~Saadin el' Ishmae, Lord of Fencers
A Ranger’s Tale
The sky is blue, the banners are red. Beneath the morning sun lies Napishtim. Nestled at the centre of the Greater North, this mighty bastion of faith, politics, and military is the only reason why the entire continent has yet to revisit the War of Three Kings. The Free Lands of Slarvea ceded Mount Olymph unto the Holy Quintet Church, every manner of finery hailing from the Kalaran Empire. All the best of armour and arms, the High Realm of Teutonia supply them all. This is city unto itself, a nation bowing down to none. A country serving as both the blade and shield against the threat of Demons…
“What do you mean by this?”
If Cardinal Moreos believes he can get an answer out his opposite number, said counterpart merely offers anything but that. Moreos Benc has been a Cardinal through merit hard earned, his years of youth dotted with moments of Demon slaying. Yet there she is, acting as if the entire Napishtim actually owe her a big favour.
Harlot… by what right of deeds and status do you deserve to be made the Grand Damsel?
“Please do not tell me your thoughts,” sighed the white haired maiden, her gown revealing generous amount of cleavage, “Your expression says it all, Your Excellency.”
“My apologies for not being able to lie, Your Ladyship.”
Before Moreos’ derision, a shadow starts to stir. The Cardinal of Romus tenses up, but only ever slightly. The Grand Damsel, however, betrays a mischievous grin as she places a finger on her scarlet lips. The shadow promptly ceases its threatening weave, Moreos Benc at last feeling assured.
“Your breathing betrayed you, Your Excellency,” curtsied Sarel Aphros.
“Spare me your brazen courtesy!” snapped the elderly man, his towering frame urging him to snap that impudent woman’s neck, “You should know what happened over there!”
“In your vicinity of jurisdiction?” pursing her lips, Sarel reclines on the couch, her legs crossed in a modest manner, “Why yes, I have heard of it. Parish Cloms Biaz. A good man who used to be a poultist if my memory serves me well.”
“Yes, a good man who deserves to continue living in honest penance. I presume you know what has happened, no?”
“Please, Your Excellency,” purred the seductress, an abrupt change in attitude catching the Cardinal off guard, “Romus is the capital of the Kalaran Empire. As Napishitim’s ambassador to the Empire, you are entitled to the right to know and discern.”
“Ambassador of the Holy Quintet Faith,” corrected Moreos.
“Even the finest steed is to be called a mount.”
Not wanting to play against his verbal adversary at her own game of words, Moreos decides to see the Grand Damsel’s statement as a compliment.
“Am I mistaken in assuming this case of murder has something to do with me?”
Her sudden question throwing Cardinal Moreos off his feet, Sarel Aphros purposely betrays a smirk. The Grand Damsel is no foolish little girl, for Nanaya no Geun’Jin was already dead countless years ago.
Betrayed and raped, murdered and revived in another victim of rape.
Thoughts pertaining to a damning past briefly entertained, Sarel nevertheless dismiss them all in a manner utmost outrageous. Striding towards her quarry, the look on her counterpart is nothing less than priceless. Years belonging to a living toy has taught her that finest art called womanhood, the coolness of surrounding air caressing her naked crotch shaved.
“I like my men grizzled,” whispered Sarel as her luscious lips blew some air into the embattled Cardinal’s ear, a dainty finger stroking his chin like a cat, “Strength, stubble, and all…”
“GET AWAY, WHORE!”
Breathing profusely, Moreos Benc realises to his dismay that something in between his legs has gotten itself hard.
“A stroke or two and who knows what manner of substance will I feel?”
Cursing his decision made prior, the Cardinal of Romus knows there’s no escape. Why did the Great Chaplain agree to take her in? What was his intent? As head of the Holy Quintet Church, His Holy Righteousness has always been without flaw. An attribute inherited from the entire line of Great Chaplains. Why then must His Holy Righteousness decided to exalt a prostitute like her?
That accursed Cardinal of Anglsax. May the Seven Hells claim your crown, Cramer Davies.
“Did the Cardinal of Anglsax tell you all these?”
The Grand Damsel’s question numbing his senses, Moreos Benc can only feel an unbearable fire stoking within.
What manner of foul Magic is this? Never before…
“I can assure you that what I am able to do is something no Aesir can ever hope to replicate. Therefore, I beseech Your Excellency to come clean.”
“You dare?” snarled Moreos, “I am the Cardinal of Ro…”
A flash of red begets a crimson flare, the bonfire dissipating in an instance. There is nary a scream, neither bone nor ashes taking the place of an otherwise living man.
