaws almost dropped to the floor when a wolf stood before them. I simply lay on the bed, and stared blankly at them. My father spent all day trying to calm me down in order to get me to change back. It took hours to calm my thoughts, my mind was racing with so many questions I wanted to ask, but because I was a wolf, I could not. Once I managed to get my entire body back into my human form, I burst out questions in rapid fire to my father. He answered them all, but the one that took me by surprise was that no one in my family was a shifter.
As it turned out, in a desperate attempt to conceive a child, my mother had been practicing black magic. She had been calling upon The Mother to help her, when a demon answered her call. She was raped, and as was promised, had conceived a child. Her guilt was the reason my mother was so withdrawn from me. Often, she wondered if she had made the right choice in praying to those gods, and even in keeping me alive.
After my mother finished her confession, I didn’t know if I could even live with myself. Most of my life I had questioned my mother’s love, or lack thereof. Now, I understood….and the resentment was gone. I had missed a lot of school learning to control my temper and once I was back, Jacob wanted to know everything. He constantly wanted to be around me; he thought it was so cool that I had the powers I did. It didn’t take long for Jacob to transform too. Soon followed by Ceelia and Eliza; we were one happy family. We took up patrolling around the town, protecting people, and watching for “pups,” until the hunters came. During this time, my parents had gone missing; I never found them….not even their bodies. It was like they vanished in the mist; their home vacant of them, but their clothes were all there and their food still in the fridge.
For twelve years we protected the town from them, until the night that Jacob’s eyes went red. This was an enemy we had never had to face before. He was angry all the time and often attacked members of his own pack, his sister Eliza catching the brunt of it. She came to me alone one day and showed me what he had been doing. Her shirt lifted and she had a rather large cut down her that had stitches in some places, and her ribs were bruised and broken. My first instinct was to kill him, but she tried to talk me out of it. With her not allowing me to end her suffering I was unsure of what to do, so I banned him from the town and any residence belonging to shifters. As the pack leader, I had that power but dreaded using it. It did not take long for Jacob to find a way around my ruling and attack Eliza once more. When he did, Ceelia and I came to her aid. We managed to fight him off, and it appeared as though he had left the town for good.
Up until this point to I had seen Eliza as my little sister, until in her thanking me she ended up kissing me. The bond was instantaneous, as though we belonged together from the beginning. Ceelia, my true first kiss, was so heartbroken over the matter that she left town. Both Eliza and I assumed she had left with Jacob, but we were again wrong. Jacob had never gone; he laid in wait for the opportune moment to attack. He had seen Eliza and me together as a threat to him; he wanted to hurt me, no matter the cost.
Six months later, we had heard neither hide nor hair of the other two members of our pack. Eliza was expecting our first child, or children I should say. I had to find a way to get in contact with Jacob because Eliza needed her brother, when he came knocking on our door. There was no confrontation; he knew what had been happening from the get-go. For months he stayed with us, having somehow suppressed the demon growing. We married on a rather hot day in August; Eliza was just beginning to show.
My children, my perfect children, were born six weeks early and fought for their lives every day because of HIM. I had left that day to patrol the town, leaving the two of them together. I returned home to find blood all over the house and an empty house. The demon in him had tried to not only kill my wife but my children as well. Speeding to the nearest hospital, I found my wife being rushed to the best Neonatal ICU in the state via helicopter. She was being loaded in as I ran to the air pad. When I reached her, he was there, holding her hand. I kissed her forehead, and told her I would soon be following after her; what crushed my soul was when she told me not to hurt him.
As soon as she was safely in the air, his body crashed onto the ground with me on top of him. I demanded to know what he had done; I was going to make him pay, no matter the cost. Security pulled me off of him and he ran out of the building. Again, I hopped into my car and speed after the helicopter.
The next few hours were spent watching my two babies, a boy and a girl, fight to remember to breathe. Eliza had a few surgeries of her own; the fight with Jacob had left some of her vital organs lacerated. It took months to get all three of them out of the hospital; Jacob didn’t even try to visit.
Many years pass, in a blur of patrols, diapers, and sleepless nights. The twins, Sammie and Jakelynn, enter pre-school, and on the first day meet a little boy with blue eyes and blond hair with the last name Ozera. I feared every day that my children would be hurt by this little boy, Matteo, until I met his mother. Ceelia had indeed tracked down Jacob, and they had made their own pack. Their pack was darker, and much more about control. Jacob had become more evil than I could ever have imagined; Ceelia warned me he had killed in cold blood, and she feared for her son’s life as well as her own.
We spent months trying to devise a way to get them away from Jacob. The last attempt, we physically got into the house to get them out, and Jacob came home. It quickly escalated into a fight that ended with him holding a gun to his own son’s head. In an attempt to save Matteo and Ceelia’s life, we left.
Everything went fine until Jacob found out his niece and nephew had survived the attack so many years ago. Several times we had to pick up the twins early to keep Jacob from seeing them. As long as we stayed away, my children would never get hurt again by their “Uncle.”
The next day we heard a slam against the door, and when I opened it, Ceelia fell into our foyer. Jacob shoved past me and bent down to grab Ceelia. He pulled her up by her hair, growling that if I wanted her, I could have her. Pulling a large knife from his boot, he put it at her throat. Before Eliza or I could reach her, he had cut her throat and let her drop to the ground.
I ran at him, banging his head against the wall while Eliza dropped beside Ceelia’s body. For a while, we scrapped in the hallway until Jacob’s eyes went red again. When he finally spoke it was a voice that did not belong to him. He took this quick moment of uneasiness to throw me to the ground and pin me. The voice told me that he was my father, the one who assured I was born, Samiel.
Samiel told me that he was ready for me to come home, and he had been using Jacob to get to me for years. The evil that hurt me was not Jacob, it was my father. He then proceeded to fight me as Samiel and not Jacob. It got bloody, fast; we both had deep cuts and the house was destroyed.
Overpowering him, I got him pinned to the ground, and scrambled out from under me, grabbing at Eliza. He managed to get her up by the throat, and scratched throat with a ghastly claw he formed from Jacob’s hand. The battle was over and he was losing, this was his attempt to get at me one final time. When suddenly, the claw disappeared and he fell to the ground still clutching at Eliza.
As I looked at the body, Jacob appeared again; his blue eyes peered up at his sister as he begged for someone to kill him. Eliza dropped to his side, tears streaming down her face as she caressed her lost brother’s cheek. I grabbed the knife from the foyer and tossed it at his side; that was my biggest mistake. He grabbed it and impaled Eliza through her stomach. Her body hit the ground with a sick thump. I could still hear her breathing, but it was quickly fading.
Instinctually, I wrestled the knife from him and stabbed him in the heart. His body went limp, and again the red faded from his eyes into bright blue. I pulled him to me, sobbing because he was trying to comfort me. I watched the life leave his eyes; he mumbled an apology and a brief thanks before he couldn’t breathe anymore. Once his heart stopped, the body began to cackle and told me that I would eventually join him, that it wasn’t my choice.
