AN: For any wondering, the mother isnt a bad person, she simply has a bit of history. And she has to think of her family, you know? EDIT: Oh, and i tend to not use apostrophes much in words like "don't". You may have noticed. As I write this, chapter twenty two is already out. I promise that in later chapters is start putting more apostrophes where they should be. Or i try to, at least. My work here is a bit lazy since I wasn't too serious in writing the story in the earlier chapters.
Several minutes had passed before Alyssa's glowing hand slowly pulled out from the girl's chest, looking at her with a faint smile.
"Oh? Interesting. I didnt think that you would do something like that, my dear Cecelia. Although if it were the me of before I may have done something even more conniving. "
Melanie, hearing this, asked, " My lady, did you find something wrong?" Her voice dripped with worry.
The woman laughed and waved off the girl's concern. " No, at least nothing sinister. But there was something else that caught my attention. A surprising tidbit that made me see this girl in a new light. Well, not that her actions were done with any real malice." She spoke the words almost to herself. "But nevermind that. Melanie, dear, this girl. . .She, like you, simply isn't capable of doing my son any harm."
Melanie looked immensly relieved. " That's great! Young master is a good judge of character after all, as I thought. There's no way he would befriend someone bad!" She smiled warmly.
" Perhaps. But bad is relative. Anyway, I needed to be certain. Its good that the girl isnt a person with ill intent. My boy does cherish this one, it would be a shame if I had to break them apart. Though I dont consider myself that kind of person anymore, one must place family above all." She nodded to herself.
Melanie tilted her head, confused by her words.
" I'm just rambling, dear girl. Pay me no mind." The woman said. " By now that husband of mine should have left already. Melanie, watch her and make sure she's comfortable when she wakes. She won't remember anything about what we just did, so be at ease."
She stood up.
"My lady, are you going out?"
" Yes. I have to go and see if that Sophia girl or her mother knows of what the Marquis has been up to these days. I fear he has gotten involved in something dark. Something that husband of mine has been charged with investigating recently. If I can, I would like to save him some trouble. When you see them again tell the other three that I will return shortly."
Melanie, not understanding everything, simply smiled and nodded her head.
As the woman walked out, she had a certain thought.
" Lucius been in a bit of a fuss for a while. I wonder if things are worse than I know. That man, he needs to learn how to trust his own wife a bit more. " The words were soft and came out in a small whisper of slight dissatisfaction.
She shook her head, sighing a bit.
Three figures were inside a certain dark hall.
Lyle slowly stood up, having lost his footing during the transfer, and pulled his sister off the ground with a gentle tug.
The two looked around.
They were in some sort of . . .Palace.
Specifically what appeared to be a Throne Room.
There was a raised dais with a vacant spot to their front, with steps leading up to it.
The walls were marred with black scorch marks, the stones showing signs of breaking. The paintings were faded and torn, every corner of the large room carrying dirt and other filth.
There was a foul smell in the air, a lingering smell of damp mold, of death. Yet there were no rotting corpses, no. But there were bodies, laying scattered everywhere, their bones the only thing remaining of them and staring up at the high ceiling with hollow eye sockets.
But strangely their armor and weapons looked like new, sparkling in the light that was seeping in from the stained glass window, a window taking up nearly the entire wall in front of them.
Iris cautiously approached the weapons, wanting to see if they were real. To have such spotless things laying about with everything else was a mess, were they really there or simply some illusion?
She reached out a hand to touch a silvery sword, thinking in the back of her mind that her brother would like the thing given how she saw the one he normally used had somehow gotten a bit destroyed earlier.
Just as she was a bout to place her fingers on it, Lyle stopped her.
"Best not." He warned. He didnt know how but he felt that touching them was dangerous.
His father watched them, motionless, his face bathed in darkness because of the light from the window behind him.
Lyle looked past his father and saw something on the outside of the window.
He let go of his sister and walked over with a strange look, both marveling at the sight and pitying it at the same time.
There, outside the window, was a city.