“Yet another pyre of life assuming a dead man’s form,” frowned the Grand Damsel, a snap of her fingers summoning a maidservant masked and armed.
“Gail, heed the orders of your mistress.”
“Your Sacred Highness’ wish is my mission.”
“There’s nothing to dispose of here,” commanded Sarel Aphros, her ruby red orbs taking count of crows perching nearby, “But I want you to bring me someone. Alive, not dead.”
“Unto whom do Your Scared Highness wish to have an audience with?”
“The Cardinal of Anglsax.”
"You asked for me, Gaffer Sir?" inquired Guy Cody, tentative steps emerging from the mahogany door with walls of white mortar completing the subtle cage.
A cage… that’s where we are right now.
Certain things have to be said, certain people will have to be hurt. The Northern Lion can only imagine how this sandy blond will react behind his back, not even forgiveness from his old comrade can save him from whatever living hell that awaits.
You better punch me hard across the face by tomorrow dusk, Garyth Parkins.
“You don’t have to give that look!” chortled Moggray in spite of himself, “I’m not gonna give you a braying session since it’s been quite some time when you've floored those sad bastards from Tyneside and Wearside.”
Impending moment of dread hovering over the battle scarred lion, every second seems to Moggray a game of chess where all pieces on the board are living and breathing. His blood curdling against the prospect of breaking news belonging to ill tiding, resultant creaking from his office door cackle like some omniscient crone. Sipping slowly his brown mug of tea, steely resolve within Moggray's heart of flint waver momentarily. Before this innocent Red Lion doomed, an endless maelstrom lashes out against his very soul.
At least I’m capable feeling gutted after that thrice damned war eighteen years back. Life is so full of bullshit, ol’Brynn.
Knowing what must be done from the beginning, Moggray Tonn sees himself as a hapless ram lording over a lost lion cub. What is to come will come soon enough, they all tend to say. And that’s exactly why the Division Gaffer of Teesside despises religion for what it really is. Ironically, this very lie proves to be prophetic.
"Yes, you're summoned here for a very good reason,” interrupted Southgate Garrat from one side, his seated form stiffening up on the leather couch nearby, "Before the Gaffer speaks, however, we three need to agree on a consensus."
"Erm, what will that be?"
Moggray's heart started bleeding upon hearing Guy's clueless reply, his inner rage directed against himself and nobody else.
"Very simple,” rang Southgate’s reply like a sombre knell, “Whatever things be said, you must promise us to remain calm. Not just only the news itself, but above all, do not commit any rash act pertaining to this matter."
We’re banking too much on the lad... way to go, Northern Lion. Moggray Tonn, you bloody helpless bastard...
"Okay. Guess it's no choice, suck thumb here..." agreed a baffled Guy with shoulders shrugged, Moggray's inner words condemning himself, "so just shoot, Gaffer Sir. I can handle anything."
"Arrow nocked: Pallister Scholes is confirmed dead and killed in action," if Moggray has any second afterthoughts on a tone overly curt, he shows them not to his charge.
"Huh?" Guy’s reaction would have seemed a comedy to any stranger otherwise, but not before the Gaffer of Teesside.
"Don't you dare give me this face and tone, Guy Cody. That is unless you don't remember that damned ginger grooming you back then!" snapped Moggray Tonn in a burst of senseless rage, the speaker promptly stung like a slave lashed by a slaver’s whip.
"Ki... killed? Dead? Confirmed?" quavered a trembling Guy. Banging a fist onto the desk, Moggray's attempt to rouse the cub ultimately failed.
"Kill in action? Dude, you sure know how to joke, Sir. He's the best fighter in all of Manchester! No, make that whole of the rest! No way damned way in Seven Hells will he eve..."
"Guy, listen to me," explained the exasperated veteran, his patience wearing thin like a rope held taut above a burning candle’s flame, "It's true that Scholes is an extremely good fighter, let alone a leader. But let it be known that shit happens in war. I've been through one too many before my arse was warming this seat!"
His tone undeniably strained, this isn't the first time people have pointed out his stubbornness. Too oft than not, the Northern Lion has held himself accountable in things he should have done better. Ditto for this time round as well. Like a total stranger telling a twelve year old that he’s now an orphan, the wearied soldier can only convince himself of a better tomorrow. At least that was what the Parish many years ago preached from the pulpit.
"Fake news! I don’t give a damn about bullshit, but I know a fucking lie when I see one!" bellowed Guy in disbelief, denial's fire branding a mark onto his sapphire orbs before Moggray, "You said Scholes is a leader-rank! That means no bloody way he would wade..."
