Chapter 8: Strength is what you make of it… Ash
(Ash are you alright?) Shade asked. (You have seemed strange since we dealt with the mortals… like your always tired… and you seem to be moving far slower than you usually do.)
“I’m fine Shade, I just didn’t expect that directly manipulating my power would take so much out of me…” Ash replied
[Hell I even used a rune to lessen the impact and raise the efficiency of my channeling… whatever those DRASSIER on the council did to me really made me weak. No aura. No aspect traits. And no FUCKING TRUE FORM!!! If I hadn’t ended up here in this realm there is no doubt I would have died in that fight…] Ash pondered.
(Ash we need to be cautious now.) Shade said seriously unaware of her bonds thoughts. (We are in a strange land with very little power or influence. One wrong step, one mistake, just one offense taken by the wrong mortal and we could find ourselves against their entire race…)
The two had planned their next moves in this new realm over the week of travel since they had encountered the bandits. Both had quickly come to the conclusion that they would need a guide or servant of some sort if they wanted to progress in this land. Unfortunately Ash did not think that the mortals would have a place as convenient as the holding pens of his realm, not that he had the funds to purchase one even if they did.
(What do mortals even use for currency anyway?) Ash thought.
(Like I would Know Ash, I didn’t even know mortals had a form of currency until Madeline told us…) Shade thought back gloomily. (Maybe they use food? Maybe bartering? Or perhaps some sort of primitive coin system…)
“That’s it! I remember now, it was metallic coins! I’m sure that’s what the tutor said!” Ash said excitedly. “That just means we need to find metals or some of those Coins… I wonder if those men the other day had any we could take, or if Wennedy had some she could give us… so much waste not checking. I wonder if we should go back and ask? What do you think Shade?” Ash said.
As the days had passed Ash had walked almost non-stop, only stopping to relieve himself and sleep when his body required it, which was not very often at all. He had been pondering this and other issues with Shade non-stop for the past two days as he walked north-east. The last time he stopped was to sleep, and he was surprised took him multiple hours. Luckily Shade did not require sleep, but rather saw it as a luxury to pass time, like a game or amusement. She guarded Ash from any that might take advantage of his unaware state as he slept so it did not develop into a major problem, but Ash still saw it as something Ash had to rectify. Or if not at least regulate and limit, he did not like the sense of unawareness that came with this new way of sleep.
This was merely one of the many issues Ash was forced to deal with in this new realm, and one of the many he was already planning on removing as soon as he could.
(Ash I think it would be easier to just find other mortals and ask them. There is no need for us to travel for another week out of our way to see one woman who might not even have what we are looking for. Especially when we could just as easily find another mortal with coins if we just looked.) Shade answered.
“That is true I guess… still I would have liked to have remembered something like this earlier…” Ash said with a hint of melancholy.
(There is no use fretting of the past Ash. We should focus on the future, in fact I smell a group of Mortals not far from here that we could talk to.) Shade sent positively.
“Are the scents perhaps coming from that?” Ash said pointing at the structures and wall that came into view above the treetops around midday.
(No, but they are near, and it is a group too, more than five scents all mixed together with the sweet smell of decay. If we were to start moving towards them now we should get there before midnight.) Shade sent seriously. (If we want to find mortals before we get to those buildings I think this is our best chance.)
Ash looked at the quickly setting sun, the buildings beyond the trees, then at his bond riding his shoulder. “Then we should move now, I feel that I will have to… sleep… soon.” Ash shuddered slightly. “I would much rather do so in a bed if it is to last as long as the last time…”
With that Ash began to run towards the direction of the scents.
Ash gazed out at the humans from his shadowed position behind many trees. He was utterly confused and slightly disgusted as to what he was seeing. In the clearing there was a group of seven armed mortals, a mortal tied to a hastily made post, and a corpse all inside what could only be called the poorest excuse of a camp the dragon had seen in his entire life.
(Shade do YOU know what they are doing?) Ash asked his bond.
(They seem to be mating with a corpse Ash, a badly decomposing one at that. Mortals really are as disgusting as the elders and stories always said…)
(I know that, I meant why…… And Shade, this may be some sort of ritual or custom… besides they seem to be armed and might pose some threat. We can’t afford to offend them right now, even if they are disgusting creatures that mate with the dead…) Ash reprimanded his companion.
Ash gathered himself and quickly brushed the dirt and grime of travel from his clothes as best he could, and prepared to meet the mortal men. He also drew his blade and wrote three Draconic runes into the ground with it before sheathing it once again.
