GGCE 24.1 – The Blight spreads

Desmond leaned against the weatherworn stone railings that separated the palace gardens from the steep drop behind it. His expression was dark as his eyes scanned the capital city below. His hair fluttered in the breeze along with his humble ornate dark grey robe’s hem. A golden dragon curled above his heart, embroidered by that muscle head vixen that had parted with him the other day with Avery in tow. It wasn’t fancy and even lacked the elegance of a lowly noble girl could do, but it was a gift nonetheless.

“She’ll be okay. I trust that Avery will keep her safe.” Randol patted his bruting brother’s back as he joined him. He was dressed in a fine white robe, similar to his brother, with a large golden dragon that danced up the left side of his body. He leaned his back against the rail while locking his fingers in front of him and rested them against his thighs. “Are you sure?” Desmond asked the prince. His tone was almost threatening. Randol would have been taken aback if he hadn’t known about the situation the other day.

“Mostly sure. Avery’s a very powerful woman, but I don’t think she can stop everything. However…” He turned to look at the side of his little brother’s face. “Navara is a fighter as well. She can hold her own.” He turned away with a smile.”She didn’t take her sword.” Desmond growled. He struggled to contain his anger. A fit of anger he had not felt in a long time. Randol looked at him as he reassessed his words. “She can mostly hold her own. Don’t worry about her, Avery promised to try her best and from what we’ve seen, she is a woman of action.”

He pushed off the rail with his rear before he used one hand to turn his brother to face him. “If I were you, I’d worry about the Academy’s investigation into the expedition that killed a few noble kids.” With the reminder, Desmond’s anger was quickly quenched by the cold reminder that he had gotten people killed out there, a fact that he wrestled with other the past days since finally arriving in the Capital.

It would forever be a blight on his soul forever. He tried not to think about it and was successful most of the time in doing so, however, he still saw them in his dreams every night or so. He quickly shook the thoughts from his mind before he glared up at his brother. “I’ll deal with that tomorrow. If anything, I’ll just have to borrow a few gold royals from you to pay them off.” He said before he turned away from his brother and the city. “I’m too worried about Navara right now.” He said as he kicked a non-existent rock away.

“That man has been trying to hurt me for years and now he finally crossed my bottom line,” Desmond said as the pair walked away from the palace edge. A few guards patrolled off in the distance, more mindful not to hear things they shouldn’t hear and see things they should see when their bosses were around. “I can say-” Randol was cut off by Desmond who’s anger flared up again at the thought. “He tried to have her killed!” He growled through his teeth.

Randol only sighed. Their father the Emperor had been out to get Desmond since he was born, most often, only being held back by the thought of the rumors that would swirl around if he did do so. When he grew older, it became even harder to do so without a reason short of treason, but Desmond was a smart child and picked up on that man’s seething hate for him. The rest was history afterward until a few days ago when Desmond and Navara actually spoke about the prospect of marriage. The incident at Fable’s end showed the two that the feelings were in fact mutual.

He didn’t know if his father got wind of it or he was just coincidence. He bet on the latter. His father attempted to send someone to kill her in her sleep. If not for the fact that Fenrir was there, the lovely girl would be on her way home without a head. That was why the girls went on a long quest until things cooled down. Navara was in the dark about it of course. She hadn’t even been in the building when the attempt happened.

Randol felt sorry for his baby brother who had done everything in his power to stay out of politics and government. Even going as far as not trying to chase the throne and entered into the academy. He didn’t socialize at first in an attempt not to be accused of trying to establish a foundation and eventually he became hated at school as well. Of everything he did to please their father, he still always wanted him dead.

That was why he always tried to protect this little brother. Of all his siblings, he cared for this lost child the most. This child only wanted to be loved and now that he was so close to finding it, he hit the wall called their father.