Everyone has his first time in losing himself and Moggray Tonn, no matter how experienced, is no exception. A stinging knuckle sails across Guy Cody’s face, the Northern Lion’s anger dissipating from his steel grey orbs. Realisation dawning upon him, this was an act committed in a folly verily futile.
"Have I boxed you well? Good,” sighed the tired Gaffer, “I'm sorry to break this to you in person since Pallister Scholes is indeed a great teacher, but he's not the Soldier for crying out loud."
"And it’s some arsehole greater than a god who murdered a perfectly good man? Don't give me this kiddypop!" snarled the cub, a speechless Moggray Tonn suddenly sensing a young lion caged within the sandy blond. Cursing himself, the Northern Lion can only surmise the entire situation in one sentence.
So much for pride, honour and greater family preached.
Minutes drifting away before a silent wake, trickling sand within an hourglass matters not. The cub doesn't know how to roar, the leader of his pride knows not the route to consolation. The veteran scarred should have foreseen such circumstances coming ahead, yet he’s only able to place his faith in a soldier’s pragmatism. Atrocities committed by his own ilk was the only story belonging to his youth, those were the darkest age in Moggray's life.
Please help me!
I don’t want to die!
C’mon! Let’s fuck those bitches and let them burn!
That fiery one is one hell of a finest whore. Why not let her go down to the Seven Hells?
Traumatic past baptising the Northern Lion once again, Moggray Tonn can only bottle every single monster inside his heart. One fine day, mayhap his heart will give out. But not this day, not today. He could have joined Yriss Rahm, she would surely be glad to see that man who both gave her joy and destroyed everything.
We all are the Holy Quintet before our victims, yet nothing more than lambs to slaughter once our turn comes...
The Drowning Bear, an establishment earning a repute more than decent. Within the dark underbelly belonging to the Kalaran Empire, respect is all that matters. With power comes fear, those blessed sharpest wit always commanding admiration. The androgynous brunette surely doesn’t belong to the former, yet belying a slender frame is a mind far more agile than the most experienced alley cat.
"How many mugs have you already downed, bro?" asked Catterm, a wooden stool dragged towards his best friend, "Hopefully nowhere beyond the standard quota of five."
"Don't worry, Catts. This is just the second mug. And no, I'm not drunk. Not even by a long shot because I'm not that useless. So don't worry about me going nut drunk loco here. For now at least," replied Guy morosely, another mug of mead swiftly drained.
"Semi-liar. You sober enough to know the meaning? Yeah, you're still talking coherently, but you’re starting to talk too much and out of sense as well," Catterm sighed as he lit a cigarette, “And please don’t ask one from me. This is my last joint, cretin.”
“Our bravest cub doesn’t give a fuck, Catts,” sighed Lukas Brun, his apathetic expression hiding an astute mind, “Let him drown himself in the name of sorrow.”
“Hopefully not in his own piss,” muttered the fiery redhead darkly.
“Don’t worry,” smiled the androgynous lad wryly, “I’ve promised Adine not to let Guy drown in his own blood. In case you’re wondering, she looked me up around an hour ago.”
“Lucky bastard,” snorted Catterm, his expression softening for once.
“More likely you’re a dumbass bastard for calling her ‘that dark ugly duckling’ without understanding how baby swans look like.”
“Shut the fuck up, you gay.”
“Hey guys… can you both…”
Before the sandy blond lad can finish his statement, a shrill scream disrupts the banter. Given the manner of local social norms, everybody merely cast a glance or two at most. For Lukas Brun, however, this is nothing less than a form of territorial invasion. Flipping a knife like a master of legerdemain, the proprietor cum sole bartender of the Drowning Bear decides that some manner of law enforcement is now a must.
Not that this ain’t the first horny bastard I’ve castrated anyway. Hopefully he’s no rich bastard living off his merry wonderful kingdom.
Before he even starts closing down on the offenders, however, a roar spirals the entire tavern into silence. A swift punch instantly floored the first ruffian, a broken nose decorating his otherwise comely features. Not satisfied with just one, the berserk youth snaps his head forward. Receiving a headbutt cleanly against the forehead, the second victim suffers a knockout. Yet, it is the third and final thug who has it the worst. A knee to the crotch results in that expression no money can ever buy, his ordeal meeting its end via a toss into the well just outside.
If there is anyone worthy of slapping some sense into that sandy blond lion, surely Garyth Parkins will be one of the few. Noting this fact with a composed mind, Lukas Brun knows nevertheless that some real reckoning is on the cards.
Must be that Adine believing some gay boy can’t be trusted.
