Posts Tagged ‘Faith of the Raven’

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 8

December 29, 2018

The adventurers lept into action immediately. Carania ran directly at the two zombie goliaths. They swung their fists but Carania narrowly dodged their attacks. While the zombies were distracted, Galath pointed his holy symbol and there was a brilliant flash. The goliaths turned away in fear from the divine light and started to run but they accidentally ran into each other and fell to the ground in a tangle. Carania descended on them and slashed at them and then pierced both with her sword. Arne finished it by setting them on fire as Carania moved to safety. The zombies did not react as they started to burn to ash. Carania guessed that they did not even feel the flames.

Carania gripped her sword tighter and trudged toward the King of Crows. She stopped short when she saw that the King had a knife up against one of his captives’ throats. She heard Arne and Galath halt as well. She grunted and glared at the man. Close up, she could see how pathetic he looked. He was old and scared and Carania felt all of the adrenaline leave her system and she grew calm as death. The captive, a young girl, was shaking but Carania did her best to offer a reassuring look.

“Leave the girl and deal with me,” Carania said. “Face me fairly.” She gripped her sword tightly, calm but tense like a wound spring. Her years of training had prepared her for these moments and she was not about to back down.

“Three against one is no fair fight,” The King said. His voice sounded a bit like a cawing crow. “Give me but a moment and I’ll summon up some friends.”

“No more moments, Crow,” Carania said. “My Lady of Ravens has requested I deal with you by sending you to meet her. Your time is up. I would not want to disappoint her as you have done.”

“If I go then I won’t be going alone!” The King crowed out and dragged the knife across the girl’s throat with a sick smile on his face. He started to chant something, waving his fingers.

The moment that followed felt like it flowed like molasses. Carania shouted wordlessly in anger and shock. She ran forward and stabbed the King of Crows hard through the stomach. His face seemed to freeze in surprise for an eternity. At the same time, Galath grabbed the girl and laid hands on her, healing the wound with holy light. Carania looked up into the branches above as the symbols of Nerull clattered to the forest floor. The ravens were up there in the trees, dozens of them, and they were glaring down at the necromancer. Carania smiled and calmly dragged the point of her sword across his throat as she mouthed a little prayer to Azrea.

As Carania stepped away, the ravens descended on the body of the King of Crows. She turned away and let them have it. She suspected it was their right as vassals of Azrea. She tried not to think of the sounds the birds made as they tore at the corpse. Arne was busy burning the symbols and tokens of Nerull and instantly the forest seemed to feel brighter. It was as if a fog was lifted and the evil evaporated from the fabric of the place. Carania walked over to Galath and the young girl. The paladin wore concern on her face.

“How is she Galath?” Carania asked. “Will she make it?”

“She will,” Galath said, looking up at Carania with a relieved smile. “She’s lucky a healer was so close by.”

“She’s also lucky the Talons were here,” Arne said.

Carania looked back over her shoulder. “Wait, who are the Talons?”  She asked.

“Just a suggestion for our little group’s name,” Arne said. “In honor of your patron, the Queen of Ravens.”

“I like the sound of it,” Carania said. “I think we’ll add it to our official introduction. I think we’ll be saying it a lot if we continue these fights.”

“I think you’re right,” Arne said.

“I agree,” Galath said. “I think this is exactly what we should be doing.”

Arne walked over and knocked on the cage holding the necromancer’s captives and the lock shattered and the door opened. The people started streaming out of the cage. They thanked the three adventurers profusely. Carania and Arne gave them directions back to town while Galath treated the most grievous wounds. As he did, Carania heard a noise from behind. The young girl was waking up. Carania knelt beside her. The girl was an elf so it was hard to judge her age but the light in her eyes looked very young. She had not yet reached physical maturity. She glanced around and saw no other elves which confused her.

“Are you alright?” She asked. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from that pain.”

“You tried,” the girl said. “and you saved us.”

“What is your name?” Carania asked. She smiled at the girl, remembering when her former charge had been this young.

“Taryn Moonglow,” the girl said.

“Are you here with someone?” Carania asked.

“No,” Taryn said. “I came here alone. I was on my way back home when I was surprised by these men.” She sat up a little, taking deep breaths as she took it slow.