“So how did you convince her to leave?” Randol tried to change his attention away from the assassination attempt. “I talked it over with Avery and Avery told Navara that she wanted to see her hometown. I didn’t ask for the details, but it worked on in the end.” Desmond smiled at the thought of Navara, his anger subsiding slightly. “It’s lonely with her here.” He said. “I know the feeling well.” Randol agreed. “At least Father Emperor isn’t trying to kill him.” Desmond verbally jabbed at his brother playfully.

“He’s too cute to kill. Besides, I’m not even sure he knows who I’m seeing. That’s if he even knows I love men.” They hardly spoke with their father, but with the man’s vast network of spies, he seemed to know most things about them. “Well, with that aside, I can give you the gold. Don’t worry about it, I’ll just collect from Avery. She already talked to me earlier when I brought up that you were going in front of the Headmaster and the board along with the nobles. She already gave me items to sell, courtesy of Fenrir.”

Randol grabbed his brother’s arm suddenly and they both stopped. “That reminds me. She left a message. ‘Keep low until we come back and stay safe’. ” He handed Desmond a sheathed knife. “Protection. Things have been rocky as of late and I don’t know who we can trust. Just… do as the lady asks. Please.” Desmond looked up at his brother’s serious expression before he looked down to the knife. He nodded slowly as if he slowly grasped the meaning. The incident didn’t many Desmond any friends and he was to go into the lion’s den tomorrow when he returned. He would do whatever he could to protect this little one, even if he had to slaughter all the nobles in the capital.

He just hoped it didn’t come to that before Avery came back.

The two walked to the palace entrance silently before they turned to head towards the Royal Quarters. Just before they went off to their respective Quarters, Randol stopped his brother again. “Do you regret going?” He looked Desmond in the eye. Desmond stared back and hesitated. He pursed his lips as he searched for an answer. After a few seconds, he found it. “No.”

. . . . . . . . .

“That’s enough.” A voice erupted camp side and the group who was close to fighting had turned to see who the newcomer was. The guards who had been full of vile bravado just a few moments ago quickly shrunk as they snapped to attention. Avery stepped in front of Navara with her hand on the pommel of her sword and Navara took a few steps back with her hand on the grip of her wand. Both of the girls kept to themselves as a man dressed in full steel armor that glistened in the moonlight appeared before them.

The symbol of their troop, a passing cloud with a halo above it, was etched on the chest plate and the man appeared to be in his mid-thirties. “A few servants came by to inform me there was an issue here. Anyone cared to explain what that is?” His tone was that of a superior speaking to his subordinates and his eyes scanned over everyone present as if the girls were included into his commanding question.

Avery glared back, her eyes shone at him like two golden fireflies in the night. This knocked the man off guard. Her eyes were quite beautiful. He had known she had golden eyes from when he saw this beautiful young girl, but his only impression of her was her beauty had most likely earned her those trinkets and the mount must have been a gift from some powerful figure. But right now, staring into those golden pools, he felt a fierce beast was ready to pounce on him.

This was an ability tempered by hundreds of battles and was not a feeling to take lightly. He could feel this woman was not someone to be trifled with. His eyes landed on the beast-girl behind her and felt she was definitely a warrior, but compared to the swordswoman protecting her – It was comparable to an ant to the heavens.

 He quickly stared away from the pair. He felt no point in throwing away this chance to connect with a possibly powerful warrior he may be able to rope into their group. “Captain, we were just patrolling the parameter when these girls began to threaten us and-” He was cut off by a sudden growl like a beast was trying to threaten them. Everyone turned and saw the beast girl had her fangs bared at the group who seemed to gloss over their involvement in staring the conflict

“Save it, the servants had already reported what happened.” The man coughed to break the tension. “I have also had several reports of you harassing the female servants earlier. I had planned to deal with it in the morning, but it was reported you were about to fight the hunters.” He stepped towards his men imposingly as he scanned over their fearful faces. “Did I not remind everyone to behave within the nobleman’s presence and his entourage?” The men nodded at his words.