Sardonic humour forming inside his head, Lukas chooses to stay aside. Contorting in rage, Garyth confronts his ward in the most direct manner possible. A strong grip refusing to let go, he shakes Guy Cody violently. Throughout the whole process, however, the young lion neither betray any hint of fear nor guilt.
Upon seeing this, Catterm Leen decides that enough is enough. That is until a hand both slender and strong hold him back. Shaking his head, Lukas Brun wears an expression which the redhead only understands too well.
“Have enough?” growled Garyth Parkins, his chagrin all too blatant like a bonfire in the darkest night, “If so, then go home.”
Guy’s answer doesn’t shock Garyth so much as his expression. Catterm Leen sucks in his breath while Lukas’ frown is all too evident. This is a man now bereft of a soul, someone who can verily well derive pleasure from beating up others and nothing else. Garyth has seen many losses suffered. Lives both lost and crippled due to unbridled youth and a staunch rejection of pragmatism.
“Life ain’t fair because it has never been. Either we suck it up and die or we do nothing and die.”
Words from a man he has always respected returns to haunt Garyth, not many know who the Northern Lion is bar a chosen few. And he himself is one of them.
His shout at last getting Garyth Parkins’ attention, Lukas makes a simple sequence of hand signs. Garyth is no fool even though he has left the military world behind years ago. Knowing too well that the militia will arrive soon, the man they once dubbed “Crazy Park” dragged his charge away from the scene.
“Okay, so what we’re gonna do now, gay boy?” asked Catterm, a finger picking his teeth casually.
“Stop that,” snapped Lukas, his irritation all too apparent, “You know I hate the sight of people doing this in front of me. Don’t tell me Elys doesn’t mind.”
“Actually she doesn’t,” grinned the redhead, the mention of his lover’s name perking him up.
“Alright, I don’t have to know whatever details relevant,” sighed the androgynous brunette, his knife twirling around, “I need to do something about those losers. I recognise one of them because I happen to see his parents before. A bunch of fucking snobs.”
“With money and status?”
“Catts, please answer me this question truthfully,” shrugged Lukas, “Have you ever seen a piss poor snob without status?”
“Then let’s get going then,” grinned Lukas Brun, his knife now at work.
“”Doncha forget da las’un!”
With a thud, a hulking man fat and bald dumps Guy Cody’s final victim unceremoniously. Lukas doesn’t know his name, but surely he’s a local with a mind like for like. After all, there are plenty of fellow Kalarans the brunette doesn’t know.
“You’re really bad, Lukas,” sighed Catterm Leen, the act of fully grown men shaved wholly clean sending tingles of humour down his spine, “What will you tell their parents?”
“If they want to tell me something, I’ll be glad to be their host.”
“A little wonder why so many people hate gays,” quipped Catterm, his mirth now bursting through the seams.
“Save your laughs for a later time, Catts. Just find that poor girl a new skirt to wear.”
The hour is dusk, a Parish giving his sermon before an attentive audience. With ravens flocking by outside, there is nothing uplifting about the message preached. Yet, his words are full of encouragement and the promise of a better life so long faith is not called into question. Munching an apple green and sour is a hooded figure, his hair of frost visible at the fringe.
“Fuck the gods, fuck the promise, fuck your words.”
Blatant vulgarity catching everyone’s attention, the preacher is nevertheless filled with anger. Here he is, nearing the end of his sermon. How dare this knave intrude into a holy house! Letting his hood down, the gasp resultant is all too audible. This isn’t an Elf sung by minstrels and mothers alike. His ear are elongated, but his complexion is anything but fair. Orbs of azure blue proclaiming a message of cynical contempt, this is a man sending instinctive warnings of danger to the Parish.
“Someone drive this madman out!”
Aeranath doesn’t know who that daring soul is, but he knows how to deal with such a person. His left hand brushing past the edge of a cloak weather worn, the hilt belonging to Fragarach is more than enough to hush the sheep. What to do with this stupid preacher is the last thing in his mind, the Ranger merely wants an answer.
“Tell me where’s that great white bitch.”
“You heard me.”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” exclaimed the Parish, his panic amusing the True Apostle till no end, “Begone before the Holy Quintet shower their holy wrath!”
Laughter ensues, the tone resembling the haunting howling of a wolf. If there is anything Aeranath perceives as a laughing matter, surely the concept of retribution has to be top of the list. Then he ceases laughing, the sellsword drawing from his scabbard the Answerer’s blade.
“Let me tell you what is a holy wrath,” whispered Aeranath, a grip harsh and strong closing onto his frantic victim’s jaw, “A holy wrath is something met out by gods. It is something created by men like you.”
