Anecdotes

Anecdote LX: The End for Maliz & Chankel

Fragments of Darkslaying.

May 5th 2015

When the door burst inward, Falient was thrown back from it to the side of the room. There was a deafening explosion. The force shattered the stained glass, blowing it out in thousands of pieces into the yard beyond. Black shrapnel flew, biting into everyone around the table. There was a mad cacophony of screams and roars. Over it rang a harsh, grating voice, coming from somewhere beyond the door,

“No Light will come to Maliz, but death will come to you.”

Whipping wind was blowing through the door, stale and swirling with Dark fog. The guests coughed and gagged in it, but Lask managed to shout,

“Elanor! The door!”

As home, Elanor winced at the intrusion, but flew to her laptop and obligingly began to type, fingers pounding at the keys.

Light began to glow around the door frame, spreading upward from the threshold. It began to solidify, forming into metal-strapped planks of unshakable ironwood. The planks climbed higher up the opening, struggling to bar the way and stop the poisonous fog. Before they made it to the top, Garth had hauled himself to his feet, pulled something from his belt, and thrown it through the remaining space. Just after it passed through, the door solidified with a flash of light and the wind stopped. The Writer’s words swam over the form of the door, and light flickered along the grain of the wood. Something produced a distant boom from behind it, and then everything was quiet.

Garth steadied himself and drew the thick machete-like blade from over his shoulder and reached for the door handle.

“No!” gasped some of the guests behind him.

He pulled the door open, but there was only the hallway beyond. The room let out a collective sigh of relief.

The thirteen attendees were battered. All of them had been blasted back from the table and lay, coughing and sputtering on the floor. Everyone but Falient was pieced with shrapnel. Falient was lying unconscious in the corner, having been knocked out by the force of the blast.

******

Farriel was locked in a cell within Chankel. The fortress was built inside a remote mountain. Everything was steep there; staircases and shafts and the gazes of the guards that watched the boy.

There was a shaft on the west side where Falient and Wyatt would be able to enter undetected. The shaft was about twenty feet long. It was rough and narrow enough for them to climb, and emerged into a remote hallway that was not well traveled.

The boy’s cell was two levels below them. They would have to turn left out of the shaft to find the first staircase, and another left to find the second. Once on the proper level, they would find the boy’s cell around the first bend in the hallway.

There were three guards outside Farriel’s cell. They were talking about the recent acquisition, when one of them presumed to know what Shokereth had planned for them. Another disagreed, and called him a liar. They began to bicker amongst themselves, arguing enough that they didn’t see Falient until his saber had cut through two of them. He cut their throats in silence, letting their bodies slide down the wall to muffle the sound of their fall. He dispatched the third with equal stealth, then turned to face the door.

Growing over the door was a black thorn vine, but one Falient knew well. He knelt and carefully slipped a hand under the thorns to find the trunk of the vines. His skillful fingers found the central vein of the plant and pinched. In a few seconds, the thorns sucked into the vines and he was able to brush them to the side. His knife made quick work of the lock on the door, and he pushed it open to reveal the boy inside.

The boy opened his mouth, but Falient put a hand over it so the boy would make no sound. He scooped the child into his arms and carried him out, know it would take a great deal of gun work and swift feet to make their escape.

(Here, the Writer has omitted things too unspeakable for Falient to recount.)

*******

Shokereth had been shot when Falient escaped. She was so concerned with healing her blasted-open head that she paid little attention to the bite on her shoulder. She poured her magic into the wound through her head, regrowing her fragmented skull, the lost eye, covering the open flesh with fresh skin. As her face began to return to normal, she stormed through the halls of Chankel calling,

“Ready! Arm yourselves! We leave tonight! I want those Alcanorens’ heads!”

All the while, faint lines were appearing under her skin around the bite mark Falient had left on her. They were small. No one would notice them unless they studied the wound. They spread slowly, as thin as spider silk, lacing across her body, mostly hidden by her clothes.

Shokereth made her rounds through the fortress, shrieking orders, lashing out at any of her servant Demons she thought were not moving fast enough. She felt light-headed, but attributed it to the hole that had been blown through her head just a few hours before. She put a hand to her head and released a bit more magic over it, hoping it would pass soon.