It looked dead, not so much as a pigeon moving.
The buildings were large and elaborate but more had roofs that were fallen in than were whole. Tumbled walls spilled brick and stone along the streets. High towers, jutting proudly into the sky like broken daggers.
There were uneven hills upon which thrust out stunted trees along its slope that could have once been entire streets, now lost to the ravages of time.
But what was left of the city stole Lyle's breath away,
Varric, the capital city of Drann Kingdom, was considered a large city. But even its tallest or widest building would look small to any of the ones here. Large, black marble palaces seemed to greet him everywhere he turned his gaze. Past them were other, smaller building but they were no less beautiful.
Each intersection he saw held some sort of statue, either bronze, silver or what appeared to be gold.
Sometimes he saw a fountain, no longer pumping out water but inside he saw it held some type of reddish liquid.
Te wind picked up, and alongside it came a faint metallic scent.
He widened his eyes, or he was familiar with this particular smell.
But, it couldnt be.. . .
He wasnt quite sure.
For if so, how did it appear so fresh?
He felt like it was some mystery that he would never solve. But apart from that everything else he marveled at.
And yet even so, he was saddened to see it in its current state.
It was like the corpse of a once great and majestic beast. Somehow he felt odd, as if every corner was watching him. It was. . . disturbing. And not only that, the shadows twisted unnaturally, flickering and writhing even though there was little light from the sky. Even the lamps the traced the streets were dark.
Lyle, walking up and seeing this all this couldnt help but ask, " Father. . what is this place?" He felt a chill simply looking at the city. For all it caused wonderment in him, he also didnt feel like he wanted to spend all that much time here.
Iris, who had looked at it with him, was shivering. "This place feels wrong. . ." She muttered, reaching out to grab her brother's sleeve.
Father soon joined them. It was a few moments before he spoke, and even them it sounded hard for him to talk about.
" This is a city called Nos'Thragnea, the City of Broken Shadows. Adventurers used to come here in spades. But this place has been dead and forgotten for thousands of years. Once, a few hundred years ago, many teams of adventurers and a legion of Spirit Knights explored this place. Strange things happened."
"Like what?" Iris wondered aloud.
Father answered with a grim tone. " Like shadow creeping up on you, like finding yourself alone suddenly, a grey mist rising from the ground. This city plays tricks on you, on your senses. You can hear children laughing, you can see shapes in the dark, shadows that shouldnt be where they are supposed to. This city drove them insane. It twisted them, molded them into one of its denizens.
This city is alive, and it hunted them like prey. Of the several hundred who entered trying to discover its secret only a few dozen made it out. They spoke of how they suddenly got cut off from the others, of how the shadows followed them, of how they heard the screams of their loved ones at night. They said that the others didn't die. . .they simply became part of the city, or disappeared and never to be heard from again. From then on this city was left alone to rot and fade from memory. Though occasionally some still come here to seek riches. The fools.
This place, from the few records that the survivors found, used to be overflowing with light. This castle we are in was designed so that not a single place was dark, the city itself made so that light reached every corner. It was ruled by Immundus before he went insane. This is his birthplace. His legacy.
This is also the place that the Saints were summoned to. Where the mage-king Immundus killed three of them. His power was the weakest of the five, but the most mysterious too. His curse magic left this place twisted. He left it when he became a devil but returned once the Saints were called forth.
And now the very ground is polluted. Look, do you see those glittering lights in the houses? Those are jewels, among other things. Take a single one and you will be trapped here forever. Wandering for who knows how long."
Lyle and Iris' hearts beat faster with each word. They could feel it, the impurity of the entire area, the tainted aura.
"Father, such a place, why are we. . ?"
" This is the "edge" of this world. This is where the Saints were summoned, because the veil between worlds is especially weak here. After the last battle the Grayborne ancestors came here and used a mysterious power to create a space cut off from this or any world. How they did so, and how they entered this place unharmed, I dont know. "
Lyle looked around at the place.
