What will come
Dark and foreboding clouds of black and red blocked out the sun for miles in every direction and the smell of death and blood hung thick in the air. The sounds of metal slicing through tender flesh like water, and the desperate cries of mercy from slaves, drifted up along the battlement walls and found their way to the ears of the cloaked figure that stood there.
A gust of wind blew across the mountain plains whipping out that heavy thick cloak and revealing a female figure in dark twisted armor. Three long spikes, like claws, protruded from the left shoulder and a necklace of dragon’s teeth hung around the neck. Her hair, dark and almost devoid of any color was tied back. Not an inch of flesh on her was left uncovered, even the mask that she wore hinted only at brown underlining her startling silver eyes.
She had been coming to the walls for six days now waiting for the return of her Black Guards. Days ago a runner had came to her tent with news of six Elvin scouts lurking about at the base of the mountain. They must have been more renegade elves coming to rescue their captured companions.
Two months ago the Commander had found and captured a group of twenty elves that were trying to sneak over Mount Deovi, where the Shadow army was stationed, and create a safe passage through to the captured city of Valenough – the once capital of Elvin magic. Immediately the Commander issued forth the Black Guard, their mission was to seek out and capture the elves and bring them to the base. All but one had been captured.
This land, the mountain range that surrounded the once great city of Valenough and all that laid behind, it all belonged to the Shadow now, rightfully taken from the Elves eighteen years ago during the War of Power. The Elves were the only creatures in this world, aside from the Shadow, whose legacy was one of great magic and the Shadow wanted it.
It was during that war that Talos, the Shadow Overload, and his army battled against the elves and their magic, killing the King and Queen and claiming the magic for his own. During the war many of the elves were killed or put into slavery. However, a group of elves, with the help of the Elvin Assembly, escaped and they scattered off throughout the lands, lying silent and hidden as they regained their strength in hopes of one day returning to their lost kingdom and taking back the magic that is rightfully theirs.
Now one of those elves was lose on the mountain and had avoided capture for six days.
Her thoughts were disturbed by the sounds of someone approaching up behind. People knew better than to come up to close without permission, so when she turned she saw one of her Black Guards standing at the ready a few feet away from her, his dark cloak didn’t stir in cool mountain air. His voice was raspy as he spoke. “Commander, we have captured the elf.”
“Where is he?” Her eyes cast about, not seeing the prisoner or the rest of the guards. “You were suppose to bring him to me when he was captured.” Her voice remained calm and steady but the narrowness of her eyes told the guard that she was not happy, and when she was not happy that meant that someone’s head would roll.
The guard bowed low as his Commander stared down at him, stopping when she was parallel with his ear. “I expect nothing but obedience from those that serve me,” her voice seemed cold as ice as she looked down upon his bent form. He dared not speak; instead he gave a nod of his head. “You serve me no longer,” was the last thing she said. And the last thing the guard would ever hear was the sound of his skin tearing from his flesh as the spikes, that were at the end of the Commander’s fingertips, came out and slashed across his face. He fell to the ground, blood quickly covering him.
“Now look what you made me do.” She proceeded, then, down the path the guard had come, not giving a second thought to the blood dripping from her fingers or the dying man behind her. He was a good servant, but everyone had their time.
She hadn’t gone too far when she found the rest of her Black Guard encircled around a male elf that looked to be about 20 years old, but with an elf it was impossible to tell how old they really were. He was bound wrist and ankle by a heavy rope, stained with blood that cut into his skin. Another rope was strung around his neck like a collar and held by one of the guards. He looked all the like of a beaten animal. However, this elf was in no way scrawny. Medium built with a fair amount of muscle hidden beneath his muddied and torn shirt and britches, he looked as if he had wallowed in the mud. It was everywhere and he smelled. Perhaps this camouflage was what had kept him hidden these last few days. The dull color of caked mud was broken in some places by lines of blood along his back and arms. The guards must have whipped him before he was brought before her. In a way she didn’t mind, but all the same she would have wanted to watch him suffer.
The prisoner pulled against his restraints with a clam reserve and his dark eyes looked on defiantly as he watched the Commander push aside one of the guards and stand towering over him. To him she might as well have been the death angel incarnate for the unmasked hatred that he saw in those silver eyes. If someone were to ask him what he remembered in his last moments of life it would be those eyes, for they seemed to bore a hole right through him.
“You’re either very clever or very foolish for staying out of sight these past few days,” the Commander began, with a cool voice. “I may have granted you some mercy if you turned yourself in when the request was given.”
“What do you know about mercy?” The words dripped like acid off the prisoners tongue. His voice was raspy as if he hadn’t had anything to drink for a couple days. His pale brown hair hung limply down his face, sticking in some places around his pointed ears. “You’d rip out a mans heart as soon as flash him a smile. It’s all the same to you.”
He made to spring forward but before he as much as got a knee off the ground one of the guards planted a hard kick to his side.
The prisoner sputtered as a trickle of blood dripped out of his mouth. Drawing in a strangled breath he curled into a ball, hands gripping at his stomach. “Watch yer mouth ‘round the C’mander, elf!” said the burly guard as he made to kick the prisoner again.
“Stop.” The Commander called a halt before the kick was made. “We’ve shown him enough pity already.” Then she went over and knelt beside the prisoner, clamping her fingers around his neck and turning his face so his eyes could meet hers. “I am entitled to pleasures now and then.”
She couldn’t help but admire the boldness she saw in the man’s eyes as she looked at them. Even now, as the spikes on her fingers began to bore into his cheeks, those dark eyes screamed out in defiance and underlying hatred. Yes, this was a strong man, and a stubborn one at that. Maybe she should let him live just long enough to break that spirit that burned so within this man? Her Lord Commander did promise her a pet. No, it would please her more to see his blood. “Any last words?”