Avery turned her attention away from the man who began to grill his subordinates as the beasts by the waterside began to stir uneasily. Their frightened calls roused the whole herd and the few servants attending to them tried to ease them unsuccessfully. This commotion went unnoticed by the mercenaries who were busy with their own little game. Her eyes scanned the beasts as they began to inch toward the light while turning to look at the horizon. Her eyes followed theirs and saw tens of blue orbs bouncing in the distance as they began to make their way over one of the rolling hills.

“Navara, can you see that?” She pointed to where the blue orbs began to emerge from the distance. She turned to face it and sniffed the air. “I see the blue orbs, but I smell rotting flesh.” She glanced at the men to their side. “Instead of playing around, why don’t you go check out whatever that?” The men snapped away from their current peril to see what they were being admonished about.

When they saw the glowing orbs in the distance, they all sucked in air. “Undead!” The Captain yelled. “Sound the alarms! Undead on the horizon!” The man’s voice lost its commanding aura and it was replaced with fear. “Undead?! There aren’t any undead in the plains!” Navara yelled out in surprise. She had never personally seen an undead so she wasn’t familiar with their terrifying prowess, but Avery had. Her eyes narrowed at the distant enemy as she felt an uncontrollable range burn inside of her, as if the mention of these blights on the world were an insult to the very fabric of her being.

“Get ready for battle, Navara!” Avery hissed “I’ll buy you time!” She sprinted towards the charging undead without thinking. “Wait! What-” Avery’s speed was incomparable to these mortals who scrambled after her with the false notion to protect her. She was not even wearing armor, but she charged in anyway!? How foolish! Before they could even make it a quarter of the way to the undead, Avery had already clashed with the enemy’s front.

The moment Avery came within forty feet of them, she saw the dark visage of the enemy. Skeletons adorned in shiny black armor that seemed to suck in the moonlight around them. “Dark Knights!” She growled. They were considered the Higher-Undead, a cut above regular zombies. They held the intelligence of a child, while their lesser brethren, zombies, were mindless and guided only by instinct and an unquenchable hunger for flesh. They were held large obsidian swords that glowed in the moonlight as they all trained on her. Their bones rattled along with their armor in a symphony of impending death.

 But not to her.

It was just the racket that trash made in her ears. Unbeknownst to her, the burning hatred inside of her stemmed from the root of her powers – Fire. As the Goddess of Flames and Hearth, she was the embodiment of Flames and Home. She was the warmth that coursed through you when you arrived home or when you set up camp. She was the burning flame that cooked the food or to warm you by the fireside. She was also the unbridled destruction that fire caused. She was also destruction.

But the undead was different from her. They stole flames and corrupted them into the vile Hell Flames that they used. Stripped of their warmth, they burned a coldly blue like living ice. Their flames were death itself. When the flames raged, they destroyed, but in their wake, life could thrive. Not with hellfire. Everywhere they burned, the land would forever be blackened. Nothing would rise from the eternal ashes that were left behind in their wake.

Their very existence was an insult to her.

The moment Avery collided with them, she breathed golden fire out like a great dragon towards them. The fire raged as they coursed through their ranks and burned down a few hundred of them, leaving a large gap that she charged through blindly. She found instinctually rather than tactically. Sheer brute force was her plan and it worked, but she couldn’t just spew flames over and over again. The magic was a drop in the bucket, but the bucket still had a limit to what Avery could actually feasible tap into at one time.

She switched to her sword and lunged at the nearest dark knight. The mithril blade gleamed along the sharped edge sinisterly as it tore through the knight and bit into the one behind it before she jumped back as several swords came at her. The knights around her began to hesitant. They may have been dead, but they could still feel fear in the face of their mortal enemy. An icy blue figure rose into the knight sky above the rest of the horde and let out a shriek that reverberated through the air. It looked like a visible wave that coursed through the air through the crowd.

The horde that recoiled from the angered goddess stiffened and their blue fire eyes burned brighter. It wasn’t air that coursed through the crowd was not just air, but magic.

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