The avatar of darkness. Second Draft. Reviews appreciated.
|The loneliness of the darkness was always present. Some days, it was easier to ignore than others. Today, things felt particularly dark. A chill had settled on everything around them and she felt that a decision needed to be made. In order to save what they had left, a sacrifice had to be made. None of the others would ever agree with her decision, but it was the best one for the group. She was the one he could not harm. Death and darkness clung to her like a shroud. They were her protectors, but they were also her curse. The lord of darkness held her in the palm of his hand. She was a tool for his use only and his gift made sure of that. It was for this reason that she set out on her own. She would not need the protection of the group. She could travel with more stealth than any of them and the darkness would hold her safely in its arms.|
Making the trip from their encampment to their foe's fortress was probably the easiest part. She arrived at its doors long before sunrise and studied the guards from beneath a cloak of darkness. They were well-trained, well-armed, but that didn't matter to her. They would not harm someone as precious as she. They would cower in awe of her power and only prove to catch their death sooner than expected. Soon, the sun would begin to rise and time would grow short. She needed to present herself in the emperor's court before the others could wake and find her gone. They would want to retrieve her and she just could not allow that to happen. She wanted to stop the bloodshed. Every time his army fell, he simply gathered another and sent them again. He didn't seem to understand that he was the problem here, not them. He would destroy his entire empire to gain a hold on what he was never meant to have. Instead, she hoped to stop him by presenting herself to him as a gift. She hoped that having her as a pet on his arm would satisfy him.
The avatar stepped free of the shadows, but stopped well out of harm's reach. At first, she drew little attention from the guards. Black on black was something that did not call your eyes to it. She took a few more steps forward, closer to the light of the torches that lined the walls, and pulled back the hood of her cloak. Her skin was pale and could shine brightly against the night. Surely this would garner some attention from the guards that seemed to be so keen on protecting their lordship. The woman spoke up loudly, hoping that her voice would not crack and show the fear that was creeping into her mind, "I am here to see your emperor!" She should not have been so afraid, but she was. She was afraid for the people that she was trying to save. She was afraid for the men that might decide to attack her. She was afraid for her friends who might try to save her, even though she didn't really want to be saved.
Once they took notice of her, the guards were ready for action. Archers trained their bows on her and swords were drawn. Word was shouted to the captain of the watch while some of the men moved out from the walls to surround her. She, of course, didn't move. Instead, she just waited. She was not here for a fight. This was diplomacy. She wasn't well-versed in diplomacy, but she did know that the first rule of a diplomatic situation was that you don't kill the messenger. You at least allow them to speak first.
The watch captain stepped forward at the top of the gate and looked down at the woman on the field. He was probably around her age, but he did have a sheen of experience that said he wasn't one to toy with. "So you've come to surrender?" Unlike his soldiers, who had smug looks of satisfaction and victory, the captain's face was full of concern. He seemed to think this was all a trick. He knew about the avatars and their power. He possibly thought that she was here to trigger an ambush and wasn't about to let someone in that could wreck their entire infrastructure.
"No. Not surrender," she could hear the strings of the bows tighten as the archers pulled back further on their draw. Rather than suffer the wrath of a hundred arrows, the woman held out her hands, palms facing upwards to show she was unarmed. She could pull any weapon she wanted from the shadows, but she wasn't going to do it this time. "I have come to speak with your lord and emperor. I offer him a gift in hope of peace."
The captain was still weary, but did not speak. He stared down at her with a hard look that said he was still measuring the pros and cons of allowing this powerful being inside. Eventually, he turned and stepped away from the wall. She thought that he was dooming his lord's armies to her power, but, after a few moments, the doors to the fortress slowly began to open. She could see him better as he walked outside with a torchbearer. Yes, he was close to her age, mid-thirties maybe. His hair was cropped short and his face had a few tiny scars that said he'd been in multiple battles. His eyes, she couldn't quite pick out the color but they were dark, seemed to bore through her as if he was hoping she wasn't anything more than an illusion. He continued to walk forward and a handful of heavily armored guards closed in on his flank as if they could provide help if this woman decided to go out of control. "If you have a gift for our lord," he stopped several strides out of her reach and continued to try to stare her down, "then you can present it to me."
The woman shook her head as she stared back. He clearly did not understand what this was. It was her surrender, but she wasn't about to be taken in as some war trophy, "This gift is for him and him alone. It cannot be presented to anyone else." She stood defiant, a calm look on her face, as she studied him even more. She could see the pattern of the links in his mail and recognized it from others that she had helped slaughter. That bothered her a bit.
The captain did not seem pleased, but who was he to refuse someone like her? He motioned to one of the other guards and pointed to her, "Bind the witch's hands and bring her inside." This new man was hesitant. He had heard of the powers of the avatars and he didn't want to die quickly. He wasn't sure if this was a serious order or not, but the captain motioned again, this time harder. "Do it now. She wants to present a gift, then she will do it our way."
"No," she withdrew her hands into her cloak quickly and gave the men a hard stare, "Don't touch me."
The captain had turned to walk away, but stopped and looked at her again, this time a small smile had crept across his face, "Then you cannot enter this fortress, milady." She couldn't tell if he seemed to think that he hand the upper hand or was simply taunting her. Either way, the ball was in her court. If she was here on a peaceful mission then she would have to submit to doing what he ordered.
She slid her hands out from beneath her robes again, but gave the captain her own version of his hard stare, "You've been warned."
The guard's face looked to be a mix of confusion and fight. He paused, looking back to his captain to see if he should still make his move. The captain nodded and he finally stepped up to her, reaching forward to bind her hands with a rope that had been tossed his way. His hands started to shake as he wrapped the course cord around her wrists. He had never been so close to someone with this kind of power and as a simple man he was clearly frightened by it. She hoped silently that he would be careful and not do anything to bring about the wrath of her protector, but she could feel the familiar tingle in the back of her mind. Please don't. It was all she could think as she felt the darkness close in on her mind.
Don't be so foolish. Destroy them all.
I won't do it. I'm here to save them from you.
Then I will show them your power.
The guard's fingers barely brushed her skin as he finished the knot and it was too late for her to stop it all. In just a moment, the man was howling in pain as her power began to consume him. A black streak ran up his arm and began to spread like a bad rash. The skin itself began to quickly rot and peel away. The guards with the captain drew their swords and were ready to attack. She could, again, hear the strings of the bows as they drew back to their fullest extent.
"I warned you," her eyes were pleading as she looked at the captain again, "You cannot touch me." Were it not for the captain raising his hand to stop what was surely to be a rain of arrows then she would have had to slaughter them all to protect herself. Things were not turning out as she had imagined and she hoped that he would understand her silent pleas. This was not her doing. It was the power
"Very well," the captain nodded as he began to understand what he was dealing with. "Escort the witch inside." His gaze drifted downward toward the man on the ground between them. His arm had fallen off completely and now the rot was creeping up toward his throat and face. It was a horrific end that he did not want to see himself. "Just do not touch her or you will find yourself knowing the dark lord sooner than you'd wished."
Word Count: 958 1742
First Draft: Fall 2013
Second Draft: 08 June 2014