“Where do you live? I could take you there. We could take you there,” Carania said.

“The Fangleth Forest,” Taryn said. “I live among druids like me among the trees.”

“The Fangleth?” Carania asked. “What brings you out this far?”

“I came here to fetch a rare flower that grows here,” Taryn said. “It is the Southern Star Flower.” She pulled a dark purple, five-petaled flower from her cloak and held it up for Carania could see. “It can be used to heal some of my people from a specific curse.”

“Well, perhaps we can help with that too,” Arne said.

“Really?” The girl asked.

“Of course,” Carania said and took the girl’s hand. “The Talons are here to help.”

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The Faith of the Raven Pt. 7

August 20, 2018

“Leave now or face the power and the might of the King of Crows!” A deep voice emanating from deeper in the woods said. After the sound of the voice, it felt like the whole forest was silent. In that silence, it was easy to hear Arne’s partially muttered response.

“More bullshit,” he said.

“What?” Carania asked. “What’s going on now?” If she was going to continue her greater quest, and she definitely was, she would have to study and learn. She needed to know these things herself. However, it did not hurt to have knowledgeable people along for the ride.

“It really is silly. The King of Crows is not one person,” Arne said. “It is a parade of necromancers each with aspirations of being the alpha necromancer. Most of them are crazy, all of them are dangerous.”

“There was a real King of Crows once,” Galath said. “He was a powerful necromancer who amassed an undead army in Alscines. He was in direct conflict with the Raven Queen and her followers. From what I know, he also had a Queen of crows with him. Sort of an undead bride. At least, those are the rumors. I read it in a book last year.” He shrugged.

Carania shuddered. “That is incredibly creepy,” she said. “The less I think about that, the better. So this guy is just a pretender to the throne?”

“I don’t know,” Arne said. “He definitely has power. We’ve seen that much already. I haven’t seen anything yet that has wowed me, though.”

“Right,” Carania said. “But we can’t let our guard down. Not until we take this guy out.”

“Agreed,” Galath said. “He is referencing the undead god and he is the fan club of one of the worst necromancers in history, those alone are red flags. Nothing has changed. We’re following your lead here, paladin.”

“We continue going straight for the heart of the matter,” Carania said. “If we kill him, the rest will be disorganized and, in theory, no new zombies can be created. That means those that die will stay dead.”

“I like it,” Galath said. “Elementary tactics but sometimes simple is best.”

“Now we just wait for that plan to go wrong so we can improvise,” Arne said.

“So negative,” Carania said. “Try and smile for once wizard.”

There was a cawing sound from the branches up above and all three looked up toward the sound. However, only Arne was already smiling as he had a full understanding of what that sound was. He nodded up at Grimalkin and they seemed to share some silent conversation.

“Grimalkin has spotted the main camp and can lead us there,” Arne said. “Are we ready for that?”

“We are as ready as we are going to get,” Carania said. “Do you still have prepared spells left?”

“I’m good to go,” Arne said. “I haven’t run out yet.”

“I also have some left to burn,” Galath said. “It appears that we’re good to go.”

“Lead the way, Grimalkin,” Carania said and Arne nodded up at the bird. Carania had only read about the connection between a wizard and their familiar and it was interesting to watch.

They worked their way through the woods as they did their best to follow the raven familiar as it fluttered along through the trees. It felt extremely right for Carania to be following a raven into battle. It felt a little like fate.

The three of them reached the edge of a big clearing and they were assaulted by the smell of freshly burned wood and other things. It looked like the King of Crows had burned a large circle into the middle of the forest, creating a clearing. They were lucky that the fire had not spread and endangered the surrounding areas. The burned clearing looked alien and lifeless. There were more men with crow feathers adorning their clothes and there were zombies both in cages and shuffling around some tents. Arne looked up at Grimalkin as if to ask ‘are you sure?’ and the bird nodded.

“Shall I cause a little chaos, boss?” Arne asked with a smile. Carania smiled and then nodded.

Arne conjured five candle-sized flames and tossed them one at a time into the clearing. The flames hit a couple of tents and also a couple of zombies and started some fires. One of the zombies panicked and ran burning into another tent. Chaos had been achieved.