Little did she know, fragments of Light were floating through her veins, pushed into her blood as Falient’s teeth pushed into her skin. The Light was growing, multiplying, fighting with her black blood, eating away at the lining of her veins.

When she was satisfied her underlings were preparing properly, she pointed a hand at the floor, opening a gaping hole in the stone. She stepped into it, dropping under the fabric of the world, and emerging into her cavern hideaway where she did her blackest planning and research.

She went to the back of the cave and approached her table there. Strewn across it were maps: Avigdell, Xanthon, Bellvale, Jemhylu, Bengareen, Carib Hall, Lathica, Junia. As she stepped up to the table, a sudden wave of dizziness swept her again. She shook her head, grunting, as if she could jostle the feeling away.

She looked past the table to the shelf behind it. Upon it were ten bottles of varying sizes, each filled with some simmering black ooze. She went to the shelf and began removing the bottles, tucking them into a black leather bag, chanting to herself in sing-song,

“One for the red-eye,

One for the spider,

One for the lone gun

out for hire.

One for the mama,

and one for the smith,

and one for the kitty-cat

and his fish.

One for the fairy,

one for the nurse,

and one for her husband.

Who gets it first?

One for the senator

and one for a song,

Bet his last verse

won’t last long!”

She giggled to herself as she stuffed the last bottle in her bag.

“Time to go,” she crooned.

As she turned around, another wave of dizziness swept over her and she stumbled, collapsing to the floor. The flap of the bag fell open and the bottles went rolling out across the cavern floor. Shokereth cursed and scrambled after them, gathering them back into the bag. As she reached for one of them, she saw something drip onto the floor in front of her. For a moment she thought it was a bit of sludge falling from one of the stalactites above her, but as she looked closer, she realized it was part of her lip.

Shokereth shrieked. A hand flew to her face, but it stuck there. When she tried to pull it away, long threads of skin and flesh stretched with it, like melted cheese. Her scream reached an even higher pitch. She scrambled, gripping the table and hauling herself up, the scattered bottles forgotten. Black ooze splattered over the maps as her scream turned to a gurgle.

The Light in her blood was melting her from the inside out, disintegrating her black flesh. It dripped off of her in thick chunks. She could not scream anymore, but her eyes bulged in her head. She tried to use her magic, the darkness pouring out of her melting hands, but to no avail. Perhaps if she had noticed sooner, she could have saved herself, but she was too far gone.

Her flesh bubbled and slurped as it glopped off until she was nothing but a black puddle in the floor of the cave.

*******

The Writer called for Lask.

“I hate to interrupt you, but you need to go to this cave and set this mass of sludge on fire. Now. Burn it to nothing, gather those bottles and get out quickly.”

Lask complied. He was still in full armor from earlier in the day, and he stopped in his work on the island. He reached for his vessel in his mind, sensing the location, then drew a door to Shokereth’s cave.

When he emerged on the other side, it was exactly as Elanor had said. He gripped his sword, fire flaring around him, braced for any Dark booby trap that lay in the cave, but none came. The place must be remote enough that Shokereth didn’t feel the need to lay extensive traps inside. Outside might be a different story, but Lask had been able to transport himself directly inside– whether this was because of his own peculiar magic, or the she-demon’s hubris, he hardly cared.

He saw the puddle of what had been Shokereth, and fastened the magical brass beak onto his helmet to filter the air. He released a large fire ball at the puddle and it took instantly, sizzling into the ooze as if it were the finest oil.

While it burned, Lask picked up the glass bottles strewn all over the floor. On each one, he noticed a label. There was no writing, only a crudely drawn image on each. There was a red eye, a spider, a gun, a tiger. Lask realized each bottle had been made for one of his comrades, and one for him. He was careful not to drop or open any of them, gathering them into the bag he found nearby with the most delicate touch.

As he packed up the last one, he looked back to the fire he’d started. It had grown smaller, and he decided to risk waiting for it to finish. He kept a wary eye on the cavern entrance, and his hand did not relax on the grip of his sword.

When the fire burned out, all that was left was a faint black powder. Lask glanced to the cavern entrance, then sheathed his sword so he could put his hands together, molding a bit of his fire between them until it formed into a jar. He bent down and swept as much of the powder into the jar as he could, then sealed it. Taking one last look at the door, he took up his key again and drew another door.

He did not relax until he had shut the door on the other side. He waved it away, glad to have the ground of Avigdell back under his feet.

