A sudden surge of cold wind blew through the ruined remains of the encampment as lightning arced across the sky followed by the distant sound of rolling thunder. Rain fell in freezing cold sheets over the battle for the entrance to the ruins. The terrain was becoming slick and dangerous for the unwary.
I jumped off the top of a tall column into the midst of a group of wildmen. Quickly using my advantage of surprise I hurried to cut down those closest to me before they could muster their advantage of numbers. Blood splashed against the stonework and was quickly washed away by the pouring rain.
One of the wildmen bull-rushed me and we fell to the ground in a grapple. I rolled with his momentum over the edge of the platform. For a brief moment, we were suspended in the air. He attempted to wrap his arms around my neck as I kicked and spun to avoid him. Then we struck the hard stairway that was below us.
Bones snapped and his head bashed against the ground. I ended up rolling and tumbling several more feet before I was sprawled across a landing.
I hurt everywhere and buckled down my ability to heal. A leg and both my arms snapped back into place with no small amount of pain. I hissed angrily and stood up to see the desperate charge of a bare chest man with a jagged sword looking to run me down. Calling on the nearby swarm a flurry of bats descended out of the thundering sky. His charge faltered as he attempted to ward off the swarming attackers.
Eagerly I strolled forward and grabbed the back of his head to expose his neck. His eyes widened in surprise as he desperately thrust his sword through my gut. My fangs pierced his neck allowing me to drink deeply. Weakly his sword arm fell and as he collapsed before me I pulled the jagged weapon out.
I glanced up and down the stairway, I had landed on. It looked to be one of the smaller accessways. At the bottom, I could see my forces pushing their way up. Casting my gaze farther afield I could see the fighting was thickest over the larger main slope that led up to the main entrance. The battle was still in our favor after we had broken through the encampment.
Feeling I had wasted enough time gawking over the conflict, I dashed up the stairs. For the most part, I kept to the shadows and ambushed those I could along the way. When I reached the topmost landing I felt something awaken in my blood. Something that called my attention to the inner depths of the ruins.
The words came to my lips and I was hardly aware that I had spoken them. I shook off the sense of unease that had started to cloak itself around me.
With a rapid dash, I charged into the flank of the enemy as my forces reached the platform. With the combination of my surprise and the overwhelming militant strength of my forces, we pushed through to the entrance.
“My Lady,” called Vernt. His armor was covered in blood as he cradled his arm to his chest, “It looks like we have the upper hand in our battle.”
“I agree. By night’s end, we should have the victory in hand.”
“Now please don’t go ahead and jinx it.”
Vent shook his head, “Nothing, I'm just a mild bit superstitious.”
The doors to the ruins flung themselves open. The storm suddenly stilled and the rain halted. The silence was eerie enough to draw all attention to the man who strolled almost casually from out of the ruined entrance. Fear emanated from his presence and the men around took several steps back.
A chill seemed to pierce my chest as I stared on in horror. The man’s eyes surveyed the stilled chaos that surrounded him with unveiled hunger. When his gaze finally settled on mine he smiled.
“Impossible,” I breathed. The Dark Lord kept his gaze on me as he spoke.
“I am disappointed to see this rabble of fools before me. Who leads you? I challenge you to come forth and answer for your crimes.”
“No don’t!” Vernt grabbed my arm as I made a step forward, “He’ll kill you.”
“He’ll kill us all,” I responded, “Organize the retreat. I will try to hold him off for as long as I can.”
I turned to look briefly at Vernt. He snarled angrily but nodded his understanding. Facing back toward the Dark Lord I raised my voice to be heard.
“I, Gwenyth of Valley, Lady ruler of the Dark Keep, answer to no one,” I proclaimed, “I lead this force against the traitors to my rule.”
The Dark Lord chuckled, “You dare usurp me?”
“You forfeited the right to rule when you preyed upon the very people you are upholden to protect,” I challenged as I strolled forward to the front of the crowd that was arrayed before him. I steeled myself as I raised my sword.
“My allies had slain you once and I will ensure you stay dead.”
His chuckled erupted into a burst of dark confident laughter, “Foolish child! I have already laid dead these past many centuries, and still, I walk through the realm of life. What hope do you have of ensuring my defeat?”
In answer, I charged.
The Dark Lord casually flicked his wrist and a dark sword suddenly appeared in his hand. Faster than I believed possible he moved and countered my thrust. He picked me up by the front of my armor and threw me. I was thrown through a stone pillar and struck the side of a stone wall.