He saw everything with a new light. This place was . . .Historic. A place where apparently the first battle between the Saints and the mage king Immundus happened. A place where three of the Saints fell.
Immundus must have left just before he lost his sanity.
Could he have known what was happening to him? Tried to stop it?
Most mages didnt know the signs back then, Lyle knew.
The mage-kings where the strongest of their time, most regular mage simply couldnt become so powerful. The heights they reached before their fall was a place where probably none in this age could even aspire to. The knowledge they had regarding magic. . .It was deep and unfathomable.
Even an average mage could become especially powerful after they turned into devils, the power the mage-kings who were the cream of the crop in a time where knowledge if magic was at it's peak...well, they must have wielded was unimaginable to Lyle.
Combine that with the "Sins", the curse magic series that devils commanded instinctively, and they became the greatest threat to the world than any army.
They created legions of twisted, unholy creatures using that very curse magic. Dread Knights, Lamia, Blood Golems, the spear-wielding Death Lords formed from the resentment of hundreds. . . and many, many more things that even now threaten the world.
"Come, Lyle, Iris. What we seek is under the palace. This place is the only building that lay untouched by the city's taint. A'daire, I gave him a way to enter this place. He must already be down below. We should go."
He entered a dark doorway to the side of the room that had stairs going downward,
Lyle and Iris followed.
" Father." Iris spoke suddenly "This place seems like the perfect place to keep the mage-kings. How can any enemies access this place?"
"There are. . .Other ways. Darker ways. This place has been forgotten by time, for the most part. Simply because no one could enter all those years ago, that doesnt necessarily hold true now. If one was willing to pay the price, then the city would welcome them. But the Grayborne family has another place just as secure to put the mage kings. We simply didnt want to use it if we didnt have to."
So he meant that it was entirely possible for anyone to enter as long as they paid said price
What that price was, Lyle didnt know.
But if their enemies wanted to unleash the mage kings onto the world again, if they thought they could bend them to their will, then Lyle didnt think there was any price they would be unwilling to pay.
They descended the stair in silence for several moment.
Iris looked at her brother.
Although she was scared, she knew from the way he walked with a hand on her shoulder that he was looking out for her.
The way he seemed so alert, with tensed muscles and a clear gaze, she understood that he was constantly scanning for any signs of danger.
He held no weapon, but his training with that old man, A'daire, made him no less dangerous for it.
Iris smiled to herself.
Big brother always looked so cool and heroic when he was worried about her.
Although this place made her want to curl up into a ball, if big brother was here she could endure this much!
Lyle looked at his sister and saw fire within her emerald eyes.
This sister of his was indeed made of stronger stuff than most children.
Even a place like this didnt make her cower in fear.
Though even he was a bit frightened by the unnaturally dark shadows and faint noises, she didnt seem all too affected.
She still shivered a bit, but for the most part she held up well.
He praised her in his mind.
Soon Lyle, Iris and father came upon a bright light and the stairs ended.
Lyle felt his heart beat faster, in fear, in anticipation, he couldnt be sure.
As they entered the light, a strange place was seen.
It was an enormous white room, large enough that their steps made echoes.
There were no sources of light, but it was brightly lit, almost too bright.
But it was not simply white.
It looked. . . drained of color, with no real way to tell up or down.
It was a bit disorienting.
There was nothing in the room except two things.
One were gigantic silvery bars that separated the room, on the other side of which were shadows so deep and dark that it seemed to suck in the light.
He saw tendrils of darkness reach out from its depths, like hands.
Other than that there was a person, a large, bald-headed person that was mountain-like in stature.
He casually leaned against one of the silver bars, the tendrils of dark not quite long enough to reach him.
To his feet was a five foot wide circle, blood red, with a multitude of archaic runes too intricate for him to make out.
"Ah, Your Grace. About damn time." He greeted father with a casual air.
He looked at the other two along with him, nodding to each in turn as he spoke to them..
"Brat, Little Miss. Pretty cool place, eh?"