His body went dead once more as I grabbed my wife and rushed her to the hospital. Eliza did eventually grow well. I buried both Ceelia and Jacob with her still in the hospital. When she got home, he held a memorial ceremony for them both. The family drama did not end there; we were investigated for the murders of both of the Ozeras. We managed to prove that Jacob murdered his wife then killed himself, and we gained custody of Matteo.
Even now, years later, Samiel calls to me in my dreams. He beckons me to join him, and I know I will have to soon. This is why I’m writing this note; I feel it is time to save my children from this curse before they turn. I do not wish to give him the satisfaction of having them as well. I’m coming for you Father; I have nothing to lose…..but you do.
-Sable Lathan Axton
A shot sounds and Eliza runs back to her bedroom. “SABLE!” She screamed as she opened the door. The gun was thrown to ground; she grabbed him from the bed where he fell. “Damn it, Sable. You can’t leave me like my brother.” Her tears were streaking down her cheeks, and falling to his chest.
The wound was healing as he smiled up at her, “I’m sorry….I only wanted to end it for you all. I can save you, but I have to die, Baby…..I have to.”
Eliza slapped him, “Damn you; you promised. I don’t care that you made me what I am, in fact, I love you for it. Your children love you, no matter the curse. You broke it by teaching them to love it and accept it for what it is. It’s no longer a curse Sable…….we’re cured.” She nuzzled against his neck and kissed him, “Now, let me help you fix this.”
His name was Jack. They'd been friends since—since—well I guess it been near forever now, han't it?
No matter. Jack had been her friend since before she'd ever bothered to remember, and she hoped he'd stay her friend long afterwards. So when she'd found a note stuck in the shutters of her room asking to meet him as quick as she could, she'd be damned if she didn't do exactly that.
And in these dire times, Helline already had an inkling of what might be so urgent for Jack.
As soon as she reached his home, she slid in through his open window.
He sat with his back to the window, staring into the wall. Though she moved silently, Jack turned his head slightly to look at her. She got a glimpse of his sad green eyes before he looked away again. She softly moved to his side and knelt down, close enough that they were touching.
"Me mum's dead," muttered the five-year-old.
Helline raised her hand to his head and ruffled his stringy orange hair. Her suspicions had been correct—outbreak of some viral disease had spread from foreigners . It was now almost entirely weeded out, but not before Jack's mother, a local healer, became infected.
Not knowing what else to say, she ventured forth with a "I'm sorry."
Jack remained silent for a little longer, and when he spoke again, it was less than a whisper. "We're leaving."
"Me an' Dad." His voice was entirely devoid of emotion, as though it had been burnt out of him. "He wants us ta go to the watchtower. Stay away from other people."
"Protect me. From what got Mum." she could see the tears leaking from his eyes as he stared into the floor. "I dunno if I'll see you again."
"Dontchoo say that. I won' let that happen." She pulled him to face her. "I won' let that happen"
"Can't help it. He's my Dad." He looked away again. "We're leavin' tomorrow."
"Jack." She grabbed his hand. "Jack. This isn't the end. C'mon." She took a small blade from her shirt and cut her palm. "Gimme your hand."
"What? That's dumb."
"Just give it to me." She gave him a small cut too, just enough to draw blood, then clasped his hand in her own. "We're one. I'll come again. I'll come see you. I promise."
They sat there in silence for a bit, then Jack wiped his hand on his pantleg.
Where once she was slim, she was now lean. Her loose dusty-brown curls were now tied back, and her soft face, while no less gentle, had been replaced with a tough, ferocious air. She had lost neither her kindness nor her freespirit, but Helline had become independent and strong-willed.
At twenty-one, she had changed a lot, but her friendship with Jack had only become stronger. For ten years, she had not seen him. Though she realized the foolishness of her fantasy, she was still determined to be at his side. And though the watchtower was only a day's hike away, Jack's father had forbidden entry from anyone. The only things sent and recieved from that tower was food and signals. When his father left to get supplies, Jack took up watch until he returned.
But when the old man died, her chance had come. With her connections, it was easy to arrange. She'd already trained as a courrier, so it was just one step away from being his runner.
Once a week, she'd load up a donkey and bring Jack his supplies. She'd stay there for the night, chatting as he kept watch from sunup till sundown, then run back home in the morning.
Today was one such day. Panting lightly as she brushed persperation off her brow, her feet jogged their way up their mountainside and she pulled her donkey along beside her.
Walking, the trek took near eight hours. But at the brisk pace she gave it, she could make it to the top in half that time, and even less on the way back.
Helline never thought much as she ran, focusing on the physical exertion she was putting herself through. But there was one thought that had become a mantra for her running, even though it was rarely true.
Almost there. Keep going. Almost there.
"Almost there," Jack muttered, "almost there…"
With a flick of his knife, he carved off a final sliver of wood and completed his oak scultpure. It was a raven, about a foot long.
He sighed, and looked up at the sky above him. With a job requiring him to stay out in isolation almost permanently, he'd had many such projects finished over the years. After too many had accumulated in the watchtower and the began to get in the way, he gave them to Helline to sell at the market.
Not that he needed the money. He was a man of simple tastes.
The watchtower was built at the top of a promontory*point of high land jutting from coast stretching out to sea, with bluffs on either side. Behind it on the coast was a large mountain, and on either side, a city. The Eastside was controlled by a man named Farrel Broughton, elected leader after the death of his father. Controlling Westside was his brother, Greg Broughton, a powermonger who had taken his city through violence.
The two cities were currently at peace, through a treaty they had signed a couple decades ago. However, inhabitants of both sides knew that at some point war would break out again, as Greg was not satisfied with what he had already.
Written in this treaty was the role of the watchman. Placed between the two factions, he was to serve both. His job was that of a signaller; with a mirror stationed on the roof he now lay on, he would relay messages between the two control stations. He also had the job of warning either side if the opposite was preparing for war, and also to keep track of the ship sailing in the seas nearby, to report impending attacks or breaches of territory, either from each other or through pirates.
Simply put, his role was to watch everything that went by from dawn to dusk without fail.
That didn't mean, however, that his eyes were always scanning. Over the years, Jack had perfected his sense to be aware of multiple things at once. While sitting on the centre of the roof, carving or writing or doing whatever he wanted to pass the time, he could see any incoming signal through his peripheral vision, and quickly switch to focus on it. His ears were also fine-tuned to hear even the slightest of noises.
It came as no surprise, then, that though he was facing the opposite direction, he heard Helline's arrival before she even made it to the top.
He heard her panting as she ran up to door, and then her shuffling about inside. Jack wasn't supposed to leave his post during daylight hours—except for a short break or two to relieve himself, if necessary—so he'd always wait in the hay on the roof until she'd finished unpacking the supplies and came up.
After a couple minutes, she pulled herself up the ladder, through the hatch, and onto the ceiling. "Hey," she said.
"Hey," he responded, a sly grin on his face. "Any news from down below?"