Everything hurt. I could feel my broken bones painfully snapping themselves back into place. With a snarl, I leaped forward off the wall towards the Dark Lord. His confident smile never wavered as easily warded my attack.
Around us, Vernt was calling the retreat and my men were scrambling to getaway. I leaped back from a heavy overhead attack from the Dark Lord and caught Vernt staring at me. He had his sword drawn as looked between me and the Dark Lord.
“Run! Warn the others!” I shouted.
Vernt shook his head and charged the indomitable ruler of the night.
The Dark Lord frowned as he leaped skyward over the charging horse and threw his sword at the back of Vernt. The blade flew unerringly straight knocking Vernt off his horse and pinning him into the wall. He screamed aloud in agony and tried to push himself off the wall.
Dashing forward I tried to take advantage of the Dark Lord’s unarmed state. He turned to face me and blocked my attack with one hand letting my sword cut into his hand. His fist smashed into my surprised face followed up with a kick that sent me back several paces.
“You would need a blood sword if you wanted to do any harm to me. Mortal weapons are very ineffective against someone of my age,” he lectured.
He pulled my weapon free from his hand and made to throw it.
A sudden surge of fire erupted around him and he leaped back trailing burning clothes with a vehement hiss of rage.
Another arc of fire erupted from the shadows chasing the skyward figure. I glanced over to see Timothy directing the spell of fire. When the Dark Lord landed he threw my sword at Timothy. I dashed forward and knocked him out of the way of the attack.
“Get out of here! Organize the retreat and warn the valley of his return!” I screamed at Timothy. He scrambled to his feet and dashed away. I grabbed my sword from where it had been embedded in the stone floor and rushed forward to intercept the Dark Lord as he moved to grab Timothy. My blade slashed forward severing his hand that had been reaching out.
“You still dare to thwart me!”
His other hand backhanded me to the side. I landed several paces and quickly rolled to my feet. The Dark Lord reached out towards Timothy then fiked them upwards, summoning a wall of fire to cut Timothy off from his retreat.
Not even stopping Timothy jumped into the burning wall and landed on a sheet of ice he summoned to breakthrough.
“Clever, mage,” said the Dark Lord aloud, “But I have no intentions of letting you escape.”
A choir of wolf howls sounded in the distance and I felt a bitter cold feeling in my chest. Desperately I tried to counteract the mental summons with a call of my own. The howling grew chaotic and mangled.
The Dark Lord turned to me as I readied my weapon.
“You’re mastering my dark arts rather quickly. However, if you don’t refrain from thwarting my efforts I will have to kill you.”
“Then I will die happy knowing my efforts have gone into stopping you.”
“Naive child, it was a pity I have not been able to raise you as well as my other creations. Perhaps I can fix that instead. Starve you for a few weeks then feed you with the blood of those you supposedly love. I find that is the perfect remedy to break in newborns.”
“No!” I shouted and charged. The Dark Lord smirked as he dissipated into a dark mist. I kept running forward till I was clear of the mist then swung my blade around behind me.
The sword was stopped by the forming figure of the Dark Lord. He lunged and grabbed my hand to pull me in close for his embrace.
“Such a delicate flower,” he muttered as he clutched my head, “I remember the night I had embraced you. Your blood was such a delicious delicacy.”
He twisted my hand, breaking my wrist in the effort. My sword clattered to the ground as I screamed aloud in anguish.
“Shush, my little flower.”
He lowered his face to my neck, leaving his lips a small breath away from my skin.
I awoke to the escalating sound of conflict.
Opening my eyes was difficult and painful. Moving was nothing short of excruciating as I sat up. Everything around me was blurry as I tried to blink out the haze, while all the noise sounded muffled and distant.
The air was heavy with the scent of blood, and a cold wind that buffeted around me. My leg threatened to give out from under me as I stood. Everything seemed like I was moving through through water
When my vision finally cleared, I felt a stone drop into the pit of my stomach.
Remus stood with sword in hand as he faced off against his uncle. He was bloodied and injured from the ongoing fight. The Dark Lord stood a few paces off with his back to me, watching the two men duel. Thunder clashed violently overhead.
I wanted to race out into the fight to rescue Remus but I held myself back as I looked towards the Dark Lord.
I felt drained, weak, and thirsty. I wanted blood. I wanted his blood. I wanted the blood of my master!
Fear held me back for only a moment before I started to creep forward. It seemed an eternity as I crept forward. I wanted to watch the fight but I feared what would happen if I found myself distracted at the wrong moment.
Casually the Dark Lord glanced back to where I had once laid. His eyes flickered from to where I stood and I leaped forward. One of my hands dug into his chest while the other forced his head back to expose his throat. I wasted no time in lurching myself onto his throat.