Carania vaulted into the clearing with Galath and Arne trailing close behind. Her sword was once again a whirling blur as she carved into both living and undead enemies. At one point, she ran into one of the men who had shot and killed her. They barely had time to register her before being cut to ribbons. Carania fought with no anger or at least that anger was quickly fading away. This was a noble mission and that was enough to fuel her.

The battle was fiercer this time and a couple of zombies rushed Carania and managed to injure her. Galath moved fast to heal her while Arne protected them with a shield spell from his umbrella. After some more battle with a few more injuries, the clearing was quiet again. The three companions stood breathing hard as they looked around for their true target who had yet to reveal himself. Carania looked for Grimalkin for guidance but the familiar was hidden somewhere and was no help at present.

“You have crossed the line and I cannot let you go. I will be with you in a moment,” the booming voice said. “In the meantime, meet my friends. When they are done with you, I can add your bodies to my army.”  The thought of that happening was enough to turn the stomachs of all three of them.

The earth in front of the three adventurers broke open and two very large humanoids clawed their way into the open air. Carania could only guess that these had been deceased goliaths, a very rare race she had only read about. They were too short to be true giants but they were far taller than the tallest human or elf she had seen. There were definitely parts of them that were missing and she could see some ragged flesh and bones showing in places. They were caked with mud which made their wide, pupil-less eyes all the more menacing. They lumbered straight for Carania and her friends.

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 6

July 28, 2018

They moved further into the forest, the three of them. The undergrowth felt dense, far too dense for a small forest like Hernon. Everywhere they went, thorns and thistles grabbed at them and branches scratched against them. It was subtly unnatural but they all knew that there was something unnatural going on in those woods. The dead should not rise and it was as if the necromancer’s dark purpose was corrupting the forest around them. Like many forests and landmarks in Eloria (and beyond frankly), the Hernon forest was named after elves. All over the continent, places were still named after them even if the elves had left the place centuries before. Names had a way of sticking and people had a way of sticking to them. Carania hated that this necromancer was giving Hernon a bad name. It hurt her elf blood even though she knew she did not own that land.

Still, they moved on and made their way through the best they knew how. Carania was always at the lead at her insistence and the others did not argue. She felt responsible as an expert close-up fighter and as the person who accepted this mission in the first place. She hacked at errant and aberrant vegetation with her long sword when she had to. She thought to herself that she might have to get a short sword for that purpose to save her blade’s edge on future hunts. She was surprised at herself at that moment how quickly he had adapted to her new role in life. She was equally surprised that her companions seemed to be just as determined. This was not their fight and yet they had taken it on. It was inspiring and it made Carania further believe that she had done the right thing.

Of course, Carania was also surprised that she had such faith that she would survive to see future hunts. There was no room to believe otherwise she supposed. She had long heard that faith was a big part of serving a god. It seemed obvious to trust that Raven Queen had made the right choice. How else had a woman with very little actual combat experience slashed her way through a horde of zombies like they were nothing but smoke? Faith and courage and a little wind at her back from the Queen herself. Not to mention that fate had handed her two capable companions who she was very grateful for. She could feel the talons of the raven reaching out for the necromancer and it felt so good.

As they walked, Carania saw little bones and trinkets dangling from the trees with little lengths of twine. Carania viewed the little things warily, not knowing quite what to make of them. However, she knew that looking at them made her feel bad inside like looking at food left out for so long that things were growing in it. The three of them all caught each other looking at the trinkets and for a moment there was an amused smile between them. It was a moment of pure connection. It cut through the gloom for a moment and they all seemed to welcome it.

“The followers of the necromancer must have hung them,” Galath said. “I’ve seen similar things before.”

“What in the seventh hell are they?” Carania asked.

“Offerings in the worship of Nerull,” Galath said. “Makes your stomach turn, doesn’t it?”

“Nerull?” Carania asked. “I know I’m still a bit ignorant but everybody knows that my queen killed him.” She smiled at taking ownership of her new goddess.

“As the necromancers show us, much that dies can rise again,” Galath said. “It is true that it is known that the Raven Queen defeated the God of Death while she was simply the goddess of winter. After she took his place, he was raised back up behind the veil.”

“As an undead god?” Carania asked with a shudder. “What does that even mean? Who raised him?”