"Lot of ruckus going down this week. Rumours are spreading that Greg is making plans, going to make some demands soon."
Jack sighed. "Shit. Couldn't last forever, I guess?" He looked at her. "What about you? Doing alright?"
"Yeah. Y'know me, I'm tough."
Helline had grown up in a bit of an awkward situation, and as a result, few people had gone through the trouble of befriending her. People were kind to her, of course—Eastside was smaller than Westside, and a pretty close-knit community—but she was still something of an outcast. That's probably why she was so determined to come see me again, pondered Jack, a line of reasoning he'd gone through many times. But with such a stagnant lifestyle, he couldn't help but pass through the same thoughts.
The issue of Helline's upbringing was her parents. A short while after his wife's death, Farrel Broughton had found comfort in the company of another woman. Though they weren't married, they came to have a child—a bastard girl, whom the mother named Helline.
Naturally, this became something of a scandal, and though people got over it fast enough, Farrel and Helline's mother decided it was best to stay apart.
For the most part, Farrel left the upbringing of his daughter to the mother, instead focusing on being the single father of his first son, from his deceased wife, Galen. Of course, he supported his daughter financially when times got hard, but Helline was raised in the life of a commoner.
The only problem was that, as the bastard child of the city's leader, she was not seen as a commoner. She was of too high a class for the local urchins, but too low for the high-upbringing kids.
As a kid, Jack didn't care, and he cared even less now.
They continued to talk until sundown, at which point Helline prepared a meal and Jack went out to hunt. After he'd shot some game with his bow and they'd eaten, they each went to their bunks to sleep.
Jack awoke to the sound of footsteps on bare rock.
Without making a noise, he slipped off his blanket and crept out of bed. He could hear shuffling at the door, and the scraping of metal on metal.
The pads of his feet gently moved across the oak floorboards as he snuck towards the entrance. Disgruntled muttering came from outside, muffled by the walls. Calmly, Jack collected his archery equipment from its case, strung his bow, and nocked his arrow, directing at headlevel towards the door.
A final scrape and a *click* was heard, before someone quiety mumbled "Got through."
"Then get outta my way," came the response from a distinctly louder voice. A voice Jack recognized.
His grip on the bow loosened as the door was thrown open.
He dropped his aim and removed the arrow from the string. "Greg Broughton? What are you doing here?"
Suddenly two other men burst out from either side of their lord and knocked Jack to the ground. One pinned him down by placing his weight on Jack's chest through his elbow, and the other removed the weapons from his loose grasp.
Greg was removing a pair of gloves, showing off the strong, calloused hands beneath. "I'm not here for you. I'm here for my niece."
Jack's face went from confused shock to grim determination in an instant. "You'll leave her be. There's a treaty between you and your brother, and this as good as—"
"Destroys it outright? That is fully my intention. I am not one to play a game I cannot win, even if it ensures I shall never lose." he spat on the ground. "I am not a man of stalemates."
Jack through the man off him, only to be punched back down by the other. He received a savage kick to the stomach, and when he continued to try to return to his feet, another to the head. He fell back to the floor, his head rolling, eyes roaming.
His gaze fell upon two petite feet, standing at the edge of the room. "Jack?" mumbled Helline with fear in her voice.
"Grab her," commanded Greg, and his men complied in a heartbeat. Resist as she might, Helline was no match for the two henchmen. She was a runner; not a fighter.
"As I said, I'm not here for you. Despite your blatant favouritism, you have remained useful." With a cruel smirk, Greg motioned his men to take Helline out the door. "I hope to continue to rely on your aid in the future, watchman."
"Sir." The aide stood at the door. "Watchman's sent us an urgent message."
In the middle of the night? mused Chancellor Farrel Broughton, rising from his mattress. He stared at the man.
The man stared back.
"Well bloody spit it out, then! What did he say?"
Nervously, his aide answered. "Greg took your daughter, sir. They have Helline."
If silence could be heard, it would've deafened her long ago. If darkness could be seen, she'd already be blind. And if stillness could be felt, she'd be numb from the pain.
Helline was locked in a dungeon cell created with the purpose of disorienting its victims. The walls were thick, to keep out light and sound—though she suspected there must be holes somewhere with which to allow the passage of air. She was chained and locked to the wall in such a way as to prevent her from moving even in the slightest, so she had no idea how large the room was. No one ever opened te cell, not even to feed her—water came from a tube fixed at the location of her mouth, so that she would not die of thirst.
About two weeks she'd spent in her prison, not that would know. An immense hunger racked her. Her whole body ached to move, but could not.
She was physically unsound and mentally broken, but her spirit stayed strong.
Farrel strapped a saddle to his horse and swung onto its back.
"Father please, you know what he'll do to you," pleaded Galen, as he saddled his own horse. "No one would blame you for abandoning her."
A melancholic smile graced his face. "Galen. If it was you, would I do any less?"
"She's not your heir. You didn't even raise her."
"No, I didn't. But that doesn't stop her from being my daughter." He gave his son a firm look. "I am not doing this as leader of my people. I am going as father to my child. It is my responsibility."
"You have a responsibility to them as well."
"And I leave that in your hands." He gazed sadly out into the road. "Come, grab a horse for Jack. I made my decision long ago."
Helline was taking a sip of water when her cell door was unlocked. She heard the grinding of the stone block that made the entrance as it was dragged away, and in a blink, intense light broke forth into the chamber. Unused to her eyes, she couldn't make out anything as she was released from her restraints. As soon as the iron braces were unclasped from her body, she fell to the ground, unable to support her own weight.
Strong arms pulled her back to her feet and helped her out of the cell. "C'mon now, be a good girl. We have need of you for a little trade."
A force of fifty horsemen stood behind Farrel, Galen, and Jack, as they stood in front of the Westside city gate. Each wore a mixture of leather and chainmail armour, and wielding spears in their right hands, shields in their left, and a blade sheathed at their side. They were well-trained for combat, though most served only as a secondary occupation to defend their city when the need should arise.
The other three stood a little ahead, dismounted with their horses at their side and the reins in the grips. Farrel was unarmed; Galen bore his trademark customary twin hatchets at his belt, and Jack held his bow—strung and nocked—in his hands. They were approximately eighty yards from the wall.
The whirr and grind of the steel plate gates resounded across the flats. From it came Greg, clad in full battle armour with his massive shield and broadsword, accompanied by twelve other heavily armed men. Of course, that did not include the archers donning the city walls, nor the troops certainly waiting within. Though Farrel's Eastside troops were trained for discipline, the Westside was mostly guarded by men trained for brutality. If it came to a fight, Farrel's fifty wouldn't stand a chance against Greg's fiercer and more numerous forces.
Greg raised his hand, and his troops stopped a few meters outside the gate. When he clenched it, a man came forward, dragging a stumbling girl behind him.
"Helline!" cried Jack, lunging forward.
Galen's firm grip held him back. "Easy boy. Mind your place."
Jack glared back at him, but made no further moves.
Farrel took a step forward. "Hand her over, my brother."