With a great force, Aeranath tosses the Parish aside. The impact might have fractured his spine, but the Ranger does not give a damn. The attendees can see it clearly in his ice blue eyes. The fury is there, blasphemy and unbelief both are ever present.
“Can you still walk?” mocked Aeranath. The Parish can only weakly nod.
“Good. Listen to me, all you people and sheep!” hollered the True Apostle, euphoria unrivalled pulsating in his veins, “When you declare a holy wrath on another person, upon whose name are you invoking? The name of your holy ones? That’s bullshit spoken from your lips!”
Noting with satisfaction that his words have boasted a heavier impact, Aeranath continues his own sermon made up on the go.
“When a woman gets raped, it’s holy wrath. When a child starves to death, it’s also holy wrath. When I kill another man, it means I’ve courted holy wrath. Let me tell you what is holy wrath.”
A swing of from the Answerer and off comes half the preacher’s head. The dead man slumps, his dead brains spilled. A geyser of blood has courted hysteria, chaos reigns supreme from thereon. The chapel swiftly abandoned, the Ranger cares not for whatever fury coming from the Aesir as he sits at the front row.
Let them come, I don’t give a fuck.
“Don’t worry, no one will come.”
Assuring words bringing anything but assurance, the True Apostle cast his ire against a beautiful maiden blessed with an equally beautiful figure. Eyes of ruby red remind him of a damning past, stark white hair reaching unto her shoulders mocking his life as an eternal hunter.
“Tell me what you want,” retorted Aeranath, “I bet I’ll be more interested in banging the oldest whore than to fuck you straight.”
“Please do not degrade yourself, ah’ni,” smiled Sarel Aphros, “I know you’d rather marry my ah’na.”
Gnashing his teeth in rage, Aeranath knows an insult when he hears one. Hyo’Ah deserves a better man, not some murderer forced to end her life. To suggest the only love of his life is deserving of his affection is tantamount to idiots saying an innocent man should die for his actions.
One more word of bullshit and you’ll get it from me…
“I’m not out to goad you, however,” sighed the Grand Damsel, her seductive frame seated beside the seething Ranger, “You see, I need some help.”
“To take off your clothes?” scoffed the True Apostle, his gloved hand slapping away her brazen advances.
“To help me destroy a troublesome band of bandits.”
“Give me one good reason why I must bend over backwards for you, bitch.”
“Because they claim to fight for their new found gods. Apparently, their leader is suffering from the grandest form of delusion.”
“Maybe he will stop calling himself a holy man after fucking you to death,” snarled Aeranath, a middle finger shown unable to perturb his object of anger, “Don’t bother me with this nonsense!”
“What if I say Aor has given Hraam his rightful Geis?”
The wolf stiffens much to Sarel’s delight, surely things are going according plan.
“I don’t know this Ham…”
“Hraam,” corrected Sarel, “Ham is form of edible meat.”
“I don’t fucking care whether he’s ham or Hraam,” growled Aeranath, the wolf in him calling for his next target’s blood, “Just tell me where he is, so that I can use him for target practice.”
“Such a direct one,” chuckled Sarel, images from a past long gone tearing up her insides, “A pity we’re not meant for each other.”
“The town of Chard, fifty miles from the North Coast. You can try asking for directions,” smiled the Grand Damsel, her flickering form now shrouded in crimson red, “I’m pretty sure the locals will tell you the correct way so long they’re convinced you’ll be dying alone.”
As he becomes the sole witness to Sarel’s minor show of power, Aeranath notices something.
Getting hard just because that bitch offered to let me fuck her? Indeed there’s no cure for this world…
Again, this is another dream. Another dream, but the same person. That maiden bloodied and dead… who is she?
Why am I feeling jealous?
Is it because she is more beautiful than me?
Or mayhap it is due to…
Shaking my head, I try clearing this preposterous thought. Yet, my feeble attempt merely feeds that very monster. Alestrial Eliaden… what is wrong with you? ‘Tis only a dream, a figment of the past surely!
“There is no saviour…”
His words suddenly catches me off guard, there is nothing bar a sorrow utmost bitter in him. Staying my silence, my heart starts beating rapidly like a doe running for its dearest life. Why does he say such words? If no saviour can be found, why then is everyone able to have the right to live?
“…because the world doesn’t need one anyway. And neither do I.”
My heart freezes for a moment, unwanted questions start pouring in.
“Kagetus no Hyo’Ah, you are a stupid woman to trust someone like me. Not even the loosest whore would ever trust a wolf, you moron…”