[Power, Darkness, Control… there that should do, after all one can never be too careful especially if one can’t trust one’s own family not to attempt to kill them… why trust strangers to not do the same?] Ash thought wryly. [though if those mortals think to slay me I shall show them the true folly of attacking a dragon, even one as weak as am now…]
Ash approached as noisily as he deemed appropriate to not startle the mortals and cause them to attack out of fear. As he got closer the stench of the corpse was beginning to overpower his acute senses, he also saw that the mortal tied to the post was far younger and more wounded than the others. Assuming that this also served some purpose Ash quickly dismissed the boy from his attention.
“Ahem…” Ash coughed to gather their attention, “That’s rather disturbing… Is it normal for humans of this realm to mate with the dead? Is this perhaps some ritual I am unaware of? A rite for the dead perhaps?” Ash asked calmly without showing any of the disgust he felt in his words or expression.
“What’s that runt? A ritual? This is a SHOW haven’t you ever seen no show a’fore!” a short rather unattractive night said.
“It’s also private so I suggest you leave and forget what you just saw before you regret it…” said the one that carried himself like a leader.
“I only ask out of curiosity, I have no particular interest in seeing a show such as this, I have seen far better anyway. That was not the reason I came to talk with you. Tell me do you have any coins and if so I’d ask that you give them to me as I have need of them.” Ash replied calmly.
“HAHAHAHAHA! AH gods above my sides! ‘es just a damn BEGGER! HAHAHAHA I thought he might be some noble’s brat with the way he was talking!” the Tallest laughed. “We don’t need to worry about anyone notice’n him go’n miss’n now right Capt’n?”
“No we don’t. Kill him and leave the body for the wolves.” The leader-like one spoke.
(Ash I think they are preparing to attack us from behind as well.) Shade warned.
(I know I noticed when the seventh went missing, but what foolishness to announce your plan to attack openly like that. In front of an unknown enemy no less! These mortals seem fairly dumb… it almost isn’t fair to slaughter them… not that I won’t, NOTHING gets away with opposing me like this!) Ash thought back as he drew Dark Embrace.
“Very well. I was against associating with filth like you anyway. I warn you this will be painful…” As Ash spoke Dark Embrace took on the form of his favorite war Scythe with its attached bladed chain, and two serrated blades at the top like traditionally and extending from the bottom respectively. A deadly weapon that Ash had to train himself strictly to master both the weapon itself and all the possible avenues of attack the unique weapon offered. It was not an exaggeration to say that this weapon in the right hands could slaughter countless opponents simultaneously. Ash’s were the right hands, after the sword scythes were his weapon of choice, and he preferred there use when against multiple enemies.
[And these dumbasses just let me distract them with petty words as I prepared for combat. If they had just acted instead of announcing their intentions then they might have even bested me… they are clearly trained for combat as both a group and as an individual, at the very least it would be a challenge for me as I am, but now…] Ash thought mockingly.
(Shade I want you to go and hide in the forest until this is over, if I am this weak now I doubt your fur would repel anything much sharper than a club…) Ash thought with a hint of pity.
(I understand… I don’t like it but I understand… kill them quickly though Ash.) Shade sent sadly as she licked Ash’s cheek. The catkal then leapt from his shoulder and ran into the forest.
[Now that that’s taken care of…] Ash thought with malice.
“Heh, fancy trick runt but even your pet knows your Screwed! If you beg no-” The leader-like one kept talking up until Ash embedded the head of his scythe deep in his chest. “GEK! GEK-GEK! …..”
Ash didn’t hesitate, calmly spinning on his feet he bisected the man horizontally and used the momentum of the turn to wrap the chain around the neck of the man that attempted to sneak up behind him earlier. Looking up to confirm the positions of the other men Ash noticed that they had not moved, frozen at the sight of their leader in two pieces on the ground and discorded as nothing more than useless meat. Ash did not even glance at the remains as he gave his scythe a tug causing the attached bladed chain to relieve Ash’s would be assassin of his head.
[They had Armor, I can see it lying in pieces all around this campsite, they should have kept it on or at least kept it close so they had it for an attack like this. These men are sloppy, they show far too many openings and are far too slow to react to the unexpected. At least those other ones last week knew that standing still in shock meant death in battle…] Ash thought calmly as he casually twirled his scythe and observed his opponents.
[With this they will expect surprise attacks so perhaps I should provoke them… without their leader they will be uncoordinated and if they aren’t in control of their emotions they will make mistakes… yes provoking them seems like the best option without taking any potentially deadly risks…] Ash reasoned as his eyes narrowed and his face turned into a superior smirk.
“Is this all you dirty Corpse-fuckers amount to? Really? I’ve had better fights with children…” Ash mocked with scorn. “And here I thought you were warriors…”
“KILL THIS FUCKER!” the short one screamed.
“RRRRAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!” the others shouted as they charged weapons drawn.
Ash just adjusted his stance and let them come. The first died before he could even lower his weapon, speared through the heart with the bottom of the two bladed scythe. The man’s momentum from the charge was just enough to reach Ash before he took his last breath. Ash ripped his returned weapon from the corpse’s chest and turned to block a descending blade. Spinning the scythe hard Ash disarmed the man as the attached chain tore through his body from groin to shoulder.
Ash leapt to the side just in time to avoid a stab aimed for his back. As he moved he snapped his fingers invoking the runes and his aspect to surround him and the two men in pure darkness.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” a man screamed.
“Now then, I have a few questions.” Ash snapped his fingers again and the pure darkness cleared to the normal dark of night. Only the Short man remained as the other was impaled on the seven foot scythe struck into the ground Ash was currently leaning on as he watched the man.
“What is the currency of this realm?” Ash asked calmly as he looked down at the man trembling and pissing himself on the ground.
“……..W-w-w-w-what?” the short man stuttered in fear.
“Money. What is it. How is it used. Counted. What. Is. Its. Worth.” Ash said slowly as if he was talking to a simple child.
“WAITH! IS KNOWTH! IS KNOWTH ABOOTH MONEE!” *wait! I know! I Know about money* a voice called out.
Ash looked behind him, [Oh yeah there was another one… I almost forgot about him, I wonder if he has any coins.] Ash thought absently. “You know about the money of this realm?” Ash asked again for conformation.
“YETH! Is’ll thell yu all Is knowth ef yuh wooldth jes geh mh uth oth thith!! IS SWEARTH!” *YES! I’ll tell you all I know if you would just get me out of this! I SWEAR* the boy said as he struggled to speak clearly.
“Fine but you better not be lying mortal…” Ash said as he took up his weapon and had it revert back to its longsword form, dropping the corpse impaled on it to the ground in the process. As Ash cut the rope holding the boy he got a closer look at the boy’s injuries, all of the boy’s four limbs were broken in multiple places, he had burns and bruises all over his body, he was missing many of his teeth and those he had were broken, and upon closer inspection the boy had only sores where he should have had eyelids and smelled of feces and urine.
[This is hard, I feel like vomiting just being near this mortal… I should have enough power and control if he is willing… GEH that’s fowl! Yes I’ll fix it if for no other reason than to stop trying to puzzle out its speech and escape its smell.] Ash thought with disgust while looking at the boy who simply fell when he was freed, unable to even support his body.
“Who are you mortal?” Ash asked simply.
“GREEHVRR” *Griever* was the boy’s response.
“Griever then… Don’t fight this…” Ash said as he carved a multitude of runes in a circle around the boy. “Oh and this will probably hurt… a lot.” Ash said absently as he knelt and placed a hand on the circle of runes. “Invoke.” He said simply.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” the boy Screamed
and writhed inside the circle.
[Yes as expected this is painful… oh well darkness has no traits suited to healing, but Creation works just as well. If something is wounded, broken just create it anew…] Ash thought with mild interest. [Though even making this a full ritual and invoking multiple runes at once, this is still draining me far more than I expected… This might be a problem actually… oh it’s over.]
Ash stood again and looked down as the boy picked himself up from inside the circle.
“W-what did you just do?” the boy asked Ash.
“re-created you using all elements that were present within the circle. You were hard to understand. And you smelled…” Ash shrugged. “Now I want you to keep your end of the deal, but first I have to go get my companion. I’ll be back.” Ash turned sheathed his blade and walked towards the tree line where Shade ran.
As soon as Ash knew he was out of the mortals’ view he slumped heavily against a tree panting hard.
[SHIT! I can barely fucking MOVE what the fuck did the father and the Council DO to me to make using one of my traits with fucking RUNES in a fucking RITUAL drain me of all my power……….. Damn no one can see me like this. I am a DRAGON LORD I can never be this weak…]
(ASH HERE YOU ARE!) Shade sent as she ran up to her bond. (Shit Ash… Your about to drop, good thing I always keep some power in reserve. Here we can share this between us until you recover…) Shade offered as she opened a power channel between her and her bond.
(Thanks Shade. I can always count on you. Just let me rest here a while then we’ll go back to the mortals…) Ash thought back tiredly.
Griever had never felt so good in his life. As he gazed around out the bloody pieces and bodies that used to torment him, he felt only joy and then calm acceptance when he found the corpse of his sister.