We fell back to the ground. For a moment the Dark Lord managed to push me off his neck. His throat was torn open and I spat out his flesh from my mouth. His blood was like the sweet nectar from the table of the Goddess and I wanted more. I lurched after him for his blood, gripping his rib cage with my hand that was still dug into his chest cavity.
The sound of the fight intensified as I eagerly drank the blood that spilled from his neck even as the Dark Lord’s power attempted to seal up the wound. With every gulp I felt my strength returning as well as understanding and knowledge of his powers. Knowledge of my own powers.
“Get off me!”
With a ferocious kick the Dark Lord knocked me into the air.
I glided down gentle with my eyes trained constantly on him as he stood up with evident furry emanating from him.
“I thought I could teach you like a parent to a wayward child,” he said with disdain, “I was wrong. It is evident now that you are in need of so much more than that.”
The Dark Lord drew forth his hand and a dark blade flew from its scabbard into his open palm. I took one of my knives and slashed my palm. The blood flowed quickly and easily then hardened as I whispered aloud a prayer of darkness. When finished my blood formed into a deep red sword.
With surprise, the Dark Lord arched an eyebrow, “You are one of the most promising of those I have granted my gifts to. Amusing that I had turned you to spite you and your companions. Had I not fallen it would have been amusing to have watched as they tried to kill you.”
I glanced over at Remus to see him slumped over on the ground with his Uncle standing over with a look of disdain. Stepping over the unmoving body of his Nephew, he approached the Dark Lord and took a knee.
“My Lord, allow me to slay the pretender.”
The fury was evident within the Dark Lord as he shook his head.
“No, I will teach her how to give proper respect, and then I will kill her,” said the Dark Lord before he sprinted forward, his blade raised to strike.
I raised my own sword forged by my blood and met his attack with a hiss. Then I reached past with my taloned hands for his throat. He leapt back gesturing with his hands causing a heavy stone pillar to topple in my direction. I rolled away and took a leap towards him.
A blast of wind knocked me off course that forced me to tumble over the ledge and onto rocky outcropping. I teater briefly on the edge before I managed to claw at the stone to gain a grip. I focus the energy of the blood I had collected and stole to strengthen myself. For a moment I hung there before I launched myself upward and back onto the ledge above me.
A look of annoyance pestered the Dark Lord’s face as I landed.
“I commend you for your resilience, but you should accept your death, and be done with this world.”
“You have already killed me once,” I retorted, “I don’t plan on letting you do so again so easily.”
“Foolish welp of a child! I have let you survive this game because you have amused me! Now you will die for stealing my blood and knowledge!”
From the darkness around us a mist began to rise. Even as the Dark Lord became obscured from my sight I could still feel of his presence.
A large dire wolf launched itself from the mist. He tore into my shoulder and ripped out a chunk of flesh. I stabbed my sword up its rib cage but it barely even phased the large creature as it tried to bite at my throat. I blocked with my arm but the wolf only paused enough to tear the limb free.
Something rammed into the dire wolf from out of the mists wielding a large heavy sword and barroling into it. The wolf snarled at the new commer and I rolled out from underneath while picking up my arm. When I got to my feet I replaced my limb and let my regenerative powers restore it.
The newcomer stood protectively between me and the dire wolf.
He didn’t glance back at me, but instead nodded, “I am here to give my life for you, my Lady. Run, I will hold him off.”
“No, we retreat together,” I countered.
“You have a better chance to defeat him when you can recover, and the valley needs you!”
The dire wolf dashed forward and tried to maneuver around Remus to attack me. With a timed swing, Remus struck the flank of the beast toppling it over. The large creature regained its footing and we both watched as its deep wounds healed quickly.
“Goddess damn it! Why wont it die!”
“It's the Dark Lord,” I answered, “he can shape shift.”
I grabbed the back of Remus’s tunic, “We need to run.”
“I won’t make it,” Remus turned to look at me with his pale ashen face, “I am still bleeding and barely able to stand,” I glanced down Remus’s body. I could smell the blood and see it seeping through his clothes. His body was trembling with the burden of keeping him up.
“Please my Lady, let me die for you in this hour protecting you.”
I pushed Remus out of the way as the dire wolf lunged again. It’s teeth crushed my arm, almost ripping it free again. I brought my sword up this time aiming for its head. The wolf let go and retreated.
“He’s not the only one with these powers,” I muttered as I grabbed Remus and threw him bodily over the edge of the platform. Then I leapt after him into the dark swirling mists below.