"You first," he answered smugly.
"Very well." Farrel handed the reins of his steed over to his son, and with a firm clap on the shoulder, began his march towards the enemy.
Once he reached them, he addressed his bother again. "Now give her back."
Greg leered back at him. "Why should I?"
Farrel stuck a thumb back over his shoulder. "Because if you don't Jack'll shoot you dead in an instant. I'm sure you've heard the reputation."
Looking past his brother at the young man, he saw the arrow already aimed at him. Raising an eyebrow, he looked back at his brother. "Well, then."
He grabbed Helline by the collar of her robe, and with one heave of his strong arm, threw her toward Galen and Jack.
The two men made eye contact. "I'll cover you," muttered Jack, motioning his head towards the archers at the wall.
Galen gave a curt nod.
The two men strode briskly out towards Helline, lying in the dirt, unable to lift herself. As they came closer, Jack saw what bad shape she was in. He felt an emotion he had not felt for a very, very long time. Up in the watchtower, sealed off from human contact for so long, he had felt boredom, depression, desperation, even fear. But the emotion he felt now, the one that was burning through his chest, was anger.
When they reached her, Galen delicately lifted her off the ground and cradled her in his arms, looking into her face with a deep sorrow. "Sorry, sis," he whispered. Looking back at his father, he threw a silent plea with his eyes. Farrel shook his head and waved him off.
As Jack and Galen turned back towards their escort, Jack saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Without a moment's warning, he smashed his heel into the back of Galen's knee. As the man, barely maintaining his hold on Helline, collapsed to the ground, an arrow burried itself into the dirt ahead of him. Jack swung around and loosed an arrow without even taking the time to steady his bow.
Nevertheless, his aim was perfect—an archer tumbled from the wall, an arrow protruding from his throat.
Greg, standing by Farrel, gave a smug laugh. "I guess the reputation was well-founded."
Jack shot an arrow at the man, but he easily blocked it with his heater shield. "See you around, Jack, nephew." With that, he pushed his brother through the gate and back away. Once the gates were fully sealed, Jack and Galen continued to the horses they'd left behind with Helline.
As the rest of the men rode back to the Eastside, Galen gave one last look at the city walls, a tear in his eyes, before tapping his heels to his horse's side and following them.
Farrel was shoved onto the platform, his hands tied. Hundreds of people had congregated to see an event unheard of; the capture of the Eastside leader. Some, loyal to Greg and his kind, cheered. Others, either unfamiliar with the cruelties of Greg or uncaring of politics, watched complacently. A rare few wept openly, knowing a great man was to die. But those last few were quickly caught by guards, and removed from the location.
When he stumbled to his feet, Farrel found himself at the gallows, staring down at the men, women, and children forced to live under the rule of a despot.
Some of them he knew personally, from back at a time when the two cities had been at peace, united under the leadership of a council formed by his father and a number of other brave souls. He acknowledged those he saw with a nod of the head; some responded in kind, others spat in disgust.
Greg came up beside him and grabbed him by the shoulder, forcing the noose around his neck and tightening it. "The time has come, finally, that I am your absolute better, dear brother," he jeered. "Without their leader, your people will soon fall under my wrath."
"You forget my son, brother. I have trained him to take my place."
"Hah! That naÔve little freak will make the same mistakes as you, when the time comes. Trading your life for a bastard girl? Some heroism."
Greg went to the lever.
Farrel looked down at some youths standing at the front of the crowd, bearing despondent faces. He smiled down at them. "Be strong, my children; freedom will come."
Greg pulled the lever.
Creaking springs and a soft sigh briefly broke the silence of the darkened room, which from his viewpoint sprawled across his bed, was familiar to the young man. Though he was weary, he could not sleep; his turbulent thoughts kept slumber just out of his reach. So much had changed in the last few days. Much had changed, and just as much would never be the same. Despite that, this room was the same. He sighed again. It was his own fault, really. Everything that had transpired was the outcome of his doing. Though these thoughts disturbed him, he had no guilt or regrets. This was for the best, and he knew it in his heart.
Eyes, grey like ash, silently observed the strange shadows cast on his ceiling by the moon. He found it curious how night made the entire world different in just a few short hours. The world was colder, quieter, less welcoming. Almost hostile. Certainly alien. He shook his head. He was thinking about this all the wrong way. It was only a matter of perspective. Night only changed his perspective of the world, and despite that, nothing truly changed. He would have to remember that.
The bed shifted as another, much smaller weight came to rest beside him. He felt a presence, but felt no warmth and heard no breath. Though he expected it, the sight of eyes, red like embers, still gave him a start as he turn to face his bedmate. Golden hair framed a small, angelic face, whereupon those burning eyes looked up at him with a mix of studious curiosity and playful condescension.
“Are you that surprised to see me?” She murmured, her voice low and languid.
“No,” he whispered back, careful not to wake the rest of the house, “I’m surprised that you would want to see me.”
“It’s only natural,” she said, inching closer to him, “That I should wish to like to share words with the man who saved my life.”
He smiled, and with a note of amusement said, “Somehow that’s even more surprising. If you want to talk, can you wait until morning? I was just about to go to sleep.”
She huffed and retorted, “I will have you know that I have just awoken. You will simply have to accommodate me.”
He groaned, stifled a yawn, and eventually replied, “Fine. What’s on your mind?”
Propping herself up on one elbow, she diverted her attention to twirling a lock of hair about her dainty finger as she mused, “The last few days I have spent in your shadow have given me much time to think. I have tried to make sense of our arrangement, and how we can best accommodate each of our needs.”
He interrupted her, “I already told you that you can drink my blood if you need to. Do you need anything else?”
Her brow furrowed slightly, and she ran her tongue over her fangs before continuing, “No, my side of our arrangement is, if nothing else, satisfactory. The discrepancy lies in your demands. Or rather, the lack thereof.”
He smiled at her again, displaying his overly-defined canine teeth that cut into his lower lip when he was not careful. It amused him endlessly that someone who looked as though they should still be in elementary school had such a complicated vocabulary. Not to mention such an aristocratic attitude.
She carried on, “You understand that I owe you my life, do you not? There is little that I would not afford you.”
“Nah,” he casually dismissed the notion, his weariness prevalent in his voice, “It doesn’t matter what you owe me. I don’t want, or need, or demand anything. Don’t worry about it.”
This apparently did not bode well with her, as she pulled herself halfway onto his chest and stared deeply into his eyes as she asked again, “Are you certain?”
Eyes of ash met eyes of flame as he answered her yet again, voice barely above a whisper, “Yes, absolutely.”
She exhaled heavily in what could have been a laugh, before pulling herself entirely on top of him. She sat upright, straddling his stomach as she looked down at him. A heavy-hearted smile graced her delicate features, and her eyes harbored sorrow despite their otherworldly passion. Her milky skin seemed to glow as she bathed in moonlight, and her silky hair evoked angel’s wings as it cascaded behind her. The simple, white slip she wore looked almost ethereal from his angle. To him she looked so very fragile; as though she would shatter at the lightest touch. Even in this form, resembling a young girl, she possessed a breathtaking, almost inhuman beauty. He idly wondered if she had in fact bewitched him without his knowledge.