[You can rest now sis… mother… father… the people who hurt you are dead now.] His gaze traveled to the shortest knight. [Well most… but this could be a good thing…]
Griever walked toward his former tormenter, and picked up a bloody knights sword as he passed it. “Duran…” he said flatly.
“S-s-stay away from me kid, or I-I-I’ll kill you!!!” the monster stuttered as he tried to crawl away from Grievers approach.
“I want to put on a ‘Show’…” Griever responded flatly not minding the knight’s futile attempts at escape.
The fingers were the first thing to go.
Then the toes. The feet. The hands. The manhood. The ears. The tongue. Both arms. Both legs. The eyelids. The eyes.
Griever looked down at the thing that used to be one of his greatest fears. He had tried to be careful with it, he didn’t want it to die to quickly so he cauterized his work with a branch of firewood from the campfire. Unfortunately it still died after he took the first leg.
[Maybe it lost too much blood?] Griever thought with cold indifference.
Though the things death didn’t stop Griever, just his enjoyment of its suffering, he still continued until there was nothing left to take from it.
As he worked Griever noticed that his body was different ever since his savior changed him, he was stronger, more precise, and when he clumsily cut himself with the blade the cuts healed almost immediately. Griever did not know why, but he was grateful for it.
[I must remember to thank my savior when he returns.] Griever thought with joy, the first time he had felt that emotion in what seemed to Griever as a lifetime.
“You killed him.”
Griever heard the calm voice of his savior. Griever turned around and looked at the one who had saved him from a hell worse than any painful death. The man… no he was too young to call man Griever reasoned… the boy looked to be aged around his nineteenth year and held himself with an assurance and dignity that only accompanied the truly powerful. His clothes were simple and functional but his armor made up for that with its elegance and simple grandeur. Everything about the boy screamed dark, from his black as pitch hair to his black and dark silver armor and clothing. He was handsome in a soft understated way, more elegant than rugged, more naturally charming than artificially made up. His features were sculpted in a way that could almost be called androgynous but leaned to clearly towards maleness so it came off as noble. On his shoulder was a black and silver cat with unusually intelligent eyes and sharp features. The animal almost appeared to be an extension of the boy at first glance, so closely they matched.
All this Griever took in and embedded into his mind as deeply as he possibly could. He wanted to remember everything about the one who saved him from his hell, who made him strong enough to hurt one of those who tormented him, who killed the ones who destroyed his family. Who gave him a second chance at life.
Who was currently scowling slightly at him…
“….Yes…” Griever replied after some time.
“You tortured him.” His savior said. It was a statement not a question.
“….Yes I did.” Griever flinched under the heavy stare of the one in front of him.
“You did so very poorly… severing limbs while easy is crude and inefficient. There are far better ways to inflict pain and not all are physical.” His savior said with indifference. “I am tired I’ll have you teach me about the realms currency later, for now I’ll rest you may do as you wish as long as you are here when I awake and do not disturb my rest.”
His savior walked to a bloodless spot at the edge of the camp, sat down against a tree and closed is eyes.
[If all he wishes is to learn about money I’d gladly tell him, but it seems like so little compared to what he did for me.] Griever thought as he found a spot for sleep himself.
“-And that’s all really… did that help you at all?” Griever asked.
“Yes. The system is surprisingly simple… perhaps… yes…” the boy called Ash trailed off into thought as he looked the cat on his shoulder.
“Um… if you don’t mind… um could you maybe take me with you where you’re going?” Griever asked hesitantly. “I have nothing left of my old life except memories and I wouldn’t even have those if you hadn’t helped me when you did… so… what I’m trying to say is…” Griever struggled to put his thoughts into words.
[Come on! Just say it! Just say that you want to help him! Its not that Damn hard Griever! There just a few words!]
“I do have need of a servant…… If you wish you can be that servant, but there would be no turning back. You would be casting aside your very mortality, you would become something else. Something not quite human.” Ash offered seeming to know what Griever wanted to convey.
“Yes” Griever didn’t even hesitate.
[If I can help him by being his servant than I will, besides he gave me this new chance at life it’s only far to give I back to him…. And I have nothing to lose…. Not anymore…] Griever thought seriously.
“Very well…” Ash took out his blade and began to draw strange squiggles in the ground with it before sheathing it again. “Kneel. Good now hold out your hand and repeat after me: I pledge my life, soul, and very being into the service of my eternal Lord Ash Lestio Blackwing. To live as an extension of his will. To follow him always with loyalty and devotion. To serve none other but him. Now and ever onward. This I pledge. This I vow. With this oath I am born again.”
Griever nodded and gazed into the eyes of the one who saved him. The one who helped him when no one else
would. He firmed his resolve. “I pledge my life………..”