“Nobody knows,” Galath said. “Well, if anybody knows they are not making it public. I always suspected that whoever did it was somebody who could also not pass through the veil between us and the gods. It is someone I would rather not deal with. I wonder if these followers or the necromancer even know an iota of what happened. I wonder if they even care.”

“How does somebody even become a necromancer?” Carania asked. All of this was great information to have. She had been given no manual or guidebook to follow.

“I suppose it’s the same as becoming a gang member,” Galath said. “A combination of bad luck and dark intentions.”

“He whispers to them,” Arne said, speaking up for the first time in a while.

“What?” Galath asked.

“Care to explain that, Arne?” Carania asked, glancing over her shoulder at the wizard. His familiar was nowhere in sight, most likely flying somewhere overhead.

“The undead god Nerull whispers to those with magical potential,” Arne said. “Not everybody with magic hears the whispers but he does whisper and he offers people the power to get what they desire. Whatever the cost.”

“That’s quite a rumor,” Galath said. “Where did you hear it?”

“I didn’t hear a rumor,” Arne said calmly, evenly. “I heard the whispers myself. In my darkest moment, the whispers came to me too. He offered all kinds of things. I said no.”

“Of course you did,” Carania said. She thought Galath had been about to say something and she did not want to take any chances with what it may have been. “What did he promise?” she asked. She had not meant to. She knew somehow that it was not a question she should have asked but the words got away from her before she had a chance to stop them. Carania was an eternal student, always grabbing at new information to wield just as easily as she swung her sword. She wondered desperately what could have been Arne’s darkest moment.

Arne took a deep breath. “That is private,” he said. “But I understand your curiosity. The point is, the dark wisdom that comes from those whispers is nothing to laugh at.”

“That is definitely the truth,” Galath said.

“Who’s laughing?” Carania asked. “This ends tonight.”

The Faith of the Raven Pt. 5

June 16, 2018

As they reached the woods, Carania climbed down from Rhiannon’s back. She tied the horse’s reins to a nearby sturdy tree branch. It would discourage her from wandering off when she got bored but it would surely break if real danger appeared. The other two followed suit, tying their horse and pony up to different trees. Arne leaned in and pressed his forehead to his horse’s forehead and spoke quietly for a moment. Galath started to rummage through the pack on the back of the pony and pulled out a small, two-handed hammer which he slung across his back. Arne turned toward Carania instead of going into his pack immediately. Carania smiled to herself and prepared for sarcasm.

“So,” he said. “I assume we are continuing on foot?”

Galath laughed at that. “You’re the smart one, huh?”

“I am,” Arne said sweetly. “So nice of you to notice. I’m stating the obvious because I wanted an explanation, not confirmation.”

Carania laughed. “No need to fight, boys. I don’t want to endanger the horses or have them slow us down with all of the brush and roots.”

“Fair enough,” Arne said and shrugged. Carania had expected a little more pushback from the opinionated wizard who definitely had a high opinion of himself and a chip on his shoulder. Arne pulled a pouch out of his pack and tied it to his belt. Carania could only assume it was full of components for spells as she had observed as much from her former charge. He then pulled a parasol out of a side pocket, sliding it slowly out of what must have been a magic pocket on the horse’s saddle.

“That’s a curious tool,” Carania said. “I’ve rarely seen one of those outside of cities and even rarer out of the hands of nobility.”

“You like that, eh?” Arne asked with a smile. “Sadly I won’t be taking the bait and using that opening to pour my heart out about my past. My past is my own and I prefer it to remain mysterious.”

“Very mysterious,” Carania agreed. “I was only complimenting your parasol. I had never heard of one being brought into battle before. That is the only reason I commented.”

Arne relaxed, his shoulders visibly releasing tension. “I made it and enchanted it myself for a woman who never claimed it. So I did not want it to go to waste.”

“It’s very pretty,” Galath said in an obvious attempt to tease Arne and maybe further diffuse the tension of the situation.

“Thank you,” Arne said. “I do excellent work.” He leaned the parasol against his shoulder and Graymalkin flapped down from a branch and perched on the gem at the top of the parasol. He started off into the woods whistling.