She spoke, not to him, but to the air around him in a sort of dreamy monologue, “I have lived for longer than you are capable of imagining, and I have seen that which is the stuff of dreams, or nightmares. And yet if I had been told merely a month ago that my life would be saved by the deeds of a mere boy, whom I had attempted to kill the night before, I would have laughed heartily at such foolishness.”
He chuckled, a task somewhat hindered by her weight pressing down on him, and added, “You know, all of this is pretty bewildering to me, too.”
Apparently ignoring him, she continued on in a softer, melancholic tone, “If you had then told me that he would ask nothing in return for sacrificing so much, I would have considered the notion too outlandish for fiction.”
“Truth is stranger.” He quipped.
Eyes still downcast, her sorrowful smile returned. “Yes, isn’t it, though?” She returned her gaze to the young man she sat atop of, bowing her head so that her copious hair draped over her shoulders and pooled on his chest. “You know, it is not merely some nominal amount of blood, or the comfort of the sun that you are sacrificing for me.”
“Oh?” He was genuinely surprised, and just a touch apprehensive.
“No,” she said, airily, before climbing down to curl up on his chest, hugging her bare knees. “As my blood runs through your veins, you are imbued with a fraction of my longevity. Your lifespan will surpass that of any mortal human.”
His voice almost cracked as he asked, “How long?”
She sighed before mumbling, “Five hundred years. Perhaps more. It is difficult to say.”
His throat felt dry, and he swallowed hard. He struggled to breathe, and not because of the prepubescent girl laying on his chest. Ever the realist, his mind immediately went to the implications of what he had just been told. His friends, his family; he would outlive them all by leagues. In a crushingly short span of time….
She apparently was able to predict his train of thought, as she said with a small and broken voice, “Before long, all that will be left is us. And then, when your life expires, so will mine.”
He felt a wetness seep through his shirt, right under where she laid her head upon his chest, and her small, frail body shivered. He said nothing, but wrapped his arms around her tightly, as though she would disappear if he let her go. She nuzzled against him in turn. She was so very cold, despite the fire that burned in her gaze. Tears stung his eyes and silently rolled down his cheeks. For a while, they laid and wept together in the lonesome darkness. Shadows shifted with the movement of the moon, but neither moved, and neither slept.
Then, with a voice that could scarcely be called a whisper, she said, “This does not have to be your fate. You may still return to your life as a normal human.”
Looking down at the top of her blonde head, he asked in a cracking voice, “How?”
She looked up to meet his gaze, eyes burning and charred both swollen from their tears. “Sever the blood-seal binding us. Cast me off. Evict me from your shadow.”
He stared at her intently, having only before seen her this vulnerable when she was on the brink of death. “If I do, will you die?”
The intensity of his gaze was returned, though her eyes then welled up with tears, and her lower lip quivered. “Yes.” She said, her voice hollow.
“Never.” He said without hesitation, “I will never give you up. Don’t even think about trying to convince me otherwise.”
Tears once again streamed down her face as her expression twisted to reflect the pain in her heart. “Why do you do this? I tried to kill you! Why are you giving up everything for me?” She choked out.
A slow, unsure smile worked its way onto his face as he stroked her hair, saying softly, “You’ll think this is a stupid reason, but I’m doing this because I think it’s what’s right. I can’t just let you die. I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself if I did.”
Though her tears did not stop, she returned his half-hearted smile and said between sobs, “That is a stupid reason. You know, it is unfortunate that you keep demons such as myself for company, as you could very well be a saint.”
“Nah, I think if I was a saint, I’d get along better with my sisters.”
The two laughed quietly, and then spoke no more. She relaxed into his arms, and he continued to gently stroke her hair until he drifted to sleep.
He was awoken quite harshly, with pummeling fists and nagging female voices.
“C’mon, you bum! You gonna sleep all day?”
“Wake up, big brother! Wake up, wake up!”
With a roar of agitation, he lurched upwards, growling, “Alright, I’m up, I’m up! Now beat it, you brats, before I start beating you!”
A duet of giggles and padding feet sounded down the hallway as the culprits fled the scene, and he was once again alone in his room. That’s right, he realized, he was alone. The girl that was in his arms when he had fallen asleep was nowhere to be found. Standing and stretching, he looked to his shadow, which was cast on before him by the morning sun streaming through his window. Its light was discomforting, his skin crawling wherever it shined on him, but a nocturnal lifestyle was not manageable at this point in his life.
Still, as he gazed into his shadow, a vague sense of relief washed over him. A disembodied, feminine chuckle rang through his mind, and he sighed as a smile spread on his face. A stupid saint, huh? He could live with that. And for five hundred years, he supposed he would have to.[/QUOTE]
They were brothers, bound by more than blood,
Each of them wallow in the same mud,
Drip every bead of sweat.
They take every chance they get.
Brothers-in-arms, together they trudge,
Sent to be the final jury, executioner, and judge.
Doing what they can to survive,
In a world where all others can thrive.
These men do nothing but sacrifice,
Not out of vanity, that vindictive vice.
They do it for you, for me, for each other,
Because they are the closest brothers.
When danger rears its ugly head,
They chase it back beneath the bed.
They’ve seen more than any in the world,
The scariest plots before their eyes unfurled.
When the call-to-arms is heard,
They climb bravely into a propelling bird.
That day, they were completely unaware,
They would leave this mission, lacking a brother…
It was simple enough, to find one man in his lair,
But what they did not know, lined up one after another,
Was that a small hand-bomb was tossed at their feet,
And only one of them watched it roll across the floor…
With the small bomb, his eyes did meet,
And without thought, upon it did his body bore…
Now his brothers stand, heads bowed in mourning,
He made the ultimate sacrifice for his brothers-in-arms…
A fine wooden case, a flag forever adorning,
Will serve as his resting place, his brothers leaving upon it their charms.
They wish him luck in his next life,
Never forgetting that he saved them from the knife.
Our life hangs by a thread, and it is these men that sacrifice every day,
To let us live in peace and safely collect our pay.
They are defenders, protectors, each and every one;
Never forget that it is for you that they stare down the barrel of a gun.
This world was about to descend into darkness. Under the power of a girl known only under the name of Mary, nations crumbled and people died. Her magical powers allowed her to wreak havoc almost entirely as she wished, entire nations forced to act beneath her thumb. Mary could use her magic to appear wherever she wanted, and nobody in the world was safe if she decided to kill them. Armies had been mustered by her merely out of fear of what she’d do to them if they didn’t obey. If she wasn’t stopped soon, Mary would likely lead the world to ruin and despair under her all-powerful might…
“… And I… I am going to marry her.”
