Richten tightened his grip on my throat before he threw me across the stone tunnel. The dark mist began to appear around his body as he hurried down the tunnel. Another wave of heat and light blasted the mist away.
I struggled weakly to my feet and followed after him. When I finally caught up, Richten was pounding his fist against the caved in entrance. There was a faint whisper of prayers and chanting that had an ethereal sound to it that echoed dimly throughout the abandoned mine that had entombed us. This close to what had been the former entrance, the holy worship of the goddess was a consistent searing pain of radiance.
Richten turned vehemently towards me.
“You!” he pointed with a clawed hand, “You did this!”
“I have sworn to oppose the Dark Lord and his followers,” I stated as I drew myself up to my full height.
I could feel the spirit of radiant light weakening my strength, just as it had been when I was trapped under the chapel. Richten was just as visibly affected, the stab wound of where I had speared my sword through him wasn’t healing as quickly as his other wounds had been. I placed a hand over my wound that was still bleeding heavily from our battle.
“You bitch! You stupid little wench.”
Richten lashed out with his clawed hands and I fended off the attack with my sword. There was a hiss as Richten retreated and stumbled against the rubble. Blood was seeping from his hands as he stared at me with utter rage.
“I’m going to kill you,” he muttered, “I am going to kill you and everyone else!”
I raised my sword to his throat.
“Your weakening,” I said, “and soon you will die here.”
“No, I will kill you, and claim the castle that is rightfully mine!”
Richten tried to swipe away the blade to attack me and I thrust my sword forward cutting open his throat. He chocked and gurgled in his blood.
For a moment I stood there as he struggled. His hands were over his throat as he tried to stop the bleeding that was gushing out. The smell of blood made my throat thirst, but I held back letting Richten slowly bleed out more. A few times a dark mist would begin to envelop him only to weakly subside.
A few more times he tried to lurch himself at me. My movements were becoming sluggish. Eventually, we both fell to the ground and I lost my sword in the ensuing struggle. For a moment Richten struggled to overpower me and had me straddled underneath him. When I failed to kick him off, I groped in the dark for a weapon, anything to fight him off until my hand gripped a splintered piece of wood.
Richten smiled confidently in his victory as he placed his talon-like hands against my throat. His smile turned to shock as I gathered the last reserves of energy I had to shove the stake of wood into his chest. His body convulsed and dark mist threatened to envelop him only to be banished once more by the touch of radiant energy.
Then he collapsed.
I wasn’t sure how long I laid there after that.
At some point, I became overpowered by hunger and had weakly shoved Richten’s unmoving body to the side. Then I crawled and pulled myself close enough to drink from his open throat. There wasn’t much blood left in him, leaving me little to drink. In my partial half delirium, his blood seemed thicker, darker, more enriching, and more nourishing.
My strength came back stronger in that moment of feeding, my senses more attuned. It was deliciously addicting, even more so than from feeding on mortals. My understanding deepened with my knowledge of the powers and connections that darkness held over my physical body.
Then Richten’s body ran dry.
After that, the hunger became steadily worse. I stood and approached the collapsed entrance to the mine and started to dig.
I dug till my fingers bleed and I collapsed into a painful spat of hunger.
An immeasurable amount of time passed, and I could feel the holy wards over the mine were beginning to fade. It was unfortunate that my strength was fading faster. Not that I was worried about being trapped down here, Richten was buried with me and should I die here then there will be nothing left of the Dark Lord’s curse to afflict the land.
Pain became my constant companion, the thirst for blood, the hunger that clawed at my stomach. When I had the energy I would wonder the tunnels of the mine searching for a way out. At other times I would try feebly to dig through the earth of the collapsed entrance to the mine.
Mostly I curled up wishing desperately for the thirst to go away.
I dimly became aware of the trembling and shaking of the earth around me. Showers of dirt fell from the ceiling. I was far too weak to move, otherwise, I might have tried to shift out of the way for fear of the tunnel collapsing over me.
The sound of the earth groaning echoed when the rubble that blocked the tunnel began to shift and tremble. An opening in the blockage appeared that slowly began to widen. I could see the flicker of movement beyond and hear the sound of chanting.
When everything stopped, I gazed at the new entrance to the mine. Torchlight illuminated the dark hole that was carried aloft by a figure support a shorty unkempt beard. A few others followed after him through the entrance into the tunnel.
“Do you think either of them are alive?” someone asked, “It’s been several weeks hasn’t it?”
The bearded figure pulled out a worn book and handed off his torch to someone else. He started to mutter under his breath, his fingers tracing through the air. Faintly I feel the ebb and flow of magic gathering in the air. He finished his chant and the earth trembled.
“Rise,” he commanded.
I watch as Richten shift and move as he slowly stumbled to his feet.