Carania and Galath followed and then Carania got ahead of the two of them as they headed into those woods. Carania pulled her sword out and held it out at her side. While training at Battle Arts she had heard many stories about patrols that had tripped and fallen on their swords by holding them in front. Galath had his hammer out in one hand but he was clutching his holy symbol. He did not look scared, he looked intense. Carania had no idea how many they would be facing but she felt the Raven Queen like a wind at her back, pushing her onward. It made her feel powerful and that feeling made her feel braver but she was no fool. She would not rush into danger blindly.

After a long walk, the forest started to feel darker. It was clearly actually getting darker as the branches grew closer together in the unforested parts. However, it was also feeling dark and, for lack of a better word, spooky. It felt like it was harder to breathe and each step was more difficult than the last. Carania looked over at Galath and knew that he could feel something like what she felt. She could sense the undead in the woods and she started to lead them in that direction. She gripped her sword tighter and they moved confidently toward their targets. They pushed through a copse of trees and there were a group of men with black feathers attached to their leather armor. Their eyes widened when they saw the three adventurers appear.

“But we killed you!” one of them shouted out.

“It didn’t take,” Carania said. “The Raven Queen sends her regards.” Something in her voice must have scared the men.

“Release the cages!” Another man shouted. The men rushed to two big cages and threw open the doors and out poured a crowd of zombies. The men pointed toward the adventurers and the small zombie horde started toward them.

“I guess talking is out of the question,” Arne said and pointed the parasol at the oncoming menace.

Galath stepped forward and gripped his holy symbol and called out in his dwarvish language and the symbol glowed. The zombies hesitated and then some of them exploded where they stood and then the rest started to flee from that holy light. Carania took the cue to leap forward into the fray. Her swordplay was a fearsome sight as she slashed away at the fleeing horde and the bewildered human men. She was a primal force, revenge and righteous fury flowing through her. True Purpose is one of the most powerful forces in all of the universes and it was fully on display here. She was slowly covered in blood and rotting viscera as she carved a path through their enemies. Meanwhile, magic missiles streaked from the end of Arne’s parasol as he managed to hit those that Carania had not yet reached.

As the last thug fell to the ground in a heap, the two men looked over at Carania as she stood in the middle of what could only be described as a circle of death. The first thing the two of them noticed was that her eyes were obsidian black and she had a big smile on her face. It should have felt creepy, but for some reason, the image just felt right. These men and woman who had been raised from death without their consent had been laid to rest again. The men who had shepherded those zombies had obviously tried to kill their new leader, Carania and she had gotten her justified revenge. As Carania walked toward them, flicking the blood from her sword, both of them would swear later that they saw a pair of black wings spread out from her shoulders and then fade away like mist.

“Come on, men,” Carania said. “We have more work to do.”

Faith of the Raven Pt. 4

May 19, 2018

The three new companions rode out at dawn. The innkeep would not get up to cook breakfast but allowed them the use of the kitchen. Galath cooked up some eggs and sausage and then packed up some food for the road. Arne had suggested that they just leave as punishment for the lazy innkeep but Galath left a gold piece and Carania approved. While the two finished packing up, Arne swiped the gold piece with nobody the wiser. Now, they were on the path back to the forest with Carania at the lead with Arne and Galath riding side by side. Of course, being a dwarf, Galath was riding a war pony he had purchased a month prior. Arne and Carania each had exotic Kofrani horses. Carania’s had been a gift from the Silverlight family but she wondered how someone as shabbily dressed as Arne could have gotten such an expensive horse. Arne had spent the earlier part of the morning talking softly to his bird, Grimalkin, while Galath and Carania had remained quiet.

Finally, Arne broke the silence. “So, it’s weird to me to see an elf and a dwarf working together. How do you feel about it, fearless leader?”

Carania looked over her shoulder at Arne for a moment and then glanced at Galath before she turned back to watch the road ahead. “It’s true that there exists a long distrust between our peoples,” She said. “but I was brought up differently. I have no problems with dwarves.”

Galath smiled and looked at Arne. “And I have no problem with elves,” he said. “My family was intolerant but we did live underground where all we had were stories and a few unwelcome elven visitors to go by. Once I decided to live above ground, I learned to judge people by the content of their character instead of the pointiness of their ears.”