The guard that held the constraints shifted only slightly pulling the ropes tighter so that the prisoner could not move. But the prisoner had no intention of moving or even giving them the satisfaction of seeing him flinch though the pain was enough to make him cry. Whether the commander captivated him or if he was simply at a loss for words he continued to match her icy stare with one of his own.
She smiled beneath her mask as she began to dig her fingers deeper into his jaw, intent on tearing it from his face. Just as the spikes were sinking deeper into the man’s flesh, red lines of blood dripping down her hands, a small rumbling shook the earth. She paused and jerked her head up to the guards, an aggravated tone in her voice. “What’s happening?”
Then it happened again. A deep rumble shook the mountain throwing those who were on their feet to the ground. The jolt caused the Commander’s fingers to open, losing her grip on the prisoner, as she was thrown back. One of the guards caught her before she hit the ground.
Instantaneously the mountain was thrown into chaos as the earthquake grew in intensity. The ground split and crack, breaking apart the mountain and sending sprays of grit and rocks into the air as chaos erupted All around people struggled to find something to grab on to as the mountain pulled its victims to its bottomless depths.
Gathering his senses the prisoner realized that he was no longer being held. Seizing the opportunity – that could have been sent from the heavens – the prisoner gathered his leash and scrambled to get away.
“Stop him! He’s getting away!” shouted the Commander as she pushed the rocks off of her and untangled herself from her guard. Just as she started towards the fleeting figure of the prisoner a jagged piece of earth erupted from the ground before her, sending her to the ground once more.
If he never believed in luck the prisoner would after this. In desperation he fled, half running and half stumbling because of his restraints, down the mountain. He must get away, that was all that mattered because the alternative was death. The Commander wasn’t known for being a quitter and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to elude her a second time.
To run in the midst of the chaos had to be madness. With the mountain crumbling every step was a risk of a twisted or broken ankle, yet the prisoner was making his way down the mountain with the Commander behind him. Bright jagged strips of lightening started cascading from the sky, exploding as they hit the ground. It was getting harder for the prisoner to run, his restraints catching on pieces of rock and ripping deeper into his skin as he wrestled them free. The Commander was an ever-growing figure behind him. But he was almost there. The base of the mountain was looming closer . . . or was he falling? He didn’t recall losing footing but he was and now he was grappling for a grip in which to steady himself and regain his feet.
The Commander was not fairing much better but seemed to possess an unnatural agility for one who was cased in armor. Depending on how one looked at it, the gods decided to either be merciful or cruel for at that moment the prisoner gained his footing and found the Commander reaching for his arm when the ground suddenly opened up. The prisoner flung himself to the side knocking the Commander and sending her into the newly formed chasm. As the Commander fell a great light erupted from the chasm and as it faded so did the rumblings and the great mountain was still once more.
The mountain was more than still, for a moment it was as silent as death. Nothing moved and nothing was heard. Opportunities like this didn’t happen often and he would take advantage of this one. While the rest of the mountain tried to figure out what had happened, the prisoner resumed his escape.
Talos watched it all from a castle tower window in the city of Valenough, the city that the foolish elves had tried to keep from him but in the end they paid in blood. He never did bother to have the bodies removed and, even though the war was little more than 10 years ago, fragments of bones and stains of blood dressed the city ground along with the ever present smell of death. Pale fingers scratched his scrub of a beard as he stood and looked out upon the mountain. He had watched as Mount Deovi shook and came alight with lightening and yet, not so much as a shiver had made its way to the city. It was as if that quake was sent to the mountain alone. Could the time have come so soon?
Black gauntlet fingers clenched into a tight fist at his sides as he mulled over his own question. It was something he had known for years and yet he had pushed it out of his mind, never wanting to acknowledge it.
“My Lord!” A burly man, clearly out of breath and in dented black armor with blood running down the side of his face, fell to his face as he entered the room.
It was death for anyone to burst in on the Overload without being summoned and those that forgot were quickly reminded with their lives. There was only one person who came in and out of his presence at will. Under any other circumstance he would have executed the man on the spot, but decided against it. Turning slowly he faced the man and a flash of discomfort sparked in his hallow grey eyes and was gone just as quickly. This man was one of his commanders Black Guards and they never were very far from her. The fact that he was here alone meant that something was wrong. His commander would have killed him herself if she sent him here to die.
The Black Guards were the elite and this one looked disheveled, and reeked of repressed terror. Talos eyed him curiously, his giant girth looming over the prostrated man, his voice as hallow as his eyes. “Where’s the Commander?”
“Gone . . . the elf . . .mountain swallowed her,” sputtered out the guard as he started to shiver there on the ground.
The nonsense irritated Talos. Pointing to the man he curled his fingers and the guard started to thrash on the ground, hands gripping at some invisible force around his neck that dragged him up on his feet. “My patience is thin.”
“The mountain swallowed the commander,” it was a strain to talk with that “hand” around his throat. “The captive elf got away.” The guard struggled as she took in a bit of air.
Talos stared at him expressionlessly all the while, not noticing that the guard was slowly choking. “Yet somehow,” he paused a moment and chuckled, a sound that would cower even the strongest man, “you live.” Bones cracked and shattered as Talos closed and opened his fist, letting the lifeless body drop to the ground.
Prophecies be damned! Talos turned back to peer at the mountain. This would end now. He turned then and stormed out of the tower and down the steps to where his own personal guard rested below.
(To be Continued….)