Prince Jonas, third son of King John, stated so to himself, just to clarify the kind of situation at hand. He looked down at his hands where he sat in a small room with a full suit equipped, ready to go marry. While his suit and hair looked nicely prepped, the expression of the man was riddled with doubt and withheld panic. He knew what he had to do. He knew why he’d do it. And he knew… more about Mary than anyone else…
Years ago, Jonas was but a small prince who played around in the palace together with his friend, a slightly younger girl named Mary. His personal maid had a habit of bringing her daughter to work. As such Jonas and Mary had swiftly become friends. They found all the good hiding-spots, had their fun stealing snacks from the kitchen, explored the vast forest behind the palace, broke more than their share of expensive things…
“Hey, what is this?” The young Mary asked Jonas as she picked up a pretty necklace with a small red gem from a drawer in his princely room. The prince looked over as he himself sought through another drawer for a substitute weapon for a game, and realized what she held.
“Ah, my mother gave me that. She told me to give it to someone special.” The young prince didn’t think more about that and then just looked down into his drawer again. Then the young Mary was already up in his face so fast that he flinched back.
“Please, please, PLLEEAASE can I have this? I’m someone special to you, right? Please?” Her eyes gleamed with excitement from that mere necklace, taking the young Jonas by surprise. His yet immature mind considered, realizing that there wasn’t anyone as special to him as Mary, anyway. So he smiled and replied.
“Sure. Don’t lose it.” He told her, at the time not knowing the implications of giving her that necklace. Mary bounced into a hug with a happy squeal before immediately trying on the necklace. By some reason she never wore the necklace in public. Jonas knew now, but… he hadn’t then.
But years later, Mary was confirmed to have magical abilities. Those of a royal lineage had magic in their blood, as it was inherited. Only the king of the nation was allowed to produce children with magical abilities, so Jonas had them, but Mary wasn’t supposed to. It became revealed that Mary’s father was the king’s late uncle, who had broken the law of only the crown prince or princess may produce children to limit the spread of magical powers. Magic blood is royal blood. No royal can give their blood to a common civilian. That’s how it had always been, through many nations, for a long time. Only royals may use magic, princes ruling the fields of battle with superior spells… As such, Mary could not be allowed to be.
“So, are we in agreement that we will have to execute the child as an example?” Jonas didn’t need to hear more from his eavesdropping. He wouldn’t allow them to kill Mary. The prince immediately sneaked away and ran through the palace. Jonas blasted open the locked door into Mary’s room with a magic explosion. The startled girl rose from the chair she had been seated on, looking at him in confusion. She held the necklace.
“Jon- My prince, what are…?” Her worried gaze leveled on the riled-up prince, who had just done a crime of his own. Jonas immediately strolled in, startling the girl and grabbing her arm in an effort to drag her out of the room.
“Come with me. They intend to kill you for being of royal blood without permission. You need to flee. C’mon!” Jonas told her mid-pull. Mary’s eyes widened in surprise as she heard the verdict. Contemplating it, she followed Jonas obediently with a pained expression. Dying was the last thing she wanted, but she felt conflicted about Jonas mounting this rescue operation that could get him into equal trouble. Yet, she knew Jonas’ determination, and ran alongside him towards a secret passageway out of the castle they knew of. They met no resistance, the alarm hadn’t sounded yet. Soon they arrived at a hatch beneath a library-shelve. Mary opened it and climbed down the ladder.
“Go. I’ll keep them occupied. Go! Survive!” Jonas told her as she climbed down. Mary stopped, shifting her head to look up at him with fear in her eyes.
“Y-you’re not coming…?” The young girl clutched the necklace with the gem near her chest, looking up fearfully at Jonas.
“Just go!” Jonas shouted down to her as he sealed the hatch, caring too much about her survival to realize how Mary felt. He ran off, giving false leads to the guards and his family to ensure Mary’s escape. She vanished, and Jonas breathed out a satisfied sigh as he decided he had saved her life. The prince continued living as the prince, content with his actions. It eventually occurred to him that he could have just married her, making her an official royal. The idea had been a bit late, though. But she lived, it didn’t matter, Jonas would smile for himself. Never would he have been able to predict the next circumstances under which they’d meet.
He heard her name again, years later, at the scene of a murder. Jonas had become a princely captain of the guards, and as such had witnessed the scene after what was unmistakably a magical blast.
“Maybe that maid’s daughter who escaped, Mary?” One of his siblings suggested, they all viewed her as a freak of nature. Due to her capability for magic and the scene at hand, it was an easy conclusion.
“No, she wouldn’t do this.” Jonas immediately defended her, although he did admit that he didn’t know the exact circumstances. If the victim attacked her or someone else, she could have. Mary was always an energetic person.
A year later a neighboring kingdom fell apart, their entire royalty killed with magic. Their nation fell into chaos, having lost all their royal magic-users in a single night. Once again, Mary’s name was mentioned, but quickly disregarded. People started dying, again and again, throughout different nations. Soon it spread to happen across several nations of the world in a single day. This unaccounted magic-user spread terror across the world, and there was only one unaccounted person which could have caused those deaths. Jonas shut down all accusations, saying it couldn’t possibly be her, but… one day…
Mary made an announcement. She laid claim to an enormous nation to the north. A nation known for their powerful magicians, now all bowing to her powers. Using them, she declared war upon the world, and all those who didn’t surrender would be conquered. The royals of the world laughed at her, even with that nation how could a woman be capable of fighting them all? But Mary turned out to be the most powerful magician ever witnessed. Her spells made their attempts to turn the situation around into mush. There seemed to be no stopping her.
… Jonas couldn’t believe it. There’s no way Mary would do that. Yet the reports were coming in and his siblings were giving him stinging glares. His friend being… it had to be a lie. The prince took his horse and rode. Rode to the nation which had attacked. Rode to meet…
“Ah! Jonas!” Mary materialized magically in the air above him. “My prince! I’ve so longed to meet you again…!” She fell down on top of him and pulled him down from the horse, landing them both with magical softness on the ground where she happily embraced him. She had grown older. A good-looking woman who he’d love. She buried her face in his chest, like the most innocent creature in the world.
“Why?” Jonas asked where he lay beneath her. “What have you done, and why?” He looked at her, confirming that she still wore that necklace.
“Huh? What I have done? I am reclaiming the land to justice, to a world where no young girl needs to die due to being born! Those who stand in the way of that can just DIE, all of them!” … Her expression still filled with happiness of meeting her friend again, even as she said something so foreboding. He never should have left her alone. Something horrible had happened. Regret rained upon the prince’s past decision, even though that might been what allowed her to survive.
“How did you become like this…?” Jonas asked the innocently happy woman lying on him.
“I met this red guy who promised me power, so I accepted! Now I can make the world exactly like I want it! Isn’t it great!? We can finally marry!” … Mary had encountered a god of the world. One of those who had originally blessed the blood of royals. Such fickle gods… they had robbed Mary of her sanity. So horri- What did she just say? Jonas confused look was answered by Mary tugging the necklace.