Carania smiled at that. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

“That is kind of strange, too,” Arne said, turning to look at Galath.

“What’s strange this time?” Galath asked.

“You said that you ‘decided to live above ground’ which is strange already for a dwarf,” Arne said. “On top of that, you are a cleric of Pelor, a sun god, which generally never happens.”

“I recognize that it is strange to worship something a dwarf rarely sees,” Galath said. “However, on a trip to the surface for trading, I was struck by the beauty of the sun that I could not get it out of my mind. I set out on my own and encountered a temple dedicated to Pelor in the first town I encountered.”

“So that’s when you saw the light?” Arne asked with a smirk. Carania groaned pretty audibly at the pun.

Galath just grinned and shrugged. “Yes, I suppose I did. In Overbrook.”

“I can’t understand the religious life,” Arne said. “I rely more on what I can do with my mind.”

“That sounds like a priest of Ioun,” Galath said.

Arne laughed and Grimalkin cawed in an almost laugh. “I am definitely no priest. If I was a priest I would be thrown out of any temple by now.”

“I’m new to the religious thing myself,” Carania said. “This is only my second day as a servant of the Raven Queen.”

Galath and Arne looked at each other and then back at the back of Carania’s head. “The Raven Queen does not have a lot of worshippers, per se. I guess we agreed to help you so quickly that we never heard that story. How did you become a devotee of the Great Spooky One?”

“Don’t mock her,” Galath said.

“I’m not sure if you mean Carania or the Raven Queen but I assure you that both of them can take care of themself,” Arne said.

“Never doubt it,” Carania said as she stroked the hilt of her sword instinctually. “The truth is that the story is strange and it’s still kind of sinking in for me.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Well, ou have to tell the story. It will help pass the time on the way to the battle.”

Carania paused for a moment and thought about the story and suddenly felt a little nervous. “It’s a pretty unbelievable story, I suppose. I’m not sure.”

“Now I’m really curious,” Arne said. “Please tell us. I want to know what I’m dealing with.”

“Tell your story or don’t,” Galath said. “Either way I am with you if your cause is to put an end to an undead threat. Nothing you say can make that cause unworthy.”

“Until the day before yesterday I was a bodyguard for one of the Silverlight daughters. I had trained for the job by training under three diferent sword masters at True Cross.”

“Well,” Arne said. “Being lead by an accomplished and well-trained fighter is definitely a comfort.”

“I’m so glad to comfort you,” Carania said, glancing back to show her sarcasm with a smirk. “I was on my way to a new assignment at the Capital when I was ambushed by a few thugs. I was skewered by an arrow and I fell to the ground and bled out. I died.”

“I can only imagine how horrible that was,” Galath said.

Carania nodded. “The next thing I knew, I was in a strange place talking to a woman who claimed to be the Raven Queen. She offered me my life back as long as I hunted those who would mock the barrier between life and death and the undead horrors they might unleash. It was not much of a choice so here I am.”

“I don’t know which is scarier,” Arne said. “That being real or you being crazy.”

“It’s true,” Carania said. “I don’t know who else would have had that power and would have left this mark on me when I woke up.” She held up her hand with the raven symbol on it.

“I believe it,” Galath said. “I have never directly conversed with Pelor or Lathander but I have felt their presence and the existence of religious visions is known. I’m envious even though I can see the burden she placed on your shoulders.”

“I suppose there are things beyond this world that I have not experienced,” Arne said. “For the record, I think she chose the right person to be her champion but we’ll see if she was right. Won’t we?”

“I suppose we will,” Carania said.

The Faith of the Raven

April 6, 2018

Carania lay on the cold, wet ground of the Hernon forest. The ground was cold and wet from the melting frost of an early spring morning. The sun was just rising to burn the cold away and the morning was still in that middling period between cold night and warm day. There was also a decent fog going which is the excuse Carania was giving herself for why she had not seen the arrows heading in her direction. Three of them had hit her and one of those three was currently buried deep in her gut. It had been like this for quite a while but Carania no longer had the strength to move. She was powerless to do anything but watch her blood mingle with the wetness of the grass beneath her. She suspected some sort of paralyzing agent or enchantment. Either way, she was definitely going to bleed out and it would not be long.