*****

Elanor’s rage made her stronger. When she sat down to write, she could feel the energy of the words and their purpose crackling in her head and in the air around her. As the Writer placed her fingers on the keys and turned her thoughts toward the Dark fortress to the south, she thought: I will end you.

Malíz was a terrible facility over the tropical south. Its silhouette lurched out of the swamplands in jagged, blocky planes. Dark stone walls with no windows loomed out of the eternal twilight. Patrols of Runners and Warmongers waded in regular passes around its perimeters. Serpent scouts swam in silent, sinuous strokes through the blackened trees beyond, their tongues flicking ceaselessly to scent the stale air.

Pillars of vile steam rose out of the marsh from places where the fortress’s pipes vented. The faint breeze blew the mist in languid coils. There was no life in the marsh save the Dark. The only creatures in the water were black, foul things, which fed only on each other and anyone unfortunate enough to tread in the waters.

Within the stronghold, it was only worse. Labyrinthine hallways coiled up and down six floors of brutality. Here the Dark preyed upon its own, capturing weaker creatures and conducting gruesome work upon them. The hallways were never silent. Always there were the echoes of distant screams. Here, the Dark took the weak and forced them– through torture and magic– to become strong. Many did not survive, and these were sliced up and fed to those who remained. It was a streamlined system of evil.

This was the place the Writer and her spirit watched. They know of its web of ventilation shafts, and it was these Elanor would use. She let her fingers run where they would over the keys, bringing the words to darken the sky further. This writing was a strange magic– for she was at home, in her living room, candles burning, the smell of sage, cedarwood, and roses in the air, yet she was somewhere far beyond.

Elanor had left her human life behind, nothing more than the sound of clattering keys, the glimmer of fire light, and the hone steel point of her will– and her vengeance upon this place that harmed her family. She could see it as she typed and visualized and called upon the power of the Quill. In that moment, she had no doubt it was real, and no doubt of what she, knowing her power, could do.

The clouds rolled thicker over the starless sky, filing into place like soldiers with growling rolls of thunder. Below, the Dark guards looked skyward.

Elanor, Ink Sorceress, willed the clouds to thicken and descend, gravid with rain. As the first fingers of lightning snatched downward at the black trees, it began to rain. At first, it was ordinary, a steady drizzle, which caused the black waters of the marsh to ripple. As the storm grew, the rain began to glisten. In each of the drops, Elanor willed her words, the light of her family and the love in her heart– love stoked to fury by the events of the day, what had been done to Falient, what had been threatened to her Lask and his allies. Each drop became droplet of light, fueled by the Sunflower. After following the sun for so many years, she was brimming with light, and it was from this that the rain poured.

It didn’t take long for the screaming to begin. The Runners shrieked first, for the rain fell onto their skin, each drop hissing as it hit, the light burning little holes into their dark flesh. The Warmongers began to howl next, as the water began to soak through their rough fur. It took the Serpents a moment longer to register it, as their scales kept them safe for a few seconds beyond their fellows. Within minutes, the entire legion of guards was screaming, floundering in the marsh as they struggled back toward the fortress for shelter.

Some didn’t make it. As the rain began to settle into the swamp, the light coated the surface like a slick of oil. It bit into their legs and arms. Those further out found their very limbs eaten away from under them, leaving them to collapse into the shining pools of death. Some made it inside, the rain trickling down their bodies, leaving tracks of blood wherever it ran.

“What is this?” came a voice. It was Liltu, one of the Demons, come to inspect the source of the noise.

“The rain!” yelped one of the Runners, “It is Light! Poison!”

Liltu looked out the door to shining drops falling on the marsh.

“We expected some retaliation attempt,” she growled. “Bar the doors. Man the defenses. A little rain won’t hurt these ancient walls. Don’t let anything through that door.”

As the guards scrambled to obey, Liltu stalked back into the heart of the fortress to spread the word. While her candles burned and her keyboard clattered, Elanor smiled. I won’t be coming through the doors, she thought.

The storm raged outside Malíz. Rain fell in a torrent, a shining wall of water plunging out of the sky and into the marsh, swelling its waters. The water began to lap at the edges of the ventilation shafts, but Elanor held it back. She turned her words toward the vents, covering them in a shining web of words so no water could pass inside.