“This. You were supposed to give this to your wife, right? I must have been too young to understand it at the time, but you were proposing to me by letting me have it. And now… now I can finally say yes…!” With that Mary hugged the prince on the ground, happily cuddling him. Jonas began to understand the situation. His arms came up and embraced the mass-murderer in love on him. … Such a strange twist of fate. With this… he had a chance to redeem himself.
When people married, they shared each other’s blood with one another, sharing their powers. This meant the partners of royals also became magicians. By marrying Mary, Jonas could gain her extraordinary powers, and a direct link to her magic blood. … But this meant possibly becoming her slave. When two people of magical power linked their blood, one could dominate the other. Since both would share level of power with shared blood, chance would be an equal fifty-fifty. Odds King John couldn’t pass up. Jonas was marrying Mary on order from the king, to attempt domination. Succeed, the threat would be gone. Fail, Jonas would be expandable nonetheless. In a sense, Jonas had been sacrificed for a fifty percent chance of neutralizing Mary.
Soon, he stood by the altar, a terrified priest awaiting the bride’s arrival. The church was filled with people from Mary’s conquered nations, Jonas’ family too frightened to join. The entrance opened, and the beautiful bride strode in. A mockingly serene sound of an organ playing wedding tones spread through the building. Mary smiled, the beautiful white dress she wore would have been better suited red as blood. She arrived by Jonas side, where he forced a gentle smile towards her by remembering who she once were.
The priest spoke. Everything flowed like a normal wedding. The only thing revealing the hoax was the atmosphere, the only happiness sincere being Mary’s. The vows were made, the promises spoken. This was the bell chiming down to the beginning of a duel, this church an arena for clashing magical power. The rings were put on their fingers, Mary smiling as she admired the confirmation to their relationship while still wearing that necklace from so long ago. The two of them turned towards each other, Jonas and Mary smiling to one another. It was time. With a spell each, a bleeding cut appeared across the palms of both parties.
“You may now kiss your bride.”
The kiss wasn’t the usual kind of kiss. The two leaned towards one another and kissed, their lips meeting each other, Mary’s more eagerly than Jonas’. A spell cast was as the two bloodied hands grasped one another. Blood flowed over from one to the other as the two shared their marriage. Two magicians sharing the essence of their power, equaling their powers and surging the permanent mark of a union between them. Blood and power in equal measure flowing to each other from their wounded hands, even as their lips were engaging in the kiss of marriage. … Jonas would have sighed if he could, as it was time for his blood to start trying to dominate her.
Mary didn’t expect it. Her eyes went wide in surprise as she suddenly felt the assault upon her magical being from her blood. Then… her eyes narrowed in annoyance, as Jonas felt the head-start he had gained being forced to a halt as she defended herself with her own magical powers even as the two were still engaged in the kiss.
“I see… So that’s how it is.” Mary’s venomous telepathic voice spoke as she felt betrayed on her happiest moment alive. ”In that case, I trust you are ready to defend yourself, prince Jonas…” Her blood countered Jonas. He couldn’t believe it. The pure strength behind her ferocious magic. The marriage should have split the power fifty-fifty, but he failed to consider the determination within. Jonas fought to counter Mary, gripping her bloody hand with his own with increased force. He fought the pain. Jonas smiled with determination while in the kiss, feeling how his powers were surging through Mary due to his head-start. But… it was slimming down. Mary glared as her power within him spread through all defenses, taking advantage of his offensive strategy by attacking within. She was strong…
He was losing. Jonas felt his power forced back within her and she took him over from within. His blood was forced back. The advantage where their hands were connected shifted from Jonas to Mary. The blood was taking over him, her magical blood burning at his defenses, tearing him down. The entire church was being overloaded with their magical energies blasting around them as wind through their internal battle. The prince was losing. He never could have won. Mary was the most powerful magician ever. No way someone like him could win, even if he shared her power through marriage.
… But that didn’t matter. All he had to do was use a certain capsule implanted in him by his father. A capsule with a blood-borne disease. Shatter it, and they’d both get infected by a disease that would forcibly end Mary’s life. Her wedding would be her end. Choosing to marry him, to show that weakness, would be her end. Jonas relaxed, letting Mary overflow his defenses. Their blood mixed freely, allowing Mary to take control of all. But she realized something was wrong. He wouldn’t give up like that without an ace. Deciding she’d win, Mary let her blood surge through him, intent on eliminating the ace before he could activate it. Little did she know, she’d destroy it herself like this. So easy. Just let it happen. His crime of saving her life would be redeemed, and they’d both perish here, for the best…
.................................................. .................................................. ......................... BULLSHIT!
ALLOWING HIS BELOVED MARY DIE LIKE THAT!? NO HELLOVA WAY!!!
Jonas gripped Mary’s hand harshly while he threw his other hand around her neck, pressing her deeper into their kiss, his passion surprising the bride. Jonas threw himself at her, making them fall and land on Mary’s back, still in kiss. Using Mary’s surprise to save her life, Jonas overrode the usual safety-limits and pressed in as much of his blood into Mary as he could, forcing Mary to use her own blood to keep him alive. Her panicked eyes asked what he was doing. Mary trying to keep him alive, all due to her love for him, allowed Jonas’ blood to search her. He wasn’t trying to dominate her. Somewhere, Jonas knew, staring deep into Mary’s fearful eyes. Somewhere in there. Where are you? You’re in there somewhere…
With a single magical embrace, Jonas blood hugged around Mary’s heart and attacked the god within, who angrily forced him back. This evil god who had manipulated Mary, Jonas just had to drive him off. But Jonas wasn’t alone. Mary appeared just as eager to free herself, her blood moving to support him. Her magical power alone had been insufficient, but with both of them working together…!
“… NO!” The god’s telepathic voice screamed out. ”I’M SO CLOSE! YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY HOST FROM ME!” The power of the god was enormous. No normal magician could repel him. He would have easily taken the world using his host, destroying what threatened him, making everything as he wanted…
”I will.” Jonas replied with his own telepathic voice. ”And if you think I will let you have even a string of hair on my wife, I will tear down your supernatural body from whatever divine plane you inhabit and destroy you so utterly, hell itself will dread my eventual arrival…!” Both his and his wife’s blood circled the god and attacked mercilessly. Mary had been blessed with great magical power. Jonas now shared it. Together… together they could rival the god. Realizing he was overpowered, unbelievable as it was, the god quickly made amends.
Jonas tore himself backwards, away from the deep kiss he had shared with Mary. Their bloody hands were still joined, this ritual wasn’t over yet. A magical storm blew through the room as a red stream of power came out of Mary’s chest. The form of a great red masculine god took shape over them, significantly riled up as he had just been forced out of his hope for dominance.
“CURSE YOU, PRINCE JONAS!” He roared out. “I WILL NOT FORGET THIS! I WILL SEEK OUT YOU AND YOUR WIFE, AND I WILL MAKE YOUR LIV-” … A grand total of thirty-four magical bloody red lances had formed out of the blood of Jonas and Mary, sticking through the god on thirty-four different angles, the god gasping in pain as the thirty-four magical attacks seared through his existence. He faded away into nothing, the red smoke of power the only thing remaining in his wake…
“Jonas?” A year later, his father King John had located him in a small shack on the countryside. The door opened, revealing prince Jonas standing in peasant clothing, smiling warmly though a bit surprised back at his father.