She wished she had seen who had shot her. It would not have helped her situation any but it would have lessened her confusion as her life dripped out of her and fed the grass. She could see the fletching on one of the arrows and there were some greasy black feathers sticking out. The work was crude but it had obviously done well enough to end her life. That was the only real evidence she had of her murderers. She had not been expecting trouble. In fact, she had merely been looking for a shortcut as she traveled toward a gig in Silverlight. She had been a bodyguard for a niece of the Silverlight family for years but the family had gotten her a more prestigious job in the Capital. She hated to say goodbye to Amela but she could not turn down an offer to walk the streets of the capital. Of course, now that was definitely not going to happen.

As her vision started to grow dark, she wondered if the Silverlight family would have her resurrected. She doubted they would ever find her body to perform the ritual and somewhere in her heart, she doubted their professed loyalty to her even in return for her years of loyalty. She had given up a normal life and more specifically any chance of romance for years of service. Now, she would die and it would not even be in the defense of a client or for any good cause. Her heart began to hurt and she was not sure if it was literally hurting or if it had broken from thinking these thoughts. She realized at that point that she could not see anymore and in the darkness, she tried to reach out but her arms still could not move. She tried to cry out but she made no sound although she wondered if she could even hear anymore. Then there was nothing.

Then her eyes were blinking open and there was black tile beneath her. She was in exactly the same position on her side she had been on the grass of the clearing but there was tile instead. Carania was intensely confused. She slowly moved her eyes toward her stomach and she could not see the arrow anymore. This was even more confusing. She stayed there on the floor for some time and nothing changed. She felt weak and helpless for the first time since she was a little girl. She never wanted to feel this way again. She used that desire as power.

“Help,” she called out but it sounded weak, her voice cracking. “Please help.” A little stronger but not by much.

“Oh, are you going to lie on the floor any longer?” A feminine voice called out. “Feel free but I am getting bored over here.”

“I got shot,” Carania said. “I can’t move. Some sort of poison or magic. Sorry for boring you.” She sounded annoyed. The woman was not being nearly sympathetic about the situation as she should be.

“Do you not remember what happened after you were shot?” The woman asked. “You’re dead. You don’t have to act hurt after you’re dead. Especially in my domain.”

It was as if a spell was cast and suddenly Carania could move and she realized that she felt no pain. She was not even breathing. She rolled onto her hands and knees and, from there, she pushed herself to her feet. She realized her armor was gone and she was in a dress that had previously been shoved to the bottom of her pack which was also missing. It was a pretty dress that she had been forced to wear at formal occasions that Amela attended. She hated it now just as much as she hated it then. She looked around the room. The floor was matte black tile and there was jet black wallpaper with dull silver detail. There was a spindly onyx chandelier hanging above with blue-flamed candles that somehow cast the perfect amount of light. Black on black on black was an interesting style choice.

She turned toward where it sounded like the woman had been. There was a young woman sitting at a table. She had long black hair but her face was covered by what looked like an expressionless porcelain mask. Carania blinked twice and the mask was now smiling. A laugh came from behind that mask as if it was not there and the effect was a little disturbing.

“Welcome to the Outer Planes and my home,” the woman said. “At least, this is one of the more stable parts of it. Do you like the decor? It’s easy to keep changing it when reality is so… subjective.”

All Carania could do was make a confused, hopeless noise as she just stared at the woman. This was not what she had been expecting from the afterlife at all.

“Sit down, Carania,” the woman said. “We have much to discuss.  I also have tea.” There were two steaming cups of tea sitting on the table. Had they been there before?

Carania slowly, cautiously lowered herself into a chair. “I don’t really like tea.”

“Wine? Ale?”

“Wine? It’s not even noon yet,” Carania said with disapproval.

“You are dead,” the woman said. “I think the rules don’t apply to you anymore.”

There was suddenly a glass of dark black wine in front of Carania and she decided to sip it. It was surprisingly sweet. It reminded Carania a little of the one glass of wine Amela had convinced her to drink back in Silverlight. “Who are you? Where am I? How do you know my name.”

“You haven’t guessed?” The woman asked. “I am the Raven Queen and I wanted to meet you.”

 


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