The waters began to rise up the outer steps of Malíz, and within, the guards shifted and skittered, some abandoning their posts to seek higher ground inside. Within the fortress, there was chaos. Alarms were sounding in the hallways. Experiments were stopping, prisoners being locked back in their cells, so that every available Dark creature could arm themselves and stand for the attack, but it wasn’t a Light army bearing down upon them.

The rains beat the swamp into a lake, water lapping at the doors of the fortress, and bearing down on the covered ventilation shafts. When she was satisfied with the floodwaters, Elanor released her hold on the vents. The words dissolved, leaving the way open, and the waters began to pour inside.

For a time, there was only the sound of the storm– the thunder, the whipping wind and pounding rain– as the water raced along the shafts through the black innards of Malíz. Then the screaming began anew.

Inside, light water began pouring out of the ceilings, out of every vent and drain. Streams ran down hallways, picking up speed. It wasn’t long before a raging flood coursed through the bowels of the stronghold, sweeping over guards and prisoners alike, searing their Dark flesh into nothing. Everything was chaos, a mad scramble for the upper ground. Warmongers snapped at Serpents, who shoved at Runners, vying for space on the stairs as the entire population scrambled upwards.

But there in the roof was the tiniest crack. A flaw in the stone, where a bit of the black sooty armor of the place was thinner. The rain ate away at it, pummeling down from the twisting storm clouds, pounding at the roof while the Demons scrambled inside.

“Where are they?” Liltu was shrieking. “I don’t see any of them.”

“There’s no one outside,” Barrbat roared back, “Just the rain.”

“They have to be there somewhere! This can’t have come out of nowhere!”

Just then, a torrent of water burst out of the ceiling onto Barbatt. His flesh bubbled and hissed, dissolving to the sound of his scream. Liltu screamed in return, horrified. She ran hell-bent to the uppermost room, leaping the meandering rivers of light water coursing down the stairs. She fumbled with the communication stones, trying to press them into the proper position to warn Ariman and Namta, who were still away, but just as the communication opened, the roof gave way.

The water had pooled on the flat roof of the highest wing, where it had roiled over the flaw in the stone. The light ate a hole through, sending a thin stream of water drip-dripping into the chamber behind her. Ariman’s face appeared between the stones just long enough for him to see the wall of water come crashing down behind Liltu. It swept over her in a wave, severing the connection instantly, and boiling her away to nothing.

The floodwaters rushed down the stairs, sweeping over the guards who were scrambling upward. There was no escape. The water was everywhere. It flowed through the shafts, the hallways, and down every twisting staircase. The entire fortress was drowned in a flood of light water. Everything inside was eaten away, the Light boiling off every trace of Darkness.

Outside, the thunder rolled, the storm gathering strength for one final blow. With a blinding flash, a hammer of lightning struck into the water outside the stronghold. Its power caught in the water, and all at once, there was a staggering explosion. The light inside ignited, and Malíz was blown into rubble, which flew for hundreds of feet, splashing into the swamp. Much of the water vaporized with the force of lightning, sending the light into the air in a shining mist, killing anything that was left to inhale it.

The rain slowed into a steady patter and the thunder fell away. Where once had stood one of the most terrible abominations she’d ever seen, Elanor saw only rubble. The fortress was collapsed and strewn everywhere, rivulets of water still coursing over its broken stones. Everything was silent, save the patter of the rain. There was no more screaming. No voices called. Only the steady murmur of the rain hummed over the desolation.

Elanor felt weaker than she had in a long time. It felt like she hadn’t slept in days. She was ravenously hungry. Her hands shook over the keyboard. Bile welled in her throat, and for a moment she thought she might vomit, but the urge passed. Sometimes being the Quill-vessel was a great and terrible wonder.

Malíz was gone, wiped out in one wrathful storm. She had wondered if she could do it, if she had the power, but in her mind she could see the scene of the truth. It was gone, and over it, she spoke her own words– both a warning, and an echo of the threat Malíz had made to her husband earlier in the day:

No darkness shall overtake the light. Death will come to any who try. I may be small to you, but a tempest roars in me and I will be heard. I am a servant of the Light and I will defy you for as long as the Light keeps me alive. Retaliate if you dare. Attack the people I love or our allies, and I will crush you like I have done here– now and for as long as I breath in me.

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