“Oh, hi, father.” Jonas replied, smiling a bit at him as he casually leaned towards the door-frame. “What brings you here?”
“Mary was stopped.” The king informed him with a stern expression. “Neither you nor her was found again, but the threat ended. The world’s at peace. What happened?” The king’s question was very serious indeed.
“Oh, uh…” The peasant prince brushed his forehead a bit before answering. “She’s my wife now, and she’s pregnant. She’s in the living room right now.” Jonas smiled happily at his father, who looked back at him in surprise.
“You… succeeded? Good, but… she needs to answer for her crimes.” The king sternly told him.
“Uuum, dad… I don’t know how to say this, buuuut…” Jonas leaned forward, and whispered with a large smile. “I’m currently as powerful as Mary was, due to my marriage with her. And, uh, she’s still as strong. Wouldn’t it just be better if we left things like this? I have her aaaaaaall under control. OK?” The prince smiled warmly at his father, who grimaced back.
“You do know you are illegally breeding royal blood outside the family like this?” Addressing the old law that started this whole ordeal, huh… Jonas smiled happily at him, quite willing to say another thing.
“Dad… Mary has six siblings, all married and with kids. Also, I have learned of roughly eight other cousins of mine. Other than that, I’ve sensed magical strength a bit of everywhere among peasants. Don’t you see? Your magical blood will soon be something shared equally among everyone. Now I have a wife to attend to. See you, father.” … And with that, the door shut in the surprised king’s face.
“Who was that, darling?” The pregnant Mary calmly asked while sitting in a couch when her husband came walking through the hall, a kind smile on her lips still with the necklace around her neck and the ring on her finger. She looked so lovely.
“Just my father.” Jonas replied happily.
“Just my father.”
The battle was close to ending. I could feel it at the back of my skull and to the tips of my toes. Soldiers on both sides were waning. It had been a long and blood thirsty war. A war that I had been in for many years now. Mages and the more common laymen on both sides. The war mages had been the most brutally targeted of everyone. There numbers had been decimated. I looked around the camp, coming out of my thoughts. Ahh, here is there general now. “I take it we are ready to ride out tonight? Finish this war once and for all, Brother?” I asked. My brother in blood and arms simply nodded, holding his hand out for me to grab. He pulled me up into a one armed hug. It had almost been a miracle that we had both survived in this war. “Brother?” he asked hoarsely. “Do you remember that night when we went out in search of adventure?”
As soon as he had mentioned it, I was transported back to when we were youngsters, only 14 and 17 at the time. I had always adored my oldest brother. He had sneaked out earlier that day, miraculously escaping the notice of our dam. He had come back hours later, scraped and bruised from head to toe, but looking victorious. He winked at me, and from behind his back, he pulled out a gleaming silver knife, ornate as heck. I had looked on in awe. “No way!” I breathed. Excitement building in my abdomen. He had always said he’d retrieve our papa’s ceremonial knife. How he had done it, I knew not, and I cared not. That night, we re-blood oathed ourselves to protect the other at all costs. We never really considered the first blood oath to be binding. We had used a sharpened butter knife for christ’s sake. That night though, it was a full moon. My older brother, Nathanial seemed to glow from within, although I knew he couldn’t see it. Later, we had realized that his mage’s powers had decided to kick in, making the bond between us all but impossible to break.
I came out of the reverie, and looked at the space on my hand where I knew the pearly white scar was. “Of course I remember that night, Nathanial, why do you ask?” He looked at me blankly. “Haven’t you ever wondered how much that oathing between us has played a role in how long we have survived?” He asked, his voice showing no inflection, yet was hoarse from the years of use and casting. “Always.” I growled back at him. I had no idea what he got in his end, but I always knew when he was in trouble, or when he was happy. I always knew exactly where he was, and if I wanted to know, what he was doing. It meant that I could always be the responsible one, as per usual and run in and rescue him. Although that had been a lot less as he grew in strength as a mage, and yet more too, especially in this war. Nathanial was always the last one out on the battlefield, and always the one to drain a lot of his power. It meant that he needed to be watched so that as he collapsed, he could be taken away on a stretcher to recover, and then I would forbid him to enter the war for days on end, and then, it would all begin again.
He nodded at my response. “Darien, I know what you have received on your end of the bargain.” I didn’t even feign surprise. He would have studied it at school long ago, and I said as much. He shook his head. “I figured you didn’t want to know of it, so I didn’t speak of it, wondering if maybe it had only been one sided after all.” At this, I did look surprised, so he had gained something after all? “I gained what you gained, the ability to see where the other was, and to see know what you were doing. But not only that, I am able to use magic through you and we are capable of acting as one mind if we both wished it.” I gaped at him. I had not expected this, at all. “But other than that, even if we are no where near each other, as a non-mage, you act as a boost to my magic. If you had gained magic also, we would strengthen each other, but only in close proximity.” I looked at him, aghast. I was his magic battery? “Why are you telling me all this now?” I asked.
“Because Brother, I’m not really you’re brother.” He grinned at me, and I looked at him, bewildered. “What do you mean, you’re not my brother?” I looked concerned. Maybe constantly draining himself dry for years on end had sent him bonkers? I stood up and called for one of the guards outside to send for a medic. I didn’t hear a reply and shrugged, maybe he was too eager to get the medic, I knew how boring it was doing guard duty, but I’d have to reprimand the guard later. I turned back around, and Nathanial was still grinning at me, if some what maliciously now. I was starting to get worried, particularly for him, rather than me despite what he had just told me about his own capabilities.
However, while I was watching him, I felt something wet against my skin and I frowned, concerned. I shouldn’t be sweating, it was just about snowing outside. I rubbed a glove against my cheek. It came away red. I stared at the blood on my glove. What the hell was going on? I felt it now, I could feel my blood seeping through my pores, particularly around my neck. The sudden blood loss made me dizzy and disoriented. I could feel the liquid writhing against my skin. I stared dumbfounded at my brother.
“It was so easy,” He sneered at me, “To jump into your brothers body. He drained himself so often he left himself open to attack all the time.” He laughed, his voice changing into a slimy, high pitched sound. The figure that I finally realized was no longer my brother made a motion with his hand. “I knew I could get to you through him, after all, he’s still in here, watching the show. Why, I bet he’s even enjoying it.” The man laughed again, sending a shiver down my spine. The blood around my neck was twisting and moved with purpose, and then I felt it pulling against my through. A f***king noose?! I would have growled in frustration. A great army general, to be suffocated with a noose made out of his own blood. That was my last thought as he motioned sharply. All I felt was a sudden jarring, and I heard a loud snap before my vision went dark, and I knew no more. So good all our oath had done.
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