Angrily I tried to move to stand, I wasn’t going to let him walk out of here. I wasn’t going to let him live again! But I was too weak.
“There,” the bearded man pointed his finger towards my direction, “I think that’s her. Be careful, she is no doubt starved.”
The men approached cautiously as the bearded figure turned to look at the shambling figure of Richten.
“To think she actually killed him,” he muttered, “crumble.”
Richten fell as the bearded figure pointed. He muttered a few more words and with another gesture pointed at the collapsed form of Richten. Fire leaped from his hand scoured the body.
“A bit overkill don’t you think?”
“Hardly,” muttered the bearded figure, “as I have explained before. There are ways to bring these creatures of the night back from death.”
“And fire kills them permanently?”
“No just makes it harder for the ritual to work,” he indicated in my direction, “now grab her body and let's go. We need to move before they find out we are here.”
Someone approached me. As they drew near gathered what remained of my meager energy. I felt a hand grip the folds of my clothes and quickly I moved to grab them.
I managed to grab their arm and I could feel the blood coursing through their veins. Blood that would give me strength hunt again, blood to put an end to my thirst, my hunger, my pain!
A blade came suddenly and effortlessly removed my hand. Angrily I tried to crawl, to move, to stop my prey from escaping.
“By the Goddess, she is still alive!”
“Not good, it seems she is too hungered to understand or care.”
“What do we do now?”
“We could feed the mage to her,” someone offered. There was the sound of a slap.
“Not funny, Brutus.”
“Well then what do you suggest?”
There was a moment of quiet before someone spoke again.
“Grab the coffin.”
There was the sound of shuffling and I watched as a couple of the figures disappeared through the opening in the tunnel. They returned carrying something heavy between them. There was a resounding thud as they dropped the heavy load close by.
“Allow me,” spoke the bearded fellow, “Rise and come!”
For several moments there was nothing, then distantly came the sound of slow shuffling feet.
“Restrain her in the coffin.”
A cold decayed hand reached out and grabbed me. Weakly I tried to fight back, to resist. Unceremoniously I was thrust into a long wooden crate. I felt the power of the holy wards around me that made it difficult to move, draining what little energy I had.
Eventually, I succumbed to sleep.
Slowly, drip by drip blood poured over my lips.
It was gradual but I began to regain my strength. I dimly became aware of people around me. Someone would approach and blood would be poured over my mouth. Sometimes from a chalice, but often from a slit palm or wrist.
I was chained down and held in place by magical wards. At first, I tried to fight against them seeking to take the blood for myself rather than endure the slow tease of blood. This played out for several hours, even after I gained the strength to speak and started begging to feed directly.
“Are you done?”
I shifted my head to the side to see the bearded figure that had taken me from the collapsed mine. The shadows obscured his face under the deep recesses of his hood.
“Who are you?” I asked.
He removed his hood and study my expression, “I am Timothy.”
For a moment I was quiet then I gave a small quiet laugh, “so you have gone and learned some actual magic?”
“I’ll have you know I figured out how to use magic long before my master cast me out.”
“But the first few times I have seen you cast spells was when you betrayed Richten to us,” I pointed out.
For a moment he opened his mouth to say something then closed it again in thought.
“I concede that my education was lacking 'till I had access to some actual spell books.”
“The Dark Lord’s books,” I started giving him a level stare.
“Richten’s collection,” he hedged glancing away, “At any rate do you feel well enough to be released? You're not going to kill me or anyone else because you're thirsty?”
“I’m always thirsty,” I argued, “but I want to know why I was uncovered? I thought we agreed that if I didn’t make it out in time you and the others were just going to leave us buried for good?”
Timothy gave me shrug, “I blame your loyal gathering of followers.”
“However,” he continued, “I also had some personal concerns.”
He took a deep breath before nervously scratching at his short unkempt beard.
“I didn’t want to tell you this as I hoped you would manage to kill Richten before any of this came to fruition. Of which I am quite glad that you did manage to defeat him. Also, I have uncovered more about the details of the Dark Lord’s curse, much of which I think will be of interest to you. If you're interested in allowing me to continue my studies.”
I opened my mouth to tell Timothy to get to the point, but he suddenly spoke thinking I was about to object to his studies as he protested.
“Of course all to better serve and assist you in protecting your people and reclaiming your land.”
“My people? My land?” I asked incredulously at the sudden turn in the conversation.
“Well yes, I am right to assume you wish to return to ruling the valley?”
“No,” I replied.
Timothy appeared entirely taken aback at my declaration.
“I must have been mistaken,” he muttered quietly, “I assumed since your followers regard you as their liege and lady that you had..”
He let the thought drop as he scratched at his short beard nervously, “Anyway, we need your help.”
“With what Timothy?”
“Richten’s remaining followers. They seek to bring back